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Meet Christina Andreassen, who went from building a women’ angel fund to leading the programmes at Dubai’s AstroLabs

Christina Andreassen is the Director of Programmes at AstroLabs, where she leads its portfolio companies around innovation, entrepreneurship programmes, and ecosystem building in the MENA region.

Meet Christina Andreassen, who went from building a women’ angel fund to leading the programmes at Dubai’s AstroLabs

Tuesday January 17, 2023,

3 min Read

Starting up a business and working with angel investors is not a new arena for Christina Andreassen. 

Christina, the Director of Programmes at AstroLabs, leads the AstroLabs portfolio of companies around innovation, entrepreneurship programmes, and ecosystem building in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. 

She is also the co-founder and COO of Maia—a global private exchange for all VC-backed growth companies and has helped launch and manage Womena—one of the first women-focused angel groups in the region. 

“When I started, there were no angel funds. There weren’t any exits like Careem and Souq. And I was always interested in seeing how angel funding could aid and help startups,” Christina tells YourStory Gulf Edition in an interaction. 

She continues, “There was no one working in the pre-seed stage in organisations when I was building Womena. And, while overall, the early-stage funding was limited, women-led businesses had it harder.” 

At Womena, the team wanted to build access to capital for women founders, and no angel fund focused on women founders. It also aimed at bringing focus to women investors, as they made fewer investments.

Womena also made investments in Bayzat—an insurtech company—and ecommerce company Souq-al-Mall.

“We had no exits to speak of in the region, but we would talk to people and ask them to invest in startups instead. We also realised that women founders didn’t know much about how to raise funds and make the jump from pre-seed or Series A rounds,” Christina shares. 

“It was then that we started an accelerator—Womentum—which helped women founders to get the needed traction to raise funding. I ran the programme for three years in the region,” she adds. 

Taking the entrepreneurial plunge

In 2019, Christina decided to take the entrepreneurial plunge by starting Maia out of Dubai as she witnessed the massive rise of startups and businesses in the region. 

“One of the biggest gaps in the market for angel investors was liquidity. There weren’t many exits. The only exit was an acquisition from international companies. We wanted to build a blockchain-enabled market to be able to tokenise and create liquidity. These had ESOPs, early-stage VCs, angels, and anything that could be blockchain-enabled and tokenised,” Christina explains. 

This was right before Web3, blockchain, and crypto became popular. By 2020, Maia was looking to raise its first funding round to get the right regulatory approvals in place, but the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

“All the investors who had committed capital went into a triage mode to focus on their existing portfolio. It was difficult in 2020 and 2021. We didn’t have enough money to get regulatory approval, and we had no investor who wanted to deploy. So I ended up shutting the business,” Christina says.

She adds, “It also made me realise the importance of timing in a market. It also gave me first-hand insights into the struggles of fundraising, and it was during this time that AstroLabs reached out.” 

AstroLabs, established in 2013, is a technology ecosystem builder in the MENA region.

Since 2021, Christina has been a part of AstroLabs, helping businesses grow. “Our thesis is we are building ecosystems, and ecosystems need time. We are over 10 years old, and we understand that this takes time, especially if we have to build a sustainable and economically viable business,” she says. 

“Ecosystems need talent, great companies coming and growing organically, access to innovation, companies that grow outside the region, and building globally competitive companies,” she adds.

Edited by Suman Singh