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 

Kamkalima, Lebanon based edtech, raises $1.5M in Series A from Phoenician Fund and iSME

Webjet acquires Dubai travel firm Destinations of the World for $173M 

Sector News

Uber and Careem may start paying 22.5% corporate tax in Egypt 

Chalhoub Group launches Dubai based co-working space and accelerator: Greenhouse, and announces first cohort startups

Chalhoub Greenhouse Photo Credit to MENABytes

Saudi’s Badir Incubator launches in 4 new locations in the kingdom: Madina, Abha, Qassim and Dammam (AR)

Modus Capital, New York based venture capital firm, plans to expand into Egypt with incubation, seed and series A investment, and co-working space

Deutsche’s DWS to buy 15% stake in Dubai-based digital investment firm, Neo Technologies

Emirates NBD publicly launches their API sandbox 

Dubai’s Fintech sandbox announces it’s first licensed graduate Sarwa 

UAE announces the list of entities not allowed 100% foreign ownership (in follow up to law announced in August) 

Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) to Create Infrastructure for Cryptocurrency Assets 

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

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) 

Norton research shows that Saudi children are among the youngest in EMEA that receive smartphone, at approximately 7 years of age (AR)

Digital Gurus release a survey of average salaries of data engineers, scientists and analysts in the UAE

Facebook releases it’s Egyptian market penetration numbers: 24M daily users and 37M monthly mobile users (more)

According to Gartner, 787,000 bitcoins were mined in the first half of 2018 through illicit targeted crypto-mining in MEA 

Long Reads

Faith Capital release a MENA Venture Capital Regulatory Framework white paper

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.

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 #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 #2

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Faith Capital invests $1.5M in Snapbook, online to print service. (AR) (EN)

Mumzworld, mother and child ecommerce platform, closes $20M Series B investment round

iCommunity, mobile platform for real estate, raises $600K in Series A funding from Algebra Ventures

Sector News

Careem resumes services in Oman and has launched services in Sudan earlier in the month

Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG) launch eCommerce platform “Al Mall” “المول” today (AR) – SRMG is the holding company of Sayidaty Magazine which also operates Sayidaty Mall.

Storytel Arabia, audiobooks, partners up Jamalon as a distribution platform – Storytel is a Stockholm based audiobook company that has recently expanded into MENA. The regional audiobook startup space features startups such as Dhad, Kitab Sawti and Alrawi

A Big Week for Saudi Arabia’s Financial Sector

STCPay, man holding phone against QR code
Picture via Hashtag Saudi’s Twitter

Saudi Telecom Company (STC) inaugurated STCPay services on Tuesday October 2nd at a prestigious event with key market stakeholders. The service is already supported by Arab National Bank ATMs and some retail outlets. The live coverage of the event is available on STCPay’s twitter account. A small write up

Following the launch of STCPay (next day) Apple to affirmed  that their payment solutions will be launching in Saudi very soon (AR) and have started testing it’s ApplePay service with some (AR) – followed by a tweet today from Mada urging the confirmation further (AR)

Saudi Arabia has been broadening its digital payments offering and facilitating the move to a cashless society. Mada, a service launched by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, has allowed local consumers to use their local issued debit/credit cards to pay online, something was not possible without explicit bank permission for a substantial amount of consumers due to previous restrictions.

Now, when will AliPay, SmasungPay and GooglePay launch in the Kingdom?

Further Readings

Softbank Vision Fund invests in 2 proptech companies over the past week: Compass, $400M and Opendoor, $400M. Bringing Softbank Vision Fund’s investments in proptech up to $8B

Abu Dhabi launches 5-year plan for Smart Cities and AI: Zayed Smart City Project

DFSA & Financial Services Authority of Japan sign fintech cooperation agreement

Saudi British Bank secures binding deal for $5 billion acquisition of Alawwal

MIT and Qatar Computing Research Institute are working on a training computers to detect fake news sites

Telecom Egypt announced the 50% acquisition of its subsidiary Egyptian International Submarine Cable Company (EISCC) for $15M

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