The former managing partners of 500 Startups Mena (500 Falcons) Sharif El-Badawi and Hasan Haider have launched a new venture capital fund, Plus Venture Capital (+VC), with a target fund size of $60 million.
With its headquarters in Bahrain and offices in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, +VC is planning to invest in 120 early-stage startups across the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, focusing on tech and tech-enabled startups across a variety of sectors, including fintech, healthtech, edtech, logistics, content and e-commerce.
“The Mena startup scene, rather than being crushed by the pandemic, has bounced back with renewed vigour. Major market slumps usually lead to big rebounds –the 2008 financial crash is just the most recent example. Tech companies emerged the clear winners from the last downturn, and this time around the Middle East is ideally placed to leapfrog other major startup economies as the recovery gets underway,” said Haider.
Haider has been investing in startups in the region for the past 10 years and has worked in venture capital in Silicon Valley and Mena region. He also established one of the first angel investment groups in the region. El-Badawi, who brings 25 years of technology and growth experience to the firm and has worked at several Internet companies since the mid-90s in Silicon Valley, including Google, before moving to the region to focus on startup investing.
According to the fund managers, the VC capital being poured in the Mena startups is barely keeping up with the pace of innovation witnessed in the region, especially amid the anticipated boom in the tech sector in the post-Covid19 era.
“Money is flowing into the region at an unprecedented rate, but is still just barely keeping up with the pace of Middle Eastern innovation. Mena’s agile startups and entrepreneurs are racing to develop new solutions in fields as varied as healthtech, fintech and edtech that meet the fast-evolving consumer needs of the Covid era,” said Haider.
The Mena region is fast emerging as a key startup ecosystem, having seen several recent exits including the $3 billion acquisition of Careem by Uber in 2019 and Souq by Amazon in 2017. The region offers a young, highly connected market of more than 400 million people with similar cultures and languages.
According to regional data platform MAGNiTT, as much as $659 million was invested in Mena-based startups in the first half of 2020, representing a staggering 95 per cent of total venture investments in 2019.
“With our team having invested in many startups over the years, we can provide the right level of support to the founders that we invest in. Our founders can expect deep support from experienced practitioners as well as access to a unique network of operators, mentors and investors,” said El-Badawi. “We look forward to partnering with extraordinary and innovative entrepreneurs to help build successful businesses and contribute to a vibrant regional economy.”