MENA’s Digital News, Week #39

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

In this week’s edition, I have added our first ever mention of an accelerator cohort. I have had mixed feelings about including acceleration news, but eventually (~40 weeks in) decided when startups enroll through equity based accelerators their companies have technically raised a small investment round, so there they’ll live.

Investments & Acquisitions

Widebot, Cairo based Arabic chat bot makers, raise “six figure” pre-series A investment http://bit.ly/2JeWRJq 

FlexxPay, UAE based financial solutions for SMEs platform, raises undisclosed investment round from undisclosed investors http://bit.ly/2xm05VY

Dhad, Saudi based Arabic Audio-book, raises undisclosed seed investment from Vision Ventures, 500 Startups, SVC, and angel investors from Oqal http://bit.ly/2Xfk6rv 

Faylasof, Jordan based online bookstore, raises $500k in pre-series A from Wise Ventures http://bit.ly/2YpvIJX 

Ecomz, Lebanon’s eCommerce website builder, raises $4M in series A led by Cedar Mundi, joined by iSME Lebanon and BLC Bank http://bit.ly/2FObBOf 

Boutiqaat, Kuwait based eCommerce platform, raises investment at $500M valuation, amount & GCC investor undisclosed. The announcement was made via twitter: http://bit.ly/2xrKgx6, sale disclosure on Kuwait Bourse http://bit.ly/2XhtcnX (lost of speculation and cloudiness around this doubling in valuation in under 6 month)

Flat6Labs Bahrain inaugurates cycle 3 with 6 startups http://bit.ly/2XNjlKA

Jabbar Group founders join Series J round into India’s Ola http://bit.ly/2RR8b28 

Tara.ai (originally Gradberry) raises $10M led by Aspect Ventures with participation from Slack Fund. The founders are graduates from the American University in Sharjah and later moved their business to SF to tap into AI talent https://tcrn.ch/301jGqA

Ola spun off its Electric Mobility unit to independent, Ola Electric Mobility, for which it raised $250M from Softbank Vision Fund at $1B valuation http://bit.ly/324ePXr

Sector News

Halan, Cairo’s tuktuk & motorcycle ride-hailing, launched Halan Ads to power advertising on its vehicles http://bit.ly/2NjjBwT 

Amazon.ae’s Payfort signs agreement Ajman Municipality, UAE, to power a unified payment gateway for the emirate: AjmanPay http://bit.ly/2LvJkjp (AR) http://bit.ly/2ROXayc 

Standard Chartered Bank in the UAE has announced its support of Womena’s Womentum program as part of their “diversity and inclusion agenda” http://bit.ly/2YwjejG

Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), with the support of OCP Group & MassChallenge, launches an accelerator aimed at agri-tech, biotech, nanotech and mining tech: Impulse http://bit.ly/2YuFp9Z

Princess Sumaya University, Jordan, launches a Bachelor in Data Science & Artificial Intelligence (AR) http://bit.ly/2FHv834

Bahrain & UK selected by World Economic Forum to “pilot new guidelines for the procurement of Artificial Intelligence in the public sector” http://bit.ly/30aYvm0

Further Readings

The UAE Cabinet has approved 122 economic activities across 13 sectors eligible for up to 100% foreign ownership in the UAE, which include “transport and storage, which allows investors to own projects in the field of e-commerce transport, supply chain, logistics” among others http://bit.ly/2XpKpQY they also announced 10 incentives to attract investors (AR) http://bit.ly/2XpjgNQ (english not yet available)

Al Maktoum Center for Middle Eastern Studies to open at Dublin’s Trinity College in partnership with Al Maktoum College of Higher Education http://bit.ly/2xxnaot

Dubai Ports acquires Topaz, major oil and gas marine logistics provider for ~$1.1B from the Oman-listed Renaissance Services. Topaz operates 117 vessels https://wapo.st/2FLYhtO

Long Reads

Snapchat launches “The Friendship Report” that highlights relationships across Australia, France, Germany, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK, and the US broken down by generations http://bit.ly/31ZO46u 

World Bank “Mashreq 2.0: Digital Transformation for Inclusive Growth and Jobs” Report http://bit.ly/2KPp3FK (AR) http://bit.ly/301ewLn 


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Published by

Racha

A passionate geek and believer in the power of entrepreneurship. I work to create inspiring dialogues for people to learn and flourish. I have spent the last 6 years traveling around MENA (and abroad) building and conducting conferences, competitions, challenges and conversations.