A POSITIVE SIGN

Kuwait 2019 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Jake Zeller, Partner of AngelList, on Finance sector.

Jake Zeller
BIOGRAPHY
Jake Zeller is a Partner at AngelList, the world’s largest marketplace for start-up investing. Additionally, he is a Partner at Spearhead, a program that funds and mentors new angel investors. Zeller is a board member of Opencare and an advisory board member of AIM Startup, an initiative of the UAE Ministry of Economy. He studied physics at Stanford and graduated with distinction.

AngelList is considered the backbone of the Silicon Valley. What needs to be done for the company to increase its participation in the Kuwaiti and MENA market?

It is a matter of time. We have only achieved a fraction of what we are capable of in the US and have also launched in India and Canada. We are focused on growing our existing markets. Kuwait and MENA are certainly of interest, although the region is a number of years behind the US and India in terms of start-up activity.

How can AngelList leverage its expertise to help Kuwaiti start-ups dominate the local market and eventually expand regionally?

AngelList facilitates investments into over 1,000 start-ups each year, so we have strong visibility into the different business models that are working around the world. We can use this knowledge to help Kuwaiti start-ups get a head start on others in the market. We can also connect them with world-class operators in the US to help them out-execute the competition.

What specific factors make Kuwait and the MENA region attractive destinations for US tech investors?

Kuwait is especially attractive because of the depth of well-educated, local talent and its sterling international reputation. Initiatives like the Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority (KDIPA) also make it an attractive place to do business.

What are your expectations regarding the evolution and growth of the tech market in Kuwait and the MENA region in 2019?

I expect steady growth in new start-up activity. I predict that large exits—if any—will be the result of M&A from foreign technology companies. Furthermore, it is a positive sign that growth funds like General Atlantic are investing in the region. I expect to see that happen more often, though only after the companies have achieved significant scale.