x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Oasis500 seeking to invest in 110 firms

Oasis500, the accelerator investment fund founded in Jordan, is looking to invest in about 110 start-ups and existing companies this year.

Oasis500, the accelerator investment fund founded in Jordan, is looking to invest in about 110 start-ups and existing companies this year.

That is almost double the number of companies it funded a year and a half ago.

The seed investment and development fund was set up with the aim of investing in 500 technology companies within the next five years.

"The goal in the first year was to invest in 10 start-ups and the second year was 22, with the third at 32. We have just finished our third year with a little over 60 companies," said Usama Fayyad, the executive chairman of Oasis500, while speaking on the sidelines of the Arabnet conference in Beirut.

"We are accelerating. This is a big year, and we have a big jump ahead of us. We hope to end the year with 80 investments."

Oasis500 closed its first fund a year and half ago, raising US$6 million (Dh22m) and has so far invested less than half of it, according to Mr Fayyad.

To accelerate its ambitions, Oasis500 launched a programme to start investing in existing companies this year.

"There are companies that have been in the marketplace for a few years. They feel like Oasis500 is only for new ideas and companies," said Mr Fayyad. "We found that they can use our help much more than entrepreneurs. So far we have seven companies in the pipeline for the new programme, which is reaching up to $500,000."

Oasis500 is the biggest start-up accelerator in the Middle East and North Africa. While it has a regional focus, most of its investments so far have been in Jordan.

"We hold angel investor network events across the region and have done some in Bahrain, Qatar, Dubai and now Beirut, but investment activity is tiny," Mr Fayyad said.

"We haven't seen the region develop at all. Capital in our region seems to be very afraid of early stage. There is a lot of hype and talk, everybody is embracing entrepreneurs. But I haven't seen signs of healthy growth or uptake, just a lot of talk."

Arabnet, now in its fourth year, is the region's largest digital media summit and aims to connect entrepreneurs with investors and clients.