Dubai Investors Launch New Early-Stage Venture Capital Firm

The firm will focus on investing in high impact Middle East tech start-ups, say founders Paul Kenny and Arya Bolurfrushan.



Two Dubai-based investors have announced the launch of a new venture capital firm, Emerge Ventures, which will focus on high-impact early stage investments in Middle East technology companies.

Paul Kenny, founder and CEO of e-commerce website Cobone and travel website Triperna, and Arya Bolurfrushan, an angel investor, CEO of Bolurfrushan International Group and CFO of RAK Petroleum, launched the firm’s first investment fund, MENA Fund I, in August this year.

They closed the fund in Q4 2013 with capital from select global venture capital funds, family offices and ultra high net worth individuals.

The MENA Fund I has committed capital to regional technology companies, which will also have access to expertise, discipline and guidance from Emerge Ventures advisors, for equity in their business.

The firm has already invested in three companies including The Impact Hub, a collaborative incubator and co-working space due to open in Souk al Bahar in Dubai in December 2013, Lumba, a silicon valley based mobile gaming company focused on the Arabic-speaking world and Elevision, a new digital media network that broadcasts news, information and advertisements from screens inside the lifts of premier towers in the UAE.

“Emerge Ventures aims to give international and regional investors access to the budding tech start-up market in the Middle East, with a particular bias towards infrastructural e-commerce,” a statement said.

Bolurfrushan said: “We see massive growth potential in the MENA technology infrastructure space, with the UAE in particular investing heavily to develop innovation and technological readiness.”

Kenny added, “Our focus is to find the best entrepreneurs and back them with smart capital – financial as well as intellectual – becoming true partners with the entrepreneurs to help them innovate, succeed and ultimately grow their business. We have been there and done it ourselves and our experience can help any company scale fast.”

The fund’s advisors include Harvard Business School professors, the global CEO of Rocket Internet and other veteran investors, entrepreneurs and advisors.

“Emerge Ventures is not seeking any further investments until it launches MENA Fund II,” the statement added.

The start-up industry in the UAE is booming and is rapidly attracting interest from regional and international investors.

In September, UAE-based start-up Careem, which offers chauffeur-driven car booking services, received $1.7 million in investment from a group of investors led by STC Ventures.

In March this year, Cobone was acquired by US-based investment firm Tiger Global Management for an undisclosed sum, and last year, J.P. Morgan Chase and Blakeney Management invested over $20 million in Namshi, a Dubai-based e-commerce firm that sells designer clothing.

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