Q&A: Phaze Ventures CEO on building up the startup community in Oman
Abdullah Al-Shaksy, co-founder and CEO of Oman-based Phaze Ventures, answered our questions about energy startups in the nation
Why did you decide to start Phaze Ventures and what are some of your biggest successes to date?
We started Phaze Ventures because we wanted to build the first platform for the next generation of founders in Oman – a global platform helping to solve some of the most difficult challenges we will face this century: the energy transition, the future of logistics, and working with AI.
I think our biggest succes is seeing our Omani portfolio companies scale across borders, and the amazing partnerships and collaborations we have struck to build up the local ecosystem
Tell me about your partnership and work with PDO.
In early 2018 we teamed up with PDO to support the local startup ecosystem and grow Oman’s presence on the global energy innovation stage. PDO has heritage as an innovator and early adopter of new technology in the region. Its current leadership saw an opportunity for us to work together to institutionalise that tradition, as well as bring investment, incubation and acceleration capacity to their arsenal.
Through that partnership we launched the region’s first energy-tech focused accelerator program, supported the development and deployment of groundbreaking technologies and built the capacity to identify and execute on investment opportunities across the globe. It has truly been one of the most fruitful partnerships in our history, and we expect a lot more with the announcement of Energy Development Oman (EDO).
You recently invested in seismic startup SpotLight. How does it fit into your existing portfolio?
We invest in talented teams solving difficult problems, and we continue to be impressed by the team its founders have assembled to push the envelope in subsurface monitoring. In particular, their data-driven technology enables single-source subsurface monitoring – making dozens of optimisation, environmental and safety applications commercially viable for the very first time. Through our partnership with PDO, SpotLight is doing groundbreaking work deploying this technology in Oman, and we hope our investment will go a long way in accelerating that work.
What is your investment strategy and what are your plans for 2020, given current market conditions?
Our overall view on the region and the global energy transition is unchanged – we think many of the trends we have been pursuing in our investment strategy are set to accelerate post-crisis. We do expect fewer larger deals as companies struggle and investors assess the damage, however, we see a fantastic future ahead for companies able to secure funding and weather the storm – especially those involved with innovative and disruptive technologies. We are currently sourcing for the third cohort of our accelerator program in partnership with PDO, as well as pursuing a number of follow-on deals in our current portfolio.
Tell me about the startup ecosystem in Oman. What are its strengths, and where can it improve?
Phaze Ventures is the first non-governmental venture capital firm in the country and we have been a part of the first generation of venture backed companies that are now coming of age and expanding out of Oman, which has been incredibly exciting and fulfilling to see.
The region in general is at the intersection of a very young demographic and untapped markets; you see very similar trends unfolding in Saudi as well. The size and sophistication of the ecosystem continues to grow – what we need now is the conviction to double down on our investment in talent, regulatory reforms and market liberalisation during these difficult times.