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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