STV accounts for nearly 30% of total Mena venture capital fundraising in 2018

Saudi fund led 2018’s largest Mena venture capital round with a Series F investment in ride-hailing app Careem

Abdulrahman Tarabzouni was an early champion of Careem. Courtesy of STV

Saudi Technology Ventures, a Riyadh venture capital fund anchored by Saudi Telecom Company, led nearly $250 million (Dh917.5m) worth of financing rounds in 2018, accounting for almost 30 per cent of the estimated $893m of capital raised in the Middle East and North Africa last year.

STV spent close to $100m of its $500m fund, making it one of the largest investors in the region’s fast-growing start-up and technology ecosystem, the company said.

“We have increased the quantum of venture capital available to regional start-ups, creating a completely new playing field for Mena VC,” said Abdulrahman Tarabzouni, chief executive of STV.

Attractive fundamentals, coupled with investment opportunities in the region, have seen the investments in technology grow almost four-fold over the past six years, Mr Tarabzouni said.

"We are excited to be a major part of this growth,” he added.

STV, which launched operations in 2018, assessed more than 500 opportunities the same year, building a portfolio of regional technology market leaders covering digital media, ride-hailing, e-healthcare and cloud communications, the company said.

The Mena region represents one of the most compelling and untapped venture capital opportunities globally. Investments in 386 start-ups totalled $893m in 2018, while venture capital funding for the region increased 31 per cent from 2017, according to market researcher Magnitt.

Alongside other global investors, STV led a $200m Series F funding round in the region’s leading ride-hailing company Careem, the largest Mena-focused funding round last year. Mr Tarabzouni sits on the board of Careem.

STV led one of Saudi Arabia’s largest venture deals of 2018 that includes investment in Unifonic, a cloud-communications platform that enables companies to connect with their customers through message, voice, and other channels.

STV also invested in Telfaz11, a digital video content producer for Saudi Arabia and the broader Arab world; Vezeeta, an Egyptian internet app that facilitates the scheduling of healthcare appointments; and Proof, a US company that helps online businesses optimise user conversions using social proof signals.

“We are now looking to deploy our capital at an increased pace as we look to find, grow and scale the region’s most ambitious tech champions,” said Mr Tarabzouni.