MENA’s Digital News, Week #19

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Melltoo, Dubai-based secondhand ecommerce platform, closes bridge round from 500 Startups, KISP Ventures, Khwarizmi Ventures and Shorooq Investments http://bit.ly/2B3dCnu

VentureSouq invests in US-based Oxygen, digital bank, focused on freelancers and the gig-economy http://bit.ly/2t0axQQ 

Sector News

Saudi’s PIF hedged most of its 4.9% stake in Tesla http://bit.ly/2Wt6Osh 

Oyo, Indian hotel management chain, signs tech deal with Saudi’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah http://bit.ly/2Dx4n0o 

Saraha, Saudi anonymous posting app, launches “Enoff” an app for anonymous office-place harassment reporting (AR) http://bit.ly/2ML1HPH 

Swvl, Cairo’s on-demand shuttle service, expands operations to Nairobi, Kenya http://bit.ly/2HBuHe9 

Viu, Singapore-HQ OTT service with MENA presence, launches original content series in Saudi Arabia http://bit.ly/2HDLfCh

Etihad Airways the launch of an in-house AI academy in partnership with Microsoft http://bit.ly/2UsWAXb

Wired Middle East to launch with a partnership between Condé Nast International and Nervora http://bit.ly/2G2G1Ov

Further Readings

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) and Union National Bank (UNB) to merge and together to acquire Al Hilal Bank http://bit.ly/2MEQ2SI

Independent Arabia has been launched under a licensing agreement between the UK news brand and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG) http://bit.ly/2HHFnHZ

Kuwait Finance House (KFH) announces a Bahrain’s Ahli United Bank Merger http://bit.ly/2HwE7rb

China is looking to increase investment in the UAE via an “Annual Investment Meeting” http://bit.ly/2CUPYK4 

MSCI and Saudi’s Tadawul launch a tradeable index: MSCI Tadawul 30 Index http://bit.ly/2WzHr8b


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MENA’s Digital News, Week #10

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Property Finder raises $120M led by Private Equity firm General Atlantic (disclosed valuation is ~$500M) https://goo.gl/DJHBFR

Crescent Enterprises Ventures acquires “significant” stake in UAE-based logistics and last mile delivery firm Transcorp https://goo.gl/ozWi7Q 

Gulf Capital and AfricInvest invest US$51M into iSON Xperiences, customer service and outsourcing provider in Sub-Saharan Africa https://goo.gl/Kyotay

Sector News

Mashable is launching a MENA edition in partnership with Fork Media https://goo.gl/rs2DMF

Cinemoz, Lebanon-based VOD startup, launches original Arabic content platform, kicking off with science fiction productions https://goo.gl/wW9wUH 

Microsoft will launch a “AI Accelerator” program led by Netways (supported by Microsoft AI Ventures Lab) at Area 2071 https://goo.gl/Gs1Dgv

AstroLabs to launch in Saudi Arabia, receiving the first foreign investment incubation license from SAGIA https://goo.gl/JLzVQ4

Saudi’s PIF rebrands entertainment subsidiary to Saudi Entertainment Ventures Company (SEVEN) and appoints former Disney executive Bill Ernest as CEO https://goo.gl/D9SWSc 

UAE Cabinet approves comprehensive long-term visa system for investors, entrepreneurs https://goo.gl/ubnU1k

Now the fintech news:

Group Banque Centrale Populaire (Morocco) is launching the first edition of a Fintech Challenge https://goo.gl/nFJHdw 

Kuwait launches its own Fintech Sandbox (joins the ranks with UAE, Saudi, Bahrain and Qatar) https://goo.gl/b4HH8o 

ADGM partners up with Al Hilal Bank and Jibrel Network to develop Shariah-compliant blockchain solutions https://goo.gl/utVqQ5 
… and the solutions seem to be under development for a while as: “Al Hilal Bank made their first Islamic Sukuk sale on Blockchain, worth $1M” already  https://goo.gl/B4ZJne 

Fintech Hive to partner with Cyberport, a Hong Kong government entity to improve Fintech collaboration https://goo.gl/e6VqCm 

OneGram, UAE based, Gold-Backed Cryptocurrency Compliant with Sharia Law https://goo.gl/QthQZ9

CareemPay expands to new markets post-Saudi and Egypt trials (markets have not been specified in press or tweets) https://goo.gl/MFZJEv

Further Readings

Pure Harvest Smart Farms, UAE Based AgriTech, launch their first products from their high-tech greenhouse in Nahel, Dubai. The project is supported by Mohammad Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) https://goo.gl/XwQCYr

Think With Google publish “5 insights driving regional e-commercehttps://goo.gl/ed6BJP

Long Reads

CrowdAnalyzer publishes: State of Social Media in MENA Report 2018 (140 pages in Arabic) https://goo.gl/pjXaa9


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What I’m listening to: 

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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