Investor perspective: Blending business and philanthropy

Investor perspective: Blending business and philanthropy

Isaac Applbaum (Founder and Partner at MizMaa Ventures) is an investor with extensive experience in international markets, and a specific interest in Saudi Arabia. Based in California, he has visited Saudi Arabia 28 times. He’s a proactive investor in early-stage startups – including startups he discovered at LEAP. 

And he’ll be stepping onto the main stage at LEAP 2024 to share his experience. We caught up with him this week to find out which technologies he’s most interested in right now, and how he blends philanthropic work with business. 

Could you briefly share your career journey so far? 

“I started as a salesman and when I finally found a product which I thought would have great market fit, I started a company in the fintech space. After I sold my company, I went to work as a partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners – then a 3bn fund, now an 18bn fund. From there I spent some time investing on my own account, and for the past six years have been investing in cyber and digital health and mobility – early stage, mostly in the US and the region. I also have a fund dedicated to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to help create a startup ecosystem.” 

What were your key goals when you founded MizMaa Ventures? 

“Identify world class entrepreneurs to build large enterprise class scaleable companies. Return a large amount of capital to my investors. And help our companies identify design partners early on.” 

Are there any emerging technologies you're particularly excited about right now, from an investment perspective? 

“Yes – we are doing a lot of work in the artificial intelligence world, in particular in the health diagnostics area. Diagnosis and treatment. We are also doing a great deal in the mobility space for autonomous driving and safety.”

How does your philanthropic work influence your business and investment decisions?

“I believe that if you just work for the money you will never be fulfilled. And unless you are born wealthy, you need to work and succeed in order to be philanthropic. And so I have spent my life trying to figure out how to combine both activities successfully. This is not an easy task, but I’ve been successful at it – as have many people I’ve worked with. 

“I use my social and ethical yardstick when I work with my companies. It is critical that the companies I work with serve some sort of societal benefit. I am not extreme in the sense that I’m an impact investor or only invest in climate, but I strongly believe that building products/companies with a benefit to society will both help the company be successful, and also fulfill our responsibility to society.

“We are also very active in encouraging our companies and entrepreneurs to donate part of their equity to charity; and in many of our companies, employees work within the community.” 

Finally, why are events like LEAP valuable to you?

“I am a huge fan of LEAP. I make many new friends there, and learn a great deal about the trends in the region. The speakers, both local and international, are always top of the line. At LEAP 2023 I visited dozens of booths from local companies and learned a great deal about all the innovations in KSA. I met many companies which I have considered investing in – and in fact, made investments in several startups.” 

Thanks to Isaac Applbaum at MizMaa Ventures. Want to learn more? Join us at LEAP 2024.

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