From around the world to MENAP: Antler's first Riyadh residency

The startup ecosystem in the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan (MENAP) is bursting with potential. With a young, tech-savvy, and increasingly urban population of 600 million and governments evaluating ways to diversify and modernize their economies, vast opportunities await founders building in the region. Antler is thrilled to support the next generation of standout founders from across the region—and the world—through the launch of our inaugural residency in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Learn more about the 92 exceptional founders who joined our first cohort.

antler-in-menap

Antler in MENAP

Antler in the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan (MENAP) aims to invest $60 million by 2028 and empower founders to build 100+ companies with residencies in Riyadh (KSA) and Dubai (UAE).

Antler in the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan (MENAP) aims to invest $60 million by 2028 and empower founders to build 100+ companies with residencies in Riyadh (KSA) and Dubai (UAE).

Driven people on impressive trajectories are taking up the challenge to launch their startups with Antler in MENAP from day zero.

Our inaugural MENAP residency in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) launched in September, welcoming 92 exceptional founders handpicked from over 3,000 applicants. Through our three-month, in-person program, we are enabling driven entrepreneurs to find their co-founder, validate their startup idea, and secure their first investment of $180K for 11% of equity.

Let's take a closer look at our founders' backgrounds, and what motivated them to build with Antler in MENAP.

Seasoned founders ready to build again

Endeavor studies reveal that former employees of high-growth companies make excellent scale-up founders—80% of the top unicorn founders they surveyed have either worked for another startup or founded another business, prior to launching their top-valued unicorn company. 

Our first residency cohort in MENAP reflects these traits—68% of our founders have founded at least one company before joining Antler, half of whom are serial founders who started at least two companies. They range from experienced founders with track records of startup exits to managers in established corporations to young builders who have been innovating and developing products since age 14. 

Antler's first founders in MENAP have raised VC funding, but are also comfortable bootstrapping. Forty-eight percent previously raised funds from VCs, angels, and institutional investors and the rest bootstrapped their businesses.

Sixteen percent of those who previously founded companies have exited, with a total exit valuation of $293 million

Impressive spike and expertise

Our inaugural MENAP founders have diverse spike backgrounds that lead to fruitful co-founder matching. Forty percent of the cohort has tech expertise to build products themselves. Forty-two percent of the cohort has commercial expertise, leading sales, operations, product, partnerships, fundraising, and more in companies including Careem, Uber, and others.

Eighteen percent of our founders are considered domain experts—people with a deep understanding of a sector—coming from a range of industries. Some have PhDs in AI and machine learning, while others have deep professional experience in industries such as healthcare, financial services, and space technology. 

A cosmopolitan cohort, assembled from around the world

International talent is attracted to building startups in KSA, motivated by the rapid growth of innovation in the region. Our first Riyadh cohort reflects this: founders from 34 nationalities and four continents are building with Antler, with more than one third of founders relocating to MENAP to join the residency. Our MENAP team's local expertise paired with Antler's global, growing network across six continents are big motivators for founders to relocate to the region.

Founder nationalities 

Experienced professionals with a global view

Endeavor's Founder Pathways: Where Do Unicorns Come From? highlights that international work experience, founding other startups, and being employees of high-growth companies prior to launching a top-valued unicorn company are key indicators for enterprise success—qualities possessed by most founders in our first Riyadh cohort.

Our inaugural group of MENAP founders have 12 years of average work experience, and many of them have worked in global environments. Eighty-nine percent of our founders have worked in more than one country. They are industry experts across multiple fields, including machine learning, last mile delivery, and space technology.

Years of work experience

Over two thirds of founders have led teams of 10+ people previously. Over a quarter of founders have led teams of 100+ individuals, enabling them to hone strong leadership skills over the course of their careers.

Team sizes previously managed by founders

Our inaugural MENAP founders bring a wealth of experience from established companies. Some of our founders have also achieved success in the corporate world before deciding to pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures. Below is a list of select companies our founders have worked for or founded, along with some of their alma maters.

In search of co-founder matching and pre-seed funding

When asked why they joined Antler's residency in MENAP, founders cited four top reasons: co-founder matching, pre-seed investment and terms, building with a like-minded community, and Antler's global network—our unique offering that addresses common founder pain points from day zero.

Top reasons founders joined Antler in MENAP

Serial founders—who typically understand what is critical to succeed in entrepreneurship—were most strongly aligned on their reasons for joining Antler. They prioritized pre-seed investment and co-founder matching and significantly valued pre-seed investment and terms more than founders who started less than two companies (29% versus 18%). 

For the remainder of their time in residency, founders will continue working on their venture idea, getting coached by venture partners and the Antler team, and presenting to our investment committee in early December. Selected teams will receive their first investment of $180K for 11% of equity. It’s an exciting time to be building in the MENAP region and we are delighted to be supporting these exceptional founders as they continue on their path from day zero to greatness.

Interested in building a game-changing company with Antler in MENAP?
Learn more about our residency.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest news and views from Antler’s global community

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Must-read articles from Antler

Browse our collection of founder stories, industry insights and latest startup successes from Antler Australia

See articles
Insights
5 min read
From day zero to greatness: Magnus Grimeland on the Capital Allocators podcast

How can the world tackle the increasingly complex problems of our time? With a new global infrastructure backing the most driven founders. Listen to Antler founder and CEO Magnus Grimeland discuss this—and why we're building Antler—on the Capital Allocators podcast.

News
5 min read
Antler expands into Queensland, Australia

Antler is charting a new course for innovation by expanding our presence in Australia. We are launching in Queensland and partnering with the Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC).

Supported by the Queensland Government's Queensland Venture Capital Development Fund (QVCDF), the partnership is poised to transform the state's innovation sector. With a focus on bridging the early-stage funding gap, Antler and QIC are committed to attracting and nurturing the nation's top talent, driving forward Queensland's position on the global innovation stage.

Insights
5 min read
Bridging startups and industry leaders to drive purposeful innovation

As Jeff Bezos once said: “What’s dangerous is to not evolve.” While most business leaders understand that stagnation is fatal, for a host of reasons established companies often struggle to innovate—purposefully and powerfully.

Antler’s Business Development and Collaborations Group helps global corporates drive innovation excellence through high value-generating collaborations with Antler’s 1,000+ (and growing) global startup portfolio. In our collaboration with Investa, a leading Australian real estate investment manager and developer, we are connecting them to our global community of founders and the cutting-edge solutions they are building.

Read more about the powerful outcomes that happen when ambitious startups and industry leaders come together.

Insights
5 min read
The next wave of innovation: 27 industry trends set to define 2024

What will innovation look like as we move deeper into 2024? What are the biggest industry trends that will define the coming year?

We asked our global network of Antler Operators—founders, sector leaders, CxOs, and VPs from companies including Roblox, Airtable, Shopify, Spotify, Affirm, DoorDash, Uber, Hubspot, and more, who offer 1:1 advice to Antler portfolio companies, giving them extra firepower to help fast-track their growth.

News
5 min read
Antler leads $5.1M pre-seed funding for 37 startups across Southeast Asia

This marks the highest number of pre-seed deals completed in a single round in the region.

Insights
5 min read
Shaping sustainability in venture capital

Antler's third annual ESG and Impact Report discusses our commitment to sustainability as a strategic principle that's fundamental to the success of our firm, our portfolio companies, and broader society.

Insights
5 min read
What's in store for day zero building in 2024?

A brand new year, teeming with possibility. What can founders building from day zero expect in 2024? Antler partners share their on-the-ground expectations for the coming year, including sector trends, big shifts in VC, and the biggest headwinds and tailwinds affecting founders around the world.

News
5 min read
1,000+ investments from day zero

As 2023 draws to a close, we are proud to mark a special milestone: making our 1,000th investment in companies originating from Antler residencies around the world.