MENA’s Digital News, Week #33

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Resal, Saudi gifting ecommerce, raises $800k Pre-Series A (EN) http://bit.ly/2WQdH6T (AR) http://bit.ly/2w20lIZ 

InstaDeep, Tunisian enterprise AI startup, raises $7M in Series A from AfricInvest and Endeavor Catalyst http://bit.ly/2DZJTxe 

Wadi.com, Saudi grocery delivery, gets acquired by Majid Al Futtaim (MAF). MAF had invested in Wadi in late October, after-which it pivoted to focus completely on grocery delivery from general eCommerce http://bit.ly/2Hmwd1h

Heetch, French ride-hailing startup with presence in Morocco, raises $38M from from Cathay Innovation, Idinvest Partners, Innov’Allianz, Total Ventures, Alven and Felix Capital, and plans expansion to Algeria and some other markets http://bit.ly/2HhmeJr

Gofers, Indian online grocery startup, raises $200M led by SoftBank Vision Fund http://bit.ly/2JkY8ku

Sector News

12 startup accelerators and incubators from across MENA announce a partnership to support their portfolio companies with knowledge sharing, soft-landing and resources http://bit.ly/2WNPfD7

COFE, Kuwait’s coffee delivery app, signs exclusive “partnership” with Deliveroo in Kuwait and UAE http://bit.ly/2W0pHFF 

BitOasis is granted “preliminary license… to operate a digital asset wallet and a trading platform” by the Financial Services Regulatory Authority https://bloom.bg/2HePx0l 

Careem Bus expands to Saudi, launches an inter-city bus service between Jeddah and Makkah http://bit.ly/2JCXEpe

The National Bank of Bahrain (NBB) launches open banking protocols, becoming the first regional bank to allow any third parties to provide utilize their banking data http://bit.ly/2Q5U7AZ

Abu Dhabi announces enhanced “Guidance for the Regulation of Crypto Asset Activities” http://bit.ly/2VpiWZG

Further Readings

Jordan established Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship (AR) http://bit.ly/30aEi0y

APCO Worldwide, global PR agency, opens Bahrain office http://bit.ly/2DZUZCv 

Dubai “plans” unified free-zone license http://bit.ly/2LFrlJ4 

UAE “plans to set up” expat retirement funds led by DIFC for employees working within its financial free zone. No final agreement has been reached, but the discussions are ongoing http://bit.ly/2Q1ETgp

The Human Race is On!

One of the biggest shortages in the world today is talent. Good talent can genuinely make or break a company, or even a country.

Governments today are faced with a two-prongs nurture local talent, attract international talent. I think all governments need both, and urgently. Local talent is irreplaceable, but expats that are willing to leave the comfort of their home country and bring in fresh perspectives, methodologies and experiences are just as important for innovation and economic growth.

Which is what we’re seeing today among GCC countries. Almost every week a new announcement on long term visas, retirement vehicles, and increasing the ease-of-doing-business. If talent sees a country as a great way to make money and leave, then they’ll do just that. Then leave to invest their lives somewhere else that’ll provide them with stability and nurture.

As the world shifts to an the increasingly competitive grab for global talent (and the global and regional refugee crisis) it may be worthwhile to remember human progression does not have to be a zero sum game.


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MENA’s Digital News, Week #32

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Odiggo, Cairo based spare parts marketplace, raises $180k seed from angel investor http://bit.ly/2PVyUtE 

eMushrif, Oman based smart school bus solution, raises $1M from Phaze Ventures, Oman Technology Fund’s Wadi Accelerator, Sparklabs Energy, Myrad Holding, Bahrain’s Dividend Gate Capital, and angel investors http://bit.ly/2VkdD2t 

Kitab Sawti, Arabic audibook platform, raises $6M Series A from Bonnier Ventures, Paltel Group, Kaaf Investments, Northzone, and individual investors http://bit.ly/2Vgk1rv 

ArqamFC, Cairo-based sports data startup, gets acquired by UK’s StatsBomb for undisclosed amount http://bit.ly/2J9SmlD

PwC Middle East acquires Teambase Consulting, UAE based Data Analytics Consulting firm http://bit.ly/2V3DxT8 

Checkout.com, global payment gateway, raises $230m in record European Series A led by Insight Partners and DST Global http://bit.ly/2H3gnbT (Checkout founder and many leaders are Dubai based, they also have a strong foothold in the city)

Sector News

Lebanon gets it’s own Fintech focused hub: StartechEUS FinHub http://bit.ly/2vGgrrm 

Google Assistant launched in Saudi Arabia, Egypt http://bit.ly/2V3Uayh (support for Arabic language was released earlier)

Wahed becomes the first globally-accessible halal robo-advisor, 130 countries http://bit.ly/2VOpmGe

SoftBank considers IPO of $100B Vision Fund https://reut.rs/2PNQkIu

Aramex signed over 1,000 Saudi nationals onto crowd-based delivery fleet http://bit.ly/2V1BqPZ

BookMyShow, Indian entertainment ticketing platform, announced 5 year strategic partnership with Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena http://bit.ly/302vJF2 

Dubai Future Foundation signed an agreement with Dubai Development Authority and TECOM Group Dubai to allow startups in AREA 2071 (DFF) to setup license through the in5 platform (by TECOM) http://bit.ly/2YiWFyJ 

Further Readings

Tristar Group, Dubai based logistics company, plans for IPO and booked Bank of America and Citigroup for the process http://bit.ly/2J4lxqe

Gulf Capital and Waha Capital hold merger talks http://bit.ly/2VnQX1h

Saudi launches “Special Residency” program “ الإقامة المميزة” which includes: extended and permanent residency visas for non-citizens in the Kingdom http://bit.ly/2YlSWQZ


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MENA’s Digital News, Week #31

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Jump The Q, Dubai based grocery delivery app, raises angel round from AD based investor http://bit.ly/2UKjusE 

Kerning Cultures, Dubai based podcast raises $460k seed from regional angel investors http://bit.ly/2DHPPLd

Sary, Saudi wholesale grocery platform, raises $2.7M in seed funding http://bit.ly/2V0Rgiy 

Searchie, UAE based recruitment platform, raises $2M in funding http://bit.ly/2DEFgIH

Mejuri, direct-to-consumer fine jewelry startup, raises $23M Series B led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA), as well as Felix Capital, Net-a-Porter, Incite Ventures, BDC Capital’s Women in Technology Venture Fund, and DASH Ventures http://bit.ly/2ILiWBB 

Golden Equator, “Singapore-based group of businesses covering financial services, consultancy, and technology”, raises $18M in investment from “from Asia Pacific and Middle East angel investors” http://bit.ly/2XR614h

Sector News

Amazon officially takes over Souq.com, and rebrands as Amazon.ae http://bit.ly/2V3L610

Careem and Dubai’s RTA to launch mobile bike rental service across 350 locations, no timeline was given on when http://bit.ly/2J4FMU2

UAE’s ADCB, UNB and AHB Banks complete merger http://bit.ly/2V6VMfo

SABB, Saudi Bank, launches cross-border instant payments using Ripple http://bit.ly/2Pu5iDj 

SAMA (Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority) signed an agreement with Mastercard’s Vocalink and IBM to develop an “instant payments system” to be launched by end of 2020 http://bit.ly/2UNh64s

Long reads

We Are Social and HootSuit’s Digital 2019 Q2 Global Digital Statshot http://bit.ly/2Pxh3sN 

Notably:
– Snapchat advertising audience reaches 53% of Saudi Population 13years+, Twitter reaches 39% of the same demographic, while instagram reaches 42%
– Instagram advertising audience reaches 52% of Turkish population 13years+,
– Facebook holds a 100% reach of Qatar’s 13years+ population (nothing is a 100%), and 94% of the UAE’s

ASDA’A launches it’s annual Arab Youth Survey http://bit.ly/2GM8YfH

Forbes Insights shares latest findings for the State of Artificial Intelligence in the Middle East at the Ai Everything event in Dubai http://bit.ly/2vuzyEX (This is a press release, I tried to find the actual report with no luck for now)

Recently Read:

Book Cover for Mismatch


Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design. Design is a very intentional and quite often misunderstood role of product, city and business.

Unfortunately characters that we have labelled as “fringe” for decades are not: in the U.S., 8% of men have some form of color blindness. That’s 29,760,000 individuals. Not fringe.

My favorite excerpt from the book is: “Many of us are temporarily able-bodied and will face new kinds of exclusion as we age. When we design for inclusion we design for our future selves. Not just for the changes in our bodies but also our ability to contribute to society. It’s designing how the next generation will treat and care for us. It’s making solutions to uphold the human connections that are important in our lives. Our dignity, health, safety, and sense of being at home.”


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