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Thu 20 Aug 2020 02:25 PM

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Oman's Phaze Ventures looks to London for fintech and cleantech investments

Third round of entrants for SparkLabs Energy initiative to be announced in the coming weeks and feature start-ups from around the world

Oman's Phaze Ventures looks to London for fintech and cleantech investments

Oman-based venture capital (VC) firm Phaze Ventures CEO Abdullah Al-Shaksy.

Oman-based venture capital (VC) firm Phaze Ventures is looking to tap into UK companies for the third cohort of its accelerator programme, according to the company’s CEO Abdullah Al-Shaksy.

The Omani venture capitalist said the third round of entrants for its SparkLabs Energy initiative would be announced in the coming weeks and feature start-ups from around the world.

The SparkLabs Programme is run in partnership with Petroleum Development Oman and SparkLabs Global – it seeks to pilot technologies from global innovators in real world environments through corporate partnerships.

“We are searching for global entrants and looking at a number of things based out of the UK. This year we are interested in B2B fintech and regtech. London is a fantastic hub for technology innovation,” Al-Shaksy told Arabian Business.

“We are also keen on British clean tech – we don’t have anything on our desk at the moment but we are actively looking in this space.

"We are keen to look at companies that are building software to help firms better understand their carbon footprint,” Al-Shaksy added.

Global seed investment

Founded in 2018, Muscat-headquartered Phaze Ventures is focused on energy, logistics and technology start-ups and currently has seven global investments on its books spanning Canada, the US, France and Oman.

The VC invests at the seed and Series A stage, with investments worth around $100,000 to $500,000 per company.

“We’ve been quite active with our existing portfolio this year and conducted several follow-on rounds and announced new partnerships. It’s been a busy year despite coronavirus, or maybe because of it – or perhaps a bit of both,” said Al-Shaksy.

Phaze Ventures is keen to participate in the “massive digital push that the region is going through”, said the CEO.

“Our economies have been historically dominated by the public sector and the energy sector, however, in the last decade, a lot of the governments have made serious pushes to change that and also to support private sector diversification,” Al-Shaksy said.

“Company formation needs VC as part of the start-up ecosystem. We picked industries that were relevant to helping our region go through this journey but also have the potential to bring global impact and value to the region – as well as doing the opposite locally and bringing Omani value to the rest of the world.”

Most recently in April, Phaze Ventures invested in SpotLight, a French geoscience start-up that provides dynamic detection of subsurface movements. Other firms on its books include IoT logistics player eMushrif and maritime software company Voyager.

In January 2020, The Ministry of Technology and Communications in Oman signed an agreement to launch the country’s first specialised cybersecurity accelerator.

The project is run in partnership with the Oman-Britain Digital Centre and Takween, the annual investment programme affiliated to Oman Technology Fund (OTF).

The initiative is a significant milestone for the Middle East and aims to support companies operating in the cybersecurity sector.

In a bold move towards plugging its startup finance gap, Oman utilised $200m from its sovereign wealth fund to create the OTF in 2016.

OTF invests in startups in Oman and MENA and hopes to attract global start-ups to open up shop locally through partnerships with global leaders, such as London-based VC firm Hambro Perks.

Bilateral trade between Oman and the UK soared 90 per cent to around 2.8 billion pounds sterling (approx. RO 1.4 billion) in 2018 in comparison with figures for 2016, according to UK government data.

Simon Penney, the UK’s Trade Commissioner to the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan, said the figure represented an “all-time high” in bilateral trade between the two countries.

UK companies operating in Oman include Carillion, Taylor Woodrow, Atkins, Mott McDonald, Petrofac, Shell, BP and BAE.

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