Former BCG principal Luca Barbi crosses to STV fund as new COO

26 March 2019

The Middle East’s largest venture capital fund STV has appointed ex-BCG principal Luca Barbi as its new COO.

Dubai-based former BCG principal Luca Barbi has been appointed the new Chief Operating Officer for STV – the Middle East’s largest venture capital and private equity fund with over $500 million in capital. Established last year with offices in Riyadh and Dubai, STV – which stands for Saudi Technology Ventures – backs and scales disruptive tech companies throughout the region, including a recent co-led $200 million investment in Careem.

Accounting for well over a quarter of total venture capital fundraising in the Middle East and North Africa last year, having led nearly $250 million of the roughly $895 million raised in the region, STV has even greater aspirations for the years ahead, the fund’s CEO Abdulrahman Tarabzouni telling Arab News that, “As venture capitalists, we are seeking ideas that improve things by a factor of 100, not by a factor of 10.”

Now helping STV on that journey will be ex-BCG principal Luca Barbi, who according to a press statement from the firm will focus on “organisational enablement and operational excellence, including proactive stakeholder engagement and governance support, as well as driving internal firm growth and capability building initiatives.” Barbi crosses after the past four years with BCG and over ten years spent at the management consultancy altogether.Former BCG principal Luca Barbi crosses to STV fund as new COOInitially joining Boston Consulting Group as a senior associate in 2005, following two-plus years with PwC as a consultant and analyst, Barbi’s three-year stint would be the first of three such periods spent at the global strategy and management consultancy – later rejoining the firm in Dubai after earning him MBA at Colombia Business School in 2009. From there, Barbi joined Tiger Hill Capital as its Chief Operating Officer in Dubai, before returning to BCG in 2015.

 “Luca’s extensive experience in working with some of the leading digital and financial players in the region, will be a tremendous asset for STV,” said fund CEO Tarabzouni. “As we work to create scale and deliver impact and returns, Luca’s deep consulting and operational expertise will strongly complement the investment, entrepreneurial and technology capabilities at the firm. This is yet another exciting addition to STV’s multi-disciplinary team.”

“For over a decade, my objective has always been to work with organisations that are helping the Middle East achieve its full potential and that’s why I am so excited to be joining STV,” said Barbi. “I had an immediate click when I met the STV team and was drawn into their vision and unique culture. The economic reforms and wider developments of this region represent an extremely compelling and unique investment opportunity.”

The appointment comes as news spreads that Uber is on the verge of announcing an agreement for the acquisition of regional success story Careem – which was incidentally founded by two former associates of BCG rival McKinsey and Company (Barbi’s former BCG colleague Idriss Al Rifai meanwhile founded ‘next desert unicorn Fetchr). According to Bloomberg, Uber will purchase Careem for $3.1 billion in cash and stock, with an announcement imminent.

Local consultancy Impact Research helps to assess relief efforts in Yemen

18 April 2019

Newly incorporated Yemeni consultancy Impact Research has been working with UN agencies and international NGOs to evaluate local crisis and recovery efforts.

Now into its fifth year, the worsening civil conflict in Yemen has taken the lives of over 60,000 citizens and brought wide-spread devastation to what was already the poorest county in the region, with millions suffering from its effects. According to UN reports, four fifths of the Yemeni population – some 24 million people – are in need of humanitarian or protection assistance, with more than half of those in acute need and threatened by famine.

A number of UN agencies and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) including the UNDP, World Food Programme, Oxfam, and World Bank among others have been acting to bring relief through a variety of local humanitarian projects, such as the three-year joint UNDP-World Bank Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP) which through a grant of $300 million seeks to assist recovery from the bottom up by restoring livelihood opportunities.

The reasoning behind the approach is that by increasing income-generation opportunities for the some 80 percent of the Yemeni population currently unemployed, individual households will be strengthened and then more capable of assisting and contributing to their communities – ultimately bringing the country closer to peace. To date, over half a million people have directly benefited from the YECRP project, through both short-term job creation and training initiatives.Impact Research helping to assess humanitarian relief efforts in YemenUnprecedented as a humanitarian disaster, the urgency and scale of the project (over 3 million people have also gained access to basic services such as water and health through YECRP) and other relief efforts by their nature requires somewhat of an as-you-go approach, with the need for constant assessment to measure the impact and effectiveness of the implementations and identify areas for potential improvements. One firm helping with such analyses is Impact Research.

Incorporated this year, the Sanaʽa-based firm is staffed by a team of professional consultants and researchers who aim to become the leading consultancy in Yemen – serving both the private and public sector with a comprehensive range of provisions in advisory, research and analysis, monitoring and evaluation, project management design, planning, and implementation, and capacity-building and training, blending global best practice with deep local insight.

So far the firm’s clients include among others Oxfam, the International Labor Organization, German development agency GIZ and the UNDP, with Impact Research providing in-the-field research, assessments, reporting, monitoring and evaluations to gauge the performance and effectiveness of various relief projects, aiming to gain greater knowledge along the way to help improve future practices and interventions while disseminating that knowledge in turn.

“We have learned that impact in Yemen is not as intuitive as one thinks,” the firm states. “The complexity of the situation makes small efforts full of impact, while much money can create very negative and unintended consequences.” It adds, spiritedly; “The Yemen crisis has opened new opportunities for the Yemeni people as much as it has closed many. The catastrophe has pushed all of us to see the light in the dark, and to identify the opportunities between the ashes.”

Related: BCG partners with the WFP on refugee food security innovations in Jordan.