$48M MIC Ventures telco fund launched to boost ICT startups in Lebanon

Hariri: The government’s role is to find solutions to retain Lebanese youth (Image via Wamda).

MIC Ventures, a $48 million telco fund initiated by MIC 1 and MIC 2, the two mobile operators in Lebanon managed by Touch and Alfa, was launched today at the Grand Serail, under the auspices of the Council of Ministers.

The fund aims at investing in local ICT and telco startups to help them boost the Lebanese economy. The fund extends over seven years.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri said that the government’s role is to find solutions to retain Lebanese youth and prepare the grounds for their development.

Jamal Jarrah, Minister of Telecommunications said that Lebanon is rich in terms of creativity and innovation and the government’s objective is to support these talents, and provide youth with opportunities that match their skills to prevent brain drain. “We will also provide startups with a lab to expose and showcase their products, and we will help them promote, market, and sell these products.”

Marwan Hayek, CEO of Alfa told Wamda that each of MIC 1 and MIC 2 has 50 percent stake in the fund and will be providing $24 million of funding over four years. The fund is run by an investment committee, a board, and a chairman appointed in turn from one of the operators on yearly basis. Hayek said that they are open for co-investments. “The echos we have so far are very positive especially that through our joint networks, MIC 1 and MIC 2 are offering startups a market of four million users to test their products, which is very essential besides funding.” He added: “The fund is the first step and we will be helping startups that succeed in the local to take their products abroad.”

Nadim Khater, chief commercial officer at Touch told Wamda that the feedback is very positive and the number of startups will vary depending on the investment tickets.

Khaled Zeidan, MIC Ventures fund manager told Wamda that their investment ticket is at around $2 million per startup but the amount could alter on case by case basis. Startups should have a demonstrated minimum viable product.

Paul Chukrallah, managing director at Berytech Fund II told Wamda that this initiative is very good, but startups need additional assistance besides financing. “They need legal facilitation, and assistance when it comes to tax registers, etcetera,” he explained, saying that startups are still facing many burdens at this administrative level when it comes to registering their companies and operating in Lebanon.

In parallel, the Investment and Development Authority in Lebanon (IDAL) launched its Business Support Unit (BSU) to provide startups with the required information, advice, and licensing support in order to launch their company in Lebanon. Startups with existing business plans in the ICT, telecom, tech, digital media, and agrotech, are eligible to the BSU’s support.

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