Bahrain launches $100m VC fund for start-ups

Al Waha Fund of Funds will help start-ups in Bahrain and across the region get access to capital and expertise
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Thu 10 May 2018 03:38 PM

Bahrain has launched a $100 million venture capital fund aimed at boosting the country’s start-up ecosystem, the government announced on Thursday.

The Al Waha Fund of Funds is aimed at providing venture capital funds to support startups across Bahrain and the region.

“This is very exciting news for the startup ecosystem both here in Bahrain and across the Middle East,” said Khalid Al Rumaihi, chairman of the Bahrain Development Bank. “We know that access to capital is one of the biggest constraints on growth for startups, so this fund will help businesses in Bahrain and across the Middle East to get access to the capital they need to expand.”

Al Rumaihi noted that VC investment in the Middle East and North Africa is a “fraction” of that in markets such as the USA and China.

“This means there are entrepreneurs with great ideas that are not realising their potential because they cannot access the funding required,” he said.

In addition to providing capital to regional startups, the fund is expected to help attract additional venture capital funds to Bahrain, where the start-up scene has benefited in recent years from a reduction in the amount of capital necessary to start a business and measures to enable onshore crowdfunding.

Speaking to Arabian Business on the sidelines of the Gateway Gulf Investor Forum in Manama, Bahrain Development Bank senior vice president and head of business services Areije Al Shakar said that the fund “will help complete” Bahrain’s start-up ecosystem.

“We need VCs to come, spend more time and be present here,” she said. “With Al Waha, these VCs will be here a lot more, and they [start-ups] won't have to wait for an event or to travel to try to get access to funding or expertise.”

“That will further support the growth of our ecosystem,” she said. “At the same time, we have a lot of start-ups that are choosing Bahrain because of ease of set-up costs, access to talent and friendly regulatory environment, but they also need that kind of funding and expertise, and Al Waha will hopefully be able to resolve that.”

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