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'We need to welcome' investors from Israel, UAE wealth fund's venture chief says

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Key Points
  • "We are open for business in the region and we need to welcome all sorts of investors," Mubadala's head of ventures said during a panel in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
  • The comments come amid warming ties between the UAE and Israel, who do not have official diplomatic or trade relations.
Abu Dhabi city skyline, United Arab Emirates.
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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates needs to start welcoming Israeli investors, the chief of the venture wing at the country's sovereign wealth fund said Wednesday at a panel discussion in Abu Dhabi.

Ibrahim Ajami, the head of ventures for Abu Dhabi wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, stressed the need for the company to "up its game" to draw more international investors.

"We are open for business in the region and we need to welcome all sorts of investors," Ajami said. He then directed his comments to fellow panelist Avi Eyal, co-founder of Entree Capital, a venture firm focused on Israel with additional operations in the U.S. and U.K.

"We need to welcome investors, Avi, even investors that are very active in Israel, and Israeli investors, that would ultimately come and see opportunity in the region. I don't see why we should not do that."

"We as Mubadala invest in Europe and in the U.S., and there are exceptional Israeli management teams as part of these companies we invest in," Ajami continued. "So that's the game that we need to play — if we want to be serious about tech, that's what we have to do."

Ajami told the audience that he and Eyal have invested together in the past and have worked together "for a couple of years."

The comments come amid warming ties between the UAE and Israel, who do not have official diplomatic or trade relations. The UAE, as with many Arab countries, has had an economic boycott against Israel since its founding and does not formally recognize it. But cooperation between the two on issues like security and the increasing frequency of unofficial meetings by leaders, often aided by Washington, have been widely reported for some time.

"I'll help you start an early-stage fund here in Abu Dhabi, to really do the first check into the earlier start-ups that come out of the region," Eyal told Ajami later during the panel.

"And I will make sure that I bring my friends from Europe, from Israel, everywhere else to help mentor, and to help make it a success. So I'll put that to you."

The two then shook hands, to an applause from the audience.