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The KAUST campus in Thuwal, KSA as seen from the Red Sea. The KAUST Entrepreneurship Center is based on the University's campus. File photo.
KAUST has partnered with investment platform VentureSouq, startAD, the Abu Dhabi-based global accelerator anchored at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), and its partner Tamkeen, to launch the first Conscious Investor Fellowship in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The pan-regional fellowship is a six-week virtual program dedicated to enabling regional investors in the GCC to create sustainable change through high-impact investments.
"We are starting to see more deep-tech startups emerging from the ecosystem, disrupting existing industries and creating new solutions to these challenges. The Conscious Investment Fellowship is a key step to advancing this ecosystem and to educating regional investors about the potential of emerging technologies and their long-term value," Hattan Ahmed, head of KAUST Entrepreneurship Center, said. "For Saudi Arabia in particular, there is a unique opportunity nurture this deep tech ecosystem for real economic transformation."
The program, which will take place from October 7 to November 25, comes as part of the upcoming annual Angel Rising Symposium, to be held virtually between November 24-25, which provides education and conversations on the future of the angel investment sector and how it can fuel national and regional innovation.
"Conscious investment is a growing global force, accelerated by the ongoing impacts of the global pandemic. In the UAE, and specifically Abu Dhabi, we have a unique opportunity to engage with this global trend, given that the emirate has the highest net potential wealth globally," Ramesh Jagannathan, research professor of engineering, vice provost for entrepreneurship at NYUAD, and managing director of startAD, said.
The fellowship aims to empower the next generation of regional mission-driven investors who will fuel emerging ventures using technology for meaningful change, resulting in a measurable positive impact. Twenty-five investors from family offices, corporates and government entities will be welcomed as fellows of this inaugural cohort, where they will learn how to identify and invest into tech-enabled impact-driven startups.
"We recently launched the VentureSouq Conscious Collective earlier this year, a regional investment platform focused on supporting entrepreneurs and ventures that are harnessing the power of technology to address today's very tangible societal, economic and environmental challenges," Sonia Weymuller, founding partner at VentureSouq, said.
The program will cover conscious investment strategies, startup diligence and valuations, impact measurement, portfolio management, and global sector trends in the impact space. Elective thematic masterclasses will also be offered, with a specific focus on HealthTech, EdTech, Environmental Tech, and AgriTech. Participants will be able to apply their knowledge and invest in live deals through VentureSouq's Conscious Collective Fund. The inaugural edition is held in collaboration with the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) and Hub71.
"At startAD we are confident that this new program will enable this across the Middle East, helping the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem to provide a long-term impact for the future," Jagannathan said. "We are looking to educate future generations of both investors and entrepreneurs on providing a measurable positive impact in a financially sustainable and scalable manner. Through our programming, and the Angel Rising Symposium, we look forward to further discussing the future of the sector with leading regional and international investors."
"We've seen how technology can act as a multiplier for good; it's high time for the VC space now to act as a magnifier - for good. This Fellowship is one step in the right direction to dispel some of the preconceptions regional investors may have about conscious investing and financial returns and to educate the next generation of mission-driven investors from the GCC," Weymuller concluded.