In this episode of The First Close, we interview Sonia Weymuller, Founding Partner at VentureSouq in Dubai. Her mission is to make the Middle East a hub of mission-driven investing.
Sonia calls herself an accidental venture capitalist. She started her career in London in corporate strategy at Microsoft, Viacom, and Turner. During that period, she moved to Dubai and in 2013, Sonia and four friends based in the UAE and Saudi Arabia started angel investing in tech companies around the world.
In the process, they discovered huge demand from their friends and colleagues for access to invest in startups. Sonia and the team founded VentureSouq to open access to the startup universe for new angel investors based in the Middle East. Venture Souq team has been critical to growing the startup market for the Middle East. Today, Venture Souq is one of the largest venture platforms in the Middle East.
Seven years in, Sonia is now leading VentureSouq’s charge into a new frontier: impact investing with a new vehicle Conscious Collective. Conscious Collective invests in companies that will make a positive impact in a broad range of sectors including financial inclusion, education, and the environment. Sonia’s also building the next-generation of impact investors through the Conscious Investor Fellowship.
In this episode, we cover:
- Sonia’s experience co-founding the first angel syndicate in the Middle East, VentureSouq, in 2013.
- The rise of entrepreneurship, tech talent and investment activity in the Middle East, along with the challenges of a lack of access to very early stage capital and complex regulatory environments.
- Sonia’s focus on investing in mission-driven companies and measuring their impact across social, climate, health, and diversity metrics.
- Sonia’s work to collapse the silos between traditional venture investors and impact investors.
- Institutional limited partners in the Middle East and their increased focus on ESG and impact measurements for fund managers.