MENA’s Digital News, Week #14

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

This is probably the lightest round up yet, hopefully that means people are taking the time to wind down and be with their family, gearing up for a great 2019!

Investments & Acquisitions

VetCode, Egyptian pet-care startup, raises $450k in seed funding from PMaestro https://goo.gl/Dapbfk 

Sector News

Careem partnered with Dubai’s Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) to launch an eHail taxi joint venture https://goo.gl/RrrNmG 

Oyo, Indian budget hotel startup, that raised $1B from Softbank Vision Fund, expanded to UAE last April and has served more than 100,000 guests since https://goo.gl/kGzXR9 

Utopixar, Tunisian startup, receives funding from UNICEF’s Innovation Fund to solve global challenges using blockchain technology https://goo.gl/WCP1kf

AlRawi, Bahrain based audibooks platform, ​soon to be featured on Gulf Air flights https://goo.gl/XDVRp1

Emaar to partner with Tiktok to produce short-video content https://goo.gl/T5tL4c

Samsung bundles VOD services: MBC Shahid, Starz Play and Weyyak into new “SmartPack” offering – notably Netflix is excluded from the bundle https://goo.gl/tECX1M 

Egypt’s Meeza debit card holders will be able to use their cards for online purchases soon https://goo.gl/C9oeqJ

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and IBM piloted a blockchain-based automated system for oil and gas production management https://goo.gl/bfekrx 

UAE to finalize initial coin offering (ICO) regulations in mid-2019 https://goo.gl/eCdLne 

Further Readings

The Emirates Foundation (Abu Dhabi) to grant Google $300k to expand the “Maharat min Google” Arabic language digital skills initiative across the country https://goo.gl/znNBM4 

Schengen Nationals can now travel to Saudi Arabia with an eVisa https://goo.gl/gmJ638

Long Reads

An academic perspective about refugee entrepreneurship in light of recent wars in MENA “Call Me a Business Owner, Not a Refugee!” Challenges of and Perspectives on Newcomer Entrepreneurship” https://goo.gl/HH47nx

What I expect we’ll be seeing in 2019:

  • As regional investors have raised and announced big funds this year, it’s likely that we see a healthy increase in deal sizes, and follow on funding
  • More interest from international investors in the region
  • More Chinese and Asian companies companies expanding into MENA
  • Lots of IPOs are coming up for global players (Uber and co), which will lead to even more aggressive competition as stock markets are becoming cut-throat and unforgiving. (There might be some valuation corrections there as well)
  • Expansion of global players into MENA will be a wake up call for many regional startups (or unicorns) to improve their services
  • This may be the year that P2P payments finally makes it to in MENA – mobile payments in almost there for some markets, and even countries like Egypt are working on improving online payments (finally)
  • A maturity in the crypto / blockchain hype cycle. A lot of people have and will lose a lot of money in the process, but at least we’ll have a guide on what NOT to do.
  • More global regulations on Crypto currency and assets
  • More content creators = more fragmentation of market = people will pirate more as the options to watch all the shows and movies become too cumbersome to deal with
  • A clear gap in the “favorite” social network space leaves the space open for unlikely new players.
  • Over valuations may kill a startup or two.

See you in 2019!

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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) https://goo.gl/6kPEML (AR) https://goo.gl/wvnY3H

Unifonic, Saudi telecom startup, raises more than $21M in a Series A round from STV, Riyad TAQNIA Fund, Endeavor Catalyst, ELM, & Raed Ventures (EN) https://goo.gl/XYhcjx (AR) https://goo.gl/pJ2tS6

HitchHiker, Egypt’s crowd-shipping startup, raises its $200k seed investment https://goo.gl/XjbS79

Kashtah, Bahrain-based on-demand pool reservation, acquired by Kuwaiti Investors with plans to launch in Kuwait during 2019 https://goo.gl/4YN4gL

Emaar Invests in Texas based 3D printed housing technology startup ICON along with other investors https://goo.gl/GQUGWS

Sector News

UAEPASS, a National Digital Identity and Signature Solution, launched in partnership between Smart Dubai and the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA) https://goo.gl/NisR1H

Dubai’s Emcredit launches blockchain powered payment with Pundi X POS systems https://goo.gl/2ibrvm

Ecommerce platforms in Egypt are now required to charge and remit VAT https://goo.gl/umfpe8 

New Pan-African Data Centre Association launched in Morocco https://goo.gl/nbVzvo 

Smaat launches programmatic advertising platform Shaheen https://goo.gl/JhLYAA 

The Lab:Suli, Iraq’s first co-working space launches in Sulaimani https://goo.gl/KHM5Gm

UAE-based global satellite operator, Yahsat launches YahClick in Zimbabwe https://goo.gl/FWP2bm

PolicyBazaar, Indian Insurtech startup back by Softbank, expands to the UAE https://goo.gl/TWco65

RYOT Studio, Verizon Adtech subsidiary, launches in MENA in partnership with ConnectAds https://goo.gl/kLKp6T

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 https://goo.gl/osJxrw

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!