Funding sustainability in the Gulf: Sami Khoreibi, CEO, Incubayt Investments

Special Funding sustainability in the Gulf: Sami Khoreibi, CEO, Incubayt Investments
Sami Khoreibi was a frequent visitor to the UAE, where he learned about the Masdar City initiative. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 02 May 2022

Funding sustainability in the Gulf: Sami Khoreibi, CEO, Incubayt Investments

Funding sustainability in the Gulf: Sami Khoreibi, CEO, Incubayt Investments
  • For him, investment is about a positive environmental impact

LONDON: Sami Khoreibi is a seasoned entrepreneur and an investor in sustainable technology. Recognized by MIT Technology Review as a “Top 5 (Arab) innovator under 35,” Khoreibi is the founder and CEO of Incubayt Investments, a Dubai-based fund supporting entrepreneurs via access to capital, management and marketing insight.

A native of Toronto, Khoreibi entered the business world straight after graduation as the co-founder of Candax Energy, an international upstream oil and gas company funded by the Canadian capital markets, which he took public in 2007.

While running Candax, Khoreibi was a frequent visitor to the UAE, where he learned about the Masdar City initiative, Abu Dhabi’s ‘clean’ new city powered by sustainable energy.

“I noticed the trend in the cost of solar energy,” he told Arab News. “It was still expensive, but the cost per kilowatt was declining rapidly and looked like it would become competitive in the medium term.

“So, in 2007, we co-founded Enviromena Power Systems, one of the region’s first solar energy companies and based in Abu Dhabi. There was no venture capital ecosystem in the Gulf at that time. We raised investment from cleantech funds Zouk Capital in the UK and Good Energies in the US.” Enviromena built and operated a solar power plant in Masdar City — the first in the Middle East — and built similar plants in seven countries across the region. “It was an interesting and exciting time because we were educating the private sector, governments, utilities and the general population about the potential of renewable energy,” Khoreibi said.

Having achieved over $700 million in sales, Enviromena was acquired by a UK-based pension fund in 2017. The value of that deal was not disclosed but, according to Khoreibi, “it was a substantial exit for all involved.”

Incubating sustainability

In 2019 Khoreibi launched his Dubai-based venture capital fund Incubayt as the sole investor, focusing on sustainable technology.

“We’ve done 13 investments,” he said, “all early-stage investments, from inception to Series A funding. We invest where we can add value. With 16 years in the Gulf sustainability sector, we can navigate the landscape of bringing a new idea into the region. And as our companies mature, we can leverage the ecosystem we’ve developed to help get them to the next phases of capital.”

Khoreibi hit upon one bright idea during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020. “I was thinking about how to impact the consumer side of sustainability. Something that jumped right off the page was water. The way we deliver water today is pretty much broken. 




Sami Khoreibi, CEO, Incubayt Investments

We fill a bottle made of hydrocarbons and ship it halfway across the world for people to drink 500-milliliter units. It doesn’t make any sense, either from sustainability or economic standpoint.”

“Existing water filtration systems work well but require installation and maintenance. We partnered with a Toronto design firm and a contract manufacturer in Shenzhen to develop an install-free filtration system using reverse osmosis and re-mineralization. We’re launching in the US in the coming months, then hopefully in the UAE in the fourth quarter of 2022. Incubayt developed this project from inception to the point where we can attract third-party finance.” Meanwhile, Incubayt has invested in another fund called Hatch & Boost, again out of Dubai, “which looks at de-risking the early stage of a business.” Incubayt is a minority shareholder, and Khoreibi is the non-executive chairperson.

One beneficiary of Hatch & Boost is a smart agriculture company, World of Farming, which grows animal fodder ‘vertically’ and without soil. “It’s non-imported fodder, healthier, more sustainable, and at a lower cost,” Khoreibi said. For Khoreibi, investment is about a positive environmental impact instead of focusing on specific industries.

“We’re sector agnostic,” he said, “as long as we’re disrupting the sector with sustainability. We’re also looking at waste management, specifically around compost. “It’s just about coming up with a better product at a lower cost and real value in terms of sustainability.”

Need for clean infrastructure

Khoreibi points out that for Saudi Arabia to achieve net-zero by 2060 and the UAE by 2050, there will be a significant investment in clean infrastructure.

“We believe there’s an opportunity at the earlier part of that cycle,” he said, “investing in early technologies and early business models and being at the grassroots of those net-zero initiatives.

“Enviromena was initially seeded by venture capital, and within a decade, got bought out by pension capital — which shows how quickly the cycle moves.

“And for many different sectors focused on sustainability, we could see a similar path. Today there are clearer targets, governments are aligned, and the number of entrepreneurs with fantastic ideas in the region is spectacular.”

What, in Khoreibi’s view, is spurring this renaissance of innovation and creative entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East and North Africa region?

“A couple of things are driving this rapid change,” he noted. “First is that we’ve had some successful outcomes. Historically, it took bravery to say, ‘I’m going to try to start a company, raise capital, and then have a successful exit.’ But now we’ve seen some really good funding rounds and exits in the region, for example, Careem being acquired by Uber — proving that if you have a great idea, and the urge to jump into it, there can be a successful outcome.” “Second, the capital markets are reflective of that. When we started Enviromena in 2007, it was virtually impossible to raise venture capital out of the region. It just didn’t exist. Now that ecosystem is there; it’s well-funded and ready to deploy.

“And if you marry that with a young generation of people who have seen the positive outcomes and believe, ‘If we try, we can make this happen’ — it makes for an exciting and still very nascent ecosystem.”

Building better ecosystems

Khoreibi says that what makes Incubayt unique and different is that he and his colleagues “love to get our hands dirty with the entrepreneurs.”

“We come in early, and the entrepreneurs live in our offices.” “But not because we’re saying, ‘you got to get stuff done.’ It’s more like, ‘how can we help out?’

“Plus, I was a founder and understand the pain points other founders face on the journey from idea through to a liquidity event.”

What is Khoreibi’s message to young people in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East and North Africa region who are thinking of entrepreneurship rather than a salaried career?

“I would tell them first of all congratulations because there’s never been a better time. If you have a good idea, jump in there, and don’t be afraid to fail because failure is part of the entrepreneurial reality.

“There’s never been a stronger ecosystem in the region. All the trends are pushing in the right direction, and the support structures are in place.

“And if you are thinking of something that will make the world a better place, we’re all ears – feel free to contact us!”


Dubai International Financial Centre launches metaverse platform

Dubai International Financial Centre launches metaverse platform
Updated 12 sec ago

Dubai International Financial Centre launches metaverse platform

Dubai International Financial Centre launches metaverse platform
  • Strategy aims to grow the region’s GDP, attract companies

DUBAI: Dubai International Financial Centre announced the launch of the DIFC Metaverse Platform on Monday in a bid to attract technology innovators from across the globe, Emirates News Agency reported.

The platform is part of the Dubai Metaverse Strategy, which aims to add $4 billion to the emirate’s GDP by 2030, support 40,000 virtual jobs, and attract 1,000 blockchain and metaverse companies. 

The platform also supports the Dubai Economic Agenda’s goal of generating economic value worth $27 billion per year from digital transformation. 

Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and Remote Work Applications Omar bin Sultan Al Olama said that the metaverse platform is the first in a series of initiatives aimed at bolstering Dubai’s position as a global hub for the latest digital trends, and accelerating the pace of achieving the strategy’s objectives.

DIFC Authority CEO Arif Amiri said: “The Dubai government has shown great foresight in introducing a metaverse strategy that has the objective of making the emirate a global hub for technology and innovation.

“The development of the integrated DIFC Metaverse Platform will accelerate the achievements of Dubai’s aspirations in this sector.

“The initiative is a natural extension of our Innovation Hub proposition that has shaped the technology and innovation landscape in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region.”

The DIFC Metaverse Platform includes an accelerator program with a physical studio for metaverse technology, which will foster the growth of a creator community and venture creation.

It will also work on metaverse policy development and legislation on open data, digital identity, and metaverse company law frameworks.


Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows

Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows
Updated 30 January 2023

Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows

Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows

RIYADH: Deposits in Saudi banks grew by 9 percent year-on-year to SR2.29 trillion ($609.97 billion) with the major chunk deposited by government agencies, the monthly bulletin issued by the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, showed.

Data showed that deposits by government entities rose by 27 percent, the highest in 16 years, reaching SR651.2 billion.

Saudi-listed banks reported a 21 percent rise in aggregate net profit before zakat and tax to SR6.16 billion in December 2022, compared to SR5.11 billion a year earlier.

The data covered the results of Tadawul-listed banks and some foreign banks operating in Saudi Arabia.

Banks’ aggregate assets increased nearly 10 percent year-on-year to SR3.62 trillion in December.

Loans issued to individuals in the Kingdom saw a 14 percent surge during 2022 reaching SR1.17 trillion by the end of 2022 as compared to SR1.02 trillion by the end of 2021.

The volume of residential real estate financing for individuals declined by 21 percent in 2022 for the first time since 2016. The total volume remained at SR123.4 billion.

The SAMA report showed that remittances from Saudi Arabia fell by 7 percent during 2022 to SR143.2 billion while remittances to the Kingdom from citizens living abroad recorded a growth of 11 percent to reach SR7.25 billion.

Assets held by the central bank shrank by SR63.8 billion month-on-month to SR1.93 trillion in December 2022. However, as compared to December 2021, SAMA’s assets rose by SR85.1 billion.

The central bank’s investments in foreign securities, which make up 58 percent of its total assets, edged down 0.2 percent year-on-year to around SR1.13 trillion last month.


 LEAP tech conference launches two competitions with a $1.5m prize pool

 LEAP tech conference launches two competitions with a $1.5m prize pool
Updated 30 January 2023

 LEAP tech conference launches two competitions with a $1.5m prize pool

 LEAP tech conference launches two competitions with a $1.5m prize pool

RIYADH: The world’s largest technical conference “LEAP” has launched two competitions with a SR6 million ($1.5 million) prize pool aimed at rewarding Saudi-based startups and boosting cloud technologies.

Supported by the National Information Technology Development Program and the Misk Foundation, the Rocket Fuel competition aims to support new businesses, highlight entrepreneurial projects, and build innovative solutions that address technical challenges.

As many as 90 local startups will compete for a chance to be one of 15 to be awarded a share of SR4 million, with a top prize of almost SR940,000.

As for the Alibaba Cloud hackathon, it aims to enhance cloud technologies in the Kingdom through a number of various challenges that will be set up prior to the start of the conference. The competition offers cash prizes amounting to SR2 million.

LEAP, which is set to kick off its second edition in Riyadh from Feb. 6 to Feb. 9, is anticipating the participation of major government and private agencies as well as technology and communications companies.

The conference is organized by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones, and UAE-based IT services and consulting firm Tahaluf.


ACWA Power adds record desalination capacity to serve 5.5m more people daily 

ACWA Power adds record desalination capacity to serve 5.5m more people daily 
Updated 30 January 2023

ACWA Power adds record desalination capacity to serve 5.5m more people daily 

ACWA Power adds record desalination capacity to serve 5.5m more people daily 

RIYADH: Saudi-based ACWA Power created the largest water desalination capacity in the company’s history in 2022, enabling it to serve 5.5 million more people in the Gulf Cooperation Council region every day.

The power generation firm added a record-breaking 2.4 million cm3/day of water desalination capacity, according to a press release, through four reverse osmosis megaprojects in the Middle East pushing ACWA power’s aggregate water capacity up to 6.4 million cubic meters. 

Saudi Arabia’s water giant currently manages 16 projects in four different nations, and fulfills almost 30 percent of the Kingdom’s overall water needs.  

Desalinated water produced by the company reaches 40 million people daily, according to the international consumption per household.  

“ACWA Power has been at the forefront in mitigating water resources challenges over the past decade and a half through innovative, resilient solutions that are benefitting millions of people across the world,” said Kashif Rana, chief portfolio management officer of ACWA Power. 

“Enhancing capacity is a significant milestone not only for us, but for our industry. I am confident that through our expertise we will continue to build water security reliably and responsibly for Saudi Arabia and the world,” he added. 

The release further noted that reverse osmosis technology has been incorporated in all of the company’s projects, which saves up to 80 percent more energy than the conventional processes.

ACWA Power is anticipated to boost its capacity by around 15 percent through developing three new desalination projects in 2023.  

“As the leading water desalination operator in the world today, managing 6.4 million m3/day of desalinated water at lowest possible cost, ACWA Power is continuing to bring an innovative, and practical change to the industry, as we have been doing since 2006,” said Dr. Tariq Nada, the vice president of Water and Technical Service at the company.


Closing bell: Saudi bourse slips 29 points to close at 10,811 

Closing bell: Saudi bourse slips 29 points to close at 10,811 
Updated 30 January 2023

Closing bell: Saudi bourse slips 29 points to close at 10,811 

Closing bell: Saudi bourse slips 29 points to close at 10,811 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index fell 28.81 points — or 0.27 percent — on Monday to close at 10,810.68. 

While MSCI Tadawul 30 Index ended flat at 1,492.97, the parallel market Nomu fell 27.67 points to 19,151.14. 

TASI’s total trading turnover of the benchmark index on Monday was SR5 billion ($1.33 billion), with 69 stocks of the listed 223 advancing and 135 retreating. 

Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair Co., also known as Cenomi Retail, was the topmost gainer of the day, rising 7.03 percent to SR18.88. 

The company was also the topmost gainer on Sunday as it rose 9.98 percent, following the announcement of its plans to divest 26 non-strategic brands to rationalize its brand portfolio. 

The franchisee retailer wants to focus on “champion brands” occupying the No. 1 or No. 2 positions in their sectors.  

The other top gainers were East Pipes Integrated Co. for Industry, healthcare player Al Hammadi Holding, Al Kathiri Holding Co., and Allianz Saudi Fransi Cooperative Insurance Co. 

The worst performer on Monday was Alinma Hospitality REIT Fund, which fell 4.80 percent to SR9.52 on its debut after opening at SR9.25. 

The SR1.2 billion fund was listed on Monday at SR10 per unit, taking the total number of real estate investment trusts in the primary market to 18. 

Subscriptions to the fund’s units took place during the period from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7, 2022. A minimum of 50 units were allocated to each subscriber, while the remaining shares were allocated pro-rata.    

The other stocks that performed poorly included Halwani Bros. Co., Yanbu Cement Co., Allied Cooperative Insurance Group, and Mulkia Gulf Real Estate REIT. 

Among sectoral indices, 12 of the 21 listed on the stock exchange declined, while one stayed flat and the rest advanced. 

The Media and Entertainment Index was the worst-performing sector as it fell 2.01 percent to 22,423.88, weighed down by its vital constituent, Saudi Research, and Media Group, which stumbled 2.48 percent to SR189. 

The Software & Services Index was the best-performing index thanks to Elm Co., which jumped 3.08 percent to SR354.60. On the other hand, Al Moammar Information Systems Co. moved up 2.34 percent to SR96.20. The other gainers were Arabian Internet and Communications Services Co. and Arab Sea Information System Co. 

On the announcements front, Saudi Paper Manufacturing Co. informed the stock exchange that its shareholders approved on Jan. 29 the board of directors’ recommendation to repurchase up to 1 million treasury shares, not exceeding 5 percent of the issued capital. 

The decision came as the board and executive management saw that the share market price was less than its fair value. 

The repurchase will be financed from the company’s resources using its cash balances or credit facilities, the company said in the statement to Tadawul.