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Anghami co-founders share their story from inception to IPO

15 Apr 2021 3:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

It has been over two decades since the last Arab company traded on the NASDAQ.

Anghami made history on March 3, 2021 by announcing a merger with NASDAQ-listed SPAC Vistas Media Acquisition Company (VMAC*). The landmark merger partnership with VMAC will position Anghami as the first Lebanese and Arab tech company to list on NASDAQ through a SPAC. The Anghami IPO is expected to close in mid-June and Anghami will trade on NASDAQ under the ticker ANGH.

*Vistas Media Acquisition Company Inc. (NASDAQ: VMAC, https://vmac.media/), a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company.

Since its inception in 2012, this music live streaming platform has harnessed  over 50 million active users and has 1 billion streams a month. Anghami started with a meeting in a coffee shop in Lebanon between longtime business partners Elie Habib and Eddy Maroun. 

“We’ve been partners for 21 years and we wanted to try something new. There was no iTunes in the region until 2015, so for many people in the Middle East we came first, which is a very good place to be,” said co-founder and CTO Elie during a panel discussion hosted by LebNet on April 10, 2021. 

“We’re friends and we complement each other with our backgrounds, experience and character. It’s very good to have two founders,” added co-founder and CEO Eddy. 

The panel hosted by LebNet and moderated by Hala Jalwan, manager at Google, covered Anghami’s successful journey from inception to IPO, going over the technology and future plans. In addition to the Anghami founders, the panel was joined by Rabih Khoury - Managing Partner and Chief Exit Officer at MEVP, a MENA-focused VC firm and Anghami’s earliest investor - and Abdo George Kadifa, Managing Director at Sumeru Equity Partners and LebNet’s Chairman. Kadifa gave an overview on SPACs (Special Purpose Acquisition Companies), which is the vehicle by which Anghami is going public. 

Below are the main highlights from the events and you can always watch the livestream on our YouTube channel here

Hala: When Anghami pitched to MEVP, what was the impression and why did you decide to invest?  

Rabih: We are privileged to have partnered with Anghami on their Seed, Series A and B rounds. One key highlight I remember from our meeting is that they are complementary: two co-founders, the introvert and extrovert, the media and tech guy. They had taken a loan on their residences to get the first streaming license from Rotana, which takes a lot of guts and trust in their ability. It’s one of MEVP's top companies. 

Hala: What are your future plans for the MENA region and the diaspora?  

Eddy: There’s a lot to be done in the Middle East because it’s still a big and under-penetrated market. We also have plans to target the diaspora. This is a market of 100 million people that would be interested to have content that brings them back to their home. The plan is to go to emerging markets in South Asia and Africa. We also want to produce content due to the lack of Arabic content and the high demand for it.

We’re also going into new verticals:

  • Re-inventing the radio: any artist can be a radio host and interact with their own fan base. 
  • Virtual concerts: create a platform for artists to host concerts and monetize 
  • Investing in MENA’s youth: 50% of the audience in the MENA are youth and have a huge consumption for media and entertainment 
Elie: We created payment logistics across the Middle East. We invested to create a network of 36 telcos and plugged them directly into our platform as a way to solve the issue of multiple credit card types. We also allowed artists to self-produce. We did not invest much in marketing. Since inception, we only raised 26 million Dollars. What we’re now raising in the IPO is roughly 4 times as much to spend first on marketing, then on content and R&D. 

Hala: What are SPACs?
Abdo George: Public markets have seen in the past some fundamentals that have created the SPAC movement. The first fundamental is that a lot of public companies are going private through private equity firms (a third of publicly listed tech companies have gone from public to private). Second there’s a price valuation difference between the public and the private markets: you can be valued much higher on the public markets. 

Third is with the way interest rates are: there’s a significant appetite for investors to invest in equities vs in fixed income instruments. 

You put the three together you get how the SPAC movement is created. It’s trying to enable public investors to have access to good companies and get returns. In the first quarter of this year, the SPAC movement saw a massive influx of investment. This is good for a company like Anghami.

Rabih: Anghami should have gone public on the local market but the Middle East is not one country. Digital is on the rise but our local public markets don’t really reflect the real economy. The SPAC was the optimal solution for Anghami considering the region. Going public through a SPAC is not easy. Our partner VMAC is a 100 million Dollar SPAC focused on investing in streaming companies in Emerging Markets so we’re a bit away from the high volatility of the US SPAC space.

Hala: Why an IPO not a VC round? 

Elie: By doing an IPO, we’re allowing the VCs to exit and profit and it gives us the independence to keep growing the company while remaining at the helm. We still want to build more and have Anghami become a multi-billion Dollar company.

Eddy: We have a vision to become a media platform that can go global but we want to maintain the footprint of an Arabic company going global. 

Hala: What is the technology behind Anghami?

Elie: Anghami is a streaming, payment and artist platform. Everything was built in-house by 70 engineers, but back then we built everything with a team of under 50 engineers. All of that was built in Beirut and 90% of the people were junior. We recruited people and taught them and we had our own academy. We have so much talent in Lebanon if we know how to work with it. It’s great raw talent. Our company will always grow its office in Lebanon but we had to move our HQ to Abu Dhabi in the UAE to benefit from the diversity. 

LebNet, a non-profit organization, serves as a multi-faceted platform for Lebanese professionals residing in the US and Canada, entrepreneurs, investors, business partners in a broad technology eco-system, and acts as a bridge to their counterparts in Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East


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