Meet the dealmaker transforming Mubadala’s tech investments

Mubadala VC chief Ibrahim Ajami is trying to dispel the belief that sovereign wealth funds are slow and bureaucratic, The Information writes


A helicopter view of Abu Dhabi. (Photo: Getty Images)

When Ibrahim Ajami was tapped by Mubadala to open a San Francisco office in 2017 and drive the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund’s tech investments, he adopted a regimen of organic green tea, almonds, melatonin and magnesium citrate.

What started as a jet lag remedy to deal with grueling commutes from the Gulf also placed Ajami squarely in the mindset of Silicon Valley and its nimble ways for making money, The Information writes in a profile of the Lebanese-born, UAE-raised financier.

Ajami, now 49, went on to become chief of Mubadala’s venture capital division, where he has managed its investments in emerging companies including SpaceX, Brex, Klarna and Waymo. Along the way, he’s tried to dispel the belief that sovereign funds are slow and bureaucratic, shaping Mubadala to compete with Silicon Valley’s top VC firms.

“The way founders speak about Sequoia – why not, 20 years from now, won’t they speak that way about Mubadala?” Ajami said in an interview with the news outlet.

For Mubadala’s next act, Ajami is seeking to milk his tech connections to put more money directly into startups, Kate Clark writes in The Information. At the same time, Mubadala is increasingly using its clout to encourage Western companies and investors to deepen their ties to the UAE’s tech ecosystem, part of the country’s broader push to diversify its economy away from oil.

“It’s increasingly becoming a place where you’re not just flying in and presenting to the large sovereign wealth funds,” Ajami said. “You’re thinking about, ‘What are the market opportunities for me here? What are the opportunities to build a business here?’”