The backstreets of Ramallah are a long way from Silicon Valley, but a niche venture capital fund is trying to narrow the gap with a focus on early-stage Palestinian tech startups.
Sadara Ventures is making gradual inroads in the West Bank, the Palestinian territory long occupied by Israel, financing six companies so far.
Launched in 2011 by Saed Nashef, a Palestinian-American who was a software engineer at Microsoft before setting up his own companies, and Yadin Kaufmann, an Israeli-American, Sadara raised $30 million for its first fund and plans to invest it over 10 years.
“We’re likely to raise another fund in the months ahead that would be larger than the existing one,” said Kaufmann, adding that beyond the six firms backed so far, he and Nashef were looking at one or two others for the existing fund.
The biggest success at this stage is Freightos, an online marketplace for international shipping, which on March 29 raised a further $25 million from investors.
Other firms in Sadara’s portfolio include Yamsafer, an online travel service focused on Arab-world clients, and SoukTel, which provides digital communications to aid agencies and others working in hostile or hard-to-reach environments.