GCC states, in recent years, have undertaken a series of initiatives with the common purpose of diversifying their economies away from oil. Investments in technological innovations, as well as an injection of resources into the startup landscape, have led to the emergence of thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems across the region.
However, Oman’s startup space has historically trailed its Gulf neighbours, such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Although the sultanate has taken several steps to nurture its startup and technology sectors in recent years – including the establishment of the Oman Technology Fund in 2016 – the lack of adequate investment firms continued to impede growth.
The intent to enable innovation and tap the potential of a youthful market led to the establishment of Phaze Ventures, Oman’s first private venture capital (VC) firm. The firm invests in disruptive technologies in the energy and logistics sector.
“We founded Phaze Ventures at the start of 2018 as the first private venture capital firm in Oman. Since then we have gone on to invest in seven companies across three continents (with a few more in the pipeline), build an incredible platform with our accelerator programme, and create high impact partnerships with the largest organisations in the country,” says Abdullah Al-Shaksy, co-founder and CEO at Phaze Ventures.
“We are extremely interested in disruptive technologies such as industrial internet of things, novel AI applications, nanotechnology, and automation with the ability to create a significant and sustainable impact on a global scale. Energy and logistics are two sectors going through rapid change, opening the door to new technologies to help tackle its challenges.”
Earlier this year, Phaze Ventures tied up with Oman’s global integrated energy services firm OQ to develop and invest in disruptive energy technologies worldwide, and work together across a number of areas including investments, talent development, technology incubation and pilot projects.
“Our partnership with OQ marks an important step on that journey, and adds to our existing strategic partnership with Petroleum Development Oman and other forward-thinking innovators. These partnerships allow us to support our portfolio in rapidly scaling disruptive technologies, as well as help our partners gain access to innovations and innovators,” notes Al-Shaksy.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and plummeting oil prices, the startup ecosystems in Oman and the wider region have remained resilient, lending hope to further growth.
While MENA-based startups, in total, attracted investments of $659m in the first half of the year, Oman secured 12 per cent of MENA’s total deals in H1 2020, startup data platform MAGNiTT’s report revealed.
“A lot has changed. Venture deal volumes and size have continued to accelerate. However, supply chains have turned inwards, startups are more focused on sustainability and profitability than ever before. The stress test of the economic impact [of the Covid-19 pandemic] has certainly hardened many critical parts of the ecosystem by uncovering its vulnerabilities and allowing founders, investors and regulators alike to address critical gaps,” concludes Al-Shaksy.