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UAE’s e& launches new $250m VC fund to support tech start-ups

UAE telecoms and technology company e& (formerly known as Etisalat Group) launched a $250 million venture capital fund as part of its new investment unit, e & capital, to support the tech start-up ecosystem.

The e & capital VC fund will seek to attract, engage and support start-ups and provide them with access to investor and expert networks, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

Meanwhile, e & capital will “further drive the tech ecosystem through larger investments at the growth stage beyond its VC fund”, it said.

The e & investment arm has already closed some “sizeable deals”, including a strategic investment in Vuz’s $20m Series B funding round. Vuz is an immersive social app that offers users extended reality and metaverse digital experiences.

It has also participated in a €1.4m ($1.36m) funding round in Lablabee, a tech start-up which aims to create a lab platform for the telco cloud, offering training that is more interactive and accessible.

“We believe that trends shaping the future are worthy of investment,” Hatem Dowidar, group chief executive of e &, said.

The VC ecosystem in the Middle East and North Africa is growing amid the boom in start-ups, particularly in sectors such as technology and digitisation.

Venture capital funding for start-ups in the region rose 20 per cent annually to more than $2.3 billion in the first three quarters of 2022, putting it on track to potentially surpass the total investments attracted in 2021, according to a report by data platform Magnitt.

Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia retained the top three positions in terms of both funding value and number of deals, capturing more than 75 per cent of overall Mena investments, it said.

Financial technology remained the leading industry during the period, with 94 deals valued at $747m, which is an annual increase of almost three quarters, Magnitt added.

Mena FinTech companies that headlined fundraising were the UAE’s Tabby with $150m, Saudi Arabia’s Tamara with $100m and Senegal’s Wave Mobile Money with $91.6m.

“As the investment arm of e &, our vision is to invest in business ideas that empower a better and brighter digital future,” Kushal Shah, head of venture capital at e & capital, said.

“Major change never happens overnight, and we are gearing up for a long-term goal of enabling meaningful progress … As we build a portfolio of fast-scaling businesses that are already proven winners, we are looking forward to setting things in motion in VC and growth investments, as we rely on a thorough process that will continuously build and maintain momentum.”