As entrepreneurship grows in popularity across the Middle East, startups are discovering an increasing number of funding options. However, one of the biggest challenges that these companies face is obtaining early stage investment. Luckily, as entrepreneurial ecosystems in countries throughout the region grow, new networks of angel investors are appearing.
One such organization that has emerged recently is WOMENA, a platform that gives women entrepreneurs access to funding, as well as the education and mentorship they need to succeed. The people behind WOMENA understand the fundamental importance of creating a supportive ecosystem and know that every new investment member gives women more access to business opportunities in the Middle East. WOMENA works with women of high net worth and established investors to connect innovators to the monetary support that they need. To strengthen the existing funding ecosystem, WOMENA hosts workshops for aspiring angel investors to teach them about making early stage investments. In addition, the organization runs programs for entrepreneurs that focus on fundraising.
The WOMENA Learners and Mentors Program
Entrepreneurs need more than just access to funding—they also need support as they launch their ideas and expand their organizations. To develop valuable mentors, WOMENA created its Learners and Mentors program, which helps individuals learn about entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa and identify ways in which they can boost its development. The program offers a variety of educational workshops on issues that are important to startups in the region, but members have access to a range of other benefits, such as pitch meetings. During these meetings, entrepreneurs meet with successful startup leaders and angel investors to pitch ideas and get feedback on their business plans.
Through its Learners and Mentors Program, WOMENA has also created a large network of startups that connects entrepreneurs to mentors and helps investors find positions as board members in order to learn more about the Middle Eastern startup world. The organization also tailors its educational programs according to the individual backgrounds of each entrepreneur and investor to make sure that these people have all the tools they need to make the best decisions. Should questions arise, people at the organization remain on-call to give answers and support. Dedicated to creating a self-sustaining ecosystem of women entrepreneurs in the Middle East, WOMENA encourages its members to give back by educating newer members. This sort of ecosystem will create the jobs and economic stimulus needed for the region to continue to grow.
The WOMENA network currently includes a number of big names in Middle Eastern entrepreneurship, such as TechWadi, Flat6Labs, Wamda, Tenmou, and Middle East Venture Partners. WOMENA is also partnered with in5, which recently hosted the organization’s first Angel Series workshop, the first in a new, extended series of educational opportunities for both angel investors and entrepreneurs.
A Look at WOMENA’s Recent Successes
Since its inception, WOMENA has received a number of honors, including recognition as the Most Innovative Angel Investment Company at the International Finance Magazine Financial Awards 2015. At the Wealth and Finance International Finance Awards 2015, WOMENA was named Best for High Net Worth Female Investments in the United Arab Emirates and was also honored as a Recognised Leader in Due Diligence. The organization’s founders also received acknowledgement as Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Businesswomen of the Year at the 2015 Arabian Business Startup Awards.
So far, WOMENA has fostered major investments in two promising companies. One of these organizations is AlemHealth, which aims to increase the quality of care offered to patients in the world’s least developed countries by connecting hospitals in these areas to a global network of healthcare providers. AlemHealth works to make access to highly specialized medical care affordable for both hospitals and patients. Through the company, for example, doctors in developing areas can take imaging scans and send them to the AlemHealth network for analysis. Once a diagnosis is made, the doctor and patient can work together to figure out a care plan.
The WOMENA network has also provided support for Melltoo, which has created an online and mobile platform for buying and selling secondhand goods. Through the company, individuals can post their items in a matter of seconds using a smartphone or a computer. An in-app payment and shipment system makes the process as streamlined as possible. After payment is rendered, Melltoo will pick up items and ensure that they reach their destination in a timely manner so that neither party has to worry about logistics. The company also offers a money-back guarantee so that users can make transactions with confidence.