Angel and Early stage investments Insights from the Middle EastI was visiting KAUST (king Abdulalla university of science and technology) and touring the innovation center. I have been participating in an impressive start up computing at KAUST a year ago, and the evolution, progress and entrepreneurship breeze that I saw in my most recent visit was amazing. Things are differently changing and on the right track. I'm seeing real innovation and the full ecosystem in place; mentor shop, bootcamps, acceleration, pre seed funding as well as seed and follow up funding. Really amazing. Start ups receiving attention of big companies like Aramco, Sabic and others as well as investments from these big companies.
Recently we have seen an impressive ecosystem in Dubai being evolved. The Future Accelerator in Dubai stands as one of the most promising initiative. From its name, this accelerator opens its door to any entrepreneur who wants to put his innovation into action to shape the future of Dubai. Smart Dubai Office is looking for innovative smart solutions to make the life of dubai residence happier, smoother and to guarantee the best experience in the world. Few years ago when I started with Mena Apps, the road looked very long and at certain moments I felt it will take a long time before we see real initiatives. We started small initiatives in Jordan and Palestine. I participated in start up conditions and boot camps in few places. I was not saying. I to any invitation I receive to talk about innovation and start ups as well as the importance of building the ecosystem to enable the arab world to face the challenges that are we are living of ahead of us. Now, I have to apologies from speaking opportunities and events focused on start ups and entrepreneurship in the region, since there are so many events happening monthly. Today we have tens of locally driven events as well as global events that moved to the region. The region is still virgin both in terms of market potential with 350+ million market that most of them are young as well as a talented, motivated and eager to succeed young entrepreneurs. Seed Stars World, Get in the Ring, MIT, Girls in Tech and many other global players are witnessing an amazing start up spring in the Mena region. Many international angel investors are coming to the region as well. I have personally invested in 35+ start ups, with 40% of them start ups with female founders. When I joined EBAN, I was the only Arab that is part of the leading European Angel Network and now we have MBAN ( the Mena business angel network) and working with global partners to set up a hybrid VC/Angel fund in Mena. Now, we have angel groups in dubai, KSA, Kuwait, Jordan, Tunisia, Egypt and all over the place. The world business angel investment forum (WBAF) is an other key platform that is becoming the bridge between Europe, the works and the Mena region. The new initiatives and work that WBAF brings every year is contribution a lot to the development of a vibrant and sustainable angel environment in the Mena region.Angel investors play a key role in the success of an entrepreneurship ecosystem. They provide much more than the seed finding or follow up finding. They provide guidance, mentor shop and more importantly they open markets and introduce to key customers. This is not a CSR exercise and should never be looked at from this angle. This is a win-win-win formula. This is the 1+1=3 formula. I don't want to give the impression that we reached the top of the mountain? Not at all. More to be done for sure. The above initiatives abs information should be a door opener and should encourage more players. It should open the door for more partnerships and cooperation. We are entering 2017 and I'm one of those who believe that this year will be the turning point in the history of this region. We will witness major steps towards have some MENA cities as global innovation hubs that will attracts innovators from around the world. Dubai stands as the first in this line, and I'm confident other cities will follow. The WBAF is a platform that we should use to spread the successful stories and best practices into the MENA region. The success story of Bourca Istanbul of building a market for start ups should be duplicated in dubai as well as other stock markets. The public/private partnership that WBAF has managed to successful establish is yet an other model that can be followed and duplicated in the region.