Announcing 500 Falcons first closing at $15m out of $30m target

 

Today, I’m thrilled to announce the first closing of our 500 Startups MENA Fund (aka 500 Falcons) at $15M out of our $30M target. While we have been investing in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region since 2011, including 55 deals in 32 companies for a total of $6M, this is our first fund focused entirely on the Arab world.

With this new fund, we plan to invest in approximately 100-150 companies with about half of the fund and reserve the other half for follow-on investment in the top 20% of companies. The fund will focus on early-stage startups in the MENA region, MENA diaspora founders and non-MENA founders targeting MENA.

The MENA Team

I’m so thrilled to announce that Sharif El-Badawi has joined the team as a Partner for 500 Falcons.

Sharif El-Badawi
Sharif El-Badawi

Sharif joined 500 Startups as a Venture Partner in February of 2016 while he was still at Google and the Chairman of the leading global non-profit bridging MENA entrepreneurs with Silicon Valley, TechWadi. He left his role at Google after nearly 7 years this past September working with some of the top startups and VC funds in Silicon Valley to focus his time and attention on investing in MENA startups. He’s already been a great help to the startups in our portfolio and an asset to the team. Prior to Google, Sharif was with AdMob, which sold to Google in 2009 for $750 million, and a serial entrepreneur, advisor and investor in Consumer Internet startups since 1998 having jumped into his first tech startup, Website.com. Sharif brings almost twenty years of product, business development, marketing, and sales experience to the 500 portfolio.

We’re also actively recruiting for our team in the region, with plans to have people on the ground in our key markets such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan amongst others.

Who Are We Working With?

I’m pleased to announce that among our LPs for the first closing are 2 highly respected regional institutions, the Qatar Science and Technology Park and the Oman Investment Fund. In these LPs we have found partners that will help us achieve our mission to support and invest in startups and build ecosystems in the MENA region. I truly believe that thanks to LPs such as these we’ll have a significant impact on the regional ecosystem.

Along with our partners at QSTP, we are bringing our Series A Program (formerly known as our Distro Dojo) to the region as ‘Doha Dojo.’ Once a year, we will be working with some of the top MENA startups at the Series A level to bring them to Doha with some of the best growth hackers in the world to help build a growth mindset and support them in their growth. More information on our first batch is coming soon and investor day is taking place on May 23rd in Doha. If you’re a Series A investor and interesting in joining, please get in touch with Ms. Ghada Darwish at gdarwish@qstp.org.qa.

QSTP
QSTP – Partners for our Distro Dojo Program in the MENA region

In Oman, we are engaging on an ecosystem building project in partnership with the Oman Investment Fund through the Oman Tech Fund. This year we’ll be advising and supporting the Wadi Accelerator program in Oman with knowledge transfer, capacity building and a cadre of mentors. In addition, we’re working on a unique event, Geeks in a Wadi, the first event of its kind, with further details to be announced soon.

Oman - One of the most beautiful places in the world
A natural ‘Wadi’ in Oman

Why Are We Doing This?

The region has long faced political and economic uncertainty, and a growing younger population that is looking to take charge and change things with their own hands. These youth have access to the same global wealth of information as anyone else. If they so choose, they’re capable of achieving the same things anyone else in the world is.

The Middle East and North Africa are among the last large regional ecosystems to rise up, and emerging markets tend to leapfrog adoption of innovations and technology at higher and higher frequencies. Being a latecomer does not mean staying behind, and the Arabic speaking world is 500 million strong – young, resourceful, wealthy and a yearning to thrive.

Top 5 Reasons MENA is a Must Bet

  1. Massive 500 million Arabic speaking population
  2. Largely untapped ecosystem/market, internally and internationally
  3. Shift in fossil fuel prices and changing geopolitical forces
  4. Lower valuations and costs of operating a business
  5. Highly educated, competitive and vibrant talent pool

Bonus (coming soon): Surge in investor interest and options for progression from seed to exit

According to MAGNiTT’s State of MENA Funding Report, 2016 saw nearly $1B of venture capital investment into regional startups, a 424% increase over the previous year, and arguably a flat year due to the fact almost all the VCs were fundraising, including us. Sorry founders, but 2017 is looking very strong! We hope that our 40+ deals/year will boost early-stage startup growth and encourage more angel and venture capital to flow in.

I look forward to 500 Startups playing a significant role in building ecosystems across the MENA region, and investing in the best founders solving real problems. I hope that our deal volume and speed will provide at least a small boost in funding activity at the earliest stages and even encourage others to do more deals as well. I’m grateful to the other investors and key stakeholders in the region who are fighting for the same cause. Progression is key for entrepreneurs and they need optionality of capital sources at all stages in their startup and scaling. We’re all aligned in that we want to create more companies and help those companies grow.

Here’s to building world class startups from the Middle East, creating jobs, solving real problems, empowering the youth, women and anyone who wants to effect real change to better their surroundings, and generating a positive return on capital while we’re at it!

500 Startups Announces $15M Nordics Fund

We’re excited to announce our latest regional fund focused on the Nordic region (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland). This excitement is not just because the area is constantly ranked as one of the happiest and most economically prosperous parts of the world. No, it’s because the viking spirit is alive again in the form of tech entrepreneurship as the next generation of great founders sharpens their axes for battle.

This fund will be targeting $15M USD and focused on early stage investments. We plan to make 100+ investments into the region through the fund over the next few years. Our main areas of focus will be SaaS, Mobile, Marketplaces, E-commerce, Fintech and Music/Video. The fund will be led by Investing Partner & Viking Man-Bun Destroyer Sean Percival, and will include local venture partners in each of the key ecosystems.

Ahead of forming the fund, we have already been active in the region making investments in Norwegian companies such as Tagbeat, Filmgrail and Socius. In Sweden we have invested in Pacemaker, Brisk.io, Proleads and Vint. In Denmark, EasySize and Iconfinder. Last but not least, YouApp, hailing from Finland, recently completed our accelerator program in California.

Why the Nordics?

The weather may be cold but the market is hot with Stockholm already producing several impressive unicorns like Spotify and Klarna. The other Nordic countries are also showing great potential, as the entire region has put extensive focus on innovation and creating new industries through technology.

In terms of activity, the region will soon see more venture capital invested than London (source). For investors, significant liquidity opportunities await. For example, the game publisher King was recently purchased for $5.9B from US company Activision. Additionally over the last 10 years the Nordics have represented more than 50% of the billion dollar USD exits across Europe (source). Yet we are just at the beginning of what’s becoming an incredibly exciting ecosystem.

As far as challenges there are several, most of which can be attributed to the small size of many of the Nordic countries. So it’ll be important for companies to think global from day one. That’s where 500 comes in.

What’s 500 Startups role going to be?

500 will bring Silicon Valley’s best practices to the region through our accelerator and growth marketing programs. Our main focus will be helping these companies internationalize faster and get access to venture capital and mentorship from Silicon Valley.

With regards to programs, we are starting with a pre-accelerator program in January 2016 based in Oslo. This will be followed by an an additional soon-to-be-announced program taking place in Stockholm in April 2016. Stay tuned for more exciting details.

Get Involved.

Are you as excited about the Nordics as we are? Then now is your viking moment of glory to make an impact. We’re looking for partners and of course great startups who want to change the world. Get in touch with me if that’s you.

Viking artwork by Yiying Lu

Press Coverage: Fortune, Tech.eu, PE HubNordic Startup BitsVator NewsSoCal TechTechCrunchBreak.itDNDigitalSE DigitalFinsmes