Thursday 05, January 2017 by William Mullally

Will WOMENA find the next unicorn?

With two new investments in promising regional start ups, and Careem's big news, the answer to the UAE's investment future may be in tech.

At the WEALTH Arabia Summit 2016, in the final panel of the day, we were lucky enough to feature Chantalle Dumonceaux of the angel investment group Womena to talk about innovative investment. WOMENA featured on the cover of WEALTH in the past, and with good reason—they’re providing a platform for HNWI women to get together and have a say in what they invest in, deciding which tech companies in the region are worthy of investment using their pooled fund. It’s an innovative concept indeed, one making use of an underserved and underutilised investment community in the region.

WOMENA itself has gone through quite the growth since their launch. It recently completed two more investments in companies Bayzat and Souqalmal, bringing the total amount invested since launch to $462,000. With these two deals, WOMENA has increased the value of investments made in 2016 by 400 per cent compared to 2015’s investments.

Bayzat is a cloud-based platform that targets the UAE’s $9.1 billion insurance industry by offering a technology solution that simplifies the process of finding the most suitable medical insurance. WOMENA joined in on a $3.5 million funding round led by VC firm, Beco Capital.

Souqalmal is the Middle East’s leading financial comparison website, allowing users to compare a wide range of products and services from credit cards to nurseries. WOMENA participated in Souqalmal’s bridge round.

Speaking about WOMENA’s new investments, WOMENA co-founder (and WEALTH cover star) Elissa Freiha commented, “WOMENA and its investors are very proud of our participation in these new rounds, not only because they are both great companies situated in fast growing markets, but also because they are the latest stage deals that we’ve participated in this far. These investments demonstrate our maturing investor base, and gives us confidence that we’ll continue to increase the number and value of our investments in 2017.”

WOMENA continued in a statement that the urgent need for angel investors in MENA’s ecosystem has been recently been highlighted in MAGNITT’s finding that 47 per cent of registered startups are looking for angel funding, a need which WOMENA aims to meet through its membership platform, regular pitch meetings and investor education events.

WOMENA may be innovative in one sense because they are serving and empowering the female investor community, but one angle that we don’t talk about enough, because we spend so much time marvelling at the fact that women are investing too (which, sadly, we’re still at the point where that’s news, as the global investment community under-serves women almost by design), is the fact that WOMENA concentrates on tech start ups.

With oil still flagging, equity markets looking suspicious and bonds still not delivering the yields that they once did, alternative investments are the way to go for investors. Though no investor should be putting in a huge amount of their capital into start ups, the region’s tech community recently crowned a new star, with the Uber-competitor Careem becoming the latest ‘unicorn’ or company valued at $1 billion. Perhaps WOMENA is getting on the ground floor of the next unicorn, and that’s enough that any yield-conscious investor (and, to be honest, who isn’t?) should be taking notice.