OIF launches $200mn technology fund

Dignitaries at OTF’s launch function at the Tanfeedh office (Muscat Daily)

Muscat - 

Government-owned Oman Investment Fund (OIF) has launched a US$200mn Oman Technology Fund (OTF) to invest in startup technology companies around the region and the world.

Officials said the fund is expected to attract technology companies to Oman and help build the country as a tech hub. It is part of the government’s economic diversification strategy.

“We commend the launch of the OTF as an innovative investment vehicle that will help us achieve our development objectives to grow the ICT sector in Oman,” said H E Dr Ali bin Masoud bin Ali al Sunaidy, Minister of Commerce and Industry, at the launch at Tanfeedh’s office on Monday.

“The fund will invest for positive future returns, nationally and regionally. As part of the government’s diversification strategy, technology and a connected digital society have been identified as key development areas for Oman and a significant driver towards an increasingly diversified national economy.”

The fund, which is majority-owned by OIF, will partner with three international firms specialising in funding startups: Atlantic Bridge Capital (Ireland), 500 Startups (USA) and Techstarts Ventures (USA).

An Omani executive team will be managing this partnership, with Sharifa al Barami and Ismail al Harthi as managing directors for an Oman accelerator fund and a growth fund respectively, besides an incubator. The chairman of the fund is Talal Sulaiman al Rahbi, deputy secretary general of the Supreme Council for Planning.

“The launch of the Oman Technology Fund is a milestone for the growing tech and venture capital sector in Oman, and represents a remarkable opportunity for tech entrepreneurs in Oman, and in the region, to commercialise their innovative ideas, and enter the global market with full assistance of OTF’s partners,” he said.

“The fund will put all their efforts towards positioning the sultanate as an attractive tech hub within the region, which will directly and indirectly benefit new and existing ITC businesses in Oman, while working to deliver sustainable future dividends that benefit the nation.” Officials said the fund will work to develop start-ups through three stages: Incubator phase; accelerator phase; and venture capital phase. This will include providing guidance, mentorship, market knowledge, business development, and a trajectory funding programme until the company reaches maturity. Officials further said they will be aiming at tech entrepreneurs in countries such as Pakistan, Iran, East Africa, Egypt, Jordan, as well as Oman.

The fund will be inviting start-ups to base themselves at Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM), where the fund itself will be based. Sheikh Hassan al Nabhani, CEO, OIF said this strategy will bring a return on investment and help build the Oman-based technology sector. “The Oman Technology Fund has been established with the aim of positioning Oman as a leading Tech Hub in the Middle East, and to achieve this by investing in emerging high growth potential tech enterprises in the wider region and Oman,” he said.

“The fund will also actively work to attract regional start-ups to relocate their operations to Oman, boosting our knowledge-based economy, growing the ICT sector in Oman and providing greater opportunities for citizens to work within this sector.”

Anwar al Jabri, OIF investment director said, “The Oman Technology Fund will make more early-stage capital available in Oman so that local tech companies are in a position to grow their business,” adding, “OTF sees its role as being a ‘bridge’ between entrepreneurs and investors.”

According to officials, venture capital backed companies raised US$27.4bn in Q2 of 2016, with Internet and mobile-focused technology companies accounting for two-thirds of all funding. In the Middle East, the number of venture capital investments tripled from 2014 to 2015. OIF said that the fund is a reflection of the emphasis on technology and innovation in the Ninth Five-Year Plan. The fund has launched a website, www.otf.om  OIF is a sovereign wealth fund established by the Royal Decree in 2006.

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