MENA’s Digital News, Week #4

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Careem raises $200M from existing investors, increasing it’s valuation to over $2B (EN) https://goo.gl/6kPEML (AR) https://goo.gl/wvnY3H

Unifonic, Saudi telecom startup, raises more than $21M in a Series A round from STV, Riyad TAQNIA Fund, Endeavor Catalyst, ELM, & Raed Ventures (EN) https://goo.gl/XYhcjx (AR) https://goo.gl/pJ2tS6

HitchHiker, Egypt’s crowd-shipping startup, raises its $200k seed investment https://goo.gl/XjbS79

Kashtah, Bahrain-based on-demand pool reservation, acquired by Kuwaiti Investors with plans to launch in Kuwait during 2019 https://goo.gl/4YN4gL

Emaar Invests in Texas based 3D printed housing technology startup ICON along with other investors https://goo.gl/GQUGWS

Sector News

UAEPASS, a National Digital Identity and Signature Solution, launched in partnership between Smart Dubai and the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA) https://goo.gl/NisR1H

Dubai’s Emcredit launches blockchain powered payment with Pundi X POS systems https://goo.gl/2ibrvm

Ecommerce platforms in Egypt are now required to charge and remit VAT https://goo.gl/umfpe8 

New Pan-African Data Centre Association launched in Morocco https://goo.gl/nbVzvo 

Smaat launches programmatic advertising platform Shaheen https://goo.gl/JhLYAA 

The Lab:Suli, Iraq’s first co-working space launches in Sulaimani https://goo.gl/KHM5Gm

UAE-based global satellite operator, Yahsat launches YahClick in Zimbabwe https://goo.gl/FWP2bm

PolicyBazaar, Indian Insurtech startup back by Softbank, expands to the UAE https://goo.gl/TWco65

RYOT Studio, Verizon Adtech subsidiary, launches in MENA in partnership with ConnectAds https://goo.gl/kLKp6T

Further Readings

Softbank Vision Fund in active talks with UK based Oaknorth, digital lending platform, for potential investment, this would mark the fund’s 3rd UK investment https://goo.gl/osJxrw

Recent Books 

The Fix, How Countries Use Crises to Solve the World’s Worst Problems by Jonathan Tepperman
A global cruise exploring how different leader solved national disasters from lack of natural resources to fighting poverty. 

“…when confronted with an impossible situation, wisdom often lies in forgoing the optimal for the acceptable”

No Is Not Enough: Resisting the New Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need by Naomi Klein
I wish we could apply this book to really life, but in my humble experience in the emerging world, the immediate realities of poverty, lack of access and education would make this utopia a little far off

“multinationals were competing in a race toward weightlessness: whoever owned the least, had the fewest employees on the payroll, and produced the most powerful images as opposed to things, won the race” – about the rise of brands that led to the election of the “Trump Brand”

The Coming Storm by Michael Lewis (audible Only)
Highlights the historic treasure trove of environmental data held at the US economic department threatened by corporate influence on politics and the lethal implications that can ensue due to ignore the facts on climate change. 


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In Personal News…

This has been published later than usual today, as I have been caught up with preps for a short vacation and work trip to Istanbul starting tomorrow to attend Startup Istanbul, and speak at Global South Tech’s Turkey Meetup. If you’re in town, do reach out or join either event! 


MENA’s Digital News, Week #3

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Smart Crowd, Dubai’s real-estate crowdfunding platform, has raised $600k in seed funding from Shorooq Investments, Abaxx Technologies and 500Startups https://goo.gl/trmPFX 

AnaMehani, an online services marketplace, raises a third investment round from V.P.F Limited and moves it’s operations to Cairo (EN) https://goo.gl/YSuig6 (AR) https://goo.gl/3M8gMd 

Kitopi, Foodtech, raises a seed round from CE Ventures and BECO Capital https://goo.gl/K97dSz 

Skiplino Raises Series A Round from KISP Ventures https://goo.gl/ynM2Fy

Training Calendar, skill-development marketplace, raises $1M in seed funding https://goo.gl/tXbNvu 

BeyondCapital invests in Tickitto, AI powered digital concierge (on Linkedin) https://goo.gl/nr6CHL

Qordoba Announces $11.5M Series B Funding https://goo.gl/1fELPx

Samara, Saudi car-rental company, acquires CarSpa, mobile on-demand car services startup (on Linkedin) https://goo.gl/2qj1d3

Qwikly Dubai

Sector News

Jordan’s Arab Bank announces plans to launch a $30M fintech fund and incubator before end of October https://goo.gl/9ftPVN 

Bahrain’s Economic Development Board announces plans to raise a $100M Fintech fund outside the existing $100M AlWafa fund of funds announced earlier in the year https://goo.gl/i1qqgt 

Saudi British Bank (SABB) to Acquire Alawwal Bank for $5B https://goo.gl/wvNDSq

Dubai Airports signs 10-year extension with leading outdoor advertising company JCDecaux https://goo.gl/1MkXnF

Islamic Finance company embarks on launching Digital Sukuk in the age of cryptocurrency, followed by an Ethereum blockchain asset in 2019 https://goo.gl/h1TaEq

Shared electric scooters to hit Dubai pavements soon https://goo.gl/n4mSyV 

Egypt is producing smartphones and expanding it into Africa https://goo.gl/F9qhbn

Further Readings

ArabNet’s Kuwait Innovation Economy Tech Startups 2018 Report: “88% of Kuwaiti startups mention referral marketing as a key challenge to attracting new business.” https://goo.gl/XuoXMb 

CBInsight’s “How Saudi Arabia Is Hedging Against An Oil-Less Future” https://goo.gl/1wGfqk

NEOM announces it’s global advisory board including prominent names such as: YCombinator’s Sam Altman; Az16’s Marc Andreessen; Uber’s Travis Kalanick; and ofcourse Softbank’s Masayoshi Son https://goo.gl/GdYTQr

SoftBank Vision Fund in talks for a majority stake investment in WeWork totaling ~$15B; it already owns 20% after committing $4.4B last year https://goo.gl/CwrWko

MIT and Qatar Computing Research Institute are working on a training computers to detect fake news sites https://goo.gl/MtCGrJ 


The rise of the data monster

What’s framing the discussion about data within your organization or personal consumption today? For me it’s the following:

  • GDPR leading to a decrease in trackbacks on websites in the EU and an increase in trackbacks on US based sites [here]
  • IBM’s latest Cost of Data Breach report, that shows the MENA is the second most expensive geography to endure a data breach by public and private sector [here]
  • Tim Berners-Lee’s (Director of the World Wide Web) latest venture for increased data-ownership protocols by the consumer vs platforms [here]
  • Endless breaches: from AppleID’s used in China [here], to Facebook’s latest breach [here] and final coffin of Google+ security loophole [here]
  • Bloomberg’s disputed article on China’s spying espionage which was widely denied by everyone 

I have also recently read and reviewed Unscaled by Hemant Taneja which focuses on the rise of decentralization and its long term impact on the business world as we know it. Which evoked me to think: “Something I’d sign up for: an encrypted lifetime health record that can only be accessed with a biometric password or a physical encryption key, were only the patient owns their data and can “lease” or give access to their data to doctors and health care providers as needed (or to pharma and researchers)” 

From an individuals perspective: Maybe a decentralized data future would be a replacement for that “important documents” folder you have lying around in the back of your closet with everything from birth certificates to contracts, into an encrypted folder that can be accessed or authorized partially as needed. 

From a business perspective: To get better at security we need far more (cyber)security engineers and researchers. Are you training some or investing in getting more on your team?
Also what checks and balances do you have in place to secure your supply chain regardless where your manufacturing is done. Do you have security auditors in-house or outsourced? How to you take responsibility for your service or product?

Food for thought. 


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MENA’s Digital News, Week #2

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Faith Capital invests $1.5M in Snapbook, online to print service. (AR) https://goo.gl/eDEFmv (EN) https://goo.gl/fQjn89

Mumzworld, mother and child ecommerce platform, closes $20M Series B investment round https://goo.gl/NWnGRD

iCommunity, mobile platform for real estate, raises $600K in Series A funding from Algebra Ventures https://goo.gl/chrA9Z

Sector News

Careem resumes services in Oman https://goo.gl/T8tw4X and has launched services in Sudan earlier in the month https://goo.gl/dc5ozR

Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG) launch eCommerce platform “Al Mall” “المول” today (AR) https://goo.gl/4L7giY – SRMG is the holding company of Sayidaty Magazine which also operates Sayidaty Mall.

Storytel Arabia, audiobooks, partners up Jamalon as a distribution platform https://goo.gl/smBzRQ – Storytel is a Stockholm based audiobook company that has recently expanded into MENA. The regional audiobook startup space features startups such as Dhad, Kitab Sawti and Alrawi

A Big Week for Saudi Arabia’s Financial Sector

STCPay, man holding phone against QR code
Picture via Hashtag Saudi’s Twitter

Saudi Telecom Company (STC) inaugurated STCPay services on Tuesday October 2nd at a prestigious event with key market stakeholders. The service is already supported by Arab National Bank ATMs and some retail outlets. The live coverage of the event is available on STCPay’s twitter account. A small write up

Following the launch of STCPay (next day) Apple to affirmed  that their payment solutions will be launching in Saudi very soon (AR) https://goo.gl/vn6HN7 and have started testing it’s ApplePay service with some (AR) https://goo.gl/7Spuxe – followed by a tweet today from Mada urging the confirmation further (AR) https://goo.gl/6DW27q

Saudi Arabia has been broadening its digital payments offering and facilitating the move to a cashless society. Mada, a service launched by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, has allowed local consumers to use their local issued debit/credit cards to pay online, something was not possible without explicit bank permission for a substantial amount of consumers due to previous restrictions.

Now, when will AliPay, SmasungPay and GooglePay launch in the Kingdom?

Further Readings

Softbank Vision Fund invests in 2 proptech companies over the past week: Compass, $400M and Opendoor, $400M. Bringing Softbank Vision Fund’s investments in proptech up to $8B https://goo.gl/QYSqCY

Abu Dhabi launches 5-year plan for Smart Cities and AI: Zayed Smart City Project https://goo.gl/h61cPw

DFSA & Financial Services Authority of Japan sign fintech cooperation agreement https://goo.gl/6cTsSz

Saudi British Bank secures binding deal for $5 billion acquisition of Alawwal https://goo.gl/wvNDSq

MIT and Qatar Computing Research Institute are working on a training computers to detect fake news sites https://goo.gl/MtCGrJ

Telecom Egypt announced the 50% acquisition of its subsidiary Egyptian International Submarine Cable Company (EISCC) for $15M https://goo.gl/8s6zr8


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