Former Google exec to help build unicorns for Saudi VC Fund

One of the Middle East’s largest venture capital funds hired Ivan Jakovljevic from Google to help transform its portfolio of startups into so-called unicorns. Jakovljevic will join Saudi Arabia’s STV — which backed Dubai-based ride-hailing firm Careem before its sale to Uber — as chief development officer next month, the company said. He was previously head of new markets for Google in the Middle East and North Africa.

“Saudi startups are at an inflection point,” STV CEO and former Google executive Abdulrahman Tarabzouni said. The fund is “nurturing what could become another two-to-three unicorns over the next few years,” he said. Startups with a market value of $1 billion are typically referred to as unicorns. Interest in the Middle East’s nascent technology industry has been picking up after Uber last year agreed to buy Careem and acquired in 2017. Almost 600 startups received more than $700 million in funding last year, according to a MAGNiTT report.

Jakovljevic will help grow firms like Trukker, a digital marketplace for land freight that raised one of the largest initial rounds of capital for a startup in the region, and Mrsool, a delivery app that’s more popular than Facebook in Saudi Arabia.

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