Al Waha expands portfolio with Shorooq Partners investment

The fund of funds provides market access for organisations looking to invest in the region


MANAMA: Al Waha Fund of Funds invested an undisclosed amount in the Bedaya Fund I of seed-stage venture capital firm Shorooq Partners, it has emerged.

The Bahraini government-led initiative announced its investment indicates renewed confidence in the startup sector during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The UAE-based Shorooq Partners – which has supported 23 firms including on-demand truck aggregator Trukker and hybrid robo-adviser Sarwa – plans to enhance its presence in the kingdom while working to find, support and enable the next wave of regional founders.

The funding injection is the latest announced by Al Waha, which was launched in 2018 with $100 million to drive greater venture capital investment across the Middle East.

The fund of funds (FoF) provides market access for organisations looking to invest in the region, as well as for portfolio companies looking to expand.

The addition of Shorooq Partners to Al Waha’s portfolio shows that despite the ongoing global pandemic, investors are actively seeking new opportunities to support startups – particularly in sectors such as fintech and healthtech which have played an increasingly important role during the crisis.

Founded by Shane Shin and Mahmoud Adi, Shorooq Partners focuses on early-stage technology startups in fintech, platforms, software and tech-enabled business services subsectors.

Geographically, Shorooq targets the Middle East and North Africa with a key focus on the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.

Major Shorooq Partners portfolio companies include Sarwa, a hybrid robo-adviser wealth management platform; Trukker, a technology enabled, on-demand truck aggregator; Teacherly, a platform built for a global community of educators to improve learning outcomes; and Breadfast, an Egypt-based native e-grocery service.

Al Waha fund director Areije Al Shakar said it was proud to partner with a regional firm that understands the importance of backing new ventures at the earliest of stages and the aim is to support the next phase of Shorooq’s growth, which has been successful by investing in fast-growth sectors such as fintech and software.

“This partnership also shows that Bahrain is not only an attractive investment option for international venture capitalists, but also for those already based in the Middle East and looking to expand their reach within the region,” she added.

According to Ms Al Shakar, startups have a major role to play in accelerating the GCC economy during the ongoing global health crisis and Bahrain offers an innovative and stable startup ecosystem that enables entrepreneurs to grow their ideas amid an atmosphere of pro-business regulation and strong public-private partnerships.

Shane Shin, co-founding partner at Shorooq Partners, said: “Our mission is to support the most promising entrepreneurs in the region who are creating substantial economic value in their home countries and beyond as they grow and expand within the GCC markets.

“This is aligned with the exponentially evolving startup ecosystem in the GCC that is becoming more intertwined and collaborative as stakeholders including government entities, investors and startups engage and build.

“Bahrain is taking tangible measures to become a strong hub for businesses and founders wanting to build their presence in the kingdom and broader GCC market. We are excited to join our partners in Al Waha Fund in fostering this vibrant business ecosystem and support further local and regional development efforts.”

Shorooq, he said, would look to accelerate the process of finding, supporting and enabling “the next wave of amazing founders and passionate problem solvers to create a lasting impact in Bahrain and the region”.

With its unique positioning and connectivity to other Gulf countries, as well as a truly multicultural society that welcomes more than 160 nationalities, the kingdom is the ideal destination for Eastern and Western businesses to converge.

Al Waha Fund of Funds has so far deployed tens of millions of dollars to a range of venture capitalists, including MSA Capital, Lumia Capital, BECO Capital, Middle East Venture Partners, 500 Startups and European fund manager Finch Capital.

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