Staking a claim in MENA: What acquiring FoundersLane means for Creative Dock
“Corporate venture building is on the rise and it’s the new gold in times of inflation and uncertainty,” says Felix Staeritz, co-founder & CEO of FoundersLane and Creative Dock Group’s new board member.
Words by Matthew T. Jones
From the Roman Empire to California to South Africa, gold rushes have held a legendary status throughout the ages and across continents. In the twenty-first century, the richest strikes are not metal or gold but digital. With the acquisition of FoundersLane, Creative Dock becomes the world’s largest corporate venture builder — and one uniquely positioned to establish a new digital future across the Middle East.
Who is FoundersLane?
Creative Dock has a decade of venture building under its belt, but FoundersLane is no newcomer either and has a long list of impressive clients, e.g. adidas, Allianz, Henkel, Saptco, Trumpf, or Vattenfall. “FoundersLane successfully co-created the venture business category and has a unique entrepreneurial founder’s DNA,” says Martin Pejša, founder and CEO of the Creative Dock Group (GDG).
Founded in 2016 in Berlin, FoundersLane describes itself as “over 100 entrepreneurs, founders, and tech experts [who have] founded, built, scaled, led to the exit, and invested in over 250 tech companies.” By partnering with corporations and traditional industries, they’ve built a cross-sector portfolio of ventures from healthcare, logistics, and sustainability to agriculture. They’re perhaps best known for Ally.de, a Class 1 medical device-certified app that supports living with and treating osteoarthritis, and Solytic, a joint venture with Vattenfall that optimizes the output and profitability of solar panels arrays.
FoundersLane 🤝 Creative Dock
The acquisition of FoundersLane — following closely on the acquisition of Spark Works and Rohrbeck Heger — makes CDG the largest independent player in the fast-growing corporate venture business category. For clients of the newly enlarged CDG, this acquisition means expanded capabilities like more diverse services, deep knowledge of a broader array of industries, and the ability to better scale projects across Europe.
And while Creative Dock’s most successful ventures have mainly been based in Europe, FoundersLane has also been building up a presence in the Middle East. “We organized the Platform summit back in 2018 and invited influential minds from the MENA region we are nowadays proudly working together with,” Staeritz adds. “We realized our first project in Kuwait in 2019 and some people including Bassam Al Wabel came over to Berlin and reconnected with us. That was the beginning of our amazing partnership.”
This partnership was working so well that FoundersLane established offices in MENA. Fortunately, CDG has also established a team in Riyadh to execute two ventures for the third-largest bank in Saudi Arabia as well as a project for another large, ambitious client in the region. With decades of combined expertise and an infusion of manpower to service a growing list of clients, it was this location-based strategic foresight that made FoundersLane a natural choice to join CDG.
But why focus on MENA at all? Especially when both Creative Dock and FoundersLane have already established themselves as major fixtures in Europe?
“FoundersLane has a very strong and passionate team not only in Europe but also in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have made an important mark and hold a strong ventures track record in the MENA region, which is going to be one of the focus regions for the whole group. Overall, many countries in the MENA region are also moving in a similar direction, increasing their focus on the digital economy and introducing strategic initiatives to enhance digitalization. We want to help transform and accelerate the MENA region into a state-of-the-art digital economy and we are ready to invest 100 million EUR into the region over the next few years,” Martin Pejša adds.
For example, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) — the Gulf Region’s largest economy and the world’s largest oil exporter — is well underway implementing its Vision 2030. This ambitious set of reforms aims to reduce the country’s dependence on oil and develop nearly every public service sector. By the end of the program, KSA expects to increase its share of non-oil GDP from 16% in 2016 to 50% by 2030. Other economic powerhouses in the region like the United Arab Emirates are making significant investments in similar projects.
These goals dovetail with CDG’s commitments to sustainability and public services, as shown by past work with clients like E.ON, Grim, and Veolia, as well as FoundersLane’s own past in the solar industry. Like the shopkeepers, bankers, and doctors in a gold rush boom town, it’s bringing services to the people that need them most that will bring the most long-term value — and change society for the better.