Phaze Ventures: A Short Origin Story from Inside the Middle East's Entrepreneurship Boom
Breakthroughs in science, revolutionary business models, the know-how of the future takes time to propagate over geographies and materialize into everyday life across the globe. Trying to understand where the world or the region is heading is thus the story of the propagation of information - and venture capital is the story of short-circuiting that.
Venture capital exists to look past the noise and spot these long-term megatrends, and perhaps more importantly find the teams that are best positioned to materialize these exciting futures into our every-day lives. We bring to the table ready pools of risk capital to fund the teams that could potentially build these great businesses, and we provide access to the collective knowledge of our network of founders, advisors, and investors.
It is the consequence of a healthy venture ecosystem that generates opportunities to diversify our economies, accelerate our ESG goals, and hopefully make an outsized return on our capital along the way. That was always our ultimate goal in creating Phaze Ventures as the first venture capital firm out of Oman, and I think it’s always timely to revisit your origin story as a business and ask yourself if you are still on track for the future you envisioned.
Phaze Ventures was set forth at a time when Oman and the GCC had taken a decision to diversify their economic drivers, and my partners and I were eager to be a part of that story. We had returned to Oman in 2015 after studying and working abroad for several years, at a time when the country was emerging from its last oil downcycle. Youth unemployment was on the rise and we started facing signs of our first deficits, as did many of the other Gulf states. In response to the challenges that were emerging Oman commenced the “National Program for Enhancing Economic Diversification”, and MBS was about to announce “Vision 2030” in Saudi Arabia.
There was a general mood amongst the next generation that the good times our parents’ generation had enjoyed, with endless growth and opportunities for all, may finally be coming to an end - and the cycle of dependence on our regions greatest treasure was an unsustainable and insatiable addiction we keep failing to break. But we wanted to try and do something about it. We had good heads over our shoulders and a decent network between us within the government, private sector, academia, locally, and globally. Surely by speaking to all of them we could figure out the missing link in our efforts and formulate a plan that somehow we could play a part in executing.
By 2016, we realized that the underlying hindrance to diversification and enabling the private sector was that the whole startup ecosystem required to build new companies did not exist. That’s where we narrowed our focus and decided to be the first private venture capital firm in the country and that’s how the idea of Phaze Ventures came to be. If we are to diversify, we realized, venture is the most proven model to rapidly test and scale new businesses.
By early 2018 my partner's and I had all quit our day jobs dived head first into the world of venture capital, with our first investments made using our own limited capital.
Fast forward to 2021, after an unprecedented year for VC investment in MENA, with $3Bn+ in capital deployed year-to-date, and the announcement of our $30Mil venture fund backed by the largest institutions in Oman, I look back in disbelief to all the inside stories and chance encounters we were fortunate enough to have from inside an ecosystem in the making. Several investments later and multiple ground-breaking partnerships (including the launch of the 1st energy focused accelerator program in the Middle East in partnership with Oman's national Oil company), Phaze Ventures and Oman have now seen our first Omani "scale-ups" with Carzaty and eMushrif's expansion across the MENA, and the future could not look more exciting from here.
About Phaze Ventures
Established in 2018, Phaze Ventures is the first private venture capital firm in the Sultanate of Oman, founded to fund early-stage disruptive technology companies from around the globe, and accelerate the transformation of the region’s economies through early-stage investments and strategic partnerships.
The firm manages $30 million, targeting early-stage startups in MENA, Europe and North America, with investments from the country’s largest investors, including Oman Information and Communications Technology Group (part of the sovereign fund of Oman), Ominvest and several prominent family offices.
Phaze Ventures' existing investments include eMushrif, Carzaty, and Voyager, and is headed by its three co-founders: Abdullah Al-Shaksy, co-founder and CEO, Mohammed Al-Wahaibi, co-founder and partner, and Masoud Al-Rawahi, co-founder and partner. The team is also supported by a diverse group of advisors with leadership experience at global technology firms including Amazon, Siri, and Spotify.