MENA’s Digital News, Week #12

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Tabeeby, Kuwait based social health network, raises $770k from Ground One Ventures, a UK-based VC https://goo.gl/4RwJSU 

Wasla, Egypt-based mobile internet provider, raises $180k in pre-seed led by a Cairo-based Private Investment Banker Omar Barakat https://goo.gl/qC8KY5 

Nawah Scientific, Egypt based scientific research startup, raises $1M in pre-Series A funding from Endure Capital, 500 Startups, Averroes Ventures and Egypt Ventures https://goo.gl/qXxvyf 

Little Thinking Minds, Jordan based edtech startup, raises $1.26M led by Algebra Ventures https://goo.gl/1QhhW4

Expensya, Tunisian SaaS for expense management, raises $4.5M from French investors ISAI and Seventure Partners https://goo.gl/wGSsG7

Agility, Kuwait warehousing and logistics leader, to invest $100M in Shipa Freight, Dubai based freight forwarding platform https://goo.gl/tcbbEq 

Badr, Egypt based data solution startup, acquired by Incorta, US analytics company https://goo.gl/5t8wba 

Vezeeta, Egytian healthtech startup, raises investment from IFC https://goo.gl/zniJ5Z

Rise Up Cairo

RiseUp, Egypt’s leading tech and entrepreneurship conference, raises seed funding led by Endure Capital, as well as Enara Capital, 500 Startups, and Kamelizer https://goo.gl/rXNrfc 

Sawari Ventures raise $35M as part of its $70M fund to invest in Egypt, Tunisia, & Morocco https://goo.gl/dLrUsW 

Mubadala and SoftBank invest in ParkJockey, American parking startup, at valuation over $1B https://goo.gl/cLd6eN 

Tokopedia, Indonesian eCommerce, raises $1.1B led by Softbank’s Vision Fund and Alibaba https://goo.gl/aVN15v 

Sector News

Egyptian Minister announced plans to launch a Digital Library in collaboration with the UAE and Saudi, 26 international publishing houses have already signed https://goo.gl/vPc3te 

OSN appoints new CEO, Patrick Tillieux, who served as chairman and board member https://goo.gl/of8qcN 

SAGIA issues investment license to ArabNet (EN) https://goo.gl/eErjFd (AR) https://goo.gl/7tNKQN

Business Incubators and Accelerators Company (BIAC), collaborate with VentureSouq (VSQ) to launch a new investment services vertical within BIAC targeted towards Saudi startups https://goo.gl/LE4Fpk

MENA based investors: Mindshift Capital and Global Ventures, and Flat6Labs, commit to The Billion Dollar Fund for Women, to increase investment in women led startups https://goo.gl/pnEsUX 

UAE regulators will expand their recognition of investment fund licenses https://goo.gl/fRhvam

US-Libya Space Camp Scholarship Program open and accepting applications https://goo.gl/Htsif4

Wamda launches “Wamda X” fellowship program that offers grants and co-working in Dubai Design District https://goo.gl/N8dBdt

Now the fintech news:

Two new fintech accelerators announce their launch at RiseUp Summit:
Ahli Bank launched their Corporate Fintech Accelerator in Amman, Jordan
Startupbootcamp, in partnership with Pride Capital, launched Fintech Cairo, Egypt https://goo.gl/2SoC4b 

Egypt’s Enara Capital and Falak start-up accelerator sign MoU to establish new clean technology investment fund https://goo.gl/RSdATi 

Beam Wallet announces plans to expand services into Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan in the next 6 month https://goo.gl/kmS9kE 

UAE Exchange, to launch cross-border remittance to Asia via Ripple https://goo.gl/RGPHSb

EmiratesNBD’s Liv., has signed a service agreement with Australian payments fintech Verrency (They launched in 2016 and have raised $7.5M to date) ( https://goo.gl/AHmVjh  EmiratesNBD also announced plans to expand digital services into Egyptian market https://goo.gl/ES857R 

Network International has partnered with China’s Alipay to provide mobile payment service to Chinese shoppers https://goo.gl/pJ8m8B

Almoayed Technologies, first company to graduate from Bahrain’s Regulatory Sandbox https://goo.gl/8Uc3J8

It’s more than a decentralized financial market

The biggest fear that crypto-currency sparks in governments (and world leaders) is a potential radical shift in world order. Financial institutes, world trade agreements, fiat currencies, markets, regulators, and a plethora of institutions whose sole purpose is to maintain centuries of “order”.

The trade war between the US and China, renewed sanction on Iran, and looming financial bubbles have shown that maybe the centuries old dynamics are due for disruption.

Governments around the world are beginning to rethink the financial strong hold that the US and EU have on trade, and alternate paths (crypto- or not) and weighing the risks involved.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have announced that they’ll be using (their uniquely developed) crypto-currency for cross-border settlements.

The UAE also signed with India on currency swap agreement, amounting to 2B AED (35B INR), allowing the governments to settle directly in INR, strengthening the Rupee. As part of agreement travelers can use INR for purchases in the UAE without having to convert to AED (a first for the country)

India and Iran signed another a pact, based on which, Iran will accept payments for oil purchased by India in INR.

Russia and China have been settling bilateral trade in the yuan and ruble in sectors such as agriculture and machinery, and looking to expand that to new sectors as well.

Regardless of whether countries decide to build crypto infrastructures for the trade, or their respective local fiat currencies, a global shift is upon us. It will empower financial technology providers and open the door for more innovators. Maybe a chance for a true financial revolution, in lieu of the fourth industrial one.

Further Readings

Middle East Group suspected of series of hacks against telecoms, embassies and oil companies https://goo.gl/NM1gkh 

London based Private Equity Firm, Actis, is bid to take over more than $2B of assets from Abraaj Group https://goo.gl/mc8dpe 

Abraaj Credit Fund to Be Taken Over by Kuwait’s NBK Capital https://goo.gl/shHc9k

Sharp drop in Nvidia’s stock price impacts Softbank’s Vision Fund portfolio valuation https://goo.gl/PVdUuc 

High-speed rail planned between Fujairah, UAE and Mumbai, India to exchange water, oil and passengers https://goo.gl/eS839z

Long Reads

“The Egyptian Startup Manifesto” launched at RiseUp Summit, read more about it here: https://goo.gl/oQ4z9P

ArabNet Business Intelligence launches report: “Corporate Artificial Intelligence Adoption Strategies and Implementation 2018″ by DSOA’s D-tec and NYUAD’s startAD https://goo.gl/kSLPth

According to the UN’s “B1C E-Commerce Index 2018” report, Morocco is 5th Most Ready for eCommerce in Africa, https://goo.gl/jKuJbc


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MENA’s Digital News, Week #7

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Load ME, UAE based freight exchange startup, raises $1M https://goo.gl/jn9awz 

Kamkalima, Lebanon based edtech, raises $1.5M in Series A from Phoenician Fund and iSME https://goo.gl/wBKEbf

Webjet acquires Dubai travel firm Destinations of the World for $173M https://goo.gl/oA1qPt 

Sector News

Uber and Careem may start paying 22.5% corporate tax in Egypt https://goo.gl/d77W9w 

Chalhoub Group launches Dubai based co-working space and accelerator: Greenhouse, and announces first cohort startups https://goo.gl/EJ7WA6

Chalhoub Greenhouse Photo Credit to MENABytes

Saudi’s Badir Incubator launches in 4 new locations in the kingdom: Madina, Abha, Qassim and Dammam (AR) https://goo.gl/giojN5

Modus Capital, New York based venture capital firm, plans to expand into Egypt with incubation, seed and series A investment, and co-working space https://goo.gl/vZtyYs

Deutsche’s DWS to buy 15% stake in Dubai-based digital investment firm, Neo Technologies https://goo.gl/wtzzqn

Emirates NBD publicly launches their API sandbox https://goo.gl/cXJLTR 

Dubai’s Fintech sandbox announces it’s first licensed graduate Sarwa https://goo.gl/WyHoh9 

UAE announces the list of entities not allowed 100% foreign ownership (in follow up to law announced in August) https://goo.gl/UpwUgQ 

Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) to Create Infrastructure for Cryptocurrency Assets https://goo.gl/XdAugm 

UAE’s Al Zarooni Group and US’s Crypto Bulls trading house to open the first official crypto-currency exchange to be registered in the UAE https://goo.gl/CXEmp5

Further Readings

Twitter launches very insightful data on users in Saudi Arabia, from influence to level of education, even behavior: 64% of users perceive a piece of news not as significant if it was not shared or discussed on Twitter (AR) https://goo.gl/sn6tgk 

Norton research shows that Saudi children are among the youngest in EMEA that receive smartphone, at approximately 7 years of age (AR) https://goo.gl/b1mFDC

Digital Gurus release a survey of average salaries of data engineers, scientists and analysts in the UAE https://goo.gl/krkRDk

Facebook releases it’s Egyptian market penetration numbers: 24M daily users and 37M monthly mobile users (more) https://goo.gl/Xgv2wS

According to Gartner, 787,000 bitcoins were mined in the first half of 2018 through illicit targeted crypto-mining in MEA https://goo.gl/L9PTQa 

Long Reads

Faith Capital release a MENA Venture Capital Regulatory Framework white paper https://goo.gl/MjxcZD

So Much Fintech, Not Enough Time

Robo-advisors seem to be have taken center stage in the last 2 weeks, a continuation on the global (Fintech is the most funded tech sector) and regional trend. 

WeInvest, Singapore based robo-advisor, raises $12.2M and targets Dubai office launch. The company is not new to the region as it has been part of the Fintech Hive Cycle in 2017, however the capital injection would help it compete aggressively as more robo-advisors enter the market at the same time. https://goo.gl/Ye89at

Image copyright to Investor Junkie

In the recent spotlight, Wahed, sharia compliant robo-advisor, that recently raised $7.75M from BECO Capital and Cue Ball Capital in late October. The company is a SEC registered Investment Advisory headquartered in New York and expanding to MENA as well

Meanwhile, Sarwa, also robo-advisor, was just granted license to operate in Dubai post DFSA sandbox incubation 

You can check out the international leaders in the space here

The financial management and payment landscape is changing rapidly and maybe a tad too fast for consumers to keep up, but significantly improving the regions financial infrastructure for future generations. From banks launching API’s (EmiratesNBD, and earlier this year Arab Bank) to crypto-exchanges. Bright days ahead! 


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Personally news: I have moved (back) to Dubai! After 7 years in Beirut (and on airplanes across MENA), I have resettled in the country I spent most of my life in: the UAE, and in Dubai (I grew up between Al Ain and Sharjah)

Reach out, let’s catchup over some tea or karak!