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The Bahrain Development Bank (BDB) has finally launched a $100m venture capital dubbed ‘fund-of-funds,’ aims to boost the startup ecosystem in Bahrain and the Middle East.

The Al Waha ‘fund-of-funds’ will invest in venture capital funds that exist in Bahrain – providing additional capital to fund and support startups in Bahrain and across the Middle East.

H.E. Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chairman, BDB said, “This is very exciting news for the startup ecosystem both here in Bahrain and across the Middle East. We know that access to capital is one of the biggest constraints on growth for startups, so this fund will help businesses in Bahrain and across the Middle East to get access to the capital they need to expand.”

“Venture capital investment in the MENA region is a fraction of the level in markets like the USA and China – this means there are entrepreneurs with great ideas that are not realizing their potential because they cannot access the funding required. We are delighted to be able to utilize the strengths of Bahrain as a regional financial centre and its growing startup ecosystem to support the growth of a new wave of innovative businesses across the region.”

The fund was officially launched at the Gateway Gulf Investor Forum, held under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and Chairman of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), that brought together over five hundred global investors and business leaders to explore ways of unlocking the opportunities being created by the economic diversification in the GCC. The event provided a direct access route into the GCC market by presenting major investment-ready projects worth USD 18 billion, including projects in the planning phase driving up the value of the project pipeline to USD 26 billion. The event also offered an opportunity to match funding with large-scale infrastructure projects in Kingdom.

As well as providing additional capital to regional startups, the fund is expected to help in attracting other venture capital funds to Bahrain, thus strengthening the local startup ecosystem; StartUp Bahrain. Bahrain’s startup ecosystem has benefitted from some significant economic reforms in recent years, including a reduction in the minimum capital required for starting a business, measures to enable on-shore ‘Crowdfunding’ in conventional and Shari’a-compliant finance and the introduction of a ‘Regulatory Sandbox’ for FinTech.

These advances are a reflection of Bahrain’s recent endorsement by the Global Startup Ecosystem Report, released by the Global Entrepreneurship Network and Startup Genome, which included Bahrain in global ‘Top ecosystems to watch for’ in both FinTech and gaming. Bahrain was the only Arab country to be involved in either list.