500 Startups closes $15m MENA fund

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US-based accelerator 500 Startups has announced the first close of a US$15 million fund dedicated to Middle East and North Africa (MENA) based startups, to be known as 500 Falcons.

While 500 Startups has previously concluded 55 deals in the MENA region to the tune of US$6 million, 500 Falcons aims to raise a total of US$30 million dedicated entirely to investing in MENA-based early-stage startups, or startups targeting MENA.  The first close is at half the target amount, at US$15 million.

500 Falcons is set to invest in approximately 100-150 companies with about half of the fund, while the other half will be reserved for follow-on investment in the top 20 per cent of companies.

The organisation said the dedicated fund was prompted by the fact that the MENA region has a growing young population eager to pull the region from lingering political and economic uncertainty.

“The Middle East and North Africa are among the last large regional ecosystems to rise up, and emerging markets tend to leapfrog adoption of innovations and technology at higher and higher frequencies. Being a latecomer does not mean staying behind, and the Arabic speaking world is 500 million strong – young, resourceful, wealthy and a yearning to thrive,” said Hasan Haider, venture partner at 500 Startups.

500 Startups venture partner Sharif El-Badawi has been confirmed as partner for 500 Falcons; while recruitment for further team members is currently on-going.

Investors participating in the first close include the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) and the Oman Investment Fund.

With the help of QSTP, 500 Startups will also bring its Series A programme to the MENA region by hosting an annual “Doha Dojo”, bringing together the top Series A level MENA startups to Doha with some of the world’s best growth hackers to help build a growth mindset and support them in their growth.

“I look forward to 500 Startups playing a significant role in building ecosystems across the MENA region, and investing in the best founders solving real problems. I hope that our deal volume and speed will provide at least a small boost in funding activity at the earliest stages and even encourage others to do more deals as well,” Haider said.

“Here’s to building world class startups from the Middle East, creating jobs, solving real problems, empowering the youth, women and anyone who wants to effect real change to better their surroundings, and generating a positive return on capital while we’re at it!”

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Inspired and excited by the African tech entrepreneurial scene, Gabriella spends her time travelling around the continent to report on the most innovative tech startups, the most active investors, and the latest trends emerging in the ecosystem.

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