The Middle East Venture Capital Fund has secured $28.7 million for the first venture fund targeting Palestinian technology companies. Based in Ramallah, the fund has sealed investments from Cisco, Google, The Soros Economic Development Fund, Skoll Foundation and the European Investment Bank. The fund will focus on startup companies in the Internet, mobile and software sectors created by entrepreneurs in the West Bank.
MEVCF – The Middle East Venture Capital Fund announced today that it has secured $28.7M from leading international companies, foundations, and other investors for the first venture fund targeting Palestinian technology companies. The Fund is beginning to evaluate investment opportunities from its office in Ramallah.
MEVCF’s investors include Cisco, Google, The Soros Economic Development Fund, Skoll Foundation, Jean and Steve Case, and the European Investment Bank, among others.
The Fund will be managed by Saed Nashef, a software entrepreneur and industry veteran who recently returned to the region after nearly two decades in the US, and Yadin Kaufmann, a longtime venture capitalist in the US and Israel.
“We believe the Palestinian technology sector offers significant prospects for economic development and job creation,” said Nashef. “There is a vibrant community of software entrepreneurs who have ‘the right stuff’. We and our investors will aim to provide the access to risk capital and to international markets that these entrepreneurs need in order to compete on the world stage.”
The MEVCF fund will invest in startup companies in the internet, mobile and software sectors created by ICT entrepreneurs in the West Bank. Palestine IT and software exports have grown consistently over the last decade. Several major multinational technology companies including Cisco, HP, Intel, and others have begun outsourcing development work to Palestinian software companies, capitalizing on the educated and entrepreneurial population and developed IT infrastructure, which includes several thousand skilled Palestinian engineers and 13 higher learning institutions.
“We are pleased to have the Google Foundation participate in the Middle East Venture Capital Fund as part of our effort to enhance Palestinian economic capacity in the ICT sector,” said Google’s Director of New Business Development, Gisel Kordestani.
Yoav Samet, Cisco’s Senior Director of Corporate Development for Europe and Emerging Markets, said, “Our investment in the MEVCF further extends Cisco’s commitment towards creating a sustainable Palestinian technology sector. We are looking forward to supporting, through our involvement in this Fund, the development of innovative Palestinian technology companies.”
Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation and co-Chair of the Middle East Strategy Group of the Aspen Institute, early supporters of the Fund, said: “We see tremendous potential value in technology firms in the West Bank and believe the fund will make a significant contribution to creating prosperity and stability in the region.”
Philippe de Fontaine Vive, European Investment Bank VP responsible for Mediterranean partner countries, said: “The successful launch of this fund sends an important message across the region. The fund is expected to make a key contribution to the development of the local technology and financial sectors through combining international industry experience and risk capital, with the untapped talent pool and entrepreneurial energy in the Palestinian territories. I am delighted that EIB is associated with such initiative.”
“The Soros Economic Development fund believes that the MEVCF can be an important catalyst for technology startups, providing jobs and keeping skilled engineers and programmers in Palestine,” said Michel Zaleski, one of the Soros Fund’s directors.