MENA tech startups get chance to bag $1m growth funding in MiSK initiative

Fifteen technology firms will be given the opportunity to participate in a three-month program of bootcamps aimed at fast-tracking promising young entrepreneurs to achieving their business goals through Saudi MiSK Foundation initiative. (Pixabay/apriltan18)
Updated 10 July 2019

MENA tech startups get chance to bag $1m growth funding in MiSK initiative

  • 15 successful applicants will join in three bootcamps and demo day in Riyadh
  • Each company selected to take part in the project will receive an initial $100,000

ARAB NEWS JEDDAH: Innovative business startups in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region could receive cash injections of up to $1 million as part of a newly launched growth initiative.
Fifteen technology firms will be given the opportunity to participate in a three-month program of bootcamps aimed at fast-tracking promising young entrepreneurs to achieving their business goals.
The non-profit Misk Foundation has launched its growth accelerator scheme for MENA technology startups in partnership with innovation investor organizations Seedstars and Vision Ventures.
Each company selected to take part in the project will receive an initial $100,000 with the chance of a follow-up $1 million. The business accelerator program, which will run from September to December this year, is targeted at startup ventures with product/market fit that are looking to expand.
The 15 successful applicants will join in three on-site bootcamps and a demo day in Riyadh, allowing them to stay close to customers while receiving constant coaching from in-house and external growth experts.
Seedstars, a global organization with a mission to impact people’s lives in emerging markets through technology and entrepreneurship, and ​Vision Ventures, a renowned venture capital firm investing throughout the MENA region, will jointly pump $100,000 into each of the initiative’s participating startups and will then consider follow-on investments.
Kais Al-Essa, founding partner and CEO of Vision Ventures, said: “​Being entrepreneurs ourselves, we know how founders suffer in their journey toward success. Our role is to try to add light and direction to the roads ahead of them.
“The co-investment model in this program gives startups two great institutions on their capitalization table, access to a strong local and regional network, and knowledge of Vision Ventures, in addition to the global Seedstars platform.”
The focus of the growth program will be to help startups with product/market fit to implement a process in order to deliver consistent high growth.
“​Startups often have a misconception that growth comes from hacks, while in fact it’s a process. Growth is a culture, a mindset and a methodology that needs to be implemented, and that’s the main goal of the program​,” said Charlie Graham-Brown, CIO of Seedstars.
Program participants will also receive coaching on other key topics such as talent management, leadership and fundraising strategy.
Applications are now open and will be accepted until July 21. To qualify, applicants must be tech startups from any sector in the MENA region, have raised funds of between $250,000 and $1 million, have more than $10,000 in monthly recurring revenue, and have product/market fit.
The growth accelerator aims to build on the existing work of startup ecosystem enablers in the MENA region.
​Osama Al-Raee, entrepreneurship growth director at Misk Foundation, said: “Misk Innovation has been supporting early stage startups through various initiatives such as e​vents, bootcamps and acceleration programs. We now see a need to help startups make the jump to become ready for series A round.
“We believe that the combined program of investment and know-how can make a real difference. This is all part of how we support Misk’s wider mission of empowering youth to become the architects, not tenants, of the future economy, by unleashing their huge entrepreneurial potential.”


Saudi investors share expertise on Saudi corporate VC opportunities

Updated 27 November 2020

Saudi investors share expertise on Saudi corporate VC opportunities

JEDDAH: The two-day Step Saudi 2020 event featured two prominent Saudi figures in the field of investment on the second day.
Hashim Al-Awadi, CEO of Tech Invest, and Salman Jaffery, chief investment officer at Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Ventures, both shared their expertise, with the latter saying it is more beneficial for corporations to start a venture capital (VC) arm than invest from their current mergers and acquisitions arm (M&A).
Managing partner at Class 5 Global, Zach Finkelstein, who moderated the session on the second day of the event, said the San Francisco-based venture fund invested in a number of companies in the Middle East.
“The Middle East is particularly interesting to us, and in the past, our partners have invested in such regional companies as Careem. We’re excited to explore the development of the corporate VC space and how it can impact places like Saudi Arabia,” he added.
When asked why a corporation should start a VC arm instead of investing from an M&A team, and why have a separate corporate Venture Capital arm in the first place, Jaffery answered that “it brings faster results.”
“I think the easiest answer to that is just speed and agility,” he said. “Getting that response quickly to the market. VC deals can take weeks or months whereas an M&A transaction can take up to a year or longer, and also similarly, if you’re trying to then come out of it, it’s harder to come out of a joint venture agreement or an M&A as opposed to a VC.”
Al-Awadi explained his opinion a traditional VC perspective, and said: “We like the fact that corporations can invest from both their M&A arms and their VC arms if they have them.”
He highlighted that VC arms can invest in a greater variety of companies. “You have the intelligence, you know the market and if you’re looking at specific technology where we don’t have a lot of expertise we trust that you (other venture capitalists) know the market and you can evaluate that technology better to see if it has the capability and potential for growth or not.
“Eventually, you do have an M&A arm that will provide an exit for us, for an incentive for this company to work hard to grasp the intention after having been invested in by the VC arm of this big corporate to maybe look into making a partial agreement or complete acquisition, which really adds an incentive for the company to grow and attracts other investors and also attracts talent to join the company and help it grow even more.”
He said both the VC and M&A arm are important for company growth. “We tend to look at corporate investors through both arms as complementary to what we do when we have both of them around.”
The Kingdom has obtained a high reputation among investors internationally through the years, especially after the economic and social reforms of Saudi Vision 2030.
Step Saudi is home to the Kingdom’s best entrepreneurs, investors, creatives and digital enthusiasts. The last edition of Step Saudi featured four content tracks, more than 100 startups and over 1,500 attendees.