500 Startups had an oversubscribed final closing for their first MENA region focused fund, 500 Falcons. They set out to raise a $30 million fund to have a significant impact in the MENA region, and thanks to the support of their Limited Partners held an oversubscribed final closing for the fund at $33 million.
Press Release by 500 Startups below:
500 has been an active player, investing in talented entrepreneurs in the MENA region since 2012. We’ve been helping the ecosystem develop, supporting not just founders, but other ecosystem counterparts like investors, governments, and corporations engage effectively with startups in the region.
Since our Falcons Fund first close, we have been quite active in the MENA region. Here is a peek into 500 Falcons by the numbers:
We also wanted to take the opportunity to highlight a few of our key initiatives as we look to continue playing a positive role in developing the regional ecosystem and supporting amazing MENA founders:
One of the key areas where we felt we had a role to play was bringing an extensive knowledge base to the MENA region from Silicon Valley. Topics like growth marketing and fundraising are well studied and understood in many global markets, and by bringing those tips and skills to the MENA region, we hoped to give a boost to the startups we’re investing in.
MENA Dojo Series A Program
Now in its 3rd year, the annual program brings a significant boost to the majority of startups participating to get them to their Series A by instilling a growth mindset and experimental culture in the startup. The results have been amazing and we look to keep bringing this advanced level of knowledge to the region.
Misk 500 MENA Accelerator
Having seen a gap in certain markets at an earlier stage, we felt we could bring a similar push to pre-seed stage startups in the region through our Misk 500 MENA Accelerator program. Launched in 2019, in partnership with Misk Innovation this program aims to bring the best practices from our Silicon Valley mentors and program to the MENA region. The knowledge gained from this program we hope will be a catalyst for pre-seed founders in the region to make them more investible and equip them with the tools they need to succeed in the market.
The MENA region is a big place, encompassing close to 400 million people with the same language and similar cultures. However, there are 162 distinct countries in which we have invested in the Arab world. The startups in each of these markets go through similar growth pains, have similar obstacles and have significant value to each other. As such, we’re focused our efforts into making our startups in the region feel like they truly are part of something bigger, the 500 Family.
One of our key annual activities is the MENA Portfolio Retreat. We aim to bring all of our portfolio founders together in one place, and have a safe space for them to talk, get to know each other and help other founders out while learning from our global team and mentors in workshops, panel discussions and keynotes. We also invite our investors in the fund and select downstream investors and partners to interact with our founders in a relaxed environment, away from the day to day hustle. This event is a cornerstone in our strategy to build a strong community of founders in the MENA region helping each other succeed.
Many programs in the region are country specific. From the first day however, we have seen the regional market as the opportunity and not any specific country, and we’re happy to have partners on board with us that align with this mindset. The Arab world together is a substantial market, and can play a large role in the overall development of tech startups in the region, but if we reverted to country specific, almost protectionist mindsets, we would end up with much smaller outcomes and no major successes. We believe that each country has a competitive advantage within the broader region, from talent to funding to ease of doing business, and that as a combined group of countries working together rather than alone we will see amazing outcomes. We hope to help founders scale cross border, and build relationships with entities in each market that share this approach.
500’s mission is very much a global one. Witnessing firsthand how other emerging markets such as Southeast Asia, India and Latin America have grown and developed, we can trace the development of our market against those regions. Having access to a global pool of partners that are interested in the region from Korean, Chinese, European and Japanese investors helps our startups tap into deeper pools of capital. Our work with GS Shop, bringing their Grow with GS (GWG) event to Bahrain for the first time in the MENA region helps highlight that. We hope to continue to be able to assist investors from all around the world better understand our region, and start investing and supporting our founders here.
Governments, Corporates and Investors
No market is complete without a full cadre of supporters helping the ecosystem develop. We’ve been actively engaging with governments, corporations and new investors looking at tech startups in the MENA region to help them navigate this new asset class and area of investment. We’re working with governments to make sure that startups can easily get registered, raise funds, and shut down as needed, and with government entities to help them tap into the amazing energy and talent that MENA founders have. We’re helping fund of fund programs and institutional investors access and understand the MENA VC market. We’re helping corporate investors with their Corporate Venture Capital programs with access to understanding and deal flow. And we’re actively helping a new cadre of VCs and investors emerge in the MENA region, as our ecosystem can only develop with all of us collaborating and working together.
A significant impact - and more to come.
We are proud to have been the most active institutional investor in the MENA region in 2018, and to a large part, have influenced the way seed stage deals are done, with everything from a proper corporate structures and clean cap tables, using our KISS convertible notes as de-facto standards and being collaborative and cooperative with as many VCs as there are in the region.
We hope that our influence on the region has been positive, both for investors and startups, and we are excited to continue playing an active role in the MENA region for many years to come.
This is just the start.