Amelia Investments & Holdings, a new private equity fund led by Chemi Peres, former president Shimon Peres’ son, made its public debut on Monday, months after it was quietly formed with the goal of investing in companies operating in the Middle East.
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The fund, whose names means “hope” in Arabic, has raised $15 million of a projected $50 million it hopes to have by the end 2015. Among its backers, TheMarker has learned, is the United States technology company Cisco, which has on its owned invested in Palestinian startups and Israeli-Palestinian high-tech cooperation.
Peres, a veteran venture capitalist who heads Pitango Venture Capital, started Amelia as part of the Tel Aviv-based Peres Center for Peace, an organization founded by his father in 1996 to promote socioeconomic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians. All of Amelia’s profits will be donated to the center.
“The fund is investing in companies and initiatives connected with the Middle East as a major part of their business strategy, or in companies that deal with issues related only to the Middle East,” said Asaf Shariv, a former media advisor to prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, who is serving as Amelia’s CEO and co-chairman.
Jonathan Kolberg, a private equity investor who once led Charles Bronfman’s investment activities in Israel and served as CEO of Koor Industries, is Amelia’s third director.
Amelia has already completed two investments – $4.5 million in Tawkin Labs, a startup accelerator for Israeli-Arab entrepreneurs based in Haifa, and several hundreds of thousand dollars in a startup called Demeterformed by former agriculture minster Shalom Simhon and Sharon Kedmi, a former director general of the Economy Ministry.
The fund plans further investments in companies specializing in infrastructure, agriculture, communications, financial services and health services serving markets in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and the Gulf states, among others.
Amelia isn’t Peres’ first foray into investing in the Arab world. Apart from his being a director of the Peres Peace Center, he is chairman of Al-Bawader Fund, a government-supported fund dedicated to investing in Israeli Arab startups.
Acknowledging the upheavals the Middle East has suffered with the Arab Spring, Amelia’s website nevertheless makes a business case for investing in the region. It notes that it has a regional population of 330 million that is growing 60% faster than the U.S.
“The broad Middle East, spanning from Turkey to Morocco, is a region undergoing profound political and social change. As emerging economies are strengthened and tested, regional collaboration can create incentives for more stable governance and greater economic opportunities,” the site says.