Investors from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are actively backing promising tech startups in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), opening their wallets to innovative ventures and contributing to the region’s entrepreneurial growth.
Between 2018 and H1 2023, a total of 346 UAE investors have funded startups in the region, a new report by Magnitt, a data platform for investors, founders and corporates in the Middle East, says. 2022, in particular, was a record-breaking year for startup funding activity with an impressive 81 UAE-based investors contributing to the region’s startup ecosystem.
Among the top ten UAE-based investors, 41% of total deals during the period were orchestrated by the top five. These five venture capital (VC) firms, namely Shorooq Partners, Global Ventures, Wamda Capital, VentureSouq and Middle East Venture Capital (MEVP), are leading the market by holding top-5 ranks in both deal count and capital deployment.
These firms have also been active investors in the fintech sector, having backed some of the region’s fastest-growing ventures and boasting extensive portfolios encompassing a wide range of segments including payments, wealthtech and cryptocurrency.
Today, we take a deep dive into these top five UAE-based investors, exploring their investment focuses, strategies and portfolios, and showcasing their active role in fostering fintech innovation. We’ve also added two other UAE-based investors to provide a showcase of some of the most prolific private fintech investors based in the UAE.
Founded in 2017, Shorooq Partners is a VC firm based in Abu Dhabi. The firm focuses on investing in tech startups in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan (MENAP) focusing on areas of technology that are specific to the region including fintech, platforms, software, Web3 and tech-enabled business services.
Shorooq Partners targets innovative companies, business models, concepts and technologies that are either specific to the MENA region or which have been proven in mature markets and now transferred to the Middle East with significant local adaptation. It primarily focuses on startups at the Series A and later, with “dedicated and authentic management.”
Shorooq Partners claims a portfolio of more than 68 companies. According to its website, 15 fintech companies are currently part of its portfolio, among which Saudi Arabian buy now, pay later (BNPL) startup Tamara, UAE open banking startup Lean Technologies, UAE wealthtech startup Sarwa, and Egyptian supply chain finance startup Cayesh.
According to Magnitt, Shorooq Partners is the most active UAE-based investor in MENA by deal count, recording 72 transactions between 2018 and H1 2023.
Founded in 2018, Global Ventures is an international VC firm, investing in founders and ideas across emerging markets. Based in Dubai, the firm backs global-minded founders that are leading growth-stage companies and using technology to transform emerging markets and the world. It primarily seeks to invest in the Web3, mobility and logistics, infotech, future of work, e-commerce, agritech, fintech, digital health, edtech, food-tech, insurtech, and cybersecurity sectors.
Global Ventures currently has 49 companies in its portfolio, according to its website, including 13 fintech startups. These startups include Abhi, a financial wellness platform from Pakistan, Democrance, a UAE-based insurtech startup, Hannah, a cooperative savings platform from Saudi Arabia, and Klasha, a cross-border commerce platform from Nigeria.
Global Ventures is the second most active UAE-based investor in MENA startups, having inked 59 deals between 2018 and H1 2023.
Founded in 2014, Wamda Capital is a leading regional VC firm focused on deploying growth capital in MENA’s leading tech entrepreneurs. Headquartered in Dubai, the firm invests in a diverse range of companies through its two funds: Wamda Capital – Fund I and Wamda Capital – Evergreen Fund.
Wamda Capital currently manages a US$75 million growth capital fund and is actively looking to invest in high growth tech firms from the MENA region. The firm has more than 80 companies in its portfolio, including 12 fintech startups. These ventures include Yallacompare, a leading regional finance comparison site from the UAE, Tabby, a BNPL player from Saudi Arabia, Hala, a Saudi Arabian payment platform for small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), and Halan, an Egyptian insurtech startup.
Wamda Capital is the third most active UAE-based investor in MENA, having inked 59 deals between 2018 and H1 2023.
Established in 2016, VentureSouq (VSQ) is a MENA-based VC fund manager with a global portfolio. Based in Dubai, the firm focuses on early-stage investments in tech and emerging businesses, primarily in the MENA region, and manages thematic funds with a current focus on fintech and climatetech.
VentureSouq has operations in the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia and has invested in over 200 companies worldwide. Its portfolio currently comprises more than 40 fintech companies, among which Baraka, a commission-free platform for trading US equities in MENA, Bloom, a crypto-based remittances for Sudan and other Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, and Mamo Pay, a mobile wallet and payment tool from the UAE.
VentureSouq is the fourth most active UAE-based investor in MENA, having inked 56 deals between 2018 and H1 2023.
Middle East Venture Capital
Middle East Venture Capital (MEVP) is a Middle East-focused VC firm that invests in the early and growth stages of innovative tech companies. The firm currently manages four regional funds that invest in sectors such as fintech, software-as-a-service (SaaS), healthtech and logistics. These funds cover different stages of development ranging from seed to growth stage.
With offices in Dubai, Beirut, Cairo, Bahrain, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, MEVP currently has more than US$300 million in assets under management (AUM) and clocks US$1.6 billions in co-investments, making it one of the largest and most established VC firms in the region.
To date, MEVP’s team has invested in more than 60 companies across MENA, SSA, Pakistan, and Turkey, including 12 fintech startups. MEVP’s 9 active fintech investments include MNT-Halan, Egypt’s super-app, Rain, a regulated cryptocurrency exchange from Bahrain, as well as Mamo Pay, Hala and Sarwa
MEVP is the fifth most active UAE-based investor in MENA, having inked 48 deals between 2018 and H1 2023.
Founded in 2012, Beco Capital is one of the first early-stage VC firms to have been founded in the UAE with a focus on MENA. The firm, which is based in Dubai, backs early-stage tech entrepreneurs across a wide range of sectors who are tackling massive white spaces, building robust technology, and driving the evolution of the ecosystem in the MENA region and beyond. It supports its portfolio companies with their overall strategy, fundraising and business development efforts, and provides mentorship and ongoing data analytics and insights.
Since its inception, Beco Capital has grown to become one of the largest non-governmental VC firms in the UAE with US$450 million in AUM. The firm has invested in more than 50 startups and partnered early on with some of the regions’ biggest success stories, including Careem, Dubai’s super-app, and Myki, a Beirut-based cybersecurity startup, according to its website.
Beco Capital has backed a total of 10 fintech startups, among which Wahed, a digital investment platform from the UAE, Balance, a digital wallet from the UAE, Tweeq, a digitally native neo-bank from Saudi Arabia, and Thndr, a wealthtech startup from Egypt.
Established in 2010, FasterCapital is an online incubator and accelerator that operates on a global level. The firm, which is based in Dubai, provides technical development and business development services per equity for startups under co-funding and co-founding methodology. FasterCapital firm also helps startups that are raising money by connecting them to a network of more than 155,000 angel investors, 50,000 funding institutions, 1,000 mentors, as well as 1,000 regional partners and representatives.
So far, FasterCapital has helped over 473 startups raise more than US$1.6 billion. The firm has invested US$484.7 million in 180 startups, among which more than 20 fintech companies, according to Dealroom data. These ventures include Ziq, a payment platform for businesses from the UAE, Payquid, a contactless payments specialist from Nigeria, and Coincrowd, an online platform connecting investors with entrepreneurs from Dubai.