VC does it for startups in the UAE Filed on July 16, 2021

The food and beverage sector is one of the most stellar performers that venture capitalists keep an eye on, even amid the pandemic. — AFP

Philip Bahoshy, CEO of Magnitt.

Babak Ahmadzadeh, managing director of Plug and Play Abu Dhabi.

Venture capitalists continue to maintain confidence in ecosystem as investments, deals break records in H1.

The UAE is building a strong foundation to create a secured, innovative and futuristic startup ecosystem led by policies that complement macroeconomic growth. The outbreak of Covid-19 only proved the nation’s resilience and prompted tech startups to accelerate their game and book windfalls.

Sectors like fintech, eductech, e-commerce, entertainment, delivery and logistics, and food and beverage have proved to be stellar performers.

Dubai-based think-tank Magnitt released its latest Middle East and North Africa Venture Report, indicating that in the first half of 2021, venture capitalist (VC) funding in Mena increased by 12 per cent from fiscal year 2020, marking a quarterly and half-yearly record high level of capital deployed.

With $1.2 billion in investment and 254 deals, VC funding during the six-month period also saw a 64 per cent increase year on year.

Philip Bahoshy, CEO of Magnitt, said: “The first six months of 2021 saw the return of investor appetite to VC as an asset class. Records were broken for the region for the full year, half-year and quarter as investors marking a very positive start to the year, for which we expect the momentum to continue into the second half. The UAE led investment growth by a number of deals and funding, acquiring 61 per cent of all Mena investments.”

In the first half of 2021, VC investment in the UAE exceeded that of fiscal year 2020 by 24 per cent, with total funding up by 69 per cent year-on-year. After two consecutive quarter-to-quarter growth sprints, the UAE closed 65 deals in the first half, accounting for 26 per cent of all transactions in Mena. One mega deal closed by startup Kitopi ensured that the UAE accounted for 61 per cent of capital deployed in the region.

The UAE VC ecosystem saw a shift towards later-stage deals in the first half as deals sized above $3 million went from accounting for 23 per cent of all deals in fiscal 2020 to constituting 40 per cent of all transactions in the first half. The report shows that 42 per cent of investors backing UAE-based startups were based outside Mena, while 29 per cent were stationed in the country.

“The UAE maintained its foothold both by a number of deals with 26 per cent of all transactions and capital deployed, with 61 per cent. In other positive news, the region saw 31 per cent of investor participation coming from outside of the region as international players continue to increase their interest in the Mena region,” added Bahoshy.

Together, the top three Mena hubs — the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia — accumulated 71 per cent of capital deployed. In the first half, the food and beverage sector took the biggest share of funds invested while the most amount of deals were closed by fintech startups and 31 per cent of Mena-based investments were by international investors and nine startups from Mena recorded acquisitions.

The region has indeed turned into a hotbed for global VC investments and this is evident when players like Facebook, Google for startups, Y Combinator, Plug and Play, 500 Startups and Techstars are deeply focused on the region and bolstering its growth. Global talent is indeed pouring into the nation and this will have a strong and positive impact on the budding entrepreneurs.

Babak Ahmadzadeh, managing director of Plug and Play Abu Dhabi, said: “We are always seeking new opportunities to invest in early-stage companies across the region. We often look for ambitious founders targeting global problems. We are founder-first and look extensively at founders’ prior experience and their ability to communicate their strategies clearly and effectively. A key indicator is our founders understand their early customer acquisition strategy and are able to execute on their vision.” —


Sandhya D'Mello

Journalist. Period. My interests are Economics, Finance and Information Technology. Prior to joining Khaleej Times, I have worked with some leading publications in India, including the Economic Times.

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