How many ecosystem events have you attended this year as an entrepreneur hoping to meet a potential investor? Startups tell us that one of the primary reasons they choose to go to MENA region events is to improve their chances of funding. We asked investors based in the Middle East, from angels to VCs, to talk back and give us their views on whether startups attending events were better positioned to garner investor interest.
THE Q When assessing startups for potential investment, do you consider how often they attend events in the ecosystem?
“We do not consider whether a startup is present at various events or not to be a deal-breaker. Let’s keep in mind that VentureSouq is a Dubai-based equity funding platform that focuses on early stage ventures both regionally and internationally, so we need to keep our finger on the pulse of various markets simultaneously. From a MENA perspective, regional events are useful experiential platforms for us for startup discovery purposes in terms of understanding where an industry is heading, the types of issues and gaps that are currently being addressed by new ventures and the various players in that space or market. If the events are outside of the UAE, all the better, as they can provide a good opportunity for face-to-face interaction with entrepreneurs based elsewhere (even if limited). We receive hundreds of introductory emails, referrals and pitches from across the globe, but nothing beats meeting an entrepreneur in person and assessing their vision, drive and understanding of the market they are attempting to address.
Generalist industry events can be useful to entrepreneurs for networking purposes, brand awareness creation, mentor scouting, potential team recruiting, press opportunities, and initial investor contact and feedback. Nonetheless, many great ventures do not have the bandwidth nor do they have the deep pockets to attend every single event that takes place– there are quite a few in this region alone and they will likely see the same investors at each. Adopting a more targeted approach by attending sector-specific events regionally or internationally may be more beneficial and time efficient for them.
Furthermore, in my opinion, in today’s age of porous national borders, industry-specific events that attract stakeholders from various parts of the world are the most pertinent. Transnational connections are made and synergies explored whether it be on the product development/expansion front, or that of fundraising. We have subsequently seen companies from the U.S., Europe, India, and Hong Kong pitch and receive funding from regional angels at our Investor RoundUps in Dubai.
Last but certainly not least, let’s not glean over the fact these events are also key from a community building perspective. Each of us represents various nuts and bolts in the value chain of this burgeoning ‘ecosystem’ we all like to refer to. These events serve a greater purpose in this sense of bringing entrepreneurs, mentors, angel investors and VCs together in one space during a specific timeframe. This is one way the regional ecosystem is ultimately brought to life. And yes, this is relevant.”