Israel's OurCrowd and UAE's Al Naboodah create $100m fund for Gulf tech investors

The venture is the first of its kind since the two countries normalised relations last month

The Emirati, Israeli and US flags sway in the wind at the Abu Dhabi airport at the arrival  of the first-ever commercial flight from Israel to the UAE, on August 31, 2020. A US-Israeli delegation including White House advisor Jared Kushner took off on a historic first direct commercial flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi to mark the normalisation of ties between the Jewish state and the UAE. / AFP / KARIM SAHIB
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UAE businessman Abdullah Saeed Al Naboodah has partnered with Israel's OurCrowd venture capital to form a  $100 million (Dh367m) fund to back technology investments between the two countries. The venture is the first of its kind since the two countries normalised relations last month.

Phoenix Capital, the joint investment platform of Al Naboodah Group’s business development unit and Tel Aviv’s OurCrowd, will create an investment portal that enables Gulf investors to access OurCrowd’s portfolio of more than 220 companies in AgriTech, HealthTech, artificial intelligence and robotics.

Phoenix will also introduce OurCrowd to Gulf-based start-ups with the aim of raising investment through OurCrowd’s platform and assist Israel-based start-ups to find potential partners in the Gulf region.

The normalisation of relations between the UAE and Israel last month is expected to foster business deals and trade between the two countries.

Israel, a leader in AI – only behind the US and China – is a global technology hub, attracting $2.74 billion in venture capital investment in the first quarter of 2020, according to the Tel Aviv-based IVC Research Center.

Phoenix is "a two-way conduit for both Israeli and UAE investors", Mr Al Naboodah, chairman of Al Naboodah Group’s investment arm, said. The platform is geared for start-ups "seeking strategic, business and investment partners in these powerhouse tech nations", he said.

Phoenix has $100m in committed capital from Gulf investors that will target 25 to 30 different deals within the first year, the Financial Times reported.

OurCrowd, which includes former US Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, has over $1.5bn in committed funding across more than 200 portfolio companies and 22 funds.

"What was a trickle of contact and contracts before is now growing into a tsunami of ultimately billions of dollars of bi-lateral investment, joint ventures and joint venture creation and research," OurCrowd chief executive Jon Medved told The National.

"When two entrepreneurial countries like the UAE and Israel get together, just watch the sparks fly and real value get created."

The venture fund's UAE expansion will be led by Abu Dhabi private equity investor Sabah Al Binali, who has been newly appointed as venture partner and head of the Gulf region for OurCrowd.

Mr Al Binali was formerly the chairman of the investment and strategy committee of the National Investor and chief investment officer and chief executive of credit of Shuaa Capital.

The majority of OurCrowd’s deals are in Israel, but about 40 per cent of its deals have been done in the US, Canada, the UK, India, Hong Kong and Singapore.

OurCrowd has over 50,000 members who are individually accredited and institutional investors. Members also include family offices and venture capital partners from over 183 countries to invest alongside the fund at the same terms.

Mr Medved founded OurCrowd in 2013, after three decades as a serial entrepreneur and seed investor in California and then Israel.

The fund’s portfolio is diversified across different technology-driven sectors and stages, ranging from seed to early equity-based financing in companies that are not publicly listed yet. Uber, Canon, Oracle, Nike and Intel have acquired OurCrowd portfolio companies.