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Wed 27 Mar 2019 07:46 AM

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Uber, Careem deal 'validates investment' in the region, says Fadi Ghandour

Wamda Capital's Fadi Ghandour said he expected the deal to create investment opportunities for new entrepreneurs

Uber, Careem deal 'validates investment' in the region, says Fadi Ghandour
Fadi Ghandour, founder of Dubai-based Wamda Capital

Fadi Ghandour has hailed Uber’s $3.1 billion acquisition of riding sharing firm Careem a milestone for the region.

“It’s a very big day, a very important day, a milestone –you name it,” the founder and executive chairman of Dubai-based Wamda Capital, which has invested in Careem, told Arabian Business.

Jordanian serial entrepreneur Ghandour, who co-founded logistics giant Aramex, said he had been aware the Uber deal was on the table, but he didn’t know the details of it.

Ghandour said: “I knew they were discussing the issue; I knew they were serious and that eventually [the deal] was going be inevitable.

“[The deal] is an important milestone for the validation of anybody that believes in investment in the region.

“Deals with a size like this make a statement… they allow people who were worried about the risk of regional investing to feel more confident,” Ghandour said.

When it comes to technology, the Middle East hasn’t historically been known as a venture capital hotspot. But that could all be about to change, the serial entrepreneur said.

“[Deals like this] convince people that the region is participating in and investing in the digital economy.

“This deal tells people: ‘Yes, you can scale’ and ‘yes, you can have can substantial returns if you adopt early enough’."

Trickle down

As well as encouraging more entrepreneurs, the Careem sell-off will create a trickle down of wealth in the region, the chairman said.

“After the deal, you will have a huge number of people that are getting their stock options who will get a substantial amount of money.

“So you will have people with a massive amount of experience and now they have some money, you will get a spill over effect of new investors and new entrepreneurs. I would call them direct graduates of Careem.”

Ghandour added that local wannabe entrepreneurs would now be emboldened to leave their day jobs and set up their own companies.

“Both Careem founders are McKinsey graduates, so maybe those who work in corporates will now feel free to go out on their own,” he said.

Throughout his years as serial entrepreneur and mentor in MENA, Ghandour has been a formidable force within the regional start-up ecosystem.

In 2010, he launched MENA Venture Investments (MVI), an angel investment company, to invest in tech-enabled businesses at the seed stage.

MVI invested in companies such as Souq.com, which later spun off as an e-commerce platform, which was acquired by Amazon in 2016.

In 2014, Ghandour launched Wamda Capital, an early stage investment fund, focusing on investing in early stage technology start-ups in the Middle East, Turkey and East Africa.

Wamda Capital is set to launch its second investment fund in early 2019. It expects its first close to be in the second quarter of 2019 and is aiming to raise $100 million in capital.

The firm’s first $70 million fund was launched back in 2015 and by the end of last year, 80 per cent of the fund’s capital had been deployed.

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