Abu Dhabi: Middle East Venture Partners (Mevp) would be investing in more than a dozen digital media companies in the UAE in the next three years with an investment of $30 million (Dh110 million). The Dubai-based venture capital firm plans to invest in internet start ups focusing on e-commerce, edutainment and payments.

Speaking to Gulf News, Walid Hanna, managing partner at Middle East Venture Partners said there is a lot of potential in the country.

“This is where the action is. We are heavily investing in the UAE. It has become the hub for the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council),” he said.

He said the venture capital space is growing.

“There is much more money than five years ago. The eco system is growing. We have seven incubators and accelerators programmes in the UAE. There was none before. A lot of people are helping entrepreneurs to go to the next stage and grow.”

Arabic content has become important with many global companies looking at it with interest, he said. However, less than one per cent of the internet is made up of Arabic pages. “This should be six per cent in terms of population. There is a lot of potential for investment.”

The company made their first exit recently. Shahiya.com, an online food recipe company, was sold to Japanese listed company for more than $13 million. “We had a great return on it. It shows how global companies are looking at Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region as an acquisition target.”

Out of 25 companies it invested in, three are global and others are regional either based in Amman, Beirut or Dubai.

Huge growth

In the UAE, the company has announced a second round of funding in Lamsa.com, a kids edutainment company. It also invested in Anghami, a mobile app, which is involved in streaming of Arabic and international music. “Anghami is growing. They have 10 million songs, fully legal and licensed. User engagement is tremendous. Mobily in the Saudi invested. MBC invested. It’s a huge growth for Anghami”

The company just started raising $30 million for the UAE. It is 15 million to start with next month, another 15 in January and February, so it’s about ten to fifteen companies in the next three years, Walid said.

It is focusing on digital companies, internet start ups, enterprise companies, mostly in mobile and online gaming.

The company has offices in Beirut, Dubai and Silicon Valley and more than $75 million in assets under management. The company has invested in over 25 technology companies since 2010.

Walid has been active in venture capital and in new venture development for the past 15 years and successfully completed more than 20 VC investments in the past 3 years. Before founding Mevp, he was the CEO of Dubai International Capital’s venture arm, the Arab Business Angels Network (ABAN), which manages a regional seed venture fund as well as a Business Angels network. Before ABAN, he was on the investment-management team of Abraaj Capital.

Walid has also cofounded, invested in, and led several start-ups in the Mena region, spanning a range of industries, including technology, consumer finance, and hospitality.