As part of its objectives to promote entrepreneurship, and to support the growth of high potential startups in Jordan, the Innovative Startups and SMEs Fund (ISSF) announced its investment in Jordanian Startup Mecal, an innovative product design and e-commerce start-up that is founded by an ambitious and passionate female entrepreneur Tojan Ounallah. The ISSF investment is part of investment round lead by IBTIKAR; a fund that invests in innovative companies to help them answer regional and global demands.

“ISSF is delighted to have closed its second direct investment with Mecal, a female-owned and led business.  ISSF’s interest is based on the high added value derived from its unique product designs and focused marketing.  Mecal’s design capability will enable it to compete in the local, regional and international market thus driving its ability to scale.” Laith Al-Qasem, CEO of ISSF said.

“I have always believed in the power of art and design, and I had been sure that Mecal will become the #1 Corporate & Men’s gifts online brand in MENA because of its unique offerings. Mecal will continue to scale user-base and sales to become an international leading brand in the rapidly growing market of corporate and men’sgifts.” Tojan Ounallah, MecaL CEO. 

The ISSF is a private sector managed fund making investments in innovative startups and early-stage SMEs. The World Bank has invested $50 million in the Fund which was complemented by the Central Bank of Jordan with an additional $48 million bringing the total working capital of the ISSF to $98 million.

As part of efforts to stimulate Jordan’s economy, the kingdom officially welcomed a new $98 million fund for startups this week. It’s a move aimed at increasing early-stage private equity financing for local entrepreneurs, who struggle to reliably access funding.

First announced last year, The Innovative Startups and SMEs Fund is jointly-owned by the kingdom’s central bank and the Jordan Loan Guarantee Company. The World Bank is putting up $50 million for the fund, with the central bank providing the rest.

The fund is expected to invest in 200 companies across a wide range of industries, such as technology, media, telecom, agribusiness, pharmaceuticals, and service sectors, according to a project abstract published by the World Bank. Investments will not involve real estate, construction or heavy manufacturing.

The fund was launched at a ceremony in Amman that was attended by Jordan’s recently appointed Prime Minister Omar Razzaz. It comes a few months after King Abdullah II moved to reform the government after Jordanians took to the streets to protest austerity measures. When he was sworn in, Razzaz said the government would pursue tangible measures to address the economic recession and move to stimulate growth and job creation, according to The Jordan Times.

Although the growth of entrepreneurship has been limited due to challenges like access to funding, Jordan has a history of producing innovative startups. Look no further than Maktoob, the pioneering internet company that was eventually acquired by Yahoo. Last year, Forbes Middle East’s Top 100 Startups In The Arab World ranking included Jordanian firms ArabiaWeather, MadfooatCom, ShopGo and Tamatem.

Amman is also home to several startup incubators and accelerators, including Oasis500. Earlier this year, an initiative backed by the European Union signed agreements with six local business associations and five incubators to help support the growth of local SMEs and startups. Called the Jordanian Action for the Development of Enterprises (JADE), it’s a three-year project based in Amman that plans to assist more than 100 SMEs and 60 startups.