MENA’s Digital News, Week #46

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

Investments & Acquisitions

NowPay, Egypt-based payday advance startup, raises $600k in Seed funding from Endure Capital and 500 Startups 

Mecal, eCommerce platform focused on men’s accessories, raises investment from Ibtikar Fund and Innovative Startups and SME’s Fund (ISSF) – amount undisclosed

Trolley, Egypt-based grocery delivery, raises $200k in funding from a Kuwaiti angel investor It’s unclear if that funding is inclusive of the amount raised from Y Combinator or not 

Falcon Network, Dubai-based angel investment network, invests $450k in 6 startups: Aion Sigma, Caravan, Saaya Health, Teacherly, Virtual i Technologies and Workaround

SINC, Bahrain-based workforce management startup, raised $250k led by Dubai Angel Investors and other regional investors for expansion 

Platform 9, US-based fully managed hybrid cloud platform, raises $25M in series D led by NGP Capital, joined by Mubadala Ventures and others

Drop, Canadian retail offers startup, raises $44M led by HOF Capital (a fund led by some of Egypt’s wealthiest family groups)

Cisco acquired US-based Voicea (Egyptian founders); Voicea had previously acquired Dubai-based Wrappup & their team, which are now a part of the second acquisition. Wrappup had raised investment from BECO Capital, 500 Startups, Arzan VC, Womena, Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority, Dubai Angel Investors, and Hala Fadel 

Sector News

Jordan introduces new taxes for social media, influencers and eCommerce 

Eventtus, Egypt HQ event platform, expands to Saudi 

Paytm, India, plans expansion of Paytm Mall & eBay into the Middle East 

Aster DM Healthcare to setup an “Aster Innovation and Research Centre” between GCC and India 

Viu, Asian content streaming platform with operation in MENA, announces collaboration with Wattpad “social storytelling platform” to produce more original content 


BLOMbank, Lebanon, upgrades existing NFC-enabled BLOMPay, mobile payment service, with Mastercard integration 

ADGM Reglab, Abu Dhabi, adds 4 more startups: DAPI (UAE), PointCheckout (UAE), Jibrel Network (Switzerland) & Ekofolio (Luxemburg) 

Central Bank of Bahrain issues final rules on “insurance aggregators” 

Tunisian Post launches a QR payment solution “Masterpass QR” in a bid to encourage mobile payments

Long Reads

Snapchat commissioned a study of Saudi Nationals usage of the platform: Saudi’s watch more online video than traditional TV; 80% view premium short-from videos more here: 

Pew Research Center conducts study “In Emerging Economies, Smartphone and Social Media Users Have Broader Social Networks” on users in 11 countries including: Lebanon, Jordan & Tunisia:
*Users reported using smartphone for getting regular news: 55% Jordan (highest), 51% Lebanon, only 31% Tunisia
*Look up health related information: 70% Jordan (highest), 61% Lebanon, 54% Tunisia

Further Reading

Lulu Group, UAE based retail conglomerate, announces plan to invest $500m in Egypt as part of its expansion into the country

For the weekend:

“If you invest in yourself, no one can take that away from you”
– Warren Buffet

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MENA’s Digital News, Week #45

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

Hope you had a good summer and geared up to get back to the grind soon! I skipped the round-up last week; people were off, the media was off, it was nice. So, I’m merging last week’s news with this week’s round-up so you’re all caught up!

Investments (Regional & Related)

Chefaa, Egyptian e-health startup, closed “six-figure seed funding round” from Flat6Labs and 500 Startups

Nana Direct, Saudi grocery platform, raises $6.6M in Series A co-led by MEVP and Impact46, and joined by Watar Partners, Saudi Venture Capital (SVC) Company, Wamda Capital and Alzamil family – this announcement was made in late February via twitter which we covered but the tweet has since been removed

Startups from MENA in Y Combinator Cohort: 
* Lezzoo – Iraq on-demand delivery service in Iraq 
* Breadfast – Cairo breakfast delivery platform
* Trella – Cairo trucking marketplaces &

TechAdvance, Lagos-based payments infrastructure firm, secured $1M in funding from Bahrain’s Lamar Holding. The company has also received an approval for a payment solution service provider (PSSP) license from the Central Bank of Bahrain 

QFPay, Hong Kong QR-based payment company, raises $20M from Sequoia Capital China, Matrix Partners, MDI Ventures, Rakuten Capital, and VentureSouq (Dubai) 

Incorta, Egyptian founders – SF based, raises $30M in Series C led by Sorenson Capital, GV (Google Ventures), Kleiner Perkins, M12 (Microsoft Ventures), and Telstra Ventures, and expands offices to Chicago, Dubai and Bangalore (already has office in Egypt) 

Knotel, US Based WeWork competitor, raises $400M in investment, valuing the company at $1B, led by Wafra, Sovereign Wealth Fund of Kuwait, Mori Trust, Itochu, Mercuria, Norwest Venture Partners, Newmark Knight Frank, Bloomberg Beta and Rocket Internet 


RiseUp Summit, Cairo’s leading tech conference, acquires

Fawry, Egyptian Fintech, finally goes public on the Egyptian Exchange (EGX) with a market cap of $366M 

Sector News

Pushbots, Egypt, is added to Github’s Student Developer Pack program 

New Venture Capital fund to launch in Dubai: Vuja De Capital

Flat6Labs Tunis, Attijari Sicar, B@Labs and International Finance Corporation (IFC), collaborate to launch a training-academy for high net-worth individuals in hopes of developing an angel network in Tunisia (not be confused with the Carthage Business Angel Network). A Maghreb Angel Investor Network was also launched.

RuPay, Indian credit card company (competitor of Mastercard/Visa) to launch in the UAE

iPayLinks, Chinese cross-border payment operator, acquires license in UAE and Saudi

Egyptian Ministry of Finance is looking to impose taxes on eCommerce and Social Media advertising activities

CBInsights publishes: “The Most Well-Funded Tech Startups In The UAE In One Infographic” 

Thoughts on healthcare + technology

In a random conversation with a friend earlier in summer, he said “you know that most of the meds you’re taking are not even tested on female mice because their hormonal cycle creates variation in results“. I looked it up. It’s true. A large proportion of medication is tested on male mice and male volunteers for “consistency”.

The assumption is: women are just men with hormones, hormones are non-consequential… They clearly aren’t.

As big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning start to march their way into healthcare to support practitioners with diagnosis, monitoring and treatments, my fear is that we’ll discover that the data on female health is largely mis-represented, under reported and researched. It’s an opportunity, but a sad one to acknowledge nonetheless.

Why are we discussing this?

A docu-series, a book, and a youtube episode:

Diagnosis: a docu-series by The New York Times and Netflix
The Sentient Machine: The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence
Last Week Tonight’s “Bias in Medicine” episode.
Yes, it’s an entertainment show, also yes, they do substantial research

In the Sentient Machine by Amir Husain he discusses the long-tail of unknown ailments that can plague an individual’s lives. Health problems that are simply not common enough for science to dedicate the time, effort and resources to research and find cures for. It’s eye-opening and terrifying to accept that much of the process of getting healthcare is getting the right diagnosis, and we still remain largely speculative about alot of it. Not to discount the phenomenal efforts and dedication of the healthcare society, but the way to go is still long ahead.

Our own biology is still a vast mystery, research is guided by the most pressing and widely acknowledged ailments in geographies that have the financing and systems to fund that research. It takes time and dedication and some times a full career to explore a single facet of a single ailment.

As Artificial Intelligence alarms rise to threaten more jobs, what should we be doing to encourage careers research and healthcare? How can we improve funding for research that promotes better living, than defense budgets that frankly, while they may improve the quality of our lives, don’t necessarily fix the vehicles of our life, our bodies.

Just food for thought.

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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 

MidChains, Abu Dhabi-based blockchain enabled financial investment exchange, raises investment from Mubadala Investment Company, amount undisclosed 

Harmonica, Egyptian muslim-friendly dating app, gets acquired by Match Group (owner of Tinder and Harmonica was backed by 500 Startups and Flat6Labs Egypt. Acquisition value was not disclosed 

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

Bykea, Pakistani on-demand transport, logistics, and payments startup, raises $5.7M in series A funding, $2M of which were committed by MEVP 

Jollychic, Chinese eCommerce platform, raises US$65M G42 Group, UAE, in a series C+ funding round 

UrbanClap, India’s home services marketplace, raises $75M lead by Tiger Capital and joined by Dubai based Vy Capital, and other investors 

C2FO, US-based Fintech, raises $200M led by Soft Bank Vision Fund 

Sector News

Circ, Berlin-based micro-mobility startups (scooters), establishes operations in Abu Dhabi, UAE 

Zee Entertainment’s Weyyak, Arabic Video On-Demand streaming application, rolls out paid subscriptions (previous usage was free)

BeyondCapital launches Ifada, an innovation program for finance fellows, via twitter

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 

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)

Bahrain Fintech Bay announces a partnership with BetaBlocks, US-based blockchain innovation and learning platform

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”

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

Saudi Cabinet approves amendment on laws allowing adult female citizens to acquire a passport and travel without guardian consent (AR) 

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 (Full report available via subscription) 

The State of the Turkish Startup Ecosystem by Startups.Watch and the Turkish Investment Office

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

On my long weekend’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!