Island nation Bahrain, which recently launched and closed a $100 million 'superfund' called Al Waha Venture Capital 'Fund of Funds', is welcoming startups and venture capitalists (VC) from India to access the country's startup ecosystem, said John Kilmartin, Executive Director, ICT at Bahrain's Economic Development Board (EDB).

Set up by EDB in May, Al Waha Fund of Funds specializes in fund of fund investments which typically invests in venture capital funds supporting startups in Bahrain and across the Middle East. The idea is to bring more VCs into the Bahrain ecosystem as majority of the ecosystem is in the early stage and is trying to get VCs who will invest.

The EDB is open to welcoming early-stage startups based out of India and even support them in scaling up further, said Kilmartin. To recall, EDB already set up its office in Mumbai to accelerate its fintech development program and even launched a new fintech fund to invest in Indian startups that have an economic interest in Bahrain.

Through Bahrain, start-up companies that have built their products or services in Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai or other parts of India can access the market in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an alliance of six countries in the Arabian Peninsula - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

Speaking on how startup VCs can raise funds in Bahrain, Kilmartin further said,“We are looking at launching government funding for tech companies. It will be launched in the near future. We see three elements of funding that needs to be put in place — the government, availability of money in the early stages of a startup and encouraging angel investment, so that private investments can get made during the seeding stage. We are also looking to attract and have VC investments in place.”

Notably in last year, Bahrain ranked 2nd in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in terms of Ease of Doing Business. MENA encompasses approximately 22 countries.

The number of startups in the country has grown at a compound annual growth rate of almost 50 percent over the past three years, as per the data by EDB.

Bahrain is also home to many accelerators and incubators that support fintech startups in gaining access to expertise funding. Additionally, payments services are also boosting in Bahrain as the Central Bank of Bahrain launched launched the nation’s first e-wallet 'BenefitPay', in June this year.

During a his visit to the Indian subcontinent, Simon Galpin, the then Managing Director of EDB had invited Indian fintech companies to relocate their offices to Bahrain's newly launch Fintech center.

Get Baqala, an Indian grocery delivery app, was among the startups that found their way to Bahrain. Founded in 2016 by Amjad Puliyali and Aboobacker Shinan, the startup was incubated with Bahrain Development Bank’s Rowad program, where it got access to initial working capital through the Seedfuel program and access to the Global Accelerator Network (GAN).

Last year, Bahrain also introduced regulation to allow onshore crowdfunding in conventional and sharia-compliant finance, reduced the minimum capital required for starting a business. With this, Bahrain becomes the second country within the Gulf Cooperation Council, after the United Arab Emirates, to allow crowdfunding.

Source - Money Control

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