Dubai-based Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP) and Emaar Properties chairman Mohamed Alabbar have launched a $250m venture fund that focuses on early-stage and growth-stage technology companies in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region and Turkey.

It is understood but not officially confirmed that Alabbar contributed over $100m in the fund, which expects to raise the remaining $150m from investors over the next six to 12 months.

Walid Hanna, MEVP founder and CEO, said they have shortlisted 26 companies so far from over 400 applicants for the initial $100m round of investment.

They aim to take in six to seven companies a year, with the period of investment averaging four to five years before the companies exit the fund.

MEED understands the fund is able to offer investors an average internal rate of return (IRR) of 25 per cent.

“The Mena region needs billions of dollars in yearly investments in venture capital to catch up with the level of wealth created through it in other regions like Europe,” says Hanna.

“We are confident that the industry is going to the right direction,” Alabbar says, adding that the MEVP has the right timing, right people and the right geography.

“If you look at the region’s demographics where internet savvy young people spend an average of six to seven hours daily on the internet, it becomes obvious that something is missing,” Alabbar adds.

E-commerce is understood to account for merely 2-3 per cent of the total retail market in the Mena region, compared to double-digit figures in other markets including in India.

The $1bn online e-commerce platform, which has the backing of UAE investors led by Alabbar and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), aims to address this existing gap.