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As the World Economic Forum Summit goes live in Jordan, all eyes will be on the thriving startup ecosystem in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA). The growing role of technology — especially new innovations in the realm of FinTech — was at the heart of the mega-event on the inaugural day on Apr 6.

Just ahead of the summit, the Forum, along with the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), handpicked 100 promising Arab startups to watch out for in 2019.

These startups, according to the WEF, are at the forefront of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution in MENA. Five top Bahraini startups — including GetBaqala, Inagrab, Malaeb, Tamarran, and The Experience Accelerator were featured in the list.

Among the key speakers on the Summit’s inaugural day was Fadi Ghandour, Chief Executive of Middle East venture capital firm Wamda Capital, one of the leading VCs to be spearheading the startup revolution in the region.

Speaking on the scope for entrepreneurship in the region and the accompanying challenges, Ghandour noted: “The biggest change today is that the digital economy is happening, which has brought with it all sorts of new sets of entrepreneurship and building new businesses that are digitally disruptive to the incumbents in the brick and mortar world.”

The Summit also highlighted how the number of investors backing MENA-based startups is growing manifold over the past few years. To put things into perspective, startups in the region collectively bagged support from 70 investors in 2015, of which 34% were international investors.

The corresponding figures from the follow-up years are 100 in 2016 (38% international investors); 143 in 2017 (3% international investors); and 156 in 2018 (30% international investors).

“The key driver has been the growth in success stories. As we see more exits take place, that shows success for founders, returns for investors and opportunities for limited partners. More entities are entering the venture space not to miss out,” said Philip Bahoshy, CEO of Magnitt.