I was at the Step Conference in Dubai over the last 2 days. Step is a conference that brings together the Middle East’s tech entrepreneurs and investors, and they also invited guests from Turkey to this year’s event. Given the proximity of Turkey and the Middle East, there’s a lot of opportunity for Turkish startups to serve the Middle East and vice versa, and for investors from one region to collaborate with those from the other.
The conference was host to many great panels where I learned about some of the Middle East’s leading startups and the region’s funding environment. Among these panels, the one that had the biggest impact on my thinking was that between Aramex founder Fadi Ghandour and Abraaj founder Arif Naqvi.
During the panel, Arif described how Abraaj decided to lead the $60M Series C funding round of Careem, which competes with Uber in the private car hailing space in the Middle East. Basically, Arif and Fadi were on a tour of Silicon Valley where they met with Uber’s management. Arif identified private car hailing as a market with local network effects and asked Fadi whether there was a local Uber competitor in the Middle East. Fadi shared that Careem is the leading local player, and Arif placed a same day call to Careem’s co-founder Mudassir Sheikha with an offer to invest in his company. The transaction was completed a week later.
Arif didn’t share the details of why the investment was completed so fast, but I imagine that it wasn’t just because Abraaj wanted to act fast. Investors prefer to reflect on an investment for longer than a week if they have the luxury of doing so. Abraaj likely had to act fast because there was a lot of competition for the deal. Arif had to make a fast decision based on his intuition and he acted decisively to do so. Time will tell how correct the decision was, but many of the best investments are the result of taking swift and decisive action.