After graduate school at Georgetown, Kyle Hendrick held several marketing jobs before accepting a director of franchise development position at Fransmart, a company that helps franchise brands develop globally. Hendrick launched Evolution Burger and Five Guys in the United Arab Emirates, enjoying the time that he spent in the Middle East.
Inspiration for The Arab Angel Fund
While at Fransmart in Virginia, Hendrick met UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, who encouraged him to come work in Trade and Commercial Office at the UAE embassy in Washington DC. While there, Hendrick saw an opportunity to assist Middle East investors who wanted an entree to capital-hungry US-based start-ups. In 2016, he launched The Arab Angel Fund (AAF) along with pal Omar Darwazah to offer unprecedented access to early-stage US-based tech startups.
Encouraging Investors That Shun Risk
The average Middle East investor prefers to invest in real estate or other types of investments with tangible assets, since they are typically very risk averse. Hendrick had to find a way to encourage Arab investors to participate in a fund that contained early stage companies, as opposed to later stage companies, which presented less of a risk. In Hendrick’s eyes, early stage startups often fail; however, the ones that do succeed have high returns that make up for losses. Additionally, the minimum investment is a relatively low $100,000.
Risk Mitigation Sets the AAF Apart
Hendrick’s policy of investing in startups that have already drawn the attention of established US VC firms, such as Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel and Spark Capital, mitigates some of the risk for his clients. While Arab investors can invest in funds that include Silicon Valley startups or piece together individual investments, Hendrick’s fund includes only top-tier, cherry-picked startups where the AAF is not the first money. Startups in the AAF’s portfolio have assistance with international expansion in the Gulf Cooperation Council and North Africa markets as well.
In addition to the Arab Angel Fund, Hendrick also founded GoldCleats, an online platform for soccer players with headquarters in the US and offices in the United Arab Emirates and Colombia. He also sits on the advisory board at the Madison Venture Group.