New Bahrain-based $60 million MENA VC fund sees post-COVID tech wave

DUBAI (Reuters) – A new Bahrain-based $60 million venture capital fund aims to invest in 120 early-stage start-ups across Arabic-speaking MENA countries, banking on the regional growth of tech and tech-enabled business in the post-coronavirus world.

Plus Venture Capital (+VC) aims to close fundraising before the end of the year, which is expected to come from mostly regional institutional investors and family offices.

“We think that future growth in the region will be coming from tech-enabled business; for GDP and for job creation. We saw it happen in the last two recessions,” Plus Venture Capital co-founder Sharif El-Badawi said.

They will make seed stage and series A investments.

As part of efforts to tackle its deficit and diversify the economy, Bahrain has been trying to re-establish itself as a regional finance centre after losing ground to Dubai, and has been marketing itself as a financial technology and start-up hub for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Co-founder Hasan Haider said Bahrain, where a large proportion of the team will be based, offers a low-cost skilled workforce.

“We have seen a disconnect between the overall macro environment and what’s happening with the tech ecosystem in the region. There is huge opportunity in the digitisation shift of both consumer and businesses towards technology,” Haider said.

Haider and Badawi both previously worked with Silicon Valley-based 500 Startups’ MENA fund, known as the 500 Falcons fund.

They are looking at a pre-launch pipeline of 170-180 deals at the moment, with the plan to invest in around 120 in the next three years.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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