x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Cobone founder launching venture to aid technology start-ups in region

Cobone founder's Paul Kenny is to launch a venture capital firm targeting tech start-ups in the Middle East.

Cobone’s founder Paul Kenny is set to launch a venture capital firm that will invest in Middle East technology start-ups.

Mr Kenny will set up Emerge Ventures with Arya Bolurfrushan, who at 27 became chief financial officer of RAK Petroleum, after working at Goldman Sachs and studying at Harvard Business School.

Mr Kenny sold a majority stake in Cobone to Tiger Global Management this year. He also founded Triperna, a travel site.

The size of Emerge Ventures’ typical investment will vary between US$25,000 and a few million dollars, Mr Bolurfrushan said.

“The biggest value of bringing a [venture capital firm] on board is the discipline it provides,” Mr Bolurfrushan told The National. “You’re accountable, you have to report your progress and your financials every week.It puts up a mirror in front of the entrepreneur, makes them realise their shortcomings and their strengths.”

“Our first exit [returned] 24 times the capital we put in.We realised that there’s a lot of upside if you do it right,” he said.

“[When you invest in] start-ups, the investor wins, the entrepreneur wins, the region wins, and new jobs are created. It’s a virtuous cycle of mutual advancement and creation.”

Three UAE-based small and medium enterprises have already benefited from the firm’s funds. Elevision, which provides programming for screens placed inside the lifts of towers; Lumba, a mobile games engineering firm that targets the Middle East; and The Impact Hub, a working space due to open in Dubai this month, have all received funding.

“Raising money is easy. What you really want is investors who add value. It makes a big difference,” Mr Bolurfrushan said.

“The highest kind of realisation of humanity and man is innovation and creation – when you get an idea that fixes a problem, and makes life easier.”

abouyamourn@thenational.ae