Middle East Economies Need Startups to Aim for IPOs, not Exits

Maysaa Al Ajjan
Jul 16 2014
Middle East Economies Need Startups to Aim for IPOs, not Exits
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Labeled by Forbes as “One of The Most Powerful Women in Technology,” Mona DeFrawi brought over 20 years of experience in IPO success and digital ventures to the ArabNet Digital Summit, held in Dubai this past June. From helping establish one of the first University Tech Transfer offices, to 10 years interfacing with Wall Street as a VP/Director for three IPOs and one post-IPO turnaround, as well as founding four businesses (two acquired), and raising a $500M first-time private equity fund, DeFrawi is a renowned veteran when it comes to venture capital and identifying what makes the economy tick. She was willing to share some of her experiences with us at Araburnett, our stream-recording initiative in partnership with Leo Burnett and The National.

“I’m very impressed with the critical mass of talent and companies. MENA is the next emerging growth economy; there are great opportunities here. I’m here to spread a very big message, because, in order to build a knowledge economy, you need to build not only startup companies, but companies that are going to IPO and reach a certain level of success,” says DeFrawi. The former owner of InsideVenture had sold her company quietly in for an undisclosed amount in 2009, only to return in full venture-mode to the digital scene by founding Equidity. The former’s mission is to “offer relief in the liquidity crisis and democratize the secondary markets by giving pre-IPO companies a chance to get late-stage financing.”

“We’ve got to think big, MENA,” says an enthusiastic DeFrawi. “This isn’t just little baby startups. These are the next baby Googles and Apples and Intels and Syscos, and so I’m here to inspire people to think big and remember: the original Silicon Valley was right here in MENA.”

Despite the growing political turmoil and—in some countries—the economic instability, DeFrawi seemed very optimistic about the region’s rapid digital growth. “MENA can be the next Silicon Valley, and it won’t take us long this time because we’re smarter and we have a lot of lessons to learn from. I’m here to share those lessons from Silicon Valley with Arabnet and to learn from you what we can do to support you from the other side of the globe.” 

Watch the interview: