Bahrain Development Bank (BHB) launched the country’s first venture capital fund, worth $100 million, to assist startups in the region and bolster entrepreneurship. Experts say that the move could help solve a funding crunch that entrepreneurs face and pave the way for more startups.

The Al Waha Fund is set to help assist innovative and technology-driven start-ups not only in Bahrain but also across the Middle East. It is hoped that they would also attract funds to region to help in achieving more innovative and valuable start-ups that can add significant economic value to the Middle East region.

According to a press release issued by BHB, The Limited Partners (LP) Advisory Committee closed the $100m fund, and approved the allocation of $35 million into a series of venture funds. Some of the limited partners to the fund included Mumtalakat, National Bank of Bahrain, Batelco Group, Tamkeen and Bahrain Development Bank.

Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, Chairman, Al Waha Fund of Funds Advisory Committee, said: “We are very pleased to announce the successful closure of the fund and we have already made encouraging progress in allocating the capital raised.

“One of the key constraints on the development of the startup and technology ecosystem in the region is lack of access to capital – this fund can help to make a significant difference to that challenge, enabling entrepreneurs to realize the potential of their ideas.”

The Al Waha Fund was officially launched at the Gateway Gulf Forum last month, which saw more than five hundred global investors and business leaders convene to explore the growing opportunities following the economic expansion in the GCC.

Bahrain is looking to transform into a fintech hub in an effort to revive its olden days’ reputation as a banking and financial hub. The tiny island kingdom opened a Fintech Bay last year in hopes of luring promising startups into its ecosystem to create much needed jobs.

Bahrain, however, will have to compete with rival hubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to attract quality fintech companies. Both emirates in the UAE are hoping to establish themselves as fintech hubs in the region and cash in on the $2 billion fintech market in the MENA region.