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MENA’s Digital News, Week #42

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

Investments & Acquisitions

SOS Credit, Casablanca-based fintech startup, has received an undisclosed investment from the SEAF Morocco Growth Fund (SMGF) http://bit.ly/2Y9hgFb

CODED, Coding education platform, raises $1.3M Pre-series A funding led by KISP, and joined by 500 startups, Sijam Ventures, Sirdab Lab, Sharq Capital and Abdullah Al-Zabin http://bit.ly/2GoYGmo 

Zid, Saudi-based eCommerce infrastructure provider, raises $2M led by Elm Ventures and joined by Arzan VC & MSA Capital http://bit.ly/32Mk9PJ

PushBots, Saas add-ons provider for startups, sells two SaaS API products to Apilayer from Austria for undisclosed amount http://bit.ly/2GqeQfh

Mubadala Ventures, joins investors in funding InCountry, US based data-residency startup, in a series A round of $15M https://tcrn.ch/2XVlwI9 

Sector News

Swvl, Egypt’s on-demand shuttle service, expands into Pakistan’s Lahore http://bit.ly/2Y9O05b

Huobi and CASHU, crypto-payment platforms, announce partnership and expansion to North Africa http://bit.ly/2GiRKHe 

Careem launches new service in Dubai in joint-venture with the Road and Transportation Authority (RTA) called ‘Hala’ which further integrates RTA Taxis into Careem’s app http://bit.ly/32ALZOJ (the partnership was announced in Dec, 2018)

Property Finder and the Dubai Land Department (DLD) sign a partnership to launch an official sales and rental price index for Dubai available through Data Finder platform, and Mo’asher http://bit.ly/2SyLqQR

Iflix, Mayalsian VOD service, halts operations in the Middle East. They had just closed a $50M investment round. https://tcrn.ch/2yfGV4h 

BIGO, Singapore holding company of IMO messenger and BIGO Live, to establish an office in Jordan (BIGO Live is a popular live streaming platform in SEA) http://bit.ly/2MdR2Ps 

SoftBank Vision Fund II has commitments from Apple, Goldman Sachs Group, and Kazakhstan’s government https://on.wsj.com/2YwXVSJ 

UAE x China

SenseTime, Chinese AI startup, to open an EMEA R&D center in Abu Dhabi http://bit.ly/2GvB0g5 

Jollypay, online payment arm of China’s Jollychic, receives license to operate in the UAE http://bit.ly/2M3lhse (Alipay, Alibaba’s payment service, has been operating in the UAE since 2018) 

Fang, China’s #1 real-estate platform, launches in the UAE http://bit.ly/2Y2blBO

Didi, China’s leading ride-hailing service, signed a joint-venture with Symphony Investors and other unnamed investors to establish a regional presence http://bit.ly/2OaulOP 

Neolix, Chinese autonomous vehicle company, signs agreement with Noon.com to trial their vehicles in Saudi Arabia and UAE http://bit.ly/2Z7C691 

Further Readings (Economic)

CooperFitch publishes salary guide for Saudi Arabia (AR) http://bit.ly/32MDzE0 

Lebanon issues New Commercial Law to improve ease-of-business, clauses are very positive for startups. Unofficial english translation is here: http://bit.ly/2Z2k5ZS and full draft (much longer) in official gazette here (AR) http://bit.ly/2SpE5D4 

Worldbank releases new report “Promoting a New Economy for the Middle East and North Africa” http://bit.ly/30SgP3L 

Investcorp, Bahrain-based “alternative investment manager”, announces a $142M for its Private Equity Fund for India http://bit.ly/2SEmUxR 

AJ Capital and Investment LLC (AJCI), Al Jallaf Family Office, acquires a 51% stake in Kenyan micro-insurer, Insurance For All (IFA) Ltd http://bit.ly/2OhHu8Q

Long Reads

Saudi authorities issue a “Fintech Access Guide” that includes: regulations and frameworks for companies that wish to setup or expand into the kingdom http://bit.ly/2MhJriI 

IBM’s Cost of Data Breach Report is out and MENA (UAE & Saudi as per their research) remain the second highest regions for average cost of breaches for entities at $5.97M! The average cost per breached record in MENA is $173. Full Report here: https://ibm.co/2YiJxx7 and a more interactive cost calculator can be found on their website here: https://ibm.co/2YahdZF 

Visa’s eCommerce in the UAE Report on the state and projections of eCommerce in the UAE. Market is estimated at $8.3B in 2018 and growing 23% annually, UAE consumers spend per transaction is one of the highest globally at $100+ per transaction http://bit.ly/2YqClyS

Global Innovation Index (GII) 2019 is out, MENA countries don’t rank very high globally, but are on par in some categories. Excerpt is 20 pages, Full report is 400+, pick your weekend read! both can be found here http://bit.ly/2M9QVnX 


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MENA’s Digital News, Week #39

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

In this week’s edition, I have added our first ever mention of an accelerator cohort. I have had mixed feelings about including acceleration news, but eventually (~40 weeks in) decided when startups enroll through equity based accelerators their companies have technically raised a small investment round, so there they’ll live.

Investments & Acquisitions

Widebot, Cairo based Arabic chat bot makers, raise “six figure” pre-series A investment http://bit.ly/2JeWRJq 

FlexxPay, UAE based financial solutions for SMEs platform, raises undisclosed investment round from undisclosed investors http://bit.ly/2xm05VY

Dhad, Saudi based Arabic Audio-book, raises undisclosed seed investment from Vision Ventures, 500 Startups, SVC, and angel investors from Oqal http://bit.ly/2Xfk6rv 

Faylasof, Jordan based online bookstore, raises $500k in pre-series A from Wise Ventures http://bit.ly/2YpvIJX 

Ecomz, Lebanon’s eCommerce website builder, raises $4M in series A led by Cedar Mundi, joined by iSME Lebanon and BLC Bank http://bit.ly/2FObBOf 

Boutiqaat, Kuwait based eCommerce platform, raises investment at $500M valuation, amount & GCC investor undisclosed. The announcement was made via twitter: http://bit.ly/2xrKgx6, sale disclosure on Kuwait Bourse http://bit.ly/2XhtcnX (lost of speculation and cloudiness around this doubling in valuation in under 6 month)

Flat6Labs Bahrain inaugurates cycle 3 with 6 startups http://bit.ly/2XNjlKA

Jabbar Group founders join Series J round into India’s Ola http://bit.ly/2RR8b28 

Tara.ai (originally Gradberry) raises $10M led by Aspect Ventures with participation from Slack Fund. The founders are graduates from the American University in Sharjah and later moved their business to SF to tap into AI talent https://tcrn.ch/301jGqA

Ola spun off its Electric Mobility unit to independent, Ola Electric Mobility, for which it raised $250M from Softbank Vision Fund at $1B valuation http://bit.ly/324ePXr

Sector News

Halan, Cairo’s tuktuk & motorcycle ride-hailing, launched Halan Ads to power advertising on its vehicles http://bit.ly/2NjjBwT 

Amazon.ae’s Payfort signs agreement Ajman Municipality, UAE, to power a unified payment gateway for the emirate: AjmanPay http://bit.ly/2LvJkjp (AR) http://bit.ly/2ROXayc 

Standard Chartered Bank in the UAE has announced its support of Womena’s Womentum program as part of their “diversity and inclusion agenda” http://bit.ly/2YwjejG

Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), with the support of OCP Group & MassChallenge, launches an accelerator aimed at agri-tech, biotech, nanotech and mining tech: Impulse http://bit.ly/2YuFp9Z

Princess Sumaya University, Jordan, launches a Bachelor in Data Science & Artificial Intelligence (AR) http://bit.ly/2FHv834

Bahrain & UK selected by World Economic Forum to “pilot new guidelines for the procurement of Artificial Intelligence in the public sector” http://bit.ly/30aYvm0

Further Readings

The UAE Cabinet has approved 122 economic activities across 13 sectors eligible for up to 100% foreign ownership in the UAE, which include “transport and storage, which allows investors to own projects in the field of e-commerce transport, supply chain, logistics” among others http://bit.ly/2XpKpQY they also announced 10 incentives to attract investors (AR) http://bit.ly/2XpjgNQ (english not yet available)

Al Maktoum Center for Middle Eastern Studies to open at Dublin’s Trinity College in partnership with Al Maktoum College of Higher Education http://bit.ly/2xxnaot

Dubai Ports acquires Topaz, major oil and gas marine logistics provider for ~$1.1B from the Oman-listed Renaissance Services. Topaz operates 117 vessels https://wapo.st/2FLYhtO

Long Reads

Snapchat launches “The Friendship Report” that highlights relationships across Australia, France, Germany, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK, and the US broken down by generations http://bit.ly/31ZO46u 

World Bank “Mashreq 2.0: Digital Transformation for Inclusive Growth and Jobs” Report http://bit.ly/2KPp3FK (AR) http://bit.ly/301ewLn 


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