Nuwa Capital hits $75 million first close on its debut fund for MENA, Turkey & Pakistan

About a year after its launch, Dubai and Riyadh-based Nuwa Capital has announced the first close of $75 million for its debut fund  (Nuwa Ventures Fund I – NVFI) that will invest in startups in the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey, Pakistan, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Nuwa is aiming for a final close of $100 million within this year. With the $75 million it has raised, it is now one of the largest VC funds in the region.

The firm was founded in early 2020 by Khaled Talhouni, Sarah Abu Risheh, and Stephanie Nour Prince, who were previously with another VC in the region. They have already invested in three companies in the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, and are looking to deploy capital into many more by the end of the year. The fund is sector-agnostic but focuses on SaaS, Direct-to-consumer, fintech, proptech, health tech, and edtech. It invests in seed to Series B opportunities.

“We launched the fund in a year forever marked with the upending of how our economies and societies have traditionally functioned. At the heart of this shift was the unprecedented adoption of technology, particularly in emerging markets. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us to reshape our economies around innovation and entrepreneurship and prime our societies for decades of positive growth,” said Khaled Talhouni, Managing Partner at Nuwa Capital, who has led (or managed) investments in companies like Careem, Mumzworld, Twiga Foods, Insider, and Nana Direct, at his previous firm.

The limited partners (investors) in the Nuwa Ventures Fund I include a mix of corporates, family offices, and funds of funds from the region, with Saudi conglomerate Al Faisaliah Group joining as the anchor investor. The corporates and family offices who’ve invested represent different industries including healthcare, pharmaceutical, real estate, F&B, media, and logistics. For many of Nuwa Capital’s LP’s, this investment represents their first such position in a MENA fund, said the firm in a statement.

Nuwa Capital had started raising money right at the start of Covid-19’s outbreak in the Middle East so there was some skepticism in the beginning, “The pandemic had made fundraising challenging especially because in-person meetings were no longer possible. We were expecting it to take longer to do our first close but our proposition for investors and the fact the technology emerged as a winning sector in the pandemic helped us a great deal,” stated Nuwa’s team in conversation with MENAbytes.

“We set out to redefine the relationship between capital and founders. Although we expected a delay given the challenging economic climate and limited travel, we have been able to build the right partnerships and finalize our first close in under a year. With a distinguished community of LPs and the Nuwa Network, we are able to scale value creation and offer both strategic and operational support to our portfolio across the region as we move forward,” added Stephanie Nour Prince, Partner, Network and Operations at Nuwa Capital, in a statement.

The three investments Nuwa Capital has made until now include Dubai-based eyewear ecommerce platform Eyewa, Cairo-based furniture marketplace Homzmart, and financial wellness platform FlexxPay. It has already closed one more deal that will be announced in the next few weeks and is in advanced talks with many other startups across the region.

Sarah Abu Risheh, Partner at Nuwa Capital, said, “We expect to see companies continue to grow regionally and invest in their businesses. We have been operating in this space for about a decade and continue to see new models emerge and further blur the lines between tech and non-tech. As the appetite of corporates to meaningfully work with startups increasingly develops, we will be witnessing more pronounced changes across the regional ecosystem and seeing more startups reaching escape velocity.”

Zubair Naeem Paracha
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