Over the last few months we’ve been busy interviewing some of our #LEAP23 speakers – to bring a bit of their magic exclusively to the LEAP blog. One of those interviewees, Mohammed Alzubi (Founder and Managing Partner at Nama Ventures), suggested he use the AI language model ChatGPT to answer our questions – and we couldn’t resist the opportunity to see what it could do.
Alzubi started his career as an engineer, before moving into entrepreneurship and then tech investments. He has made 85+ investments and counting in both startups and VC funds, and he’s currently focused on fueling tech innovation in the MENA region.
So here’s our interview with Alzubi and his BFF:ChatGPT. And yes, our content writers are officially booking themselves onto career-pivot courses. We give the AI a 10 for accuracy, although we don’t think it’s done quite such a good job of letting Alzubi’s personality shine through. What do you reckon?
Why do you believe that the MENA region is a key area of focus for tech innovation (and investments) right now?
“Saudi Arabia has become a global leader in entrepreneurship and technology. The support for entrepreneurship in the country is unparalleled and unique globally, as evidenced by the aggressive support network from both the public and private sectors. This support has led to the growth of a thriving tech industry in Saudi Arabia, valued at over $32.1 billion and making it the largest information and Communications Technology (ICT) market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
“Additionally, Saudi Arabia has surpassed India as the fastest growing economy in the world, with a GDP of 7.6 percent in 2022. This growth can be attributed to a significant increase in venture capital investments, with a 270% increase in investments compared to 2019 and 2020 combined. This has led to almost $1 billion in investments in 2022, with $987 million secured across 144 deals.
“These numbers demonstrate the potential and potential of Saudi Arabia’s technology industry, making it a prime destination for entrepreneurs and investors looking to tap into the booming tech market in the MENA region.”
Could you share any key milestones that Nama Ventures has reached over the last year?
“Nama Ventures has established itself as the premier pre-seed partner for tech founders in the MENA region. They have expanded their portfolio of investments to include over 35 companies across MENA, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Silicon Valley startups with ties to MENA. The Nama Ventures team has also seen significant growth, with almost 70 investors relying on them as their early stage asset allocation partner. The team is set to expand to 7 full-time members and a strong network of venture partners to provide added value to their portfolio companies.”
What’s your approach to finding and working with startups – and how does it differ from other VC funds?
“At Nama Ventures, we prioritize investing in strong teams over the idea itself. We look for teams with complementary skill sets, clear roles, and a de-risked business model. When evaluating a team, we pay particular attention to the “seller,” “doer,” and “operator” within the team. As a hands-on fund, we actively participate on the board, become an extension of the startup’s strategy, and serve as a sounding board for the founders. Additionally, we have developed internal tools that our portfolio startups can use to govern their operations and keep stakeholders informed.”
Are there any specific technologies that you’re particularly excited to invest in?
“Nama Ventures is a sector-agnostic investor that focuses on the MENA region. The company has invested in a variety of startups in sectors such as Fintech, proptech, and entertainment tech, with the belief that the region is ripe for disruption by technology companies. Nama Ventures leans more towards transnational startups when making investments and looks for startups with a clear product or service that they can offer for a fee. The company believes that the region is just beginning to see the opportunities available and that events like LEAP are crucial for raising awareness among potential tech startup founders.”
If you could go back in time to the beginning of your career and tell yourself something you wish you’d known then, what would it be?
“If I could give advice to my younger self, I would tell them to focus more on coding early on and hone that skill. I believe that people who know how to code and have a good business sense can rule the world. Additionally, I have learned that entrepreneurship is a team sport. To achieve greatness in a startup, it is essential to be able to assemble a team with complementary skill sets and role clarity. Thus, I would tell my younger self to invest in teams and not sole founders, as this is a lesson that cost me a lot of money.”
Thanks to Mohammed Alzubi at Nama Ventures – and of course, ChatGPT. Discover LEAP 2023 to learn more.