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Zain, Alkeri Partners plan new Bahraini start-up initiative

MANAMA, May 4, 2019

Zain Bahrain, a leading telecommunication services provider in the kingdom, has joined forces with Alkeri Partners to officially launch the first phase of ‘Zainnovate’ initiative aimed at supporting the Bahraini startup ecosystem. 
The launch event held at Zain Headquarters recently showcased Oqal Angel Investors Network; the first angel investor community in Saudi Arabia. 
Since its incorporation in 2011, Oqal has grown to build an active angel investor community of over 350 members across Saudi Arabia, arranged 100 meetings connecting entrepreneurs with Angel investors, overseen more than 300 investment opportunities within its platform and successfully its members investing over SR40 million in Angel investments within the Saudi startup ecosystem.
The event saw Oqal Saudi Arabia Chairman and Founder Faris Al Rashid Al Humaid, Alkeri Partners Chairman Jamal A. Al-Hazeem and Founder and Managing Director Khaled Zainalabedin  announced plans to set up Oqal’s first regional chapter outside Saudi Arabia in Bahrain. 
Upon incorporation and launch of Oqal Angel Network – Bahrain, the chapter will operate within the Zainnovate initiative and platform in partnership with Zain Bahrain.
"We are delighted to announce our partnership with Zain Bahrain and Oqal Angel Network – Saudi Arabia to setup Oqal’s first cross border Chapter in the region considering the thriving growth and potential for startups and angel investors in both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain," remarked Zainalabedin.
"As part of this strategic partnership, early-stage startups, businesses, and angel investors affiliated with both ecosystems will now have access to unique funding perks, early-stage startup investment opportunities in both regions," he stated. 
"We truly believe that this partnership will set forth a major milestone towards building future collaboration initiatives benefiting and enhancing cross pollination of both the Saudi and Bahraini startup ecosystems and developing the Angel investing sector being a major funding contributor for early-stage startups," he added.
Al Humaid said the new Bahrain Chapter was a strategic decision that aims to close investment gaps within the region and supports regional investments for early-stage startups. 
"Oqal believes that collectivist culture embedded within the region is the foundation that should be utilised to support the angel investors in contributing and growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Underlying the decision is the efforts to enforce the important role of angel investors in growing the maturing entrepreneurial scene," he added.
The event also witnessed a strategic partnership between Russian Venture Company (RVC) and Alkeri Partners to launch GenerationS Accelerators - Europe’s leading corporate accelerator with clients such as Airbus, VT Bank, Unilever and Michelin - across the Middle East region with Bahrain being the main headquarters and first launchpad under the Zainnovate initiative. 
RVC is the Russian Federation’s venture capital fund of funds managing over 25 backed VC funds with over 200 startup portfolio companies and operates GenerationS Accelerators. 
The RVC-Alkeri Partners partnership was sealed by Alexander Povalko General Director, Chairman of the Management Board of RVC and Al Hazeem and Zainalabedin. 
On the RVC partnership, Al-Hazeem said it sets out a unique proposition linking the Russian Federation to the Middle East region and would setup up the pace for further sought after and mutually beneficially economic collaborations between both regions. 
"We are confident that through launching the first planned GenerationS Accelerator in Bahrain it will be a birthing ground not only for local talent, but also talented entrepreneurs from across the Middle East and the Russian Federation who yearn to revolutionize the tech industry by building innovative startups for the global consumer market," he added.
Povalko said this agreement was the first step towards creating favourable conditions for the development of innovative cooperation between Russia and the Middle East. 
The partnership will allow RVC to work closely with Middle Eastern development institutions and major corporations through using the Kingdom of Bahrain as a Launchpad. This initiative confirms that RVC is a significant player in the international venture capital market that promotes Russian technology abroad, he stated. 
"Our joint work will help startups to enter the MENA market and will help startups from the Mena market access and enter the Russian market and attract funding from local investors," noted Pavalko.
Ekaterina Petrova, the director of corporate accelerator GenerationS, said Bahrain is considered one of the best jurisdictions for doing business in the Middle East region and is also among the Top 5 countries for expats. 
"The GenerationS team will develop the first programme here followed by Saudi Arabia and thereafter scale up the accelerator model across other regions within the Middle East," she added. 
Finally, a Zainnovate demo day pitch was later presented for five leading global and regional startups. 
The startups included AliHuda, a US-based clean kids entertainment and content developer, Bayshore Networks, a US based industrial cyber security company, Surkus, a US-based company offering, all-in-one solution that optimizes brands and consumer engagement, Flashh, a Bahrain-based deal platform for consumer products and Easy Financial Services, a leading Bahraini Fintech biometric payment gateway and block chain service provider. 
‘Zainnovate’ comes under Zain’s contribution towards the startup ecosystem in Bahrain which is also in line with their corporate sustainability and social responsibility strategy which focuses on three core pillars: Innovation, Thought Leadership and Youth Empowerment.
"The new partnership is a continuation of the efforts made by Zain Bahrain to support Bahrain's vision 2030 as a leading tech and startup hub in the region," stated Abdulla Bin Khalid, Zain Bahrain Director of Communications & Investor Relations.
"Zainnovate initiative was also launched to create strategic platform through partnerships supporting startups in developing an entrepreneurial environment in Bahrain and providing the necessary support for SME sector projects for them to grow, develop and sustain," he added.-TradeArabia News Service


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