ArabNet Dubai speakers videos

A terrific list (25 videos) put together by ArabNet Digital Summit Dubai organizers featuring short videos from speakers and other attendees to the conference. I was unfortunately unable to attend this event but watching these videos gives you a good sense of the level of excitement generated during the event. Also, for twitter users - here is a a twitter list put together by @gpcrc with all the speakers’ handles

Startup VISA program

I had a couple of meetings at Hyperdrive the past two weeks and I was reminded that they were part of the Startup Visa program in Canada. For those who don’t know about this program -  it allows Canadian based Venture Capital firms (VCs), angel investors or incubators to sponsor foreign entrepreneurs to come and work on their projects in Canada. For VC firms, they must commit at least $200K, for angel investors the investment must be at least $70K. Accelerators/incubators don’t need to commit a specific amount. For a complete list of the participating VCs, Angel investors and accelerators - see below

While the program is clearly open to all types of funding groups, I think it is a great fit for accelerators/incubators and here is why:

1. Incubators are well positioned to explore global entrepreneurship ecosystems - Other well know US accelerators are starting to move in this direction. For example TechStars has already expanded to Europe, 500Startups is already actively investing in a number of global startups and even Y-combinator is starting to explore the global ecosystem

2. De-risking future investment for VCs - Almost all Canadian VCs will not invest in global (non-US based) startups, however, if some of these startups’ products were validated at a Canadian accelerator then the chances for securing VC investments in Canada is much higher

3. Enriching the accelerator global network - The best accelerators continue to benefit their graduated entrepreneurs long after they leave by exposing them to a vast network of other entreprenrurs. By bringing in international entrepreneurs, this vast networks goes global and with it many opportunities for collaborations and partnership can occur.

Time will tell how this program will perform but it is a definite positive step for the Canadian entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Designated funds in the Startup VISA program

Venture capital funds:

Angel investor groups: 

Accelerators/business incubators

Sources of deals flow for Arab VCs

I love VCs who blog often because there is so much insight from their experiences. One of my newly discovered VC bloggers is Satya Patel from Homebrew ventures. I was already a regular reader of his investment partner blog - Hunter Walk - and highly recommend reading his posts. Satya wrote an excellent post this week titled “Homebrew’s 1%: The VC Metrics Behind Investing in One of Every 100 Companies We Meet”. It was a transparent report on how Homebrew sources its deals flow. If you haven’t read it then I recommend you do now.

Essentially, the four sources are personal networks, other investors, inbound and/or proactive reach. It was not a surprise that for Homebrew, the majority of their investments were sourced originally from their personal networks. This got me thinking - would this deal source be the same for non-North American VCs? A quick question on Twitter to David McClure from 500startups yielded one answer (FYI. Dave is awesome and almost always responds to questions on social media channels)

I thought the inclusion of Endeavour global as a source to be extremely interesting and one that I had not considered before. Given Dave’s answer, I have put together my hypothetical list of deal flow sources if I was managing a Digital Arabia fund (ordered in significance):

1. Other investors (and accelerators)

2. Inbound

3. Other - eg. Endeavour global

4. Personal network

5. Proactive outreach

Given that the Arab region’s startups are still nascent, I believe that top quality accelerators and incubators will be the major source for deal flows. For personal networks to work, there need to be many second time and third time entrepreneurs in the region for them to become a significant source of deals flow. I am confident that in time this will happen but until then investors, accelerators and inbounds will, in my opinion, be the major sources for deal flows.

Are you investing in technology startups? If so, then feel free to list your top sources in the comments below.

Digital Arabia Newsletter #9

Below is a copy of my weekly newsletter. I curate web content focused on Digital Arabia and offer brief commentary. If you want to keep up with Digital Arabia news then do signup to get it delivered to your inbox every Sunday.

Weekly Digital Arabia newsletter #9

8 international accelerators that welcome startups from the Arab region

A good list put together by Wamda on international accelerators accepting Arab region startups. The list includes well known startups such as Y-Combinator, David McClure’s 500startups and the Finnish based startup incubator Sauna. This shows the growing awareness of the need to explore other global ecosystems and have them mingle all together in an intense boot camp style incubators.

How The Middle East Is Solving the Gender Gap That Silicon Valley Is Ignoring

Only 10% of all Internet entrepreneurs are women. However, experts estimate that the percentage of women Internet entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa region is at 23% and in the Gulf it’s 35%.” This has been a consistent point that other visitors to the region such as Chris Schroeder has noted in his book and as well in his excellent 6-part series in the PandoDaily “The New Middle East: Women at the Center of a Startup Ecosystem“. So contrary to popular belief, traditional Arab societies have proven to be more gender equal when it comes to internet business. This has even been acknowledged by Google through its support of the #40forward program.

Bader Launches the StartUp Cup Business Competition for the Second Time!

Another important initiative in Lebanon which is supported by the banking sector to encourage entrepreneurship in the country. This particular competition is organized by entrepreneurial youth program, Bader, with the support of Audi Bank. The winners will receive over $65,000, 6 months of incubation at Coworking+961, $20,000 worth of online advertising offered by Naharnet, and 50% and 33% worth of scholarships by Amideast Lebanon to attend the Start/Grow My Business Workshop. No fees or equity will be charged to participate in the program. It is worth noting that earlier in the year, the Lebanese Central Bank set aside $400M (guaranteed by the World Bank) to invest in Lebanese startups. This was soon followed by Middle East Venture Partners announcing a $50M fund in compliance with the central bank initiative.

Breaking Barriers to Scale for Arab Entrepreneurs

An opinion piece by Fadi Ghandour, founder of Aramaex, on the recent Wamda survey “Breaking Barriers to Scale for Arab Entrepreneurs”. This is a must read report for anyone interested in learning about the challenges faced by entrepreneurs in the Arab world.  Essentially the problems boil down to teammanagementmonetization andfinance. The first three usually need to be addressed before investment occurs. Clearly in the Arab world there is a need to work on these processes to encourage more investment. This makes the role of incubators such as Oasis500 and publications such Wamda even more important as an integral piece of the ecosystem for the Arab world startups. Also, there is an obvious valuable role for diaspora to play in nurturing and developing the Digital Arabia ecosystem.

3d printing software: Something out of nothing

A nice article in the economist mentioning a Jordanian-American based startup, Mixed Dimensions, which is creating simple design tools to let non-specialists design and work with 3D models for printing on 3D printers. The company is also working on creating a marketplace for these designers and for allowing the software to be compatible across the different browsers.

[Video] Egypt startups

A short documentary in arabic about the Egyptian incubator Flat6Labs. It features several startups such as Castpace and Integreight.