Introducing the women aiming to change the face of investment in the Middle East

Elissa Freiha and Chantalle Dumonceaux are turning the tide with the launch of WOMENA, a Dubai-based women-only angel group

The UAE is proving it knows how to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem, with co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators popping up at pace, local universities increasing their entrepreneurship courses and more and more people preferring to launch their own businesses.

From the government to the private sector, there has been a concerted effort to make it easier than ever to start a venture. But as with any growing movement, things are still yet to come up to speed.

In Dubai’s case, one area which is yet to be fully realised is that of angel investment.

The current angel market in the emirate is fairly invisible, with members usually operating on their own or in small, ad-hoc groups, relying on word of mouth to find investment opportunities and making decisions in isolation.

But according to two entrepreneurial friends, this is about to change.

“There are so many entities that are focusing on entrepreneurs, which is incredible. But nobody is servicing the needs of investors,” says Elissa Freiha, an Emirati of Lebanese and American descent, who co-founded Dubai-based women-only angel group, WOMENA.

“Our focus is on educating and incubating investors. We’re not here to accelerate or incubate start-ups, we have partners whose job is that. We are here to fund start-ups.

“We are very happy with bringing these fragmented entities together and fulfilling all the needs that they have.”

The other part of the charismatic duo is Chantalle Dumonceaux, an American whose vast experience in the angel investment process stems from her work with start-ups and angel groups in Zurich and New York.

Their initial idea surfaced in the summer of 2013, with a view to bring to the emirate’s table a concentrated view on how an angel network should be.

“I was already exposed to the whole ecosystem from the start-up side to the financing side,” she says.

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