Exploring the venture and startup ecosystem across the GCC has been extensive and rewarding. Over the past 18 months, I have worked in ecosystems across Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Bahrain (more on that), and Kuwait. Meeting founders, financial institutions, family offices, and venture funds provided an insightful cross-section of opportunities and challenges. More than ever, I believe in expanding the relationship between the Southeast Asian and MENA tech ecosystems. A lot has been said about the rising MENA ecosystem, which you can read elsewhere, but there are a few helpful observations.
There is an upcoming group of B2B SAAS founders dedicated to changing their local industries and increasingly becoming more international. In some cases, I am seeing these founders rivaling their global counterparts. A few verticals that excite me are:
The venture ecosystem is very welcoming. It is hard to name everyone, but the fund managers, government stakeholders, and family offices across Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman have shared many insights and deals.
International founders with whom I have spoken in the past year and who have spent time in MENA are keen to explore expansion. This is not just for fundraising. Leveraging the infrastructure venture ecosystem in the GCC as part of a global expansion strategy will become more commonplace.
Although we live in uncertain times, I remain bullish on the corridor between Southeast Asia and MENA.
A special thank you to our senior advisor, Hussain Abdulla, who has opened many doors for us across the GCC and provided unique insights.