Bahrain’s Al Waha invests in Israeli $85m digital health fund LionBird

Deal expected to offer GCC start-ups better access to US health care market

Cityscape of the hotels, skyscrapers and development along the 'Al Corniche' and the 'Diplomatic Area' of Manama in Bahrain illuminated at night.
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Bahrain’s Al Waha Fund of Funds has invested in LionBird, Israel’s $85 million digital health fund that focuses on supporting healthcare start-ups in the US.

The latest investment comes as demand for healthcare services continues to pick up in the world's largest economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are … pleased to be able to partner with LionBird in its latest fund and to help start-ups in the region access advice on digital health best practices and support in penetrating the lucrative US healthcare market,” said Khalid Al Rumaihi, chief executive of Mumtalakat and vice chairman of Al Waha Fund.

The company did not disclose the total investment in the fund.

The US currently spends around 17 per cent of its gross domestic product on health care, with the pandemic opening new opportunities for start-ups in the sector.

Digital health start-ups in the country raised a record $37.9 billion in 2021, compared with $10.7bn received by their peers in Asia, said a report by CB Insights.

“There are significant opportunities for the region’s start-ups in international markets, but the lack of access to capital remains a significant challenge for entrepreneurs," Mr Al Rumaihi said.

"Al Waha offers state-backed capital to funds to help support entrepreneurs to establish and scale their companies. In doing so, we are helping to accelerate the development of a vibrant start-up and venture capital ecosystem in the Middle East.”

The partnership between Al Waha Fund and LionBird is also expected to help Israeli companies to choose Bahrain as the location for their Middle East headquarters as they seek to expand their regional operations.

“By partnering with Al Waha Fund, LionBird now has access to innovation and networking opportunities in Bahrain, expanding our exposure in the Mena region,” said Jonathan Friedman, partner at LionBird.

“We believe we are well-positioned to support start-ups in Bahrain and the region plan their entry into the US market."

Bahrain government-backed Al Waha is a $100m fund that aims to boost venture capital investment in the region.

To date, the fund has invested $80m in 11 venture capital funds such as Beco Capital, Middle East Venture Partners, 500 Startups, Finch Capital, MSA Capital, Shorooq Partners and B&Y Venture Partners.

It is also investing in the $50m VentureSouq’s FinTech Fund I, backed by Mubadala Investment Company, the fund said earlier this year.

Bahrain normalised relations with Israel following the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020.

Updated: June 06, 2022, 1:10 PM