Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP) is the MENA region’s oldest and longest-operating venture capital firm. With offices in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and with partners from all over the globe, the company’s tagline is “Your journey to success begins with proper guidance” – a sensible, full-service approach to financing that sums MEVP up well. As Rabih Khoury, the firm’s chief exit officer and partner says, “We are a full-service partner, we’re involved in more than just giving money. We are fully invested in helping our entrepreneurs scale up and succeed.”
The Lebanese native has worked in San Francisco and New York, Beirut and Dubai, and while he’s exceptionally busy with his full-time work at MEVP, one of his specialities is mentoring young startups and helping them grow. As part of this work, he has a continual presence at Hub71, Abu Dhabi’s global tech ecosystem that is purpose-built for tech entrepreneurs and startups. As part of this remit, Khoury sits on the Techstars advisory panel and actively mentors startup founders. He shared his wisdom with Verdict on the future of investment in the tech sector.
Tell us more about MEVP and what you do.
We focus more on technology and help seed stage and series A startups in the tech sphere. So far, we’ve raised $350m for our startups, along with mentoring and guiding. We’re not government-funded, but a fully private firm and we have been operating in the UAE for the past 11 years. I’m an official Hub71 partner, which means I get to see the startups as they move over to the region or if they’re already here, as they’re launching – this oversight is really valuable, as it lets me see real-time trends and what startups are struggling with. Most of our funds have been raised locally, so that really differentiates us because we have that Middle East focus in capital and the energy and knowledge.
What does the Hub71 relationship mean to you?
For us, Hub71 is not an investment activity – it’s an infrastructure activity and it’s incredibly important for not just the UAE and the 34 countries that comprise the “Arab world”, but it’s important for the rest of the world as well because Abu Dhabi is centrally located and provides a window from west to east and vice versa. Hub71 doesn’t have a local mindset – it’s a global platform with global players that leverages global ideas, capital and networking. So that’s why we are a dedicated Hub71 partner, because it’s doing some great things and we know it’s already integral to building the tech world. We already see the UAE giving young people so much opportunity, giving them the entrepreneurial bug and showing them from a young age what they can do if they want to.
What do you look for in a startup owner to make you want to invest in them?
I hate using truisms because they make me sound like Yoda, but sometimes they just get the job done. We’re looking for passion, because it really is the essential ingredient. Being an entrepreneur isn’t just a title you give yourself – it’s a very, very difficult job. The odds are against you in every aspect. So if you aren’t having fun and you’re not passionate about what you do, you’re going to fail. It is that simple.
In addition to passion, entrepreneurs are often too focused on the short-term valuation of their ventures. Every owner’s first startup is like their first child, and they’re so proud and fixated on its beauty and uniqueness, and they view any valuation or investment as a reflection of that beauty. But what comes after that? You still need to operate, succeed, get more capital and keep running at a crazy pace. We often tell owners that the journey from becoming a millionaire to a unicorn to a dragon to a billionaire is a long and difficult one. And what happens in the short-term doesn’t guarantee anything in the long term.
So I advise them to be what I call “long-term greedy”. To have a plan, to be able to pivot where and when it’s needed, to use their passion with a cool and determined head to plan. And we help them by using our investor experience as a “crystal ball” to help them see the future and to contingency plan.
For more information about MEVP and its work with Hub71, as well as how you can get involved with the ecosystem in Abu Dhabi, head to: www.hub71.com/application