Bahrain’s startup ecosystem is about to skyrocket thanks to Bahrain Development Bank, here’s why

Following instructions from His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and Chairman of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), the Bahrain Development Bank (BDB) today launched a $100m Venture Capital Fund of Funds aimed at boosting the start-up ecosystem in Bahrain and the Middle East.

The Al Waha Fund of Funds will invest in venture capital funds that have a presence in Bahrain – providing additional capital to funds supporting startups in Bahrain and across the Middle East

Commenting on the launch of the Fund, 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 center and its growing startup ecosystem to support the growth of a new wave of innovative businesses across the region.”

The fund was launched at Gateway Gulf Forum, which is being 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), and brings together over five hundred global investors and business leaders to explore ways of unlocking the opportunities being created by the economic transformation in the GCC. The event provides a direct route into accessing the GCC market by showcasing major investment-ready projects worth USD $18billion, with projects in the planning phase driving up the value of the project pipeline to USD $26 billion. The event also offers an opportunity to match funding with large-scale infrastructure projects in Bahrain.

As well as providing additional capital to regional startups, the fund is expected to help attract additional venture capital funds to Bahrain, enhancing the local startup ecosystem. Bahrain’s ecosystem has benefitted from a number of major economic reforms in recent  years, including a reduction in the minimum capital required for starting a business, measures to enable onshore crowdfunding in conventional and shari’a-compliant finance and the introduction of a regulatory sandbox for fintech.

These advances were reflected in the recent Global Startup Ecosystem Report, released by the Global Entrepreneurship Network and Startup Genome, which included Bahrain in global ‘ecosystems to watch’ in both fintech and gaming. Bahrain was the only Arab country to be included in either list.

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