A woman enters the offices of Freightos, an online marketplace for international shipping, with investors including Sadara Ventures, a venture capital fund targeting the Palestinian high-tech sector, in Jerusalem March 27, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
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The backstreets of Ramallah are a long way from Silicon Valley, but a niche venture capital fund is trying to narrow the gap with a focus on early-stage Palestinian tech startups. With backing from Cisco, the Google Foundation, the European Investment Fund and others, Sadara Ventures is making gradual inroads in the West Bank, the Palestinian territory long occupied by Israel, financing six companies so far.Launched in 2011 by Saed Nashef, a Palestinian-American who was a software engineer at Microsoft before setting up his own companies, and Yadin Kaufmann, an Israeli-American who helped pioneer venture capital in Israel, Sadara raised $30 million for its first fund and plans to invest it over 10 years. Nashef acknowledges that in some respects the fund is behind projections – it wanted to have invested in around 12 companies over five years – but in other ways the landscape in the West Bank has been transformed since it started.There are now four active funds, whether venture capital or private equity, scouting Palestinian tech investments, three or four "accelerators" and a total of 17 VC-backed startups.
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