Ecosystem Highlight: MAGNiTT
Philip Bahoshy (@pbahoshy) is the Founder and CEO of MAGNiTT, the largest investment data platform for the MENA startup ecosystem. Raised in the UK with Iraqi origins, Philip obtained an MBA from INSEAD in 2013 and a BS in Economics from the London School of Economics. During his time in Dubai, Philip worked at Oliver Wyman in the Financial Services practice for three years, followed by nearly three years at Barclays Wealth working as Chief of Staff to the CEO and advising on strategic initiatives. Philip has lived in the UAE for more than 12 years and is passionate about developing the MENA startup ecosystem.
What inspired you to start MAGNiTT, what is MAGNiTT’s mission and what do you hope your readers take away from this incredible resource?
MAGNiTT was originally born out of my MBA at INSEAD, where I saw an opportunity to create a platform that helped connect budding entrepreneurs to alumni investors to help support their ventures. However, after several pivots, I shifted my focus to the MENA region specifically, where I saw an opportunity to introduce my platform to a region and entrepreneurial ecosystem that was disconnected and often working offline.
MAGNiTT is MENA’s largest startup community and data platform for venture investments. We are built on three core pillars that support the ecosystem: A community where stakeholders can connect virtually online to gain access to news, funding and talent; Our data, which is the most extensive for venture capital in the MENA region; And our research, which is the reference for trends and analysis on the ever-evolving space.
Our mission is to bring much needed data accuracy, transparency and comprehensiveness to MENA and digitally connect entrepreneurial ecosystems in emerging markets. Scalability is the key to a startup’s success and our platform looks to provide them an online resource to achieve that. In the current COVID-19 crisis, we have seen these opportunities become more critical than ever before.
In MAGNiTT’s recent MENA Investment Venture Summary report, it shows that 2019 was a record-breaking year for the MENA startup ecosystem. In your opinion, what factors led to this spike of investment activity?
2019 was a record-breaking year for the MENA startup venture space! Deals, exits and investments were at an all-time high. We also saw the first unicorn exit ever. We attribute this to a variety of factors, including increasing government support, a maturing ecosystem with more experienced founders and investors and a spike in the adoption of technology solutions across various industries by both consumers and businesses alike. The CAREEM exit also helped fuel international awareness of the regional ecosystem, and because of it, we have seen more interest in MENA-founded startups than ever before.
You can learn more about MENA’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and venture funding trends by downloading MAGNiTT’s Q1 2020 MENA Venture Investment Report, which provides an in-depth analysis on funding trends and insights that dig into geographies, industries, investors, exits and more.
Has COVID-19 impacted the MENA startup scene, and are there any industries or specific startups that are successfully identifying and deploying solutions in response to the pandemic?
In general, we believe that it is still too early to see the full effects of COVID-19 on startups, especially when looking at venture as an asset class. The fundraising process in the MENA region takes around six months on average to complete, so it will still take some time for the full impact to be seen. However, we have seen changes in investor and startup sentiment, varying greatly by industry — some industries have been severely impacted from a revenue perspective, both positively and negatively.
In fact, I recently wrote a note and we have published several articles on the current venture space as a result of COVID-19, which you can find here.
We’re currently seeing spikes in consumer adoption in industries like fintech, ecommerce, ed-tech, health-tech and solutions that facilitate remote working, while other industries, like transportation and travel & tourism, are seeing an expected dip in revenues as a function of the current situation.
As we look forward to the rest of 2020 and beyond, what predictions do you have for MENA region’s venture ecosystem and how do you see it evolving?
Undoubtedly, startups in all industries and at all stages across MENA will be re-evaluating their business models and revisiting their product-market fit. Some industries, like the ones we have highlighted here, have seen a surge in consumer demand, while others have seen drops in demand as a function of COVID-19.
What is clear is that a fresh approach is key to align the interests of your customers’ current needs with their future needs by creating short-term solutions that can evolve into longer-term revenue streams. Creativity is required to simultaneously create and capitalize on these opportunities.
As we see existing companies, as well as new emerging companies, capitalize on the change in market dynamics and new embracement of digital technologies, investment is likely to follow surges in demand flow into demand-driven sectors such as healthcare, delivery, entertainment, and online education.
Resilience is about always looking at how we can solve problems with the resources that are available to us. MENA’s goal is to capitalize on the current situation to further position and strengthen itself across the global startup and venture landscape, to emerge as a reference hub for other regions worldwide.