Falak: A Saudi Arabian Accelerator Raising MENA Unicorns

Falak Investment Hub is a unique hybrid of an accelerator, an angels network and VC fund. We had a conversation with the founder Adwa AlDakheel, who explained to us what Falak does exactly, the benefits they give to their startups, and how she sees the future of the region.
Falak: A Saudi Arabian Accelerator Raising MENA Unicorns

Adwa AlDakheel is a 29-year-old entrepreneur (and pilot) who has taken social media by storm in the past few years. She is one of the thousands of Saudi youth working to reshape Saudi Arabia and disrupt the status quo. In 2018, she launched Falak Investment Hub, a unique hybrid of an accelerator, an angels network and VC fund.

Falak is graduating its second batch of startups and is holding the demo day virtually on April 11th. Startups in the cohort include: Monh (KSA), GoldSouq (KSA), Dhad (KSA), BeanBoat (KSA and Bahrain), Hospitalia (Egypt), SoulArtists (worldwide), Vexls (MENA) and Startups Galaxy (MENA).

We had so many questions about the hybrid accelerator/angels network/VC that Falak is. So, we had a conversation with AlDakheel who explained to us what they do exactly, the benefits they give to their startups, and how she sees the future of the region. 

What is the foundation on which Falak Investment Hub is built?

“To find, enable, and develop the next unicorn startups in the MENA by investing and nourishing entrepreneurs on all aspects of growth and business using sustainable business models, secure and scalable technologies, and high-caliber human capital. Secondly, our core foundation is built on locating the most innovative and scalable startups who have the capabilities to scale regionally and globally to fuel job creation and to further enable innovation.”

What is your selection criteria for the startups in your cohort?

“Startups applying must meet 4 main criteria: Tech-focused startups, full-time teams and founders, minimum capital commitment of SAR 50,000 ($13,332) from the founding team in the past to show skin in the game, MENA-based startup with a disruptive business model. Startups apply to Falak’s program through our digital portal and move on to filtration and DD post meeting the above initial selections criteria.”

What are some benefits Falak provides for its startups?

“Direct investment from SAR 250,000 to SAR 1.5 million per startup. In-kind services ranging from knowledge transfer through workshops and one-on-one mentorship sessions, marketing and growth hacking services, accounting, investor readiness, legal structure, and much more. Access to Falak’s angel mentorship pool with top MENA founders including the founders of Zid, Mrsool, Foodics, and 30+ more angel mentors. We also give them market access to KSA and landing programs for KSA establishments for all non-Saudi startups as well as access to Falak’s Funds and Falak Angels for follow-on investment and to ensure sustainability and growth to prepare for Series A/B funding.”

Must the startups in your cohort have an office in the Kingdom? Do you encourage them to?

“We recommend expanding operations to KSA considering it being the biggest market in the GCC and considering Falak provides B2B and B2C access and connectivity to all key stakeholders, however, we don’t enforce it.”

In light of your experience and conversations with this cohort, how do you see MENA’s future?

“With the fast-paced changes taking place in regulations and in consumer behaviour, we have experienced an expedited change in consumer behaviour for digitized products after 2020 especially with COVID-19. 

Regulatory changes in continuous improvement in Company Laws and in Freezone jurisdictions such as ADGM, RAK, and others. Geographical boundaries have been improving for tech-startups to enable scale not only in segmented countries in the MENA region but also to enable scale without borders by governmental/SME partnership. For example, Falak is licensed by the SME Authority and is partnered with MISA to provide MENA and international startups regulatory licenses and expedited establishment in KSA, and this provided us with a major advantage of removing such geographical boundaries which would otherwise hinder the possibility of scale.

Infrastructure changes in secure cloud solutions along with more mature supply chains in the physical infrastructure of the MENA in logistics, fulfilment, delivery, and warehouses. Founders’ behaviour and investors behaviour in understanding and appreciating the value of smart money and in realizing the need for advisory, mentorship, market access, aside from capital. Governmental initiatives and support, such as Saudi Venture Capital whereas Falak has an accredited angel network (Falak Angels) partnered with SVC to enable a co-matching program for KSA startups and KSA angel investors; another example is the launch of a major grant program to enable early-stage startup to conclude their proof of concept stage and move over to R&D. Human capital and talents have improved tremendously with more options of recruiting these talents across the globe through gig-economies.”

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