Flourishing Oman startup sector remains resilient to COVID-19 Impact

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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In recent years, GCC states have taken a range of measures with the shared goal of diversifying their economies away from oil. Investments in technical advances and the infusion of resources into the startup landscape have contributed to the emergence in the region of vibrant business ecosystems.

The startup sector in Oman, however, has observed other gulf regions, such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Although the Sultanate has taken several steps to enhance the startup and technology sectors, including the establishment of the Oman Technology Fund in 2016, and yet the lack of sufficient investment organizations has hindered growth.

With the aim of encouraging innovation and leverage the potential of a young market Phaze Ventures is established, which is the first private venture capital (VC) firm in Oman. The company is focusing on innovative technology areas such as logistics and energy, for investing.

Abdullah Al-Shaksy, co-founder and CEO, Phaze Ventures said, “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 program, and create high impact partnerships with the largest organizations in the country”.

He further added, “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 partnered with Oman’s multinational integrated energy services company OQ to build and invest worldwide in innovative energy innovations and to work together in a range of fields, including investment, talent growth, incubation of technology and pilot projects.

Mr. Al-Shaksy continued, “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”.

The startup sector in Oman and the wider region remains resilient amid the COVID-19 pandemic and falling oil prices, lending hope for further development.

According to the report from the MAGNiTT startup data platform, the MENA-based startups in total received $659 million in investments in the first half of the year, Oman secured 12% of MENA’s total deals in the first half of 2020.

“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,” concluded Mr. Al-Shaksy.