MENA’s Digital News, Week #8

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Fakahany, Egypt-based grocery startup, raises $700k from Endure Capital and angel investors https://goo.gl/F51tNn

Bluering, Lebanon based fintech startup, raises Series A funding from Phoenician Fund (amount undisclosed) https://goo.gl/4mkua1 

WakeCap, UAE-based construction tech, raises $1.6M from Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC), Graphene Ventures, Abunayyan Holding, Inspire Ventures, SOSV, startAD Seed and SeedCo Capital https://goo.gl/5XvnN6 

VoltLine closes their pre-series A round at $1.28M with participation of Dubai Angel Investors – they had raised part from MEVP & Hedef Filo (& individuals) in August https://goo.gl/cqvsk7 

Twiga Foods, Kenyan marketplace for farmers and vendors, raises $10M investment led by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme, with participation from previous investors including Wamda Capital. https://goo.gl/pGeH1n

Mubadala Ventures Leads $60M Funding Round Into US Logistics Tech Firm Turvo https://goo.gl/XV7dxw

WISE Power, Kentucky based Internet of Things (IoT) energy storage company, raises $3M from Saudi based SilverNote Investment Capital (among bigger round) https://goo.gl/f42rVD 

Sector News

UAE based payment processor Network International seems to have plans for a $3B IPO, no date set, but IPO advisers have been hired https://goo.gl/rQbFzC

DMS, Choueiri Group’s digital arm, adds Zee Network’s “Weyyak” to its portfolio of Video-on Demand (VoD) platforms https://goo.gl/VdwMBj

Slighter, Lebanon based hardware startup, a CES 2019 Innovation Awards Honoree https://goo.gl/12oZm7

Google Pay launches in the UAE https://goo.gl/fRPBNR 

Spotify launches MENA wide https://goo.gl/FZmHYJ 

X8, Swiss cryptocurrency firm, gets certified for Sharia compliance by the review board, in plans to launch in MENA https://goo.gl/dwEmbH

500 Startups launches pre-accelerator program with Misk Foundation in Saudi https://goo.gl/Dn152N

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

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 

Batelco Signs Deal To Build New Bahrain Data Centre With Huawei https://goo.gl/cVSvYD 

ADGM Signs MOU with Central Bank of Bahrain to Promote Fintech https://goo.gl/c1x6qR

Further Readings

Egypt Fintech Ecosystem by AsokoInsights

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

According to the Arab Investment Export Credit Guarantee Corporation, China now holds nearly a third of the foreign direct investment (FDI) stock in the Arab word https://goo.gl/C275wL 

Github launches it’s growth numbers with promising MENA prospects highlighted: Algeria is the fastest growing country by repository creation, and Egypt leads the way in the highest number of open source repositories https://goo.gl/Rz1bKh

Fintech Landscape maps of Bahrain https://goo.gl/b2WMG3 & Egypt https://goo.gl/1XDpZ3 

Long Reads

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

ESCWA launches their 2018 “Fostering Innovation in Small and Medium Enterprises in the Arab Region” report https://goo.gl/ZCcQXb


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Wow, this week was eventful, and long. I will post a snippet or two of personal thoughts on some regional news later in the week, as I have to rush out early for a long day in the wilderness. 

Thoughts about the newsletter:
Given how much vertical news there seems to be (mostly fintech and occasionally crypto), I’m considering spinning those out into a separate section or even post altogether… what do you think? 


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! 

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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