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

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)
Short Url
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!”


Egypt lowers its expected GDP growth to 4.5%

Egypt lowers its expected GDP growth to 4.5%
Updated 16 May 2022

Egypt lowers its expected GDP growth to 4.5%

Egypt lowers its expected GDP growth to 4.5%

CAIRO:Egypt has lowered its expected gross domestic product economic growth in the next fiscal year 2022/23, which begins in July, to 4.5 percent from 5.5 percent, a cabinet statement quoted the prime minister as saying on Monday.

Mostafa Madbouly was speaking during a meeting with an American businesses delegation organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, the statement said.

In March, Egypt lowered the targeted real GDP growth for its upcoming fiscal year to 5.5 percent, citing the effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on its economy.


Bahrain state oil firm to appoint financial adviser, CEO says

Bahrain state oil firm to appoint financial adviser, CEO says
Updated 16 May 2022

Bahrain state oil firm to appoint financial adviser, CEO says

Bahrain state oil firm to appoint financial adviser, CEO says

Bahrain’s state oil firm nogaholding is in final talks to appoint a strategy consultant and financial adviser, its chief executive said on Monday, as the indebted country seeks to capitalize on high energy prices and sell or lease out assets.

Nogaholding, the parent of Bahrain’s main state energy companies, issued a request for proposal for an independent financial adviser last week and expects to award it in roughly eight weeks’s time, group CEO Mark Thomas told Reuters.

The aim is to develop an energy strategy within six months and an asset monetization program as soon as next year, he said.

“The independent financial adviser will be looking at asset monetization, our debt and our structure of our debt, looking at opportunities where we can use alternative forms of financing like sustainability-linked loans,” Thomas said.

The adviser will also help nogaholding with a possible national hedging strategy, in coordination with the finance ministry, to protect on the downside and unlock any upside, he added.

“We’ve got very attractive oil prices right now. We generally run a budget, a national budget, at an oil figure of $60-$65” per barrel to break even, he said. 

The strategy consultant, for which an RFP was issued in December, is expected to complete early in the fourth quarter a national energy strategy, a nogaholding operating strategy and a carbon strategy aligned with Bahrain’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2060.

Nogaholding will follow a monetization model similar to regional energy heavyweights Saudi Aramco and Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., Thomas said.


Saudi Arabia extends duration of 2018 deposit at central bank of Yemen

Saudi Arabia extends duration of 2018 deposit at central bank of Yemen
Updated 16 May 2022

Saudi Arabia extends duration of 2018 deposit at central bank of Yemen

Saudi Arabia extends duration of 2018 deposit at central bank of Yemen
  • Al-Rasheed stressed that the agreement is an extension of the Kingdom's support to the people of Yemen
  • He added that the support will enhance the financial and economic situation in Yemen

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Yemen have signed an agreement to extend the duration of the Kingdom’s 2018 deposit at Yemen’s Central Bank, Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.

Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Minister for Macro Fiscal Policies and International Relations, Abdulaziz Al-Rasheed, and the central bank of Yemen’s governor Ahmed bin Ahmed Ghaleb signed the agreement in Riyadh.

Al-Rasheed stressed that the agreement is an extension of the Kingdom's support to the people of Yemen.

He added that the support will improve the financial and economic situation in Yemen, especially the exchange rate of the Yemeni riyal, which will have a positive effect on the living conditions of Yemenis.

The two officials also discussed a deposit that was announced in April 2022.


Oil prices rise on China demand optimism, gasoline strength

Oil prices rise on China demand optimism, gasoline strength
Updated 16 May 2022

Oil prices rise on China demand optimism, gasoline strength

Oil prices rise on China demand optimism, gasoline strength

NEW YORK: Oil prices rose on Monday on optimism that China would see significant demand recovery after positive signs that coronavirus pandemic was receding in the hardest-hit areas.

Brent crude rose $1.34, or 1.2 percent, at $112.89 a barrel at 12:10 p.m. EDT (1710 EDT) 1342 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate crude rose $2.22, or less than 0.1 percent, to $112.71 a barrel.

Shanghai aims to reopen broadly and allow normal life to resume for the city’s 25 million people from June 1, a city official said on Monday, after declaring that 15 of its 16 districts had eliminated cases outside quarantine areas.

However, it is estimated that 46 cities in China are under lockdowns, hitting shopping, factory output and energy usage.

“We are seeing a lot of signals that demand will start returning in that region, supporting higher prices,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho.

In line with the unexpected industrial output decline, China processed 11 percent less crude oil in April, with daily throughput the lowest since March 2020.

US gasoline futures set an all-time high again on Monday as falling stockpiles fueled supply concerns.

“Oil prices will remain bullish, especially WTI’s near-term contract, as US gasoline prices continued to rise amid weaker imports of petroleum products from Europe,” said Kazuhiko Saito, chief analyst at Fujitomi Securities.

Oil prices also found some support as the EU’s diplomats and officials expressed optimism about reaching a deal on a phased embargo of Russian oil despite concerns about supply in eastern Europe.

Austria expects the EU to agree on the sanctions in the coming days, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said on Monday.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the bloc would need a few more days to find agreement.

“With a planned ban by the EU on Russian oil and slow increase in OPEC output, oil prices are expected to stay close to the current levels near $110 a barrel,” said Naohiro Niimura, a partner at Market Risk Advisory. 


Saudi-Thai MoUs to boost two-way trade, investment opportunities

Saudi-Thai MoUs to boost two-way trade, investment opportunities
Updated 16 May 2022

Saudi-Thai MoUs to boost two-way trade, investment opportunities

Saudi-Thai MoUs to boost two-way trade, investment opportunities

RIYADH: Five memorandums of understanding were signed on the sidelines of the Saudi-Thai Investment Forum in Riyadh on Monday. 

The first MoU was signed between the Saudi Federation of Chamber and the Board of Trade of Thailand to explore investment opportunities in the private sector. 

The second MoU signed between the Saudi Ministry of Investment and Gulf Energy Development Public Co. aims at evaluating and exploring investment opportunities in the field of petrochemicals industries. 

The third deal between the Diriyah Gate Development Authority and Minor Group aims to launch multiple hotels in the region. 

The fourth MoU between the Saudi Investment Ministry and Indorama Ventures is aimed at exploring petrochemical and conversion opportunities such as polymers, and fiber surfactants. 

The fifth deal was signed between the Saudi Ministry of Investment and SCG and Dusit International. This deal is aimed at increasing foreign direct investments in Saudi Arabia.