UPDATE-U.S. PE firm Frost Capital acquires Affinis Labs in $8 mln deal, plans UK Islamic bank
*This story has been updated throughout to include comments from Shahed Amanullah, Managing Director of Frost Capital, and Quintan Wiktorowicz, Chief Operating Officer of Frost Capital, and to confirm that Abrar Hussain, CEO of Frost Capital is the same person formerly of Elixir Capital.
Private equity firm Frost Capital has acquired Islamic economy and social innovation-focused company Affinis Labs in an $8 million deal.
The two companies said in a statement on Thursday the acquisition will enable Affinis Labs to “extend its offerings to disadvantaged communities and new regional markets around the world”.
“We’ve had our eye on Affinis Labs for the past two years as an acquisition target,” said Frost Capital CEO Abrar Hussain in the statement.
The Palo Alto, California-based PE firm is “affiliated” with global research firm Frost & Sullivan, it says on its website.
“Frost Capital will build on Affinis Labs’ experience and assets with the creation of multiple Shariah-compliant investment funds, the launch of Ethos Bank (a UK-based, Shariah-compliant bank), and the development of digital investment tools,” said the statement.
Quintan Wiktorowicz, Chief Operating Officer of Frost Capital, told Salaam Gateway in an email that Ethos Bank will be a virtual Islamic bank, and that UK was picked as “London provides an ideal location because it is a highly regulated financial market with strong government support for Islamic finance.”
“We currently are raising initial capital and working closely with the Bank of England and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) in London on the licensing process, which we hope to complete in the next 12-18 months,” said the COO.
U.S.-based Affinis Labs was established in 2015 and focuses on building entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems in disadvantaged communities, particularly in the Muslim world.
Its co-founder and Chief Technology Officer is Shahed Amanullah, who is well-known in the Islamic economy as the founder of pioneering halal restaurant guide Zabihah that started in 1998.
Amanullah said on his LinkedIn page the Frost Capital deal is also enabling Affinis to plan “several sector and region-specific funds” and that it’s “actively exploring growth-stage investments”.
$250 MILLION FUND
In October 2016 Amanullah and Affinis announced the creation of a $250 million investment fund for seed stage tech start-ups operating in the global Islamic economy.
The fund was launched in partnership with Malaysia Venture Capital Management Berhad (MAVCAP) and managed by Silicon Valley’s Elixir Capital, whose founder and managing director is also Abrar Hussain.
Shahed Amanullah confirmed with Salaam Gateway over private messaging on Twitter that Frost Capital’s CEO is the same Abrar Hussain from Elixir Capital.
Wiktorowicz said that Elixir Capital’s fund is winding down and Abrar is full-time CEO at Frost Capital.
In April 2017 Abrar Hussain told Salaam Gateway Elixir’s plan was to start deploying funds from the $250 million by the end of summer in that same year.
According to companies data and information provider Crunchbase, Elixir has made six investments, with the most recent in May, 2016.
Amanullah confirmed that no investments were made by the $250 million fund and told Salaam Gateway it would essentially be rolled over into Frost Capital.
“The fund ran into several obstacles as we tried to get it off the ground, and we are hoping that under Frost Capital we will be able to navigate around those obstacles,” said Amanullah.
Wiktorowicz said the Shariah-compliant fund was “always a partnership among a number of entities, and this takes a long time to work through at this scale.”
Working with Frost & Sullivan will give the PE firm access to its more than 1,000 analysts across more than forty offices.
“Frost Capital and Frost & Sullivan share resources and collaborate on all aspects of the investment lifecycle, including fund raising, analysis, deployment, and engagement with portfolio companies,” said Wiktorowicz.
Frost Capital has now opened investments in Shariah-compliant companies, said Wiktorowicz.
“At this stage, we are mostly interested in companies that have already launched a product or service, are profitable, and are looking to grow and scale. This is not a seed stage fund, although in exceptional cases where a start-up addresses a large market and has a clear path to revenue, we will still consider seed investments.”