Middle East Venture Partners sets sights on startups in growing sectors of economy

As the economy of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region grows and diversifies, investment firms are finding ways to capitalize on rapidly growing sectors of the economy.

Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP) has offices in Dubai, Beirut and San Jose, California. The company eschews investment in oil and energy-related fields, instead targeting startups focused on consumer technology, products and services sectors, along with logistics, food processing and hospitality.

“In the past five years, we have grown from [$10 million] of assets under management into [$120 million] and have invested in some of the region’s most promising startups through our four funds,” Walid Mansour, managing partner at MEVP, recently told Gulf News Journal.

Funds under the firm’s control include Middle East Venture Partners Fund L.P (MEVF), The Building Block Equity Fund SICAR (BBEF), IMPACT Fund by MEVP and MEVF II.

The company saw success in its strategy late last year. Portfolio company Shahiya.com, the GCC's leading user-generated Arab food recipes website and mobile application, was acquired by the billion-dollar publicly traded Japanese recipe website Cookpad for $13.5 million, a transaction yielding a 130 percent internal rate of return.

“We are also currently about to execute another exit to completion," Mansour said. "Since we started in 2009, MEVP has invested in 25 portfolio companies - seven of which are market leaders."

The company employs 300 people in the region.

This year marked the company’s expansion into Dubai with the  partnership with Ihsan Jawad. Jawad, a digital entrepreneur who founded and sold Zawya.com to Thomson Reuters in 2012, helps manage the company’s newest MENA fund, Middle East Venture Fund II (MEVF II). Jawad also co-founded Honeybee Tech Ventures, which incubated and invested in several consumer Internet ventures.

“We believe that venture capital has a long way to go in our part of the world as the industry is nascent, and many startups and small- and medium- size enterprises are still undercapitalized,” Mansour said.

Companies currently in the MEVP portfolio include Anghami, an Arabic-based music streaming service; Box & Automation Solutions, a cash management solution; Falafel Games, which designs online games for a MENA audience; and Arabic children's entertainment company Lamsa.