The technology investor Prasant K Gulati says his open-ended Smart Start Fund will make angel investments of between $50,000 and $100,000 to help develop high-tech ventures. Razan Alzayani / The National
The technology investor Prasant K Gulati says his open-ended Smart Start Fund will make angel investments of between $50,000 and $100,000 to help develop high-tech ventures. Razan Alzayani / The NatioShow more

Gulf start-ups surge as venture capital floods in



Venture capital is flooding into the Middle East as a host of new funds set up shop, promising new hope for struggling start-ups seeking investment.

At least five new funds are in the process of scouring the Middle East for the next Facebook, Google or Aramex as investors clock on to the growing number of small businesses in dire need of funding.

The five funds - Beco Capital, Y+ Ventures, Smart Start, Envestors and Virtuvest - are looking to invest tens of millions of dollars in start-ups and small businesses in the next few years. Individual investments vary depending on the fund but could be anywhere between US$50,000 (Dh183,640) and $2 million.

"The basis of every single economy is really the SME [small to medium enterprise] sector," said Salam Saadeh, the former managing director of investment banking at Shuaa Capital and now the co-founder and managing partner of Y+ Ventures, based in Dubai.

"Before in this region we did not have any help for such start-ups. There's been very little for budding entrepreneurs."

Most of the funds focus on the technology, mobile and media sectors but several are willing to consider any business model.

"It's about giving people money and a hell of a lot of mentorship," said Dany Farha, the co-founder of Beco Capital. "There are a lot of successful business models that have not extended themselves into this market yet."

The technology investor PK Gulati, based in Dubai, said his open-ended Smart Start Fund will make angel investments of between $50,000 and $100,000 to help develop high-tech ventures.

"We have the first $2m on the table, and $50,000 to $100,000 is what we are going to put in a typical deal - it could be individual or co-invested."

Neil Petch, the chairman of Virtuzone, said the free zone plans to invest in companies registered through it.

A sister company called Virtuvest is set to launch in the fourth quarter of this year and plans to invest in about 40 start-ups over the next two years. Typical investments will be in the region of $200,000, Mr Petch said.

Apart from investments from government-backed initiatives such as the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, which generally support only Emiratis, early-stage funding and financing from banks has been difficult to come by in recent years in the UAE.

But lenders and investors are now seemingly more willing to part with cash this year as the demand from entrepreneurs grows.

Emirates Money, a consumer finance company and part of Emirates NBD, estimates there are currently 50,000 SMEs seeking capital or financing for their businesses in the UAE.

"The Khalifa Fund and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation are purely for Emiratis. For the expat looking for funding here [in the UAE] at a start-up level, there's been no support, basically," said Edward Roderick, the co-chairman of Envestors, a company that links investors and small businesses and that is also now looking to launch a $20m fund to invest.

"The banks have not been lending at all unless you have three years of accounts and you need the money less after three years."

In the wider Middle East, the US government's finance arm, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (Opic), said last week it would invest $150m into the $400m Riyada Enterprise Development Growth Capital Fund set up by Abraaj Capital.

This year, Saudi Telecom also helped launch STC Ventures, a $250m fund aimed at investing in companies in the information technology, telecommunications and digital media sectors.

On top of five funds setting up in Dubai, there are also three new incubator programmes based in the emirate.

SeedStartup, Silicon Oasis Founders and i360accelerators are all now starting to mentor, finance and nurture the next generation of start-up businesses throughout the Middle East.

SeedStartup will showcase the first seven graduate companies from its incubator programme to potential investors on a demonstration day on Thursday.

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
THE BIO

Ms Davison came to Dubai from Kerala after her marriage in 1996 when she was 21-years-old

Since 2001, Ms Davison has worked at many affordable schools such as Our Own English High School in Sharjah, and The Apple International School and Amled School in Dubai

Favourite Book: The Alchemist

Favourite quote: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

Favourite place to Travel to: Vienna

Favourite cuisine: Italian food

Favourite Movie : Scent of a Woman

 

 

If you go

The flights

The closest international airport for those travelling from the UAE is Denver, Colorado. British Airways (www.ba.com) flies from the UAE via London from Dh3,700 return, including taxes. From there, transfers can be arranged to the ranch or it’s a seven-hour drive. Alternatively, take an internal flight to the counties of Cody, Casper, or Billings

The stay

Red Reflet offers a series of packages, with prices varying depending on season. All meals and activities are included, with prices starting from US$2,218 (Dh7,150) per person for a minimum stay of three nights, including taxes. For more information, visit red-reflet-ranch.net.

 

Tank warfare

Lt Gen Erik Petersen, deputy chief of programs, US Army, has argued it took a+“three decade holiday” on modernising tanks. 

“There clearly remains a significant armoured heavy ground manoeuvre threat in this world and maintaining a world class armoured force is absolutely vital,” the general said in London last week.

“We are developing next generation capabilities to compete with and deter adversaries to prevent opportunism or miscalculation, and, if necessary, defeat any foe decisively.”

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation 2 to 5
Rating: 5/5

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE.

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE

FULL FIGHT CARD

Featherweight Bout: Abdullah Al Qahtani v Taha Bendaoud
Bantamweight Bout: Ali Taleb v Nawras Abzakh
Bantamweight Bout: Xavier Alaoui v Rachid El Hazoume
Featherweight Bout: Islam Reda v Adam Meskini
Bantamweight Bout: Tariq Ismail v Jalal Al Daaja
Bantamweight Bout: Elias Boudegzdame v Hassan Mandour
Amateur Female Atomweight Bout: Hattan Al Saif v Nada Faheem
Featherweight Bout: Maraoune Bellagouit v Motaz Askar
Featherweight Bout: Ahmed Tarek v Abdelrahman Alhyasat
Showcase Featherweight Bout: Mido Mohamed v Yazeed Hasanain
Showcase Flyweight Bout: Malik Basahel v Harsh Pandya

Company Profile

Name: Raha
Started: 2022
Based: Kuwait/Saudi
Industry: Tech Logistics
Funding: $14 million
Investors: Soor Capital, eWTP Arabia Capital, Aujan Enterprises, Nox Management, Cedar Mundi Ventures
Number of employees: 166

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE

 

The years Ramadan fell in May

1987

1954

1921

1888

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: OneOrder
Started: March 2022
Founders: Tamer Amer and Karim Maurice
Based: Cairo
Number of staff: 82
Investment stage: Series A

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Director: Peyton Reed

Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas

Three stars

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

How to wear a kandura

Dos

  • Wear the right fabric for the right season and occasion 
  • Always ask for the dress code if you don’t know
  • Wear a white kandura, white ghutra / shemagh (headwear) and black shoes for work 
  • Wear 100 per cent cotton under the kandura as most fabrics are polyester

Don’ts 

  • Wear hamdania for work, always wear a ghutra and agal 
  • Buy a kandura only based on how it feels; ask questions about the fabric and understand what you are buying
The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat 

Saturday's schedule at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

GP3 race, 12:30pm

Formula 1 final practice, 2pm

Formula 1 qualifying, 5pm

Formula 2 race, 6:40pm

Performance: Sam Smith

Our family matters legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Takreem Awards winners 2021

Corporate Leadership: Carl Bistany (Lebanon)

Cultural Excellence: Hoor Al Qasimi (UAE)

Environmental Development and Sustainability: Bkerzay (Lebanon)

Environmental Development and Sustainability: Raya Ani (Iraq)

Humanitarian and Civic Services: Women’s Programs Association (Lebanon)

Humanitarian and Civic Services: Osamah Al Thini (Libya)

Excellence in Education: World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) (Qatar)

Outstanding Arab Woman: Balghis Badri (Sudan)

Scientific and Technological Achievement: Mohamed Slim Alouini (KSA)

Young Entrepreneur: Omar Itani (Lebanon)

Lifetime Achievement: Suad Al Amiry (Palestine)

The specs: 2018 Audi RS5

Price, base: Dh359,200

Engine: 2.9L twin-turbo V6

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Power: 450hp at 5,700rpm

Torque: 600Nm at 1,900rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 8.7L / 100km

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Mozn

Started: 2017

Founders: Mohammed Alhussein, Khaled Al Ghoneim, Abdullah Alsaeed and Malik Alyousef

Based: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Industry: FinTech

Funding: $10 million

Investors: Raed Ventures, Shorooq Partners, VentureSouq, Sukna Ventures and others

While you're here
Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

The specs: McLaren 600LT

Price, base: Dh914,000

Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic

Power: 600hp @ 7,500rpm

Torque: 620Nm @ 5,500rpm

Fuel economy 12.2.L / 100km

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

Building boom turning to bust as Turkey's economy slows

Deep in a provincial region of northwestern Turkey, it looks like a mirage - hundreds of luxury houses built in neat rows, their pointed towers somewhere between French chateau and Disney castle.

Meant to provide luxurious accommodations for foreign buyers, the houses are however standing empty in what is anything but a fairytale for their investors.

The ambitious development has been hit by regional turmoil as well as the slump in the Turkish construction industry - a key sector - as the country's economy heads towards what could be a hard landing in an intensifying downturn.

After a long period of solid growth, Turkey's economy contracted 1.1 per cent in the third quarter, and many economists expect it will enter into recession this year.

The country has been hit by high inflation and a currency crisis in August. The lira lost 28 per cent of its value against the dollar in 2018 and markets are still unconvinced by the readiness of the government under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to tackle underlying economic issues.

The villas close to the town centre of Mudurnu in the Bolu region are intended to resemble European architecture and are part of the Sarot Group's Burj Al Babas project.

But the development of 732 villas and a shopping centre - which began in 2014 - is now in limbo as Sarot Group has sought bankruptcy protection.

It is one of hundreds of Turkish companies that have done so as they seek cover from creditors and to restructure their debts.

GOODBYE JULIA

Director: Mohamed Kordofani

Starring: Siran Riak, Eiman Yousif, Nazar Goma

Rating: 5/5

UAE SQUAD

Jemma Eley, Maria Michailidou, Molly Fuller, Chloe Andrews (of Dubai College), Eliza Petricola, Holly Guerin, Yasmin Craig, Caitlin Gowdy (Dubai English Speaking College), Claire Janssen, Cristiana Morall (Jumeirah English Speaking School), Tessa Mies (Jebel Ali School), Mila Morgan (Cranleigh Abu Dhabi).

Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
On sale: Now

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

Common OCD symptoms and how they manifest

Checking: the obsession or thoughts focus on some harm coming from things not being as they should, which usually centre around the theme of safety. For example, the obsession is “the building will burn down”, therefore the compulsion is checking that the oven is switched off.

Contamination: the obsession is focused on the presence of germs, dirt or harmful bacteria and how this will impact the person and/or their loved ones. For example, the obsession is “the floor is dirty; me and my family will get sick and die”, the compulsion is repetitive cleaning.

Orderliness: the obsession is a fear of sitting with uncomfortable feelings, or to prevent harm coming to oneself or others. Objectively there appears to be no logical link between the obsession and compulsion. For example,” I won’t feel right if the jars aren’t lined up” or “harm will come to my family if I don’t line up all the jars”, so the compulsion is therefore lining up the jars.

Intrusive thoughts: the intrusive thought is usually highly distressing and repetitive. Common examples may include thoughts of perpetrating violence towards others, harming others, or questions over one’s character or deeds, usually in conflict with the person’s true values. An example would be: “I think I might hurt my family”, which in turn leads to the compulsion of avoiding social gatherings.

Hoarding: the intrusive thought is the overvaluing of objects or possessions, while the compulsion is stashing or hoarding these items and refusing to let them go. For example, “this newspaper may come in useful one day”, therefore, the compulsion is hoarding newspapers instead of discarding them the next day.

Source: Dr Robert Chandler, clinical psychologist at Lighthouse Arabia

THREE

Director: Nayla Al Khaja

Starring: Jefferson Hall, Faten Ahmed, Noura Alabed, Saud Alzarooni

Rating: 3.5/5

FIGHT CARD

Sara El Bakkali v Anisha Kadka (Lightweight, female)
Mohammed Adil Al Debi v Moaz Abdelgawad (Bantamweight)
Amir Boureslan v Mahmoud Zanouny (Welterweight)
Abrorbek Madaminbekov v Mohammed Al Katheeri (Featherweight)
Ibrahem Bilal v Emad Arafa (Super featherweight)
Ahmed Abdolaziz v Imad Essassi (Middleweight)
Milena Martinou v Ilham Bourakkadi (Bantamweight, female)
Noureddine El Agouti v Mohamed Mardi (Welterweight)
Nabil Ouach v Ymad Atrous (Middleweight)
Nouredin Samir v Zainalabid Dadachev (Lightweight)
Marlon Ribeiro v Mehdi Oubahammou (Welterweight)
Brad Stanton v Mohamed El Boukhari (Super welterweight

Our legal consultants

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.