TECHNOLOGY IS THE NEW OIL
INTERVIEW | YOUSEF HAMMAD – MANAGING PARTNER, BECO
Yousef Hammad is a serial technology entrepreneur with a number of significant achievements to his name already. Now sharing his knowledge and experience as an investor, Yousef is Managing Partner at BECO Capital where he and his partners continue to back and advise some major successes in the region. ThinkTech, caught up with Yousef to get his view on the evolution of technology in the GCC.
Can you describe what BECO does?
We are a venture capital business investing in early stage tech companies in GCC, Jordan and Egypt.
We specialise in seed to series B stage funding
What made you start the business?
The founders of the business were successful tech entrepreneurs & VC investors in both Middle East and UK and saw the opportunity in the growing regional ecosystem.
I joined the business slightly later but was attracted to the business due to my background as an entrepreneur and an investor with the same vision.
Why only tech?
The technology market is dynamic and, with oil prices going down, the region needs another industry that can provide careers and a future – this is technology.
In addition, with the age profile in the region, there is significant and progressive technology adoption.
What’s more it is clear that regional government is diversifying investments outside of oil into technology related areas.
How do you choose which companies to back and support?
Team: The most important credential of a potential portfolio business is the quality of the team of people in the business. This represents 70% of our decision of whether to invest. We spend a lot of time understanding their backgrounds and what they can offer.
- Market: We need to be confident that their business is solving a large problem
- Transformational product: We need to understand how their solution is 10x better than the alternative
- Defensibility: As a business do they have a defensible business model?
Why people come to you rather than others?
We offer value add investment:
- We offer strategic input
- We offer additional capital to the initial seed funding if we believe it appropriate – we grow with the business
- We can recommend good talent
- We remain close enough to help with business development
- We can help with geographical expansion
There is a perception that the Middle East Region is 8-10 years behind on technology – what is your view?
I agree in part but I’m not sure it is as much as 8-10 years, however the region is catching up quickly and in many areas is leap frogging to keep up. The region is young economically and very motivated & ambitious – what’s more there is no longer the fall back of oil.
For new people coming into the region we believe the saviour is technology and it is rapidly becoming the number one priority in many businesses.
‘In this region there is a rare alignment between government and the technology eco-system which other global regions don’t have’
In other parts of the world technology is seen as a complete business enabler – do you think this is the mentality in this region?
‘My belief is as much as technology is taking away jobs, it is creating opportunity for the willing adopters’.
What do you believe to be the next big tech wave(s) we are going to experience?
There are 3 disruptive tech areas I would highlight:
- Artificial intelligence
- Cryptocurrency and Blockchain
- Augmented reality and virtual reality
With 2020 Expo looming there is speculation that once it has come and gone Dubai will no longer be an attractive place to come and live. What’s your view?
I believe this is perception only. Dubai has always delivered on its strategy and the main strategy behind Expo 2020 is for the world to see what we have achieved and what we can offer the world longer term.
‘Expo 2020 will bring the world to see the vision we have created and I believe new technology companies will come here’