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 (Wadi.com) raises investment from UAE’s Majid Al Futtaim https://goo.gl/o3nWmx

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 https://goo.gl/wJ2JwX 

Fakespot, NY based fake reviews spotter, raised a $1.3M seed fund with participation from Faith Capital https://goo.gl/Wh6Ujs 

Blueground, NY-based airbnb for business travelers, raises $12M from Jabbar Internet Group, VentureFriends, and Endeavor Catalyst https://goo.gl/XAyjDj 

Wahed Invest, UK based Halal Online Investment Platform, raises $7.75M (£6M) from BECO Capital and Cue Ball Capital https://goo.gl/ScbB2K

Sector News

Recap of some of the big name deals signed at the Future Investment Initiative worth $50B https://goo.gl/dYYFoF

The UAE’ Statistics Authority signs with Esri, global leader in location intelligence, to geo-enable its work https://goo.gl/TaqW72

Cairo hosts it’s first NASA App Challenge sponsored by Nile Pioneers https://goo.gl/gzZ6EK 

Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) announces “Miza” “ميزة”, a mobile payment solution to be launched by December (EN) https://goo.gl/YmVABJ (AR) https://goo.gl/YmYDkg 

Qatar Sports Tech Accelerator Launched, powered by Startupbootcamp https://goo.gl/wGNy4L 

Womena Graduates First Cohort Of Female-led Tech Startups https://goo.gl/nqAmxT 

Meet the Startup winners at DEMO Africa https://goo.gl/vStLAJ

Further Readings

Deezer, French Music Streaming Service, Launches in the Middle East with “exclusive Rotana catalogue” https://goo.gl/4YEqbN 

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 https://goo.gl/PjFjej

Reports claim that Russian malware was attempted to be used to sabotage a Saudi petrochemical plant last year https://goo.gl/y9htpd

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