IF YOU BUILD IT

Kuwait 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Leading investors are right in step with the government in spurring entrepreneurship at a young age among Kuwait's talented youth.

Mohammed Nabil Jaffar
BIOGRAPHY
Prior to Faith Capital, Mohammed Nabil Jaffar owned Talabat.com, an online food delivery platform acquired in 2010. Under his leadership, the company became a market leader throughout the GCC and was successfully sold in 2015 to Rocket Internet, the German internet giant. This deal remains one of the largest internet technology transactions in the Arab world, and Talabat and Jaffar are recognized as pioneers and key innovators of the e-commerce space in the region. Through Faith Capital, Jaffar is now promoting and funding a new generation of technology businesses such as Just Clean, Kuwait’s first marketplace laundry. His goal is to promote local entrepreneurs to compete successfully both regionally and on a global stage. He completed his BSc in economics from the University of Surrey.

What key factors are making Faith Capital such a successful and unique company?

Faith Capital was established in early 2017 to focus on investing in the technology space, predominantly by supporting Arab individuals who work in the technology sector. It has invested in six companies to date, and there will also be further investments in 2019, God willing. Furthermore, we are creating a new marketing team that will establish a solid and highly strategic plan to drive our business growth in 2019 and subsequent years. What makes us different from other VCs is our active participation in the companies we invest in. At the end of the day, we are entrepreneurs investing in and supporting other entrepreneurs by constantly advising and nurturing them. This includes HR, operational, and technical assistance, or simply by brainstorming ideas. In addition, we seek sharia-compliant businesses, as we want to put an emphasis on advancing business in an ethical way. We believe that religion can lead to successful and fulfilling businesses—a powerful lesson I learned from my grandfather's success. It was this that encouraged me in 2008 to initiate my own entrepreneurial journey. A decade later, our activities are flourishing, and my everyday challenge is to keep applying these principles in order to ensure continued success in business. On top of it all, we are blessed to be surrounded by believers, achievers, and people who share the belief that a business has to be equally beneficial for every party involved by applying logical Islamic values.

What key changes in the market has Faith Capital had to consider when making investments?

In this part of the world, we are behind the Europeans and Americans when it comes to investing in the tech space. However, over the last three years, this sector has attracted a lot of money from within the GCC. An increasing number of investors from the region are investing in technology because they truly believe in its potential. The trend is moving forward in the right direction. As a result, Faith Capital is not working alone, as other players enter this space and start to gather more confidence in the industry. Of course, this is not without its risks and requires patience. At present, investors in this part of the world are starting to understand how the game is played when it comes to tech companies, and the sector is, therefore, evolving at a fast pace. Governments are also taking positive steps to create initiatives to invest in both tech and non-tech start-ups and to improve entrepreneurship among Kuwaitis. Even though this is recognized as a long-term process, we have noticed a consistent and positive evolution that makes us very hopeful for the future.

Have you seen any initiatives from the private or public sector to incentivize entrepreneurship in Kuwait?

We have the Kuwait National Fund for SME Development where I was a board member for a year. The National Fund is continuously evolving and constantly improving. The government's aim with this fund is to encourage entrepreneurship and develop the broader SME ecosystem. Since the economy is shifting away from oil revenues, it is of paramount importance for Kuwait to expand and diversify the rest of the economy by investing in Kuwaitis and encouraging them to do business.