Arab-Americans are at the forefront of realizing technology’s most significant potential, providing positive changes to America and the Arab World.
However, like many other hyphenated “x-Americans,” their capacity to accommodate two distinct worlds can be exhausting, primarily as perceptions sway with every negative news story feeding us a “them” versus a “us” mentality.
Raising money from investors is a challenging task for a startup in general, but even more so for many minority groups, including non-binary Arab and North African founders.
Unfortunately, post 9/11, many Arab founders were forced to fight for notoriety outside of the stereotyped Hollywood tropes. However, what you don’t hear about in mainstream media, is that Arabs contribute to at least 3.4% of the total patents in the United States while only representing .3% of the total population.
As Gen Z becomes more and more progressive about race relations and the Middle East, the trend must keep growing in the tech sector. Iraqi-American Deena Shakir, at Lux Capital, recently led the round of the first women’s health unicorn in the United States, Maven.
Today, prominent investors are starting to turn their eyes to the Middle East, paying increasingly close attention to the region’s ventures and to venture capital as a high-potential asset class, whether funds or start-ups.
Global Ventures is one notable example. Founded by General Partner Noor Sweid, the Dubai-based international venture capital firm is building bridges between emerging markets and the world. As a “third culture individual”, Noor realized that the many perspectives she holds enables her to occupy a connective role and act as a bridge between different parts of the world, with a view to driving diversity and inclusion in venture capital.
Today, Global Ventures is co-leading rounds with some of the world’s most esteemed capital allocators including Tiger Global and counts global investors such as General Atlantic in its pool of limited partners.
The firm will shortly close its second fund and has supported 44 Series-A focused companies, of which more than 30% are led by women founders. Global Ventures strives for female inclusion in all aspects – funds, founders, its own team and LPs – and this track record is actively inviting a narrative shift in the region’s male-centric venture capital industry.
Noor’s support of women in venture capital is driven by a belief that diversity is crucial to success in any organization. She believes diversity in thought, worldview and perspective builds a rich learning culture, enriching decision-making and the value creation process.
Then there is Waymark co-founders Rajaie Batniji (L) and Sanjay Basu, who raised $45 million in Series A funding to embed trained community health workers and workflow management software in primary care practices across the country in order to move the needle on value-based care for Medicaid patients.
At Canaan Ventures, Egyptian American Maha Ibrahim who was the first investor in TheRealReal was recently part of the competitive Series A for Buzzer.
Take Emna Ghariana, a Tunisian immigrant who was orphaned twice before the age of 11. Her journey to entrepreneurship meant staying relentless in her pursuit of education, immigration and building her first venture, Veamly, a workstation app that allows users to manage their conversations quickly. Amira Yahyaoui, a Tunisian entrepreneur, blogger, and activist, faced similar challenges. Before propelling her startup MOS to a hefty Series A, Amira was kicked out of her home country at age 18 for her activism. Today, her long list of high-profile investors includes Steph Curry and Jess Lee at Sequoia.
Undeniably, founders from the Middle East are making waves in tech both outside and the United States. Iman Abuzeid, the Sudanese-American co-founder of Incredible Health, addressed the huge healthcare employment crisis by tapping into her experiences preventing and treating blindness overseas as a medical physician.
In the aging space, two Arab-American women are also gearing up to make quite a large impact. Moroccan-American founder, Celine Halioui of Loyal, is developing drugs to extend the lifespan of dogs, with a vision for human use in the future. She recently raised one of the largest seed rounds for a solo woman founder.
Hanadie Yousefi is using human stem cells to develop restorative cures. The postdoctoral scholar, co-founder, and CEO of Juvena, has built a venture-backed biopharma startup developing protein-based therapeutics to promote tissue regeneration.
Despite their success, Middle Eastern founders are few and far between, making mentorship a big challenge. May Habib, co-founder, and CEO of Writer can attest to the urgency and power of strong mentorship, attributing parts of her success to the incredible network she built early on.
Shining a light on these narratives, Arab-American women are starting to produce more and more content. One of the first of these narratives of Arab women in technology has been echoed by Rana El Kaliouby, a founder, single mother, and author of Girl Decoded, a representative look of her career humanizing technology with Emotional A.I.
Leading a progressive edge on American news media, Dena Takuri, a Palestinian American journalist and producer of AJ+ presents news overseas with the tinge of care most U.S. Media outlets have been neglecting for decades.
Seattle native Hebah Fisher, co-founder, and CEO of the award-winning podcast Kerning Cultures, uses her platform to magnify the human history and intricacy of the region from the lens of those who lived it.
Furthermore, a contributor to this narrative shift is Layla Shaikley with her podcast, Muslims Doing Things, landing in the top 10% of new podcasts on Spotify. This skateboarding mom of 2 is working to redefine the narrative of what it means to be “Muslim” and how an Islamic identity can exist in perfect synergy with an entrepreneurial one.
Recognition and community are necessary to support the future scientists and entrepreneurs both in and out of these communities as they start building the future.
“Unlike in the U.S., more than 50% of all STEM graduates in the Middle East and North Africa (“MENA”) region are women,” says Egyptian-American Salma Elbarmawi. “They have the potential to help global engineering teams reach gender parity.” Salma leads marketing at Localized, a career tech platform connecting fresh tech and business graduates in emerging markets with global employers.
There is a lot of inspiration to be found in many of the stories of Middle Eastern founders who (many) have traveled a more thorny road towards success. Hopefully, more and more investors, both domestic and abroad, can support these founders both in Silicon Valley and the MENA region.
Credit: Source link