MENA’s Digital News, Week #5

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Wadi Group ( raises investment from UAE’s Majid Al Futtaim

This week’s investments had a common theme: Regional VCs investing abroad:

Tarfin, Turkish agricultural micro-lending startup, raises a $1.3M seed round led by Turkey-based Collective Spark Fund with co-investment from Wamda Capital 

Fakespot, NY based fake reviews spotter, raised a $1.3M seed fund with participation from Faith Capital 

Blueground, NY-based airbnb for business travelers, raises $12M from Jabbar Internet Group, VentureFriends, and Endeavor Catalyst 

Wahed Invest, UK based Halal Online Investment Platform, raises $7.75M (£6M) from BECO Capital and Cue Ball Capital

Sector News

Recap of some of the big name deals signed at the Future Investment Initiative worth $50B

The UAE’ Statistics Authority signs with Esri, global leader in location intelligence, to geo-enable its work

Cairo hosts it’s first NASA App Challenge sponsored by Nile Pioneers 

Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) announces “Miza” “ميزة”, a mobile payment solution to be launched by December (EN) (AR) 

Qatar Sports Tech Accelerator Launched, powered by Startupbootcamp 

Womena Graduates First Cohort Of Female-led Tech Startups 

Meet the Startup winners at DEMO Africa

Further Readings

Deezer, French Music Streaming Service, Launches in the Middle East with “exclusive Rotana catalogue” 

A Palestinian-American billionaire plans a $1.4B city, Rawabi, in Palestine says it’s a ‘golden opportunity’ to build a ‘model state’ for the Middle East

Reports claim that Russian malware was attempted to be used to sabotage a Saudi petrochemical plant last year

Opportunities from Silicon Valley’s Dystopia 

In my years of working on covering the latest in the tech ecosystem regionally and globally and consistent pattern persists. American, Canadian and European startups ignoring fast adoption in MENA and market growth potential.

From Kik messenger in Canada who failed to capitalize on their massive sudden adoption in the GCC, only to have failing attempts after the train has passed, Flipboard, Foursquare, and many more, to more recently Path’s closure and failure to capitalize on their emerging market appeal.

Path appealed to adopters of the dark social web due to its private and mobile-first nature, but failed to evolve with the proliferation of multimedia and story-features taking over. It sort of faded in the world of influencers pull to instagram. However due to it’s popularity a regional replica launched to fill the void, but will it? 

I have no doubts that regional entrepreneurs are more capable to understand the client and market, and provide better, more adaptive solutions to the market. However my fears have been realized twice already with Saraha’s data scandals, and Careem’s 14M accounts leak

Now I’m not saying this only happens to regional startups, but I find that regional startups hire less in-house cryptographers and security engineers, due to the lack of availability or the lack of oversight, it’s not for certain. 

I already struggle with my information living on too many social platforms and how to cut down on tracking, while I’m curious and excited to see Moments launch, I need reassurance of it’s infrastructure before investing me time. 

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It was great meeting awesome entrepreneurs and professionals at Global South Tech Istanbul earlier in the week

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) (AR)

Unifonic, Saudi telecom startup, raises more than $21M in a Series A round from STV, Riyad TAQNIA Fund, Endeavor Catalyst, ELM, & Raed Ventures (EN) (AR)

HitchHiker, Egypt’s crowd-shipping startup, raises its $200k seed investment

Kashtah, Bahrain-based on-demand pool reservation, acquired by Kuwaiti Investors with plans to launch in Kuwait during 2019

Emaar Invests in Texas based 3D printed housing technology startup ICON along with other investors

Sector News

UAEPASS, a National Digital Identity and Signature Solution, launched in partnership between Smart Dubai and the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA)

Dubai’s Emcredit launches blockchain powered payment with Pundi X POS systems

Ecommerce platforms in Egypt are now required to charge and remit VAT 

New Pan-African Data Centre Association launched in Morocco 

Smaat launches programmatic advertising platform Shaheen 

The Lab:Suli, Iraq’s first co-working space launches in Sulaimani

UAE-based global satellite operator, Yahsat launches YahClick in Zimbabwe

PolicyBazaar, Indian Insurtech startup back by Softbank, expands to the UAE

RYOT Studio, Verizon Adtech subsidiary, launches in MENA in partnership with ConnectAds

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

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!