The Middle East’s fledgling entrepreneurship industry is rapidly gaining momentum and, as experts point out, the SME community now has access to a growing pool of regional capital.
A raft of start-up funds, venture capitalists and several new platforms have emerged to support strong and solid business concepts in the region.
Middle East-based funding companies capitalised 65 internet and technology startups between January 2010 and August 2011, according to a report by online portal Sindibad Business. The report also claimed that the new investments, valued at approximately $24 million, created around 450 new jobs.
Omar Christidis, founder of the annual Arabnet Digital Summit, says that at least $500 million is currently available in the region to promote start-ups.
“Across the region, there is a tremendous number of opportunities for start-ups,” he says.
“There is a range of mostly regional investors – from angel investors who are investing $50,000, $1 million or $2 million, to venture capital funds who are investing up to $250 million.”
Gulf Business outlines the different kinds of funds that support entrepreneurs, and highlights the most prominent ones within the region.
These funds provide $10,000 to $15,000 of funding and offer space and services to support entrepreneurs and help them turn their idea into a product within three to six months, explains Christidis.
Some of the top accelerator funds include:
Founded in 2010, Jordan’s Oasis 500 is endorsed by King Abdullah and provides early-stage capital, training and mentorship to Arab startups. Its goal is to accelerate the launch of 500 start-up companies by 2015.
While the king has provided initial financial and technical support, the firm is run by private sector businessmen and has raised funding from investors across the region.
A UAE-based accelerator, SeedStartups focuses on digital media startups. The firm offers a three-month programme in Dubai to selected entrepreneurs who receive an investment of up to $25,000 in return for a flat 10 per cent equity stake. The programme includes an entrepreneurship “crash course” given by successful entrepreneurs, seasoned investors, and product experts.
Plug and Play Egypt
Based in Cairo, Plug and Play offers mentorship, training and between $10,000 to $1 million of seed capital to start-ups.
The firm also selects companies to attend Silicon Valley Acceleration programmes at Plug and Play headquarters in Sunnyvale, California.