Abraaj Capital Group Acquires VC Firm Riyada, Launches New SME Platform
Abraaj Capital Group announced today that it agreed to acquire all of Riyada Ventures the leading venture capital firm in the MENA region. The acquisition is at the core of a major new push by Abraaj into the small and medium enterprise (SME) space, which is aimed at stimulating and supporting entrepreneurial activity in this vital segment of the MENA region’s economies.
Riyada Ventures, which was set up in the Jordanian capital, Amman, in 2005, this week won the ‘Venture Capital Firm of the Year’ award for a second straight year at the Private Equity World MENA 2009 conference in Dubai.
Riyada Ventures, whose track record encompasses more than 25 regional and international venture-capital transactions, also operates an office in Cairo. Its founder and CEO Khaldoon Tabaza has worked in the MENA venture-capital industry since 2000, prior to which he set up several high-growth entrepreneurial ventures. In 2006, the World Economic Forum (WEF) named him a ‘Young Global Leader’.
Riyada has previously invested in MediaScope, ArabAdvisors, and Kindisoft flash security tools developer from Jordan.
Riyada Ventures will be integrated by Abraaj into its newly launched regional SME and Entrepreneurship initiative. Khaldoon Tabaza will continue as the CEO of the new business line of Abraaj.
Abraaj has enjoyed significant past success in the SME space, having been an early backer of Maktoob.com, the leading Arab language portal recently acquired by Yahoo! It was also the original institutional investor in companies of the caliber of Arabtec, Aramex and Amwal at very early stages of their growth stories, each one resulting in significant returns for the Dubai based PE firm.
Through the new initiative, Abraaj will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in SMEs across MENA with the aim of creating high-impact, high-growth, successful businesses to fuel innovation, job-creation, sustainable growth and economic diversification. At its core, the platform will give enormous support to the indigenous entrepreneurship that exists across the broader region.
Abraaj will work with governments, regional and international development and investment organisations, and Abraaj’s investor base to provide a pan-regional platform from which investments will be made.
In addition to the commercial objectives of the platform, Abraaj will also provide entrepreneurial support at the grassroots level in the form of business mentoring, training and technical assistance so as to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit in business communities across the region.
For companies in which it invests, Abraaj will provide a dedicated back-office platform to offer both strategic support services and operational functionality to facilitate growth plans and provide mentorship to the young entrepreneurs in the SME space, which comprises more than 80% of economic activity across the MENA region.
As a further commitment to the countries in which it will invest, Abraaj will allocate a portion of the funds raised for a given nation to the development needs of its less fortunate communities by partnering with an established sustainable development fund that provides patient capital and that subscribes to the philosophy of sustainable philanthropic capital.
Founder and CEO of Abraaj, Arif Naqvi, said: “We are delighted to welcome Khaldoon and his team at Riyada Ventures into the Abraaj group, to spearhead our regional enterprise-development initiative. Abraaj is committed to creating the region’s largest dedicated platform to support entrepreneurship and innovation within the high-growth economies of the MENA region.”
Founder and CEO of Riyada Ventures, Khaldoon Tabaza said: “Abraaj’s groundbreaking initiative in the SME and entrepreneurship space will be a positive inflexion point in the development of high-impact, high-growth ventures in the MENA region. We are honoured and delighted to be part of the Abraaj success story.”