Our Partnership with TechWadi  

Over the next few months, we will be highlighting some of our partnerships with excellent organisations dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship in the Middle East. Our first partner feature will be on TechWadi, a organisation on the other side of the world in Silicon Valley but a partner that has done so much for entrepreneurship in the Middle East. Chaired by Dr. Ossama Hassanein, Chairman of Rising Tide Fund, TechWadi is the Arab Diaspora network of Silicon Valley, bringing together the experts and leaders in Tech to help entrepreneurs in MENA thrive and grow in Silicon Valley.

TechWadi has built a network of strategic mentors, experts and investors from numerous backgrounds to support Middle East-based entrepreneurs. Assigned mentors coach entrepreneurs in business practices; counsel on business expansion opportunities; provide access to strategic partners, investors, or clients; and act as a sounding-board for new ideas and challenges. TechWadi is hoping to double their number of members in 2015, focusing on the untapped resource of GCC female angel investors, an area where WOMENA is supporting TechWadi.

TechWadi launched their Sprint Acceleration Program this year which is a 3 month acceleration program that targets tech companies in the Middle East looking for growth in the US. Coaches work with companies on setting milestones that they aim to achieve in the US and customize a program to help them achieve these milestones. As well as all the benefits that come with being in the global heart of entrepreneurship, TechWadi provides the startups with coaching, mentorship, positioning for fundraising and cloud services to the tune of $100,000.

The program aims at bringing 8-10 startups to Silicon Valley in 2015. It truly is an extraordinary opportunity for Middle East-based startups and WOMENA would certainly encourage any entrepreneurs to consider applying for this year’s program. You can access the application here.

We are thrilled to be partnered with TechWadi and are excited for future collaboration with them. If you’re interested in becoming involved with TechWadi, make sure you apply for membership or sponsorship! Our two co-founders – Chantalle Dumonceaux and Elissa Freiha – are both TechWadi members and can speak to the value of a TechWadi membership.

Elissa Featured in Arabian Business 100 Most Powerful Arab Women  

Earlier in March, Arabian Business released the highly anticipated “100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2015”. This is an annual publication and really shows the excellent female talent across the Middle East. We were honoured that Arabian Business selected Cofounder Elissa Freiha as number 77 on this year’s list amidst so many incredible women.

It’s hard to know where to begin at extolling the achievements of so many incredible women. From Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi to the Saudi businesswoman Lubna Olayan, their achievements are endless and have had a huge and lasting impact on the region. It is exciting to see so many women involved in such a broad range of industries in the Middle East and we are looking forward to seeing what these women, and the millions of other women in the region, do over the next year.

Women Empowered Through Business in the Middle East  

On February 26, Al Iktissad Wal Aamal Group and Al Hasnaa Magazine hosted the 7th New Arab Women Forum (NAWF) in Beirut, Lebanon. Themed “Empowerment through Entrepreneurship and Innovation,” the event focused on women entrepreneurs and how they can help foster economic growth and employment in the region.

The event brought together regional leaders to discuss such topics as challenges faced by women, personal experiences and advice, which proved to be an insightful and motivational discussion for attendees.

For us here at WOMENA, some of the biggest takeaways from this event were the following statistics  revealed by panelists:

  • 60% of Zoomal’s projects are started by women, because “in my opinion women have better communication skills and determination”- Abdalla Absi, Lebanon, Zoomal
  • 30% of startups founded by women have more than 50 employees, and 15% have less than 10 employees. – Rana Salhab, Lebanon, Deloitte.
  • 100 billion dollars in Saudi banks [are] owned by women – Rana Salhab, Deloitte
  • Around 1700 entrepreneurs applied to Oasis500 programs, an equal percentage of which were men and women. – Youssef Hamidaddin, CEO Oasis500 Jordan
  • 38% of women are researchers in science and tech in MENA, versus 30% in Europe. – Bettina Bastian, Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship, American University of Beirut

For more information about how you can contribute to economic growth and employment as a woman angel investor, please contact us and follow us on Twitter and Instagram to keep up-to-date with WOMENA!

Adapted from Wamda.

GCC Pitch Challenge Finale  

April 29th marks the finale of the GCC Pitch Challenge Final, organised by our fantastic partner Startup MENA. 12 Gulf-based startups will be pitching to the judges with two from each GCC country. The GCC Pitch Challenge final follows an extensive search across the region to find the top up-and-coming startups. 200 applications were received and Startup MENA held a mammoth 18 events in 2 months! It’s further evidence that the GCC startup ecosystem is rapidly evolving and expanding, which only makes WOMENA more excited to be working in this space.

The prizes are very valuable too and will be very important to any startup at this stage. The winner will receive €20,000, as well as two tickets to the Pioneers Festival in Austria and a pitching spot at the MENA Angel Summit in Bahrain. This is on top of €300,000 worth of deals at Podio and f6s and being fast tracked to a Startupbootcamp accelerator in Europe. All in all a substantial prize!

The EU-GCC Initiative is funded by the European Commission and run by a consortium of partners consisting of the Confederation of Danish Industry, the Federation of GCC Chambers, Business Europe, and VentureScout. Abdulrahim Naqi, Secretary General of the Federation of GCC Chambers said, “The GCC Pitch Finals will open doors for the young entrepreneurs from the GCC to make know their inventions and have the chance to be mentored from elite Companies from Europe, and win considerable amount of funds to kick off start their dream Business in the GCC region”.

To check out the 12 startups presenting at the GCC Pitch Challenge, check them out here and if you’re interested in attending, make sure you register in advance here.

Introducing Our Partners: A-M  

We at WOMENA see fragmentation and imperfect information as hindrances to the success of the MENA startup ecosystem and the players in it. There are so many wonderful entrepreneurial support organizations and startup financing entities in the region that can collaborate to make wise and informed investment decisions.

To help develop this startup ecosystem, we have established a network of partners across the Middle East. Each partner brings a whole range of benefits and collaboration opportunities and we are very excited to work with each and every one of them. Below are short introductions to the first half of our partners:

Able & Baker – Based in Abu Dhabi, Able & Baker provides consulting and investment services for local and international companies

Cairo Angels – Cairo Angels is the leading angel group in Egypt with investments in 8 Egyptian starts since 2012

C3 – C3 enables Middle East emerging social entrepreneurs to become active agents of positive social change by leveraging experienced business professionals seeking meaningful ways to give back

Envestors – based out of Dubai, Envestors supports an international network of investors for MENA startups

Eureeca – the first crowdfunding platform in the Middle East, Eureeca has added a new and exciting investment opportunity for MENA based startups

Middle East Venture Partners – MEVP is one of the largest venture capital firms in the Middle East primarily investing in Middle East startups

Mompreneurs – Mompreneurs supports female entrepreneurs across the Middle East develop their businesses and their business acumen

An Angel’s First Step to Avoiding Risk  

Every entrepreneur around the globe is thinking about where they can get funding and every angel investor is wondering if the ventures they see will succeed.

Angel investing has come into the spotlight with TV shows like Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank bringing both the pressures and very real risks of what it means to be an angel to life for viewers around the world. Our investors in MENA are faced with the same dilemmas on how to maximize their chances for success and mitigate risk.

At WOMENA, we believe dealflow, diversification and diligence are the core principals for healthy angel investing. We also understand that making sure you have a broad spectrum of potential deals is both time consuming and requires some serious knowledge. Our aim is to support our angels by sourcing and conducting due diligence to screen and provide a varied pool of suitable start-up projects.

Keeping investments diverse and staying on plan is key – the majority of all start-ups fail so an angel should never have all their eggs in one basket. While returns on angel investments vary hugely, our policy is to work to provide start-up options with strong potential for co-investment in the MENA market.

It helps to remember that entrepreneurs are caught up in the excitement. They are in the honeymoon phase and will sweet-talk you if you let them. We work to help our angels avoid unnecessary risk by sharing industry knowledge, contacts, personalized access to a pool of pre-screened entrepreneurs and due diligence so investors can fund the right opportunities in the market.

How WOMENA can help you get started

While we work to provide investors with the best deal flow, a network of co-investors sharing knowledge, and take on due diligence and provide support throughout the deal lifecycle, angel investor should consider what they want to invest in, ensure they have enough capital, and cast a wide but strategic net to avoid unnecessary risk.

Many angels underestimate the value of angel groups. It is not just about launching with an exciting one-time investment. An angel is on board with all the companies they invest in for the medium if not the long term.

Working with WOMENA means that our investors have access to pre-screened up-and-coming opportunities that have the fundamentals to take off in the region. We work to pair angels with companies they can support to mitigate risk and ensure well-matched diversity in their portfolios. We make sure our angels know they are giving more than simply a lump sum but that to succeed they need to provide guidance and contacts to build a long-term relationship.

We also are convinced that believing in the company is key but it needs to be based on domain knowledge and ultimately the right amount of due diligence so the facts are all there. Angels can best support start-ups by coming in with smart money, commitment to an ongoing relationship with the entrepreneur and with the readiness to give and share knowledge. They can best mitigate risk with a strong deal flow, a diversified portfolio, and a strong community to invest with.