Talhouni: 35% of Nuwa Capital portfolio is in Saudi Arabia

Talhouni: 35% of Nuwa Capital portfolio is in Saudi Arabia

Feb 21, 2024

Kholoud Hussein  


Dubai and Riyadh-based venture capital firm Nuwa Capital is an investment platform aims to redefine the relationship between founders and capital by providing a progressive founder-centric approach to invest in emerging markets.

Sharikat Mubasher meets Khaled Talhouni, the Managing Partner of Nuwa Capital, to know more about Nuwa Capital’s main objectives in enhancing the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the MENA region, share insights on the targeted startups over the coming period, and discuss the company's future expansion plans in Saudi Arabia.


What are Nuwa Capital’s main objectives?

Nuwa Capital is an investment platform focused on investing in the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem MENA and Turkey. Primarily we invest in founders building companies that are reshaping their industries and solving for large and systemic problems in our economies. 

Through our $100 million fund (Nuwa Venture Fund I), we support early-stage startups to build successful businesses in the markets they operate in, while also exploring growth opportunities in regional markets. 

We are sector agnostic and have made investments across various sectors including foodtech, new age commerce, and fintech. 35% of our investments have been in Saudi headquartered companies. 


How does Nuwa Capital help grow startups across the Middle East?

The concept of building bridges is fundamental to how we operate. As investors, we want to see startups from the region, not limit themselves to just their home markets, but expand across the region and beyond.  The region’s startup ecosystem is at a stage where we need to scale beyond borders and we believe that we are on the cusp of seeing our founders go from the Middle East to the world. 

We don’t focus only on investments, but on building thriving businesses that can reshape the economies they operate in. Beyond capital, our portfolio companies benefit from our Value Creation offering where we provider founders with subject matter expertise through dedicated subject matter experts in technology, product, recruitment, marketing etc to unlock growth potential and streamlined operations

Lastly, we explore ways to create value for our Limited Partners (LPs) and startups by enabling opportunities for them to benefit from each other.


How about the company’s business in Saudi Arabia?

We not only have our roots in Saudi Arabia, but the majority of our portfolio is based there. We are anchored by a number of Saudi based institutions, corporates and high net-worths/family offices

In 2024 we have plans to aggressively deploy capital from our $100 million fund and Saudi startups are on the top of our list. We will also explore opportunities for follow-on investments in our existing portfolio as they continue to scale both regionally and locally in KSA


Who are Nuwa Capital’s top startups in Saudi Arabia? And who are the targeted startups over the coming period?

We’ve invested in a number of companies in Saudi Arabia including such companies as Eyewa, Calo, Raqamyah, Edfa Pay, Speero and others. Besides that a number of our startups are leveraging our local expertise to make their entry into Saudi Arabia, the region’s largest economy.

Founders at all stages recognise the significant growth opportunity in the Kingdom, aligned with its economic diversification agenda and the leadership’s vision to shape a digital economy. 

While we can’t disclose startups we plan to invest in over the coming period, we can tell you that we remain extremely bullish on the market. Beyond early stage investing, we have recognised significant gaps in capital availability for Series B and beyond companies. Growth stage funding remains a major challenge across the region and Saudi Arabia will attract bigger deals in 2024 as valuations moderate and investors seek new exit paths. 


What are the company’s plans for 2024? And what are the expected investments?

Since our launch in 2020, we’ve deliberately focused on early-stage companies and did not rush into making investments. This was due to rising valuations and unsustainable business models in the market. Today we have approximately 60% of our fund to be deployed and in 2024, you’ll see us being much more active in the market. 

We’ve also been analysing the gaps in the market with regards to capital flow. Across the region, data shows that the largest investments are made in early-stage companies. Growth stage businesses on the other hand have limited access to funding, given that there are few players who write bigger cheques. While we already make follow-on investments in existing portfolio companies, we will also explore later stage investment opportunities. 

Lastly, 2024 for Nuwa Capital will be about building bridges. How can we as a firm, take regional startups, into new markets. This includes helping innovative companies enter Saudi Arabia, while taking Saudi entrepreneurs to the region and the rest of the world. True growth can be achieved only by scaling in new markets and we are well positioned to unlock this for our portfolio. 


What are the challenges facing Nuwa Capital in the Saudi market? Is there a plan to have a branch in Saudi Arabia?

We do have a presence in KSA through our partners in Alfaisaliah Group and a team on the ground in the kingdom.


Does the Saudi startup ecosystem see a paradigm shift?

There’s never been a more exciting time to startup in Saudi Arabia. This is primarily because of the environment that the leadership has enabled. Today it’s much easier to set up a business, attract talent and build for large regional problems from Saudi Arabia. It’s no surprise that Saudi Arabia attracted the most startup capital in the last year. 

In terms of a paradigm shift, we believe that more founders will start to move to the Kingdom. We are also seeing the emergence of Saudi national talent, including women, whether they are fantastic coders or world-class operators who can build thriving businesses. 

Furthermore, thanks to partners such as SVC and Jada fund of funds, Saudi attracted the highest amount of venture capital in the MENA market for the first time since records have been created. This is a critical milestone in the development of both the Saudi and regional ecosystem


What are the Saudi sectors that might witness a growth in startups over the coming period?

Fintech is one sector where we expect to see a number of opportunities. The Central Bank has set up a world-class system to allow for fintech founders to build new products for the market. We are excited about the digitalisation of financial services in the Kingdom, whether it is for everyday transactions, investments or just regular savings. 

As technology seeks to transform large traditional industries, real estate and property is another one where we’ll see change. The Kingdom has a significant gap in housing and hotel availability to manage the influx of new residents, business visitors and tourists. This is where startups like Silkhaus are working to build the short-term rentals sector. 

We also expect to see growth in SaaS businesses as entrepreneurs build solutions for local challenges. Similarly next gen commerce businesses like Eyewa and Homzmart will thrive as consumer spending increases and the overall economy continues to grow. 



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Dubai’s Real Estate Boom; Embracing the Digital Currency Revolution

By: Phil Sheridan, CEO at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gulf Properties 


A new phenomenon is emerging in Dubai that is reshaping the city’s real estate sector. Owing to the country’s burgeoning digital currency market, and buoyant real estate sector, a growing number of younger digital currency traders are flocking to the emirate’s shores and converting their digital assets to invest in the city’s property market. This article explores the connection between the trend of currency trading and the thriving real estate market in Dubai among younger investors, underscoring the role played by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in facilitating this modern financial shift.


The Gateway to Digital Currencies

At the heart of this trend is the UAE's progressive stance towards digital currencies. Dubai, a city renowned for its architecture and luxury lifestyle, has become a sanctuary for digital currency traders and investors worldwide. The city's welcoming regulatory environment and the government's forward-thinking policies have fostered a fertile ground for digital asset trading. 

Thanks to the initiatives such as the Dubai Blockchain Strategy and the Emirates Blockchain Strategy, for example, several Dubai banks are now using the blockchain system to enhance security and facilitate digital currency transactions. In 2022, Dubai also established the Dubai Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA), a regulatory body dedicated to overseeing and protecting virtual asset transactions. Government measures like setting up digital currency zones and providing regulations have boosted investor confidence. As a result, many investors are converting their digital assets into physical assets such as property, thanks to the flexibility offered by UAE’s financial eco-system. 


Real Estate, as a Preferred Investment Choice

Why does real estate stand out as an investment option? Dubai’s real estate market offers stability that digital currencies simply can't match. While digital currencies can offer high returns, the risk is also great. That’s not to say that Dubai’s property market does not offer high returns also. Statistics suggest that the volume of transactions in Dubai’s property market grew by 66.3 percent, while their value grew by 72% in 2021, in contrast to 2020, demonstrating the growth of the sector.[1]

If that weren’t enough reason, the fact that property has long proven to be a safe bet for investments during times of high inflation is yet another reason to invest in the city’s property market. According to Euromonitor International, the inflation rate for the UAE in 2022 was 5%. This contrasts with double-digital inflation rates across much of Europe during the same timeframe. Plus, putting money into property is not only about financial safety. For investors, it’s also a way to claim a slice of one of the world’s most attractive cities to live in worldwide, widely known for its safety, cosmopolitan nature, and quality of living.  


Global transactions and real estate deals

One advantage of digital currencies is their ability to streamline transactions. In terms of real estate investments, this means that investors can avoid additional charges usually levied by traditional banks, as well as further losses due to exchange rates. The immediate nature and transparency of transactions adds to the appeal making it easier for younger individuals to invest confidently in Dubai’s real estate market, fueling the city’s growth and financial appeal. 


Looking ahead

Looking ahead it is evident that virtual currencies will play an ongoing and growing role in shaping Dubai’s property landscape. The UAE’s dedication to creating an environment conducive to digital currencies, combined with Dubai’s reputation as a luxurious real estate hub, indicates that this trend is not temporary but rather an integral part of the city’s economic strategy. With digital currencies reshaping transactions, Dubai’s forward-thinking nature adds to the dynamism of the real estate market and ensures its future growth. As such, digital currency traders can rest assured that choosing Dubai’s property market to invest in is a smart decision to protect their future investments. 


El Najjar: Silkhaus expands its digital services in Saudi Arabia to meet the growing demand

Shaimaa Ibrahim 



The short-term rental market in Saudi Arabia has witnessed rapid development throughout the past few years. Silkhaus is a cutting-edge prop-tech startup that aims to revolutionize and develop the short-term rental scene in the kingdom and the Middle East. It provides an integrated set of services that meet the needs of guests and landlords. 


Silkhaus plans to expand its business in the Saudi market in the coming period. Therefore, Sharikat Mubasher had an interview with Sabine El Najjar, VP Commercial & General Manager of Silkhaus Saudi Arabia, to discuss future plans, and share with us her expectations for the future of the short-term rental market in Saudi Arabia, and its leading investment opportunities.


What services does Silkhaus provide to real estate owners to manage their properties, and what distinguishes it from traditional rental methods?


Silkhaus is a cutting-edge proptech startup dedicated to revolutionising short-term rentals across the Middle East. Founded in 2021, Silkhaus equips property owners to monetise their assets as short-term rentals with the opportunity to earn 20-40% more than regular long-term rentals. 


With Silkhaus, once landlords partner with us, we take care of every element, including furnishing, marketing the apartments, securing customers and even maintaining the units. Landlords have access to our advanced landlord portal that gives them full and real time visibility of bookings and earnings. Since our model is extremely flexible, landlords can also choose to book their apartment for their own use and can sell their units vacant on transfer with a minimal notice period, unlike with long term leases.


Today we partner with individual property owners as well institutional investors who own dozens of residential units. All together, our managed asset base exceeds $120 million in value, and we operate in three cities across two markets.



Last January, Silkhaus closed a Pre-Series A round, can you provide us with more

details of this round? How could this investment boost your expansion plans?


The pre-series A round is testament to the fundamentals of our business and the backing we have received from Partners for Growth. With our business growing by more than double in 2023, we chose to not dilute equity, but opted for debt financing instead. This allows us to stay well capitalised while remaining extremely focused on how we want to grow our business. 


In terms of our plans, the round is to fuel our entry into Saudi Arabia. This means we need to invest extensively in developing our technology for the local market, hire the right talent and build a large network of landlords. 


What are Silkhaus’s future expansion plans in the Saudi market?


Saudi Arabia is currently our first expansion outside the UAE. We have spent the last 6 months on regulatory set-up, talent onboarding and landlord discussions. We’ve had a successful lead generation campaign that has attracted interested landlords and investors alike. In fact, we see a large demand for short-term options as the Kingdom faces a shortage of hotels and high-quality accommodation. While KSA is attracting significant investment in the real estate and hospitality sector, it will be some time until that supply becomes available. That is why we are working with landlords to upgrade their properties to give guests a world-class experience. From our soft run, we’ve seen the appetite for Silkhaus properties grow. Right now, we remain focused on on-boarding more landlords and ensuring that we are contributing to the vision of the Kingdom for the hospitality and tourism sector. 


How do you see the future of the short-term rental market in Saudi Arabia, and what

about the investment opportunities in this market?


Globally, the short-term rentals market is worth over $100 billion and in the Middle East, the sector is still in the early stages of growth. For Saudi Arabia, this means there’s a significant opportunity in developing this industry, as well as creating jobs for local talent. 


In 2023, Saudi Arabia saw$74 billion worth of real estate deals completed. A lot of these will be deployed towards managing the shortages faced by visitors. As Saudi Arabia attracts global tourists for business and leisure, and with a number of major events scheduled, including the FIFA World Cup in 2030, we anticipate a major demand for short-term rentals. This will be a key driver in attracting investments into the real estate sector, while also generating strong returns for property owners. From our day-to-day conversations with industry veterans, we’ve also seen an interest from large developers that were historically more traditional to enter this space


In your opinion, how will digital technologies support the short-term rental market in the Gulf region, and Saudi Arabia in particular?


Technology is at the core of what we do, whether you’re a guest or a landlord. For guests, technology is embedded in every part of their journey, from discovery and booking, to check-in using digital locks all the way to our digital concierge service and our in stay strategic partners that are embedded into our offering for a seamless customer experience.


For landlords, Silkhaus leverages technology to provide end-to-end property management solutions for short-term rentals, managing every aspect from bookings to distribution and from operations to the guest experience. With this, landlords do not need to get involved in the day-to-day operations of their properties, but still have complete visibility of its management. 


Our technology powers short-term rentals and has attracted real estate owners ranging from institutional entities with mass holdings to individual retail owners with single apartments.


Who is the imitator entrepreneur?

Shaimaa Ibrahim


Imitator entrepreneurs start their businesses using others’ business ideas as inspiration but work to refine them to be implemented in a new different market. They always aspire to provide better products and services than those provided before to achieve more profits.

Imitator entrepreneurs are a combination of innovative and hustler entrepreneurs; they come up with innovative ideas to develop products, do not stick to the terms set by other people, and have a lot of self-confidence.

By imitating successful business ideas of innovative entrepreneurs, the imitator entrepreneur faces fewer risks, gains more profits, leverages existing consumer demand, and provides products and services that have already proven to be successful.

Furthermore, imitator entrepreneurs can learn from the successes and failures of previous entrepreneurs, and find brand-new ways to refine services and products.


Advantages of Imitator Entrepreneurs


Imitator entrepreneurs can 

  - Easily refine a business idea rather than coming up with completely new ideas.

  - Easily benchmark their performance with the original idea.

  - Learn and avoid mistakes that were made by the originator.

  - Repeat successful entrepreneurial businesses.

  - Do precisive market research and analysis.


Disadvantages of Imitator Entrepreneurs


 - Their ideas are always compared to the original idea.

 - They always have to keep refining ideas and play catch-up. 



Translation: Noha Gad

Al Hekail: Saudi Arabia magnets local, foreign fintech entrepreneurs

Shaimaa Ibrahim


One of Saudi Arabia’s ambitions is to become a global fintech hub. For this aim, the Kingdom enhanced the regulatory framework and developed competencies of the fintech sector, in addition to increasing the number of fintech companies in the Kingdom. 

BwaTech is one of the fintech companies licensed by the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) to provide financial services, enabling corporates that deal with more than one bank to implement several banking processes through one platform.

In this regard, Sharikat Mubasher held an interview with Hashem Al Hekail, Co-Founder and CEO of BwaTech, to learn more about the role of the fintech sector in fostering small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in alignment with the futuristic Vision 2030.

Al Hekail also showcased the products provided by BwaTech to enhance the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Saudi Arabia and highlighted the promising investment opportunities available in the Saudi fintech sector.


What are the services provided by BwaTech to foster the fintech sector in Saudi Arabia? and what are the products that BwaTech offers for SMEs?

Entities and corporates of different sizes usually have multiple banking relationships and we, at BwaTech, provide advanced tech products to enable them to conduct their transactions with different commercial banks safely and seamlessly online via one platform, instead of using the e-portal of each bank. We offer a full suite of products, notably:

Cash Management

This product enables corporates to consolidate their cash balances and transactions with different banks in one interface, in addition to processing various payments and transfers across all banks in a secure and efficient style.

Letters of Guarantees 

This product automates the full life cycle of the Letter of Guarantee (LG) and enables corporates and banks to exchange LG actions online. It offers quick delivery of LG from the issuing bank to the beneficiaries and allows beneficiaries to release or confiscate an LG issued in its favor online, in addition to identifying existing transactions and LGs between both parties. 

This product currently serves large corporates and entities that receive massive numbers of LGs, but it will serve SMEs that request issuing LGs once SAMA issues related legislation and standards.

It is worth noting that all services are provided via the Bwa Business platform either through the website and the applications or through the application programming interface (API) that links the corporate’s internal system to the platform. 


How does the Bwa Business platform enhance corporates’ financial digital transformation?

Earlier, customers had to visit the bank’s branch to finish their transactions, but later on, most banks enabled customers to complete their financial transactions through e-portals.

However, corporates having multiple banking relationships found it difficult to deal with several portals featuring different standards and requirements. Hence, BwaTech provided inclusive portals to tackle these challenges.

The inclusive portals are considered the second wave of the digital transformation following the emergence of digital portals for each separate bank.

In regards to the question, the unified portals are a kind of digital transformation for both banks and corporates as banks will focus mainly on attracting deposits and funding rather than investing in digital portals. Meanwhile, fintech companies will be responsible for developing digital portals and services that provide access to financial services. 


Can you please share more about the importance of integrating Saudi corporates with banks and how this enhances the business sector?

Each corporate has its own system to manage its resources. While implementing any financial transaction, the corporate finds it necessary to process the transaction through two procedures; its systems and banks, and both require a group of employees to prepare and approve the transaction. Additionally, errors may happen as the transactions are being recorded in the corporate’s systems separately from the bank.  

Through electronic integration, the transaction is recorded only once either in the corporate’s systems for payments or in the bank’s system for deposits. In both scenarios, systems electronically align with each other to record the transaction, saving too much effort and reducing errors. The electronic integration also enables the corporate to have all financial statements available immediately in its systems, raising the operational efficiency of its businesses.

On the other side, electronic integration is an expensive and complicated process that requires specific expertise and becomes more complicated when the company needs to integrate with several banks. Here appears BwaTech’s role in facilitating this process as the corporate only needs to connect with BwaTech to be integrated with all banks without any extra effort. 


How do you see the future of open banking in Saudi Arabia?

The Saudi banking sector is evolving and SAMA promotes open banking to explore potential opportunities to provide new products and services, increase competitiveness, and facilitate the entry of fintech companies

Open banking is the system of allowing access and control of customer banking and financial accounts through third-party applications. Looking at the services provided by the National Information Center (NIC) to individuals, it became easy for banks to have the customer’s permission online, thus, I believe these services will boom in the individual sector. 

In contrast, dealing remotely with corporates in general, except for one-person companies, is not as easy as individuals as corporates find some challenges in opening accounts and building banking relationships. Therefore, developing a centralized system is crucial to facilitate ascertaining the reliability and validity of required documents as well as the corporates’ representatives.

The efforts of the Ministry of Commerce and the Federation of Saudi Chambers to tackle such challenges are remarkable, however, more is needed in regard to the corporates’ representatives and their specialties. I urge the ministry to launch an initiative to fill this gap in collaboration with SAMA and the NIC.


Can you please share more details about BwaTech’s achievements in 2023 and its plans for 2024?

We primarily focused on building the systems infrastructure, developing some products, and obtaining necessary licenses, but in 2023 we started launching our services.

Our LG ecosystem yielded good results as it facilitated paperless communication between the bank and the beneficiary, which accordingly attracted most banks to join the LG ecosystem that BwaTech manages.

In 2024, BwaTech's plans include broadening clientele and launching some new products. 


What are the company’s future plans and investments in Saudi Arabia? and do you plan to expand businesses beyond the Kingdom?

We target expanding our products. For instance, the LG product is planned to cover the field of document accreditation locally and globally, in addition to other services related to accounting and payments.

We are currently working on launching a new product licensed by the Capital Market Authority (CMA), through our subsidiary, to distribute investment and real estate funds. We also plan to partner with other service providers to offer integrated services to our customers.

Expanding our footprint beyond the Kingdom is on the cards, but it is better now to focus on the Saudi market.


How do you evaluate the performance of the Saudi fintech sector in 2023 and what are the main challenges the sector faces?

The performance of the Saudi fintech sector is promising; it provides valuable products and services and strives for more. 

The Kingdom became a destination for local and foreign entrepreneurs as well as distinctive initiatives, backed by the endeavors of regulatory and supervisory entities to foster the sector. However, the sector faces a lot of challenges notably the high cost at the beginning with zero returns.  


In your opinion, what are the promising opportunities in the Saudi fintech sector?

There are several promising opportunities to develop innovative banking solutions through open banking, leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and blockchains. The cybersecurity and data protection fields also enjoy a lot of opportunities to develop new methods to detect fraud and prevent cyberattacks.


What do fintech startups in the Kingdom need to thrive? and how do entrepreneurs contribute to realizing Vision 2030’s objectives?

They need a set of elements: reliable cloud services, data security services, big data analytics, and AI, in addition to regulatory sandboxes and laws that stimulate their growth and attract investors.

Government entities and regulatory organizations are working together to provide a robust framework that stimulates innovation and bolsters the fintech sector.

Entrepreneurs can also contribute to realizing Vision 2030’s goals by providing groundbreaking ideas and solutions that enhance digital transformation, improve the user experience, and meet market needs. Similarly, startups participate in creating new jobs and developing human capabilities, in alignment with Vision 2030’s localization goal.


How do weigh the Kingdom’s efforts to bolster the fintech sector and boost digital transformation?

Fostering the fintech sector is one of the key goals of Vision 2030 and the concerned entities in the Kingdom spare no effort to achieve this goal and drive digital transformation. For instance, SAMA and CMA launched a sandbox to explore innovative technologies and provide the necessary support to nurture innovative entrepreneurs, in addition to introducing regulations that facilitate their businesses.

Nor can we forget the pivotal role of Fintech Saudi to provide entrepreneurs in this promising sector with the guidance, consultancies, and support they need.

Moreover, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology is a key player in enhancing the growth of fintech startups.


Translation: Noha Gad

Who is the hustler entrepreneur?

Shaimaa Ibrahim



Hustler entrepreneurs are willing to work hard and put in a constant effort more than innovative entrepreneurs. They often start small and work towards growing a bigger business with hard work rather than capital, unlike innovative entrepreneurs.

This type of entrepreneurs usually studies all project-related factors including the investments, the project’s resources, and the risks they might face throughout their journey toward achieving all planned objectives.

Characteristics of hustler entrepreneurs

Hustler entrepreneurs are fond of unlocking opportunities to grow and broaden existing ideas; they work hard to create such opportunities rather than waiting for them.

A hustler entrepreneur is an enthusiastic business-oriented individual who is always prepared and dutiful and never lacks self-discipline or follow-through. Hustler entrepreneurs tend to be very focused and will get rid of all forms of distractions, favoring risks over short-term comfort.

Failure is not an option for hustler entrepreneurs. They always go for their goals to grow their projects even though it takes a long time to realize their ambitions, unlike other entrepreneurs

Advantages of being a hustler entrepreneur

  • Diligence and constant hard work.
  • Dedication and commitment.
  • Facing risks boldly.

Disadvantages of being a hustler entrepreneur

Hustler entrepreneurs just work harder and are willing to get their hands dirty; they often do not see the value of raising capital opposite to working harder. 


Translation: Noha Gad