MENA’s Digital News, Week #44

A weekly round up of the top headlines from the digital sector in MENA, covering startups, corporate and the public sector.

I anticipate that we will be on hiatus next week, I can imagine there’ll be very little if any significant news to cover during Eid, so enjoy this edition and have a great time off!

Investments & Acquisitions

MoneyFellows, Egypt’s fintech startup that provides peer-to-peer loan facilities, raises a Pre-Series A round of $1M from existing investors 500 Startups and Dubai Angel Investors http://bit.ly/2Yo1qvb 

MidChains, Abu Dhabi-based blockchain enabled financial investment exchange, raises investment from Mubadala Investment Company, amount undisclosed http://bit.ly/33cx1Pq 

Harmonica, Egyptian muslim-friendly dating app, gets acquired by Match Group (owner of Tinder and Match.com). Harmonica was backed by 500 Startups and Flat6Labs Egypt. Acquisition value was not disclosed http://bit.ly/31njbrx 

Liquefy, Hong Kong HQ tokenization and compliance solutions, announces “partnership” with SEED Group, The Private Office of Sheikh Saeed Bin Ahmed Al Maktoum, to expand the token industry in Dubai http://bit.ly/2KDaVx8

Bykea, Pakistani on-demand transport, logistics, and payments startup, raises $5.7M in series A funding, $2M of which were committed by MEVP http://bit.ly/31tPd59 

Jollychic, Chinese eCommerce platform, raises US$65M G42 Group, UAE, in a series C+ funding round http://bit.ly/2YySi7a 

UrbanClap, India’s home services marketplace, raises $75M lead by Tiger Capital and joined by Dubai based Vy Capital, and other investors http://bit.ly/2ZvIoja 

C2FO, US-based Fintech, raises $200M led by Soft Bank Vision Fund https://bloom.bg/2GQWKmH 

Sector News

Circ, Berlin-based micro-mobility startups (scooters), establishes operations in Abu Dhabi, UAE http://bit.ly/2Kqa0A0 

Zee Entertainment’s Weyyak, Arabic Video On-Demand streaming application, rolls out paid subscriptions (previous usage was free) http://bit.ly/2TaFbDe

BeyondCapital launches Ifada, an innovation program for finance fellows, via twitter http://bit.ly/2OzuLOO

ENOC Group announced the launch of NEXT, an accelerator program for the energy sector, in partnership with BCG’s Digital Ventures, Moro (DEWA) and EY http://bit.ly/33njsga 

Addenda, Blockchain (distributed ledger) powered Insurtech startup, signs up Aman Insurance, Al Wathba Insurance, National Takaful Company (Watania), Noor Takaful and Oriental Insurance. Addenda is based in DIFC and backed by Beyond Capital (Jordan) http://bit.ly/2yKtkT2

Bahrain Fintech Bay announces a partnership with BetaBlocks, US-based blockchain innovation and learning platform http://bit.ly/31rAWGs

Further Readings

MBC Group announced the launch of Creative Communities Collaboration (CCC), a public-private association of global media & entertainment executives “to strengthen ties and partnerships between the MENA region and the Hollywood entertainment industry” http://bit.ly/2Kfw4y5

University of Wollongong in Dubai launches a Game Design / Development Degree – This would be the first dedicated degree to gaming in MENA, after Ubisoft collaboration with TwoFour54 for a game development courses http://bit.ly/2ZykAez

Saudi Cabinet approves amendment on laws allowing adult female citizens to acquire a passport and travel without guardian consent http://bit.ly/2T7GlPR (AR) http://bit.ly/336EJui 

Long Reads

IDC’s Worldwide Semi-annual Internet of Things Spending Guide: Saudi Arabia ($1.49 billion), Turkey ($1.24 billion), and the UAE ($0.65 billion), are expected to account for 62% of total IoT expenditure in the MEA region in 2019 http://bit.ly/2GNfCTQ (Full report available via subscription) 

The State of the Turkish Startup Ecosystem by Startups.Watch and the Turkish Investment Office http://bit.ly/2Kq82PT

Property Finder releases their bi-annual Real Estate Trends Report, while most of the content is about the real estate market, this edition contains interviews and opinions about Proptech & Innovation from pages 108-127 of the Report http://bit.ly/2YMG1aj


On my long week’s reading list:

Books: Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman, Sprint by Jake Knapp

To get your daily dose subscribe to MENA’s Digital News Telegram channel hereor on Whatsapp. Follow the Arabic “MENA’s Digital News” Channels on Telegram & Whatsapp!


MENA’s Digital News, Week #43

A weekly round up of the top headlines from the digital sector in MENA, covering startups, corporate and the public sector.

Investments & Acquisitions

HiGuests, Dubai-based property management startup, closes $1.1M investment from Spanish real-estate developer Forcadell and plans expansion to Spain http://bit.ly/2GyIxL0 

Rain, Bahrain-based cryptocurrency exchange, raises a $2.5M seed round co-led by BitMex Ventures and Blockwater (Kuwaiti cryptocurrency fund), joined by Vision Ventures, 500 Startups (MENA), and Taibah Valley. It also received a Crypto-Asset Module (CRA) license from the Central Bank of Bahrain http://bit.ly/2ynUw9U

Hayaat Group, Dubai based investor, joins investment round into Loyyal, US based blockchain powered loyalty and incentives startups, led by Unblock Ventures Limited, Recruit Co. and Monex Group, the amount of funding is undisclosed. Loyyal has raised from mostly Dubai based investors in 2016 and 2017 https://prn.to/2KfQE09 

Hazen.ai, Saudi artificial intelligence-based traffic analytics and monitoring solutions, secured a Seed round from Aramco’s Wa’ed Ventures, amount undisclosed http://bit.ly/2LTRq6i

e-Finance, Egypt’s government-owned fintech company, to list publicly on the Egyptian stock exchange (EGX) under a wave of privatization efforts http://bit.ly/2Ydv7yZ 

Saudi’s Public Investment Fund to invest in Babylon Health, UK based healthcare bookings platform, as part of a rumored ~$400M round to fuel global expansion http://bit.ly/2ZpgipQ

Sector News

Floward, Kuwaiti flower eCommerce platforms, expands to Riyadh, Saudi http://bit.ly/2SLuLd1 

Saudi’s Capital Market Authority (CMA) grants license to both Wahed Invest and Haseed Investing Co to operate robo-advisory services in the Kingdom https://nyti.ms/2Yh76ao 

Amazon Web Services officially inaugurates their Bahrain office. A long list of clients (startups, enterprises and public sector) in the unusually long press release. Also, Bahrain Gov intends to have “30% of all 72 government entities migrated to AWS by June 2020” https://bwnews.pr/3154M3m 

markettiers MENA, a broadcast specialist, claims there are ~1.3M regular podcast listeners in the UAE http://bit.ly/2GC1j4q

Saudi Venture Capital (SVC) agrees to fund Impact46’s (Saudi) latest Impact Seed Fund for an undisclosed amount (AR) http://bit.ly/317DWHS

Mastercard and Bahrain’s Electronic Network for Financial Transactions (BENEFIT) partnered to launch a pilot blockchain program for cross-border banking transactions http://bit.ly/2MrSEoH 

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Mashreq Bank’s Corporate and Investment Banking Group, and norbloc, announced today a strategic alliance to launch a blockchain Know Your Customer (KYC) data sharing consortium in Q1 2020 for Dubai http://bit.ly/2ymD8Cy 

Further Readings (Economic)

Saudi’s Ministry of Labor imposes new requirements for Saudi nationals employment quotas on Hospitality sector, particularly 3 stars hotels and above https://bloom.bg/2yjnM1J (AR, official MoL page) http://bit.ly/2YoJ20j

Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) imposed financial penalties of $299M $15.3M on Abraaj Investment Management Limited, AIML & Abraaj Capital Limited, ACLD, respectively http://bit.ly/2YbvtWZ 


To get your daily dose subscribe to MENA’s Digital News Telegram channel here or on Whatsapp. Follow the Arabic “MENA’s Digital News” Channels on Telegram & Whatsapp!

“I find the news items very relevant and timely. You gather all the relevant info in one place & that they are short.”

Jenny Atout Ahlzén, Board Member of CFA Society Jordan, and Former Principal at Silicon Badia

Is Ethics the Kryptonite of 10x – Book Reviews & The Great Hack

Netflix’s documentary “The Great Hack“, I hope, is an eye-opener to the infliction point the tech industry is at. How far should a business grow-fast-and-break-things, when breaking things equals invoking genocide and supporting illegal tampering in sovereign nations, empowered by a systemized lack of transparency and rampant lack of responsibility.

I could not sympathize with Kaiser (Cambridge Analytica’s BD Director), even though I felt the documentary narrative was subtly attempting to. What’s frustrating time and time again is that the unethical misuse of technology against “others” seems to always be justified with no thought to how that can come back and harm the perpetuator… a combination of ego-mania, aloofness and entitlement.

Coincidentally, I happened to have just finished reading three books that tackled the state of unethical practices of design and product development in today’s business world (technology and all).

P.S. I did not realize these books would converge in such a manner before reading them, but they did end up being quite complementary and reinforcing or each-others narrative.

Ruined by Design

by Mike Monteiro

This book is must read for anyone responsible for making, developing, researching, designing (in the exact sense), and bringing to life in any way a product that could impact the lives of individuals beyond their comprehension. Mike makes a passionate and compelling plea for product makers around the world to be held more accountable for the products they unleash into the wild. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll have more people thinking before breaking the “internet”.

Below are some thoughts and snippets from the book:

When we look at the social media influenced world around us it’s worth noting that: “Either by action or inaction, through fault or ignorance, we have designed the world to behave exactly as it’s behaving right now. These are our chickens coming home to roost.”

We have reached here because “Companies ask designers to move fast and break things. How has become more important than why.”

“We [now more than ever] have to be ready for any tool we build to have a global impact. But even if it only impacts the area around you, chances are it is going to hopefully, reach people who are different from you…Don’t you want all of those people using your tool? Don’t you want them to be able to participate in what you’re making? …And, for the capitalists …don’t you want their money? If we intend to build successful tools, we need to expand our definition of we.”

Some may argue that ethical considerations makes their work less-innovative and more constrained. Innovation has long flourished “not in spite of constraints, but because of them.”

Amazon | Website

Technically Wrong

by Sara Wachter-Boettcher

This book is among the wave of female voices calling out the “frat” culture flourishing in tech companies for its lack on inclusion and intolerance of diversity. Sounding an alarm towards data-powered “intelligence” that these companies monopolize and are being given reign to make life altering decisions, from facial identification to bank loans! Sara makes a timely argument: “People need to understand that data is not truth. It is not going to magically solve hard societal problems for us”, and it’s our responsibility, not the data’s, to build better solutions.

Meritocracy can sometimes mean training algorithms on existing data, which is far from ideal and while considered “pattern recognition” by some, it’s also “profiling or stereotyping”.

And this: “Default settings can be helpful or deceptive, thoughtful or frustrating. But they’re never neutral. They’re designed…[by] designers and developers who’ve been told that they’re rock stars, gurus and geniuses, and that the world is made for people like them.” Who also happen to be generally from similar cultures, upbringing, maybe race, ethnicity, political affiliation, belief and education.

Amazon | Audible | Website

Mismatch

by Kat Holmes

I happened to read this book during a trip to Tokyo last spring, which made me appreciate the city in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise; Tokyo is an awe-inspiringly accessible city (besides the language barrier).

Kat’s tone is less pessimistic, but still critical of the limited vision of products. Mismatch highlights a reality we rarely address in our blanket of assumptions about “accessibility”: “Many of us are temporarily able-bodied and will face new kinds of exclusion as we age. When we design for inclusion we are designing for our future selves. Not just for the changes in our bodies but for our ability to contribute to society. It is designing how the next generation will treat and care for us. It’s making solutions to uphold the human connections that are most important to our lives. Our dignity, health, safety, and sense of being at home.”

“If inclusion isn’t explicitly part of that leadership, exclusion will be default.”

Amazon | Website

So it’s no surprise that when I watched the documentary over the weekend I was not surprised nor sympathetic. Cambridge Analytica was commercial product that was designed be destructive, with intentions stemming straight out of military intelligence. Facebook was designed to be irresponsible for user-generated content; plain-old-trolls and systematic-war-machines alike, and grew to a disproportional size by simply getting away with it. A match made in heaven.

Twitter, Google, Uber, Amazon, Apple, etc are making ripples across supply-chains, financial systems, news outlets and media, climate, social dynamics, politics and probably facets of life we are not aware of even. Being ethical and inclusive in how they impact our world should no longer be a stock-price driven decision.


I understand that making choices about whom and how you work may seem like a privilege to many, but I echo Mike’s call for designers and developers taking oaths of good conduct. You wouldn’t want a doctor that has not sworn their oath designing a medical treatment for you nor an uncertified lawyer arguing your case in court, then why would you want people that have no accountability designing every other living facet of our increasingly connected lives?