US-based 500 Startups launches $30m fund for MENA startups

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United States (US)-based accelerator and seed fund 500 Startups has announced 500 Falcons, a US$30 million fund for investing in startups from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

500 Startups has been accepting an increasing number of African startups onto its Silicon Valley accelerator programmes of late – South Africa’s SweepSouth and Ghana’s Kudobuzz were the latest two to take part – and the company has now escalated its activities in Africa – or at least North Africa – with the launch of 500 Falcons.

The fund will invest in promising new companies and founders in the MENA region, where 500 Startups already has over 30 existing investments, including in Egyptian startups Wuzzuf and Edfa3ly.

500 Falcons will have a target size of US$30 million and focus on seed stage investments of between US$50,000 and US$100,000.

“We will actively co-invest and syndicate deals with existing funds and angels in the ecosystem, with the goal of investing in 100-200 companies,” 500 Startups said.

“Our main areas of focus will be e-commerce and marketplaces, video and Arabic content, SaaS, mobile, fintech, hardware and IoT. We plan to do follow-on investments of up to US$500,000 in the top 20-30 per cent of our companies, with potential additional capital from our main global fund in selected deals.”

500 Falcons will be led by 500 Startups partner Hasan Haider, and in the near future will also include other 500 Startups venture partners in local MENA geographies and markets.

“We’ve named the fund 500 Falcons as it represents an important aspect of Arab culture. These beautiful, majestic creatures fly fast and agile, exactly like the startups we look to invest in,” the company said.

“Most economies in the MENA region are dominated by the government and large companies, and in the face of a demographic shift, we see an opportunity for this to change. With 60 per cent of the population under the age of 25, the region needs jobs. Startups will lead the transition in economic development for most countries, to go from rentier states to more diversified, self-sustainable economies.”

Beyond being an active investor, 500 Startups said it will also help bridge the gap between MENA and Silicon Valley for both startups and investors.

“In addition, we plan to help advise governments and private sector counterparts on how to support and invest in startups and tech,” the company said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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