Sadara Ventures, the first Palestine-based venture capital fund, announced this week that it has invested in mobile tech start-up Souktel. The landmark deal will see Souktel receive up to US $1 million in growth capital over the coming year.
Launched in 2011 as the first fund to target early-stage Palestinian IT ventures, Sadara has raised US $30 million from leading international companies, foundations, and individuals--including the Google Foundation, Cisco, the Soros Economic Development Fund, the Skoll Foundation, AOL founder Steve Case, and the European Investment Bank.
“We’re honored to welcome Sadara as a lead funder,” said Souktel co-founder and CEO Jacob Korenblum. “The fund’s partners bring a wealth of experience in the tech and social enterprise sectors, and their focus on Palestinian tech start-ups is unique in the region”. He added: “We’re excited to put these funds to use: We’re looking forward to creating new mobile services and expanding into new markets—so that we and our partners can empower more communities, reduce unemployment on a larger scale, and link more people with life-changing information about jobs and aid”.
Souktel's JobMatch service is the first in the Middle East to link job-seekers with employers via mobile phone. Close to 20,000 community members use JobMatch daily, in countries ranging from Morocco to Rwanda. A parallel mobile platform, AidLink, has helped over 20 humanitarian aid agencies and non-profits (including the Red Cross and the UN World Food Program) connect more than 100,000 community members with emergency aid during crisis events. Souktel serves close to 20 emerging markets across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean from its main office in Ramallah, Palestine.
“If you can deliver information using SMS then you are meeting a real need,” said Saed Nashef, a founding General Partner of Sadara Ventures and a former Microsoft employee. "If you look at the opportunity for [these services], it’s really huge," he adds. "Souktel’s track record has been very impressive, and they've already built significant assets that lay great foundations to take their venture to the next stage. We’re really excited about helping them continue their great work."
For a Middle East perspective on the announcement, from leading regional news site Wamda, click here.