Saudi Arabia's Misk and 500 Startups to fund 20 Mena start-ups

Each of the selected entrepreneurs will receive a funding of $50,000 and be mentored

Selected start-ups are building technologies in various fields, including Internet of things, robotics and artificial intelligence. Reuters
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Saudi Arabia's Misk Foundation and Silicon Valley venture capital company 500 Startups have selected 20 start-ups from the Middle East and North Africa to provide funding and training.

The start-ups were picked from the second cohort of the Misk 500 Accelerator programme, which concludes in Riyadh on December 3. Each of the companies will receive an investment of $50,000 (Dh183,500), in exchange for 7 per cent equity, from 500 Startups' regional fund, 500 Falcons, according to a statement.

The accelerator programme has brought the "most innovative, early-stage tech start-ups in the Mena region" together, said Osama Al Raee, director of entrepreneurship at Misk Innovation.

The 14-week Misk 500 Accelerator programme, which started last month, is structured to help pre-seed and seed-stage start-ups to create successful companies and help them scale.

Selected entrepreneurs, who are from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain and Jordan will be mentored on product design, defining customer base and prepared to raise funding.

E-commerce, financial technology, the Internet of Things, robotics, artificial intelligence and messaging services are among the areas of focus for the selected start-ups.

“We hope these start-ups thrive in Saudi and the region … creating a positive domino effect that attracts more talent, capital and resources that strengthen the Saudi tech ecosystem,” said Mr Al Raee.

Misk is a charity organisation launched in 2011 by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The centre is focused on cultivating innovation, learning and leadership among the Saudi youth.

“Saudi Arabia’s strong government support, its inherent market dynamics and its young population structure are testaments to the robust build-up of its rapidly-growing entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Sharif El Badawi, managing partner at 500 Startups Mena.

Saudi Arabia is one of the fastest-growing venture capital markets in Mena, with total funding climbing 82 per cent year-on-year in the first six months of the year, according to a report by technology platform Magnitt last month.

A total of $40 million was invested in start-ups based in Saudi Arabia during the period. It was ranked third in Mena after the UAE and Egypt, where start-ups secured $311m and $53m, respectively.

500 Startups Mena, which typically invests at the early stages of a company's growth, is the most active investor in the region with investments in 100 regional start-ups in the past two years, according to a Magnitt report.