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Intel invests in three UAE companies

Intel Capital fund makes three more investments in Middle East companies

Intel has made venture capital investments in three local technology companies in the UAE, it announced today.

Intel Capital, the chip giant’s global investment organization, has invested in the companies – Conservus International, Pulse Technologies and Vertex Animation Studio – from its Middle East and Turkey fund, and will provide both funding and technology to the investments.

The value of the investment in each company was not revealed, although Intel did disclose that “several millions” from its fund of $50 million, announced in 2005, have now been placed between these three ventures and one previously announced venture with Sphere Networks. Intel also said that it typically takes a less than 20% stake in companies it invests in.

Arvind Sodhani, president of Intel Capital and executive vice president of Intel said that while Intel Capital is cautious about investing, it stills see opportunities for new ventures.

“These investments are testament to our commitment to invest in the middle east, coming on top of our investment in Sphere Networks in November last year and we will continue to seek, and find, investment opportunities.

“We are always very careful in our investments, and look at the macro situation of the area we are investing in, as well as the industry sector, but that is something we do on an ongoing basis. What we are looking for in our investments is a unique characteristic, unique technology or unique products that people are going to want, notwithstanding the current environment,” he added.

The companies that Intel has invested in will receive both cash funds, and technology support from Intel, in a variety of areas, as well as support to further grow the company.

For Conversus International, a developer of digital advertising platforms, Intel has worked with the company to put its MyConversus Portal solution onto Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs). The MyConversus Portal, which takes the place of standard hotel room internet login pages, acts as a single integrated point for information and services for guests accessing a hotel internet service with their own laptop or smartphone.

Conversus now plans to launch the Ajax-based application on to MID’s, running on Intel’s Atom processor and Linux, which will be given to guests to allow them to access the portal from anywhere in the hotel. The new deployment is due to go live in March.

Pulse Technologies is a manufacturer of smart building technologies, with projects in the Middle East and India, with a focus on developing technologies for large scale deployment of automation systems. The company will draw on Intel’s long-standing expertise in smart building technologies and embedded devices, to help extend its solutions for energy efficiency and control systems for homes and the hospitality sector.

Vertex Animation Studios, based in Dubai Studio City, will initially work with Intel in the development of a next generation video game, which is being developed inhouse by the company. The game, title Timeless – Chronicles of Atlantis, is scheduled for completion within one year, with the intention of delivering it for next generation platforms such as the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 within one year. Vertex will gain access to Intel’s expertise in areas such as optimizing graphics performance and use of processor technology to deliver superior performance, while going forward the company aims to have full capabilities around movie animation, games and virtual reality systems.

Speaking at the press conference to announce the deals, Sodhani admitted that Intel had been slow to drive ventures through its local capital fund, but by placing Feroz Sanaulla, regional director for Middle East, Turkey and Africa for Intel Capital, in Dubai, the company had been able to attract more would-be partners.

“When we first announced the fund in 2005, we made the mistake of not bringing somebody here locally,” Sodhani said. “Subsequently about a year ago we brought Feroz here, and that was by far the best thing we did to get traction in the market. It takes time to get to know the environment, to build the relationships and contacts and to have the entrepreneurs come to you with their business plans. I believe we have the right model and you are going to see more inflow and announcements in the coming year.”

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