Financing for MENA entrepreneurs quintupled last year, as has the impact of institutions and organizations that support MENA-based entrepreneurs. But how do we continue to connect capital to regional start-ups while expanding the ecosystem of MENA entrepreneurs? Convening at TechWadi’s 2014 Annual Conference, a panel moderated by InterWest Partner Khaled Nasr featuring a wide spectrum of finance stakeholders addressed this crucial question at hand.
Weighing in from the World Bank’s perspective, Senior Economist Randa Akeel clarified the Bank’s role in focusing on government policies and regulations to drive sustainable economic growth and job creation through technology. But this can only be achieved when complimented by direct financing for small and medium enterprises, and while the Bank also facilitates some lending, it identifies angel investors as the future of tomorrow.
As Managing Partner of one of the leading and oldest Venture Capital firms in the Middle East, MEVP’s Walid Mansour has seen the firm grow from $200,000 of funding capital four years ago to roughly $2-3 million given per company today. The secret to MEVP’s success lies in their active roles as co-investors: Mansour emphasizes that the collaboration of funds and strategic investors is the key to growth.
Endeavor Lebanon, an NGO dedicated to transforming Lebanon’s economy through entrepreneurs, has a slightly different approach to growth. Managing Director Tarek Saadi shares the organization looks for what they call high-impact entrepreneurs, those who will have a 4% disproportionate impact and will actually go on to create 40% of local job opportunities. To date, Endeavor Lebanon has supported over 130 companies that have created over 3,000 jobs, and its global mission has taken its 4% formula to over 20 countries, from Egypt to Spain, and even the U.S.
Tarek Asad, Managing Partner of Ideavelopers, helps guides investments for the largest VC firm in Egypt with a fund size of $50 million, and can attest for both massive successes and failures in the region. But the process – on both ends – has provided a huge learning experience for both entrepreneurs and investors, and has helped increase investment in Egypt and has strengthened the entrepreneurial scene.
Last, Vice President of Crowd Capital Advisors Robert Mitchell recalls the monumental policy change that legalized debt equity crowdfunding in 2012 with the passage of the Jobs Act. With crowdfunding policy changing in the U.S., it has continued to catch on in the Middle East, providing a channel of early seed stage funding for MENA entrepreneurs underserved by capital markets.