500 Startups made its first investment in MENA in 2012. Back then, few U.S. venture investors made their way to the region, but we recognized its potential and after making more than 30 investments in the region, launched our first MENA-dedicated fund, Falcons I, in 2017.
Since then, 500 has cemented its position as one of the most active early stage investors in the Middle East. We have almost fully deployed the Falcons I fund, investing in more than 175 innovative startups. Nearly 100 founders have gone through our accelerator programs and our investments have helped these founders create countless jobs, and aided in advancing the region’s agenda to diversify economies, capitalize on technology and encourage investment in entrepreneurship.
MENA has become one of the most promising startup ecosystems in the world, with myriad opportunities to support talented founders and promote innovation as a means to transform economies.
With an eye toward MENA’s limitless future, 500 is strengthening its commitment to founders across the region and preparing for this next phase of growth with the addition of the following phenomenal new leaders to 500 MENA: Coming on board to extend their support and develop new initiatives are Bedy Yang and Rina Onur.
Bedy has been with 500 almost since its inception in 2010 and now joins Falcons I as a Managing Partner. As a Managing Partner at 500 and the GP of Global Funds I, II, III, IV, she co-manages over $220 million in Global Funds’ committed capital. Among investments Bedy was involved in are Talkdesk, which is valued at more than $3 billion, Viva Real which sold to OLX, and Cinepapaya, acquired by Fandango.
Bedy also leads the team responsible for ecosystems development, the innovation arm of 500 Startups which focuses on fostering economic development, government and corporate innovation, and tech acceleration, as well as the VC Unlocked programs, which train investors and managers of startup accelerators worldwide, including over 70 professionals in the MENA region.
Rina Onur joins as an Advisor to Falcons I. She is a Founding Partner of 500 Istanbul, which focuses on early stage tech startups in Turkey and the Turkish diaspora. Funds under her management have invested in more than 40 companies, including Carbon Health, BilliontoOne and Firefly. Prior to becoming a VC, Rina was an entrepreneur, having co-founded Peak Games which Zynga acquired recently for $1.8 billion, the second largest exit event ever in the MENAT region.
With the Falcons I fund nearing full deployment, we’ve worked closely with Partners Hasan Haider and Sharif El-Badawi to plan for what’s next in line with 500’s future strategy in MENA and analyzed the evolving need for capital across the MENA ecosystem. While Falcons I focused on pre-seed and early seed investments, Hasan and Sharif will launch an independent fund filling the gap in the market for later seed stage capital. They will also continue to actively support the Falcons I fund during the next 18 months.
Starting out as emerging fund managers in Falcons I, Hasan and Sharif were pivotal in building the 500 brand and investment practice across MENA, and we’re excited to see them evolve and continue to support MENA founders in their new fund. They have made significant contributions to MENA’s startup ecosystem, and we are proud of the work the Falcons team has done. We look forward to collaborating in support of great founders.
500 will also continue to invest in the region via new funds and programs which you will hear more about soon. As Chief Operating Officer of 500 Startups globally, I will oversee all strategic operations in the MENA region, including the development of new funds and initiatives. 500 is here to stay in MENA, and we are grateful to continue to be a part of this leading ecosystem. Stay tuned for more exciting updates in Q4!
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