Walid Mansour (MEVP): We are looking for startups on Series A or Series B stage - Unicorn Nest

Walid Mansour (MEVP): We are looking for startups on Series A or Series B stage

By Borys Sydiuk

21 Mar, 2020

Walid Mansour is Partner and Chief Investment Officer at MEVP

Walid Mansour is Partner and Chief Investment Officer at Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP). He has more than 15 years of experience in Venture Capital, strategy, corporate finance and engineering within the digital, telecom, software and new media industries. Prior to joining MEVP in 2010, Walid was a lead associate at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants and before that he worked as a strategy manager at the UAE’s Prime Ministry Executive Office focusing on public policy initiatives.


How it’s all started? How you decided to enter the venture investment business?

Ten years ago we entered this business because we saw a need for SMEs and startups in fundings. We saw VC as a way to close this equity gap. Also we saw an opportunity in technology. Ten years ago the opportunities in Mobile Tech, Internet, Software businesses started to be an existing business opportunities, so we decided to invest in it. But we only do business in Middle East region and don’t invest outside it. Our main office is in Dubai.

How you select startups to support?

We are looking for startups on Series A or Series B stage with very teams, that have good product/market fit, so we can measure the growth of the product where it operates and share of the market; user/unit economics or user economics. And, the most important, how big is the investment market. 

What are your criteria?

Consumer Internet and Software as a Service.

At what stage you prefer to enter?

We prefer to enter at Series A and Series B.

What a startup should have to propose to catch your attention?

They have to have good product/market fit. They have to prove to us that their growth is healthy, that they have good unit economics. They have to prove to us that they go after a big market that needs digital disruption, technology disruption. And they have to be able to explain why they are the best people and the best company to achieve this disruption. 

What was the most unusual startup you ever supported?

We are not into an unusual business, because we invest in Internet and Software companies. They usually copy each other, even clone each other. There is nothing unusual or highly innovative in the ideas of the companies, just products and teams that do these products better and grow faster. So, they just need to score high as a team, have good product/market fit and be disruptive, nothing else. Mostly they disrupt offline businesses.

What qualities you are looking for in teams? 

We are looking for experienced teams able to build and scale companies, able to articulate what they are doing precisely, make plans, and able to build products with disruptive features.

How many startup projects do you review per year?

Each year we review about 1,000 projects and invest in 5, maybe 6 projects a year. 

How startup team usually find you?

The startups either come through our network, because we’ve already invested in a lot of companies. Sometimes they could find us at conferences we participate. Some of them come through cold calls. 

What is your due diligence procedure and how long does it take you to cover the whole way from the first meeting with founders to contract and check signing?

We prefer to follow a company for a few months before we invest. It depends, it takes some time to understand if the company is ok, it takes time to close the deal, everything takes time.

How big is a check you usually issue?

If it is Series A investment, it is between 1m and 3m, Series B investment is somewhere between 3m and 7-8m. 

You opinion: the best margin from investment to exit? Fair stake?

You know, every time we have very high expectation, at least x7 or x10 on initial investment.

And what are your red flags?

Pretty much everything I mention in catching my attention list, but reverse. If there is no good team, no good product/market fit, no good unit economics, no big market, no good truction – we won’t invest.

Have you ever rejected a cooperation proposal and then regret it? Accepted and regret?

I never think about this staff, because you cannot read the future. And, if you already invested, you shouldn’t regret it either, because you’ve made this decision based on a data you had at a certain point of time. Data changes, conditions change too. You always hope to make your best at the game. 

Can you name industries you really like, yet will never invest into?

I guess, it is Health, Biotech, Genom/DNA, all these new sciences. I’m not an expert in these areas, so I won’t invest in it. But I think these are the industries of the future.

If a couple of startups in your opinion can perfectly compliment each other and create an incredible product, what you do?

It never happens just because there must be teams able to produce the product, not me participating in the production. I can’t force people to work together – people who don’t have the same DNA and the same network. It is never about the product, but about the teams.

Investors prefer to work with teams. But have you ever supported a one-person startup?

Once. We did it one time. We don’t usually invest in one-person startups, but we can ask a solo founder to find a co-founder and build a team. 

What books, movies, blogs, events can you suggest to startup founders?

I think, everyone should read Lean Startup methodology books, this is my advise. 

Can you name three most breakthrough startups in the history?

There is a lot happened in the last one hundred years. But talking about the internet business, the companies that organised it had the most impact. It is Google as the search engine was able to do it. The second generation of important companies is social networks. Companies like Facebook were able to organize people. Now, in today’s world, when we look at cloud platforms, like Amazon, you see that they were able to organize businesses. So those are my three picks: Google, Facebook and Amazon.

And do you like where you are now in terms of your current career? Or, maybe, you would like to try something new to apply you knowledge and ideas to?

Yes, I like what I’m doing now. 

Comparing to board games, is venture business chess or checkers or maybe go?

I think it is some combination of chess and checkers. I don’t think that the most important part is whether or not the winner takes it all, rather in terms of market share.

You are interested only in the Middle East market?

Yes, and only online.

About the Author

Borys Sydiuk

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