Partner Highlight: Enhance Ventures
Q&A with Ritesh Tilani, Founding Partner at Enhance Ventures
Ritesh Tilani (@rtilani) is a founding partner of Enhance Ventures, a startup studio specializing in online vertical marketplaces for the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Turkey (MENAPT). Before launching Enhance Ventures, Ritesh was Head of UAE at iMENA Group, a leading regional VC and operator of online businesses. As a native of the UAE with over 30 years of experience in the region, Ritesh has witnessed a sea change in this young and vibrant economy and is an active player in the MENA region’s startup ecosystem. He holds a B.S. in Economics from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from INSEAD.
As a founding partner of Enhance Ventures, can you share some context on the platform’s background and its mission?
We launched Enhance Ventures to enhance lives in the MENAPT market by building best-in-class online marketplaces. We find local solutions to local problems by nurturing talent in our “guild” and reusing resources to be more efficient and effective than a standalone venture. Our anchor venture joigifts.com is the largest online gifts marketplace in the Middle East. Our newest venture tojjar.me is well on its way to becoming the leader in branded payments in MENAPT, by enabling long-tail merchants to issue, sell and redeem their own e-vouchers. Enhance already has operations in seven countries and is able to conduct business across the region to rapidly launch new vertical marketplaces with a higher chance of success.
If we dig deeper into Enhance’s venture builder / startup studio model, can you explain why you’ve chosen to operate under this model and the benefits it brings the organization?
The MENAPT region is still behind the curve when it comes to availability of online services. We’ve identified a long list of gaps in the market, and by picking a single theme of online vertical marketplaces, we’re able to take advantage of synergies across the portfolio. By virtue of shared ownership, our ventures are able to exchange assets and infrastructure and seamlessly collaborate with each other. This is especially necessary in a market like the MENAPT region where there is significant friction in starting and operating a business, finding talent, fundraising, expanding across borders and more. We address each of these areas with the startup studio model, allowing our founders and portfolio companies to focus on execution and growing the business rather than on reinventing the wheel.
Enhance Ventures and Silicon Foundry recently announced an exciting partnership together. Can you shed some light on the genesis of this new alliance and how we can expect to see both platforms collaborate with one another in the near future?
We’re thrilled to be collaborating with Silicon Foundry. Having a partner based in a more mature ecosystem gives us access to invaluable insights. Their network in Silicon Valley is unparalleled, and having access to sources of new business models and growth methodologies will give us a considerable competitive advantage. At the same time, we look forward to helping Silicon Foundry expand to the MENAPT region and support large enterprises and government organizations in adopting and implementing leading-edge innovation models and methodologies.
What is your perspective on how COVID-19 has impacted the startup community in MENAPT and the underlying implications of this pandemic on future MENAPT investments?
While COVID-19 has put tremendous pressure on economies around the world and has been especially painful for some industries, it has also been a blessing in disguise for others. The lockdowns forced many consumers to adopt technology and transact online for the first time. Businesses based on e-commerce, content streaming, online learning and telehealth all benefited from consumers’ transition to online — a shift that was suddenly accelerated due to COVID-19.
MENAPT investors who had already finished raising their funds have since continued investing, but have instead focused their investments on businesses that are doing particularly well in the current environment. Saudi startups attracting more investments during the first half of 2020 than during the same period in 2019 is a testament to this trend.
At Enhance Ventures, we’ve added a new criteria to the methodology we use to decide which ventures to launch next by assessing whether or not each new model we consider would not only survive COVID-19, but might even flourish thanks to it.