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Financial support, especially in the early stages of business lifecycle is a missing link most startups in Palestine (and perhaps in many parts of the Middle East) suffer from. Helping make things better for Palestine’s entrepreneurs in this regard is Ibtikar Fund, an early-stage venture capital fund with a mission to “close a critical funding gap between acceleration and VC, and other later-stage investors” for Palestine startups.
And now the VC firm has got a boost in achieving this objective, as it has announced raising an investment of US$2.5 million from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF), and Reach Holding (a Middle East-based global entity headquartered in Palestine) as investors. With this raise, Ibtikar increases its capital to $10.45 million, giving it the ability to invest in more Palestinian entrepreneurs.
“We look for ideas and startups that are scalable, and which serve the MENA region or global need,” declares the website of Ibtikar (meaning innovation in Arabic), which launched in May 2016, and has made 14 investments in Palestinian startups so far, and growing. “These new investments are a validation of our work over the last two years, and a vote of confidence in our management,” Habib Hazzan, Managing General Partner, Ibtikar said in a statement. “We are glad that the IFC, DGGF and Reach Holding agree with our current investors in the potential of Palestinian startups and welcome them to our fund,” he added.
As per Ibtikar Fund’s investment strategy, laid down in its website, the firm supports companies in two stages- seed and early-stage, and is looking to “invest in highly-skilled and complementary management teams that are willing to take risks and go out of their comfort zones.” At the seed level, the Fund looks for entrepreneurs through local accelerators, and it also remains open to make Series A investments in its portfolio companies.
Managed by Hazzan and Ambar Amleh, the Fund benefits from the involvement of some of the country’s renowned business executives- its board is chaired by Hashim Shawa, Chairman and General Manager of the Bank of Palestine (the fund’s anchor investor), and includes Zahi Khouri, chairman and CEO, National Beverage Company.
While this marks the first investment in Palestinian venture capital and in MENA region overall by DGGF, this is IFC’s first investment in Palestinian ecosystem and the second under its new Startup Catalyst initiative (the first was its support to Flat6Labs Cairo in Egypt). “We believe Ibtikar can play a pivotal role in strengthening the area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, creating jobs, and attracting more investment,” Mouayed Makhlouf, IFC’s Regional Director in the MENA region, said in a statement.