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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Is it really Newspapers vs. Social Media everywhere?

2 minutes
This post is inspired and in reply to Farhad Manjoo’s “For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I Learned” post NYTimes. I loved the article and agree with most of it, but…

In an ideal world where there are multiple relatively credible media outlets governed by freedom of speech, open dialogue and democracy that practice is fantastic.

I never turn-on news alerts on my phone nor follow breaking news in any form. My social timelines are not for following “breaking news”, but opinions, long reads, debates and social interaction. As Farhad mentions “If something really big happens, you will find out”.

The Media Consumption Pyramid by @Faris
The Media Consumption Pyramid by @Faris

Reading the news after things have crystallized and minus the conspiracy theorist drama is always the best choice, whether it’s online, offline or in whatever form you prefer.

The problem however is in countries were the media is not independent, free, protected or available. Where it is not possible to read an argument and a counter argument. Where there is even nothing to read.

In countries with heavy monitoring of media and confining PR controls, you can only know what is happening by following social channels. Chances are once the government issues it’s version of the story all media outlets will comply and people that have any contrary views will delete them in fear of repercussions.

There are cities that have no media coverage, facing famine, war and extreme situations that the media cannot be left alone to cover. An example would be the Syrian war, if you depend on official media you’ll miss many details that constitute the full story. And the available outlets are far too biased for the full picture. Countries like Yemen have no real media to speak of, and the media itself is dependent on social channels. Egypt and Turkey are prime examples of countries arresting journalists for showing an opposing opinion or narrative. Thailand, China, and many more countries are not shy of such activities as well.

While being patient to get a better picture of the news is important, how does the rest of the world tell its story?

The winning formula for me would be to not block the counter argument, even online. Keep an open mind and question everything. Improve critical thinking and encourage people to read, explore and disconnect more. Don’t treat social media as fact, but neither should you treat traditional media as fact (with all those alternative facts now surging).

BuzzSumo launched a report that shows that article sharing has dropped 50% from 2015 to 2017 in the US. There is a sharp decline in “viral” content, people are sharing more privately and less publicly, this is further the direction on Facebook’s timeline algorithm, and Google’s new social network. Less mass, more catered.

While Facebook adapts it’s algorithm to the plight of US media and spam, how will all this affect the rest of the world that depends on it to share their plight?

I have to point out that there are journalists that are on the ground in the most dire situations trying to cover the news for the rest of the world. The numbers are far from what is needed and understandably the risks are high. To those that have risked and lost their lives I give my deepest respect.

This post originally appeared on Medium on March 12, 2018