MENA’s Digital News, Week #48

This is last weeks post due to challenges with the hosting service, cancellation and transfer to a new host. We’re up on running now!

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Shelvz, Lebanon-based Saas-workforce management platform, raises funding from iM Capital http://bit.ly/2kfmMIv

Foloosi, UAE-based fintech startup, closes a angel funding round of $500k (inclusive of the committed funding in June) http://bit.ly/2A5bxGA

Misk Growth Accelerator kicks off cycle with 11 startups, each of which will receive up to $100k in funding from Seedstars & Vision Ventures by end of cycle http://bit.ly/2kFN7zz

Sector News

Wired Magazine launches Middle East edition http://bit.ly/2LlmVVh 

Youtube launches subscription based premium music streaming service in MENA http://bit.ly/2k6ehiG 

Arrow Labs, Dubai-based wearable workforce management, expands to the USA. They had raised a single funding round from Global Ventures (Dubai) in May, 2018 (amount undisclosed) http://bit.ly/2LoJUPz

Qatar blocks Uber’s acquisition of Careem within the country http://bit.ly/318Vx2y 


CareemPay launches mobile top-up capability in Egypt and Pakistan http://bit.ly/2lQpeFw 

Accion Venture Lab & Fund, $33M, launches to invest in MENAP based startups focused on financial inclusion http://bit.ly/2A0bImT

Abu Dhabi Global Markets (ADGM) grants the first full digital banking license to Anglo-Gulf Trade Bank, which will allow it to provide corporate banking services to Abu Dhabi based companies starting with ones based in ADGM http://bit.ly/2ZTVkmf 

Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) is considering to expand the scope of digital currencies to banks & other countries http://bit.ly/30dybHr 

Central Bank of Egypt to launch over $50M fintech fund http://bit.ly/2kc7KDc 

Further Reading

Saudi’s Ministry of Labor launches a new platform to facilitate freelance work licenses in the kingdom (AR) http://bit.ly/2kaPzhc 

Egypt’s ICT Minister says they plan to launch 7 technological parks in 7 universities across Egypt, with EGP 1B (~$60M) budget from the government, and aims to increase ICT contribution to GDP to 4% by end of year http://bit.ly/2kFEFjE 

Egypt begins digitization of its energy grid http://bit.ly/2ka3qEr

Masdar, Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, (owned by Mubadala) and the UK government have invested £70M ($86.5M) in a new green technology fund to be managed by London-based Zouk Capital http://bit.ly/2lIVsmk

Long Reads

The World Economic Forum publishes the 2019 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report. The UAE leads MENA enablement, infrastructure, ICT, labor and at a globally competitive level, however it’s not faring well on nature, openness and price. Full report here: http://bit.ly/2kqLhCF

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MENA’s Digital News, Week #24

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

Investments & Acquisitions

AvidBeam Technologies, Egypt big data analytics, begins Series A round with commitment from Egypt Ventures http://bit.ly/2tSiCXX 

Beehive, P2P SME Lending Platform, Raises Further $4M Investment as Part of a Series B Round from Riyad TAQNIA Fund (RTF) https://prn.to/2TeGwfm and expands to Bahrain http://bit.ly/2XHI6Fa 

Syarah, Riyadh-based online car marketplace, raises investment from Elm http://bit.ly/2tSMVhv

Blueground, Greek turnkey flexible rental apartments, raised $20M from VentureFriends, Endeavor Catalyst, Jabbar Internet Group and Kevin Ryan (angel) https://tcrn.ch/2H1MolN 

SoftBank Invests $350M In Delhivery, India based food delivery startup, at $1.6B valuation http://bit.ly/2NJvqZY and $1.5B in Grab, India’s top Uber competitor) http://bit.ly/2TCuM5M 

Mubadala Investment Company’s EU Fund led an investment into WeFox’s series B round which raised US$ 125M in funding http://bit.ly/2EQQ5sq

Sector News

ITP Media Group launches “ITP Gaming” which will focus on managing large scale gaming events, representing gaming publishers and influencers, and creating new multi-language games http://bit.ly/2TnWoM7 

Namshi to expand into Egypt http://bit.ly/2NE7qr4 

Wadi.com pivots to grocery-focus (used to sell everything) in the GCC companies it serves (twitter) http://bit.ly/2ITXN93 – the website now redirects to app with clear different branding and positioning wadi.com

Zomato raises $105M in it’s latest funding round led by Delivery Hero http://bit.ly/2EKYgWU and relinquished it’s UAE business to Delivery Hero to focus on increasing competition with Swiggy in India http://bit.ly/2NJhCP3 (Now Delivery Hero owns most of the regional food delivery players: Talabat, Carriage, Zomato UAE, and Hungerstation)

Paymate, Indian enterprise payment management, to expand to MENA supported by Visa (their partner in the Indian market) http://bit.ly/2NFfU1e

MidChains, Abu Dhabi-based blockchain enabled financial investment exchange, to open a crypto exchange business under the new Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) Crypto Asset regulatory framework http://bit.ly/2XJB0jJ

Orange (Telecom) launches affordable 3G-featured phone in partnership with KaiOS Technologies and UNISOC in 16 MEA markets http://bit.ly/2C4KAEy 

The Food Battle .. continues.

.. yes it’s yet another battle in a long war.

In 2012 Delivery Hero was one of dozens of food delivery startups in Europe, and has since acquired half the market, or burnt out the other. In MENA, Delivery Hero financial results for 2018 show a two fold growth in MENA revenues (4 weeks ago) and it may be no surprise as they own most of the market!

Source: ArabNet

The latest acquisition increases Delivery Hero’s power of the delivery market and spells more trouble for Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Careem Now, who collectively hold a much smaller market share (confidential source) than Delivery Hero’s kingdom.

There are local players still standing strong to Delivery Hero’s dominance in Saudi: Wssel and Jahez. In Lebanon, Onlivery is still growing strong; Zomato launched delivery in 2018, however it is doing it in collaboration with other food delivery services (Toters). Egypt, Akelni ($1.2M funding), Yumamia ($1.3M funding) and ElMenus ($1.5 funding), are taking a crack at the market which may be big enough to share.

What’s interesting to watch is the new trend in lunch focused services like: LunchOn (Dubai, $3.5M) that specialize in curated lunch options, and Mumm (Cairo, $450k). As well as of vertical delivery like Cofe (Kuwait, $3.2M) and Sippy (Dubai) that provide a coffee shop market place to consumers.

Zomato did not drop it’s Dubai business due to losses, but the competition on its Indian home-turf with Swiggy has taken priority, and lets face it, India is a far larger market than all of MENA combined.

So next time you stare at Talabat, Carriage, and Zomato in the UAE deciding to order from either or, remember, it’s Rocket Internet anyway.

Reports & Long Reads

Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index 2019 http://bit.ly/2J4Bxt0 “

E-commerce in MENA: Opportunity Beyond the Hype” by Bain & Co’s http://bit.ly/2UoimM2

A Map of Health-tech in MENA http://bit.ly/2ETdk52

Further Readings: The Bigger Economic Picture

Petra Engineering Industries Company, Jordanian manufacturer, signed (the first ever deal in Jordan) with Siemens to supply Petra with the building technology and software to develop a line of smart HVAC and building management systems http://bit.ly/2NKmlzX

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MENA’s Digital News, Week #16

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Image Source: Jon Richard’s Twitter

Yallacompare, Dubai based financial comparison website, raises $8M lead by Wamda Capital and STC Ventures https://goo.gl/65C9v9 

EdCast, US based AI startup, raises $33.6M from global investors: Crescent Enterprises Ventures (UAE). Softbank (Japan), and London Fund, and announcing plans to enter MENA https://goo.gl/HXWzZq

ClassPass, NY based gym pass startup, acquires Middle East and Asia competitor GuavaPass (Singapore) to expand their geographic reach. Both startups operate in Abu Dhabi and Dubai https://goo.gl/MZjqvK

Sector News

MBC launches “MBC Studios” to create original content, and hires ex-Hulu executive Johannes Larcher to expand streaming services via Shahid (FT pay-wall) https://goo.gl/HFKfYj (Variety) https://goo.gl/z4QXGT

Publiseer, Nigeria’s digital publishing company, partner’s with Google Play Books to expand to Egypt https://goo.gl/kz9bpa

Democrance, Dubai based insurtech startup, partners with American International Group (AIG) MEA to aid the regional leader in digitization and expand the startups reach regionally through their network https://goo.gl/YL8u5n 

Ripple’s payment network, RippleNet, now has over 200 financial institutions signed up including: Ahli Bank of Kuwait and Bahrain Finance Company, UAE Exchange, RAKBank, and Moneygram https://goo.gl/bzDH1p 

MenaPay, Turkish blockchain-based payment platform, will be launched in “whole region” on January 15th https://goo.gl/Jsa8ud 

Image Source: ArabNews

Huawei inaugurates their first flagship store in Saudi Arabia this past Saturday. https://goo.gl/fPfiMn

Fortnite to launch servers in the Middle East after recurring complains on game performance. This is a clear financial indicator of the scale of the game and revenues coming out of MENA https://goo.gl/snrDZS 

Masdar, Abu Dhabi based renewable energy company, announce collaboration with the Department of Transport in Abu Dhabi bus manufacturer Hafilat Industry and Siemens to launch fully electric passenger bus https://goo.gl/BHTv3Z

Microsoft Azure Data Center approved for Qatar (3 have already been commenced in Bahrain) https://goo.gl/NYGFu9 

Long Reads

MAGNiTT reveals their annual MENA Venture Investment Report https://goo.gl/j11poS 

The Stagnation of Innovation

Reporters that have been covering the technology space for the past 2-3 decades seem to share a recent” “nothing feels new and exciting in tech anymore” sentiment. And I agree, rarely anything does. 

All this “innovation” feels de-facto, obvious and iterative; and that’s cause it is! 

  • QR Codes are now being used for tagging accounts, verifications, and payments, and supported by most mobile “camera” techs
  • Automation is everything that IFTTT set out to do back in the day, but now iteratively diversified and slapped with a Machine-learning layer when possible, if not straight out declared as “AI”
  • Scooter are so 1995, and electric bikes are so Y2K, they just merged into electric scooters (and we still have to “share” them!)
  • VR/AR is kind of an old fad now
  • Bitcoin, Ripple, Ethereum and even the promise of blockchain is a topic we organized events around (even in MENA) in 2012
  • On-demand services have been around for over 8 years now, and just like eCommerce the only real change is breadth and speed (and the occasional invasion of privacy)
  • Advertisers have been buying client data for decades, and hiring brand ambassadors (on commission or retainer) forever, we just have a name for it now “influencers”
  • Even regulators remains 10 steps behind. As always.

Things are so repetitive that technology now has fashion cycles: How can we bring back the 80s with a twist, Wide legged high waisted jeans with a flip phone and a tamagotchi on your phone or wagging it’s metallic tail next to you. 

Some of the real, but not exciting to buzz about, innovation is in algorithms: big data and data analysis that allows these technologies to be optimized and improved, even personalized 

The only sector i’m seeing real innovation in is medical research, the slow and steady type (not theranos), with its long research cycle, embedded AB testing and strong regulations. It builds on years of research, optimizes with data powered tech and tada: maybe this could work. 

Space, Quantum Computing, Health tech; the technology that is exciting to watch is that that has the highest risk and cost of failure because it truly breaks the new frontiers. At least that’s what is fascinating the most now. 

Image Source

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