The newly installed CEO of Oasis500 aims to provide greater post-acceleration support for startups.
By Rebecca Irvine
Since its establishment in 2010, Oasis500 has graduated several well known Jordanian companies, including ArabiaWeather, e-payment platform MadfooatCom, and book seller Jamalon.
Oasis500’s new CEO, Faisal Hakki, who has a long and varied background in regional venture capitalism, said the accelerator will still strive to hit those eponymous 500 investments under his leadership, but there will now also be a greater emphasis on providing startups with help once they’ve passed through the program.
How would you describe Oasis500’s vision at this time?
We’re staying the course. Oasis500 is ultimately a seed stage accelerator and investment fund. We are committed to the original mandate, which is enabling entrepreneurs at the ideas stage to take their ideas and transform them into businesses. Our core offering is pretty much unchanged since day one. This process starts from the very early stages where entrepreneurs approach us and pitch their ideas through to the post-acceleration period where we help entrepreneurs attract angel investment post-Oasis500. We are always there to help the companies but we haven’t been very active post-acceleration, at the point of helping attract angel investment or follow-on investment. My vision going forward is that we should be more engaged in helping the companies post-acceleration. I think that entrepreneurs spend a lot of time trying to talk to investors and attract funding—and for a lot of these young companies it is critical—but it is also a distraction from what they should spend time on: their actual company, product, and service. This is where I see the role of Oasis500 evolving going forward.
What is your view on Oasis500’s original mission of investing in 500 companies?
The ‘500’ number is something that we’re married to, and cannot detach ourselves from. I think in hindsight it was, and still remains, a very ambitious number. I think that at the time when the brand was coined, the region hadn’t gone through a lot of what it has experienced in the last five or six years. I don’t believe the number is unrealistic—it is something that we can achieve. Admittedly the timeline has changed. We are at 123 companies today, and by end of August it will probably be 130. We have around 12 companies in the pipeline. So we are almost one-third through that goal. And yes, the number still remains our target, and the only difference is that it won’t be happening in five years. The deadline we are looking at today is the end of 2018. Again I’m not committing to 500 companies in the next two years, but we are striving towards that. The name remains there; we do have another two or three funds in the pipeline: the Creative Industries Fund, which is already running, the Oasis500 Ventures 2, which will launch in the second half of 2017, and the Oasis500 Space Ventures Fund that was announced last year with the EIB. With these large funds in place, getting to 500 in two years starts looking slightly more realistic.
Are there any industries that you are most interested in investing in?
I come from a background where I was focused on the growth stage tech industry in the Arab world, and as far as hardcore technology is concerned, it remains lacking in the Arab world and in Jordan. Core technology industries in our part are focused on the consumer aspect of technology—a lot of e-commerce and fintech. Fintech is an industry where we are seeing a lot of traction. We also have a strong interest in content and content creation. In terms of the Creative Industries fund, anything that’s tech-related but isn’t really core tech. these are the three main areas where we expect to see more traction. A lot of people think e-commerce is saturated but I think there is a lot left to do—in e-commerce related services. Anything that solves issues related to logistics, customs, and duties issues, or cross-border transactions.