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Mon 1 Dec 2014 01:12 PM

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VC eyes UAE tech start-ups

MENA-focused venture capital firms looks to expand its portfolio by investing in more than a dozen digital media companies in the UAE.

VC eyes UAE tech start-ups

A Middle East-focused venture capital firm plans to invest $30 million (Dh110 million) in the UAE’s internet start-ups over the next three years.

Middle East Venture Partners (Mevp), a Beirut, Dubai, and Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm managing $75 million in assets, is looking for e-commerce, 'edutainment' and e-payment start-ups to add to its existing portfolio of 25 technology companies.

Speaking to local media, Walid Hanna, managing partner at Mevp, said that the regional venture capital space was growing and that the company had started raising $30 million to invest in about 10 to 15 companies from the UAE in the next three years.

Focusing on digital companies mostly in mobile and online gaming, the company made its first exit recently by selling Shahiya.com, an Arabic recipe website run by a Lebanese joint-stock internet company, for $13.5 million to Cookpad, a Japanese public company which is the world’s leading online recipes service.

According to the agreement Shahiya’s entire team joined Cookpad’s international team but its headquarters remains in Beirut, Lebanon.

Speaking at that time, Hanna said: “Shahiya is our first exit, and we are very proud that it takes place via Cookpad, a listed company with global reach. This validates our strategy of investing in companies with the potential to become MENA leaders in their own vertical market.”

Within Mevp’s portfolio, only three companies are global while the majority are based either in Amman, Beirut or Dubai.

Among others, these include Lamsa.com, a kids edutainment company, in which Mevp has announced a second round of funding, and Anghami, a mobile app, which is involved in streaming of Arabic and international music.

“This is where the action is,” said Hanna.

“We are heavily investing in the UAE. It has become the hub for the GCC.

“There is much more money than five years ago. The eco system is growing. We have seven incubators and accelerators programmes in the UAE. There was none before. A lot of people are helping entrepreneurs to go to the next stage and grow.”