The idea of angel investing may seem daunting at first, because of the uncertainty that comes with investing in new companies or ideas. However, the following three investors prove how vision, an understanding of emerging markets and investing in the “right players” can generate considerable returns for angel investors in the MENA region.
Fadi Ghandoor (Angel investor in Maktoob.com)
Maktoob.com, the world’s first free Arabic/English Web-based email service, was founded by Samih Toukan and Hussam Khoury in 2000 with an initial investment from Fadi Ghandour, founder of logistics firm Aramex, and other investors1. Throughout the 2000s, the valuation of Maktoob.com grew in the millions and notable investors, such as Dubai-based private equity firm Al Abraaj Capital and Tiger Global Management, one of Wall Street’s best-performing hedge funds, purchased and sold shares in the major MENA-based portal2. Then, in 2009, with an estimated 16.5 million unique users, Maktoob.com was purchased by Yahoo! for $164 million. A sum that was more than 10 times of its valuation in 20053, just four years prior to its purchase by the American internet giant.
Samih Toukan (Chairman of Jabbar Internet Group, Souq.com’s parent company)
After his successful exit from Maktoob.com, Toukan went on to co-found the Jabbar Internet Group, which invests in internet companies in the MENA region. One of Jabbar’s most lucrative portfolio companies is Souq.com, the region’s largest online retail and marketplace platform. Souq.com was founded in 2005, as a part of Maktoob.com, and left out of the deal that sold the MENA-based portal to Yahoo.com4. Since then, the online marketplace has received substantial investments from the likes of Tiger Global, Naspers and other notable regional and tech-focused financial institutions5. Most recently, Souq.com has been dubbed the “unicorn” of the Middle East after closing a funding round of $275 million. Thus, leaving it with a post-money valuation of $1 billion and making it the first tech company in the MENA region to reach a 10 figure valuation6.
Hala Fadel (Angel investor in Presella)
Presella, founded in 2012, is an “event management technology startup with [a] primary focus on a paperless e-ticketing platform for the MENA region7. In 2012, Fadel was among one of Presella’s first angel investors, which had a pre-money valuation of $250,000 and ended up raising $76,500 from Lebanese startup accelerator, Seeqnce. A year later, in 2013, the startup raised another seed round of $300,000 from Beirut Angels, Al Mawrid Bank and Fadel8. A follow-up investment that highlights the importance of angel investors re-investing in startups in order to ensure that their shares and valuations can continue to grow. After receiving $30,000 from Turn8 in 20159, Presella moved its operation to Dubai, where it aims to continue growing into the Lebanese and Emirati market and raising more money to expand its services to Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan10
As the Middle East ecosystem grows, we hope to see the number of angels with profitable exits and successful portfolios grow exponentially! And as they do, we’ll be chronicling the rise of the Middle East’s super-angels!