Investors turn to venture capital



Middle-Eastern venture capital funds are emerging as alternatives to speculative investment in property and financial markets, internet industry professionals were told at the Submit conference in Dubai today. The development is good news for entrepreneurs in the region, who have historically lacked local options for early stage financing. "People have gotten very used to making easy money," said Nabil Alyousuf, who recently started a business after a high-profile career in the Dubai Government. "Now, things are different."

Mr Alyousuf left his job as the director general of the executive office of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE. He now runs an advisory business that specialises in developing what he calls "breakthrough ideas", and is considering launching a venture fund for entrepreneurs in the region. While a cultural aversion to risk and failure had limited the number of entrepreneurs in the past, he believes things have changed among younger generations. Today, pro-business governments and wealthy individuals are coming together to support a new entrepreneurial structure.

"There are many government initiatives that encourage entrepreneurs from social aspect," he said. "Private venture capital can do something complementary. It brings in-depth knowledge and expertise, the contacts and networks." However, Mohammed Meddah, who runs the website Startup Arabia, said of the more than 200 internet start-ups that he tracked on his website over the past year, only 10 had managed to get venture capital funding.

Today, the most common venture investors in the Middle East are Arab expatriates returning home from start-up hubs such as Silicon Valley in California, Mr Alyousuf said. One such expatriate, Mohammed Alzoubi, is in the process of establishing Arab Seed Ventures and will move from California to Jordan to oversee the fund. Funding from the Middle East often contributes to the deals done by western venture capitalists, said Mr Alzoubi. He hopes to keep some of that cash within the region with his new venture, building regional businesses in the process.

"What's the difference between the Mohammed who moves to Silicon Valley and the Mohammed who stays in Jordan?" he asked. "The Arab world doesn't lack the cash or the entrepreneurs, but there are not many people putting it all together, and that's what we are going to do." Mr Alzoubi's fund will identify promising start-ups and provide the "seed" money that typically precedes larger investments by venture capitalists. Strategic investors from Silicon Valley were already interested in the fund, he said, and he was now looking for partners in the region.

tgara@thenational.ae

The specs

Engine: Single front-axle electric motor
Power: 218hp
Torque: 330Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Max touring range: 402km (claimed)
Price: From Dh215,000 (estimate)
On sale: September

UAE'S YOUNG GUNS

1 Esha Oza, age 26, 79 matches

2 Theertha Satish, age 20, 66 matches

3 Khushi Sharma, age 21, 65 matches

4 Kavisha Kumari, age 21, 79 matches

5 Heena Hotchandani, age 23, 16 matches

6 Rinitha Rajith, age 18, 34 matches

7 Samaira Dharnidharka, age 17, 53 matches

8 Vaishnave Mahesh, age 17, 68 matches

9 Lavanya Keny, age 17, 33 matches

10 Siya Gokhale, age 18, 33 matches

11 Indhuja Nandakumar, age 18, 46 matches

The Boy and the Heron

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Starring: Soma Santoki, Masaki Suda, Ko Shibasaki

Rating: 5/5

Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices

'The Lost Daughter'

Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Starring: Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson

Rating: 4/5

Recycle Reuse Repurpose

New central waste facility on site at expo Dubai South area to  handle estimated 173 tonne of waste generated daily by millions of visitors

Recyclables such as plastic, paper, glass will be collected from bins on the expo site and taken to the new expo Central Waste Facility on site

Organic waste will be processed at the new onsite Central Waste Facility, treated and converted into compost to be re-used to green the expo area

Of 173 tonnes of waste daily, an estimated 39 per cent will be recyclables, 48 per cent  organic waste  and 13 per cent  general waste.

About 147 tonnes will be recycled and converted to new products at another existing facility in Ras Al Khor

Recycling at Ras Al Khor unit:

Plastic items to be converted to plastic bags and recycled

Paper pulp moulded products such as cup carriers, egg trays, seed pots, and food packaging trays

Glass waste into bowls, lights, candle holders, serving trays and coasters

Aim is for 85 per cent of waste from the site to be diverted from landfill 

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

Indika

Developer: 11 Bit Studios
Publisher: Odd Meter
Console: PlayStation 5, PC and Xbox series X/S
Rating: 4/5

If you go...

Flying
There is no simple way to get to Punta Arenas from the UAE, with flights from Dubai and Abu Dhabi requiring at least two connections to reach this part of Patagonia. Flights start from about Dh6,250.

Touring
Chile Nativo offers the amended Los Dientes trek with expert guides and porters who are met in Puerto Williams on Isla Navarino. The trip starts and ends in Punta Arenas and lasts for six days in total. Prices start from Dh8,795.

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

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

Rating: 4.5/5

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

Other acts on the Jazz Garden bill

Sharrie Williams
The American singer is hugely respected in blues circles due to her passionate vocals and songwriting. Born and raised in Michigan, Williams began recording and touring as a teenage gospel singer. Her career took off with the blues band The Wiseguys. Such was the acclaim of their live shows that they toured throughout Europe and in Africa. As a solo artist, Williams has also collaborated with the likes of the late Dizzy Gillespie, Van Morrison and Mavis Staples.
Lin Rountree
An accomplished smooth jazz artist who blends his chilled approach with R‘n’B. Trained at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC, Rountree formed his own band in 2004. He has also recorded with the likes of Kem, Dwele and Conya Doss. He comes to Dubai on the back of his new single Pass The Groove, from his forthcoming 2018 album Stronger Still, which may follow his five previous solo albums in cracking the top 10 of the US jazz charts.
Anita Williams
Dubai-based singer Anita Williams will open the night with a set of covers and swing, jazz and blues standards that made her an in-demand singer across the emirate. The Irish singer has been performing in Dubai since 2008 at venues such as MusicHall and Voda Bar. Her Jazz Garden appearance is career highlight as she will use the event to perform the original song Big Blue Eyes, the single from her debut solo album, due for release soon.

MEDIEVIL (1998)

Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation, PlayStation 4 and 5
Rating: 3.5/5

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.”

MATCH INFO

Champions League quarter-final, first leg

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City, Tuesday, 11pm (UAE)

Matches can be watched on BeIN Sports

Super 30

Produced: Sajid Nadiadwala and Phantom Productions
Directed: Vikas Bahl
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Pankaj Tripathi, Aditya Srivastav, Mrinal Thakur
Rating: 3.5 /5

'Gold'

Director:Anthony Hayes

Stars:Zaf Efron, Anthony Hayes

Rating:3/5


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