500 Falcons Fund To Invest In MENA Region

“Our goal is to invest in minorities and women”

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Saudi Gazette

Born in Silicon Valley, 500 Startups is a venture capital firm that aims to discover and back entrepreneurs, help them create successful companies at scale, and build thriving global ecosystems. This week we spoke to Hasan Haider, Partner at 500 Startups who was recently in Dubai during STEP conference. 500 Startups has reportedly invested in over 2,000 companies using four global funds and 14 micro-funds dedicated to either specific geographic markets or verticals. They have a team of over 100 members worldwide, with 500 Startups’ global portfolio of investments spanning over 60 countries. 500 Startups also supports startups via its Seed Programs in San Francisco and Mexico City and the Series A Program in multiple locations globally. 500 Falcons is the MENA-focused fund that is a part of their global network.

SG: As per your mission statement, could you tell us how you plan to back entrepreneurs, help them achieve success and most importantly how you plan to build thriving global ecosystems?

HH: We have a fund, 500 Falcons, that is dedicated to the MENA region and founders from the MENA region. Using this fund, we plan to be active investors in the MENA region, with a target of 150 investments over a three-year period. In addition, we are aiming to build ecosystems and support our entrepreneurs in a variety of ways, such as with the MENA Dojo Series A Program. This program is focused on helping startups that are raising a Series A round of funding to build a growth mindset and growth framework within their organizations. We do this by bringing mentors from our Silicon Valley and Global teams to the region to help bridge the knowledge gap in this area of startups that exists in the region. We look forward to doing more programs in the region in the near future to help build the ecosystem in the region. In addition, we support our entrepreneurs by giving them access to our global network of 3000 founders and 300 mentors, as well as events and education just for our portfolio companies/

SG: 44.5% of Your portfolio founders belong to racial minorities. What is your goal and do you plan to embrace a more gender balanced approach?

HH: Our goal is to invest in minorities and women, as they tend to be good investments undervalued by the rest of the market. We have been, and will continue to be leaders in giving opportunity to people from all walks of life to build their startup and play a role in the development of their startup ecosystems. The majority of players in silicon valley would not, for instance, be actively investing in MENA founders and startups in the region. In terms of gender balance, our global CEO, Christine Tsai, is a woman, and many members of our investment and support team are as well. We are actively looking to set an example by doing the right thing as an organisation in this area.

SG: Since you started out, what has been

the biggest challenge and greatest achievement?

HH: In the MENA region, our biggest challenge has been funding. There are not enough VC funds, Angel Investors or LPs that would invest in VC funds across the MENA region. The situation is much better today than it was eight years ago when I started investing in startups or even two years ago when we started working on the fund focused on the region, but there is still a long way to go. We’re proud to have been able to support startups that have gone on to build significant businesses against the odds in the early days.

SG: What advice would you give

to an aspiring entrepreneur in the GCC?

HH:

l Hustle and have a bias towards execution. Ideas are worthless and hard to get funding for unless you’re able to show that you can build something and that people are interested in using your product

l Don’t get discouraged easily. Starting your own startup will likely be the hardest thing you will ever do in life, and there are a lot of ups and downs. Be prepared to fight though impossible odds to succeed.

l Build the right team. Its incredibly difficult to do everything yourself. Bring on partners and co-founders that can support you and cover for areas where you might be weak in.

SG: Where are you headed from here?

What are your goals for 2018?

HH: We’re continuing to look for partners that would be interested to engage with us as we look to invest in amazing founders from across the MENA region. For 2018, we aim to continue to be very active investors, and build out more programs to support entrepreneurs, investors and corporates in the MENA region as they seek to play a role in the ecosystem.

To find out more visit https://500.co


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