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Venture Capital As The Future Of Innovation In the Middle East especially, venture capital has proven to be a route that increases the visibility of the region as an innovation hub.

By Arya H. Bolurfrushan

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The role of man has always been to innovate and create. Since the beginning of time, mankind has progressed because of our ability to invent and adapt. As the tools available to create new things proliferate, they allow us to leverage our creative intellect further and not be bogged down with administrative and logistical tasks.

The exponential rise of technology means innovation will progress faster than our linear minds can fathom.

There were more significant technological changes in the past 10 years than in the past 100 years, and more in the past 100 years than in the past 1000 years. Today, all of human knowledge is accessible in our pocket through our smartphone. Communication has become pervasive and instantaneous, almost creating a unified human consciousness whose pressing issues emerge in the form of a trending topic on Twitter. This makes it imperative to keep up with international technological progress, especially as it greatly increases our productivity, which is a leading contributor to GDP growth.

According to a report released by the International Data Corporation (IDC), every country in the Middle East is projected to spend millions more on technology in 2014 than in 2013. Venture capital plays a significant role in fuelling this innovation. In the Middle East especially, venture capital has proven to be a route that increases the visibility of the region as an innovation hub while at the same time providing new technologies with a place to grow and prosper. IDC also reported that the ICT market will hit the US$96 billion mark in 2014, which indicates incredible investment and optimism in the technology sector. That, coupled with the m-Government initiative and the investments that will inevitably follow the Expo 2020 announcement, makes the technology sector, particularly in Dubai, a vibrant and exciting market for VCs to explore.

To innovate on a global scale you need a relatively level playing field; basically you need the infrastructure to educate, develop, integrate, and roll out ideas. The Middle East is still developing the ecosystem for the virtuous cycle of innovation to take hold but global trends makes this inevitable; it's just a matter of time. There is a boom on the horizon for the Middle East, and it is this changing landscape that makes investing in this region so exciting.

A large part of the role of venture capital is to fuel innovation and mass adoption. This fuel comes in the form of capital, structure, access, and expertise. Each of these factors plays a critically important role in aiding start-ups and entrepreneurs– the expertise is just as important as the capital that a VC can provide.

When I first started investing, it was something that I did on my own, as a kind of hobby. I ended up investing in 27 startups. I learned a lot about various sectors and regions but more importantly the common pitfalls, the founder's dilemma and the life of a company after the investing honeymoon period. Now that this interest has pivoted into an institution, it has taken on a whole new meaning. We are investing in the structural building blocks of the technology industry and look at VC as a way to build upon the talent and resources in the region. This includes e-commerce logistics, online payment gateways, effective cloud computing, incubation ecosystems, knowledge sharing platforms and engaging content. It is investments like these that will provide the platform from which the Middle East can grow and thrive as a technological hub as well as an entrepreneurial one, creating the demand for further participation from venture capitalists.

Having lived in Dubai for over 28 years, I have seen first-hand the transformation a structured vision accompanied by resources can achieve. The talent and ideas from a diverse range of entrepreneurs that abound the Middle East has only made me, and I'm sure many others, that much more resolute about investing in this region. All the quantitative and qualitative metrics demonstrate a region and sector that is ready to outperform.

I believe in this region, and in its innovation potential. The Middle East, and the UAE in particular, is in the second inning of mini technology boom, and we expect this to continue as locally based companies continue to bring their new ideas to life. Hopefully, we can help.

Arya H. Bolurfrushan

CEO, Bolurfrushan International Group

Arya H. Bolurfrushan is the CEO of the Bolurfrushan International Group, General Manager & Chief Financial Officer of RAK Petroleum, General Partner of Emerge Ventures, Director of Arya Insurance,  Venture Partner at ExistVenture and Director of Elevision Media. Bolurfrushan was previously at Goldman Sachs’s internal think tank in New York, the Investment Strategy Group. He worked with the firm’s largest institutional and private clients, produced industry leading research on private equity, venture capital, hedge fund and commodity returns and helped create the patent pending Goldman Sachs Private Equity Index. Bolurfrushan received a Master’s degree and Bachelor of Science in Information Systems, Finance & Economics from Carnegie Mellon University and has attained an MBA from the Harvard Business School.
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