By David Ingham
Almost unknown until a month ago, Amal Alayan's Ibtikar Venture Partners invests a combined total of $5 million in Arabia.com and menafn.com, a forthcoming financial services portal.
Ibtikar Venture Partners has pumped a combined total of $5 million into Arabia.com and Menafn.com.
The funding gives Ibtikar an undisclosed amount of equity in two companies that are eyeing IPOs in North America, and gives the two dot.coms access to Ibtikar's North American-based expertise and advisors.
Arabia.com will need little introduction as the Middle East's longest established and probably most visited Internet portal. Menafn.com is a financial services site that will hard-launch its combination of brokerage engine and market intelligence in the coming months.
Probably the least known of this trio is the company that's actually pumping up the money. Ibtikar is a US-based venture capitalist focused on assisting Arab entrepreneurs. It's been around a year and a half but has so far been very happy to keep a low profile.
The reason, as
, managing partner, explains, is that the company wanted to ensure it had something concrete to shout about before it went ahead and made a noise. As a result, negotiation was done behind the scenes with Arabia and Menafn before this formal announcement.
“We wanted to take the time to find a big deal,” says Alayan, who is Ibtikar’s co-founder and managing partner. “Now we’re ready to go out and start raising the ‘big fund.’” The big fund that she refers to will total around $20 million in size and will most likely be spread around ten to twelve companies.
Ibtikar was co-founded by Alayan, a Kuwaiti Palestinian who moved to the US initially to study at MIT; and Omar Khudari, an Arab-American who, according to his Ibtikar profile, has already built two successful companies. These include Papyrus Design Group, a computer game publisher that was acquired by Sierra On-Line, and Viaweb, a shopping site that was bought in 1998 by Yahoo.
Amongst a growing number of venture capitalists focused on the Middle East, Ibtikar believes its unique selling point is its North American contacts and its founders' and its advisors' operational skills. As well as Khudari's experience, Ibtikar has advisory relationships with prominent North American 'dot-commers' like Ed Roberts and Steven Woit.
Roberts is a Professor in Management of Technology at Sloan School of Management; a renowned author and consultant; and an investor in startups, including Chinese e-services and portal company, Sohu.com. Woit is the founder of Riga Ventures, a VC company, and he previously worked at IDG Ventures, IDG’s VC partnership.
Ibtikar has raised a majority of the money it's investing from the region and the remainder from North America. Both dot-com and bio-tech companies are investment targets, but every company should have an Arab founding member.