MENA’s Digital News, Week #37

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

Investments (Local and Global)

Eksab, Cairo’s Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) platform, announced a “six-figure seed investment” from 500 Startups 

Urent, P2P care rental platform, raised undisclosed funding from Seed Group, The Private Office of Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed Al Maktoum, and will launch in Dubai this month. The startup has acquired RTA approval 

Averos, Saudi tracking startup, Pre-Series A funding round from Saudi Aramco’s Wa’ed Ventures (amount undisclosed) 

Zbooni, Dubai social commerce startup, raises $1.1M led by the Chalhoub Group and B&Y Venture Partners

Swvl, Egypt’s mass transit startup, raises $42M from Vostok, BECO Capital, MSA and Endeavor Catalyst

Venturesouq joins $6M series A round, lead by Impulse VC, into GuestReady, UK based platform for real estate management

Arzooo, Indian retail tech startup, raises $1M in pre-series A lead by Jabbar Internet Group 

Gympass, Brazilian fitness classes subscription service, raises $300M from Softbank Vision Fund and SoftBank Latin America Fund

Collective Health, US, raises $105M in funding led by SoftBank Vision Fund

1 Acquisition

Mubawab, Morocco’s real-estate portal, acquire’s Jumia House operations in Morocco, Tunisia & Algeria (Mubawab owned by Dubai’s EPMG) 

Sector News

World Bank grants $175M (two loans) to Tunisia, $100M for “digital transformation inside the Tunisian administration” and $75M “projects of emerging projects and SMEs”

All mention of this article + posts suddenly disappeared, but we’re keeping it here for reference that they tried. > > Noon launches free delivery starting today across the UAE with no minimum spend (this is on the heels of Amazon launching Prime in the UAE last week)

Microsoft to launch two new data centers in the UAE

Long Reads

Report: Artificial Intelligence in Saudi Arabia, Report by Microsoft and EY (AR)

Further Readings

Etisalat to invest ~$1.2B for network upgrades in 2019

Emirates Investment Authority (sovereign) bought $630M stake into Du Holding (Telecom) from Mamoura Diversified Global Holding (previously Mubadala Development Co) and General Investments. The Emirates Investment Authority held 39.9% of Du, while Mamoura owned 19.92% 

Moroccan Govt looks to sell a further 8% of its shares in Maroc Telecom, cutting down its ownership from 30% to 22%. The sales comes as part of increased privatization move. (AR)

DAAL Investments, Saudi, signs MoU with Azerbijan’s Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies

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MENA’s Digital News, Week #25

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Gulivery, Somali mobile meals and groceries delivery, add e-hailing service 

Tarjama, UAE-based language service provider, raised $5M in a Series A round led by Anova Investments to develop its Ureed platform, an online marketplace focusing on translation and content services 

Dsquares, Cairo-based B2B loyalty solutions provider, raises (undisclosed amount) investment from Algebra and Ezdehar 

Mrsool, Saudi On-Demand Delivery Service, Completes A “Multimillion-Dollar” Series A Funding Led by Raed Ventures and STV

VentureSouq invests in Hello Verify, India-based online background check platform

Sector News

Jumia files for IPO on the New York Stock Exchange

Network International, Dubai’s payment network, files for IPO in London at a valuation of ~$3B and appoints the deputy chairman of WorldPay to lead the IPO


Nabd, Regional Personalized News App, Launches Live Streaming Service 

Weyyak, Zee Entertainment’s first Arabic Video on Demand platform in MENA partnered with Samsung to host exclusive content offerings via their Smartpack


Foodonclick is now officially Talabat

Jollychic signs MoU with SAGIA to “bolster Saudi Arabia’s digital economy”. details of how and when are not clear from the release


FundedByMe Granted License to Operate Crowdfunding Platform in UAE

Emaar will be engaging in crypto but not in real-estate purchasing (as previous rumors claim). Emaar is employing Swiss-based, Lykke AG (ETH based), to develop a community token that can be used across Emaar’s properties and services to drive customer services, loyalty and referrals.

DIFC launches $10M fintech fund and has appointed both Wamda Capital and Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP) to manage it 


Rotana, hotel management company, will pilot a direct distribution agreement with Airbnb

VIVA Bahrain And Etisalat Sign Agreement On SmartHub Data Centre In The Middle East 

Further Readings

Al Mashreq Bank announces plans to close 50% of it’s branches as part of it’s digitization strategy

DXB remains world’s busiest airport in 2018, handling 88.9M international passengers in 2018

Business Models #LookingEast to China

A couple of weeks ago Facebook announced a shift towards “privacy” that raised a few eyebrows across the industry. Not just because Facebook can’t decide what it wants to be, but also because Facebook makes money from data, all our data, for advertising (and beyond).

However I had just listened to Brian McCullough‘s Techmeme podcast episode with Connie Chan, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, about her latest article: “Outgrowing Advertising: Multimodal Business Models as a Product Strategy

Connie confirms the vulnerability of Facebook and Google’s most lucrative business models which is vitally dependent on advertising. What happens when laws like the GDPR hit and governments start to take notice and fight back against the data abuse and “friendly-fraud”

The reason I decided to talk about this, it Careem’s latest interview on Forbes that declares it’s vision to

“build more businesses on top of it (infrastructure). We will build some verticals ourselves, but we are also building a framework upon which others can build upon our platform”

While Careem is not an advertising business it was for a long time dependent on one highly-competitive revenue stream: ride-hailing. It have recently launched it’s food delivery “Careem Now”, and more importantly Careem Pay, the first (and only) truly regional P2P payment method in MENA.

What is everyone modeling around: WeChat; the one app that’s killing apple’s ability to penetrate china. An app that the Chinese live by.

Facebook failed in its countless attempts to enter China, is this a fresh attempt?

Something to think about for the weekend.

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MENA’s Digital News, Week #23

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: A clarification on the “Further readings” section, and an announcement that you could for now join a whatsapp group (admin posting only) for the daily headlines – right here

Investments & Acquisitions

Rain, Bahraini crypto exchange, raises investment from Vision Ventures (Rain was incubated at the Central Bank of Bahrain)

Eunimart Multichannel, “AI-powered” cross-border e-commerce platform, raised bridge funding from UAE-based digital services company TMT Connekt 

Trella, Cairo trucking marketplace, raises $600k led by Algebra Ventures raises $4M from Emaar & AddVenture in Series B Funding 

Nana Direct, Saudi grocery delivery startup, raises $6M from MEVP, Impact 46 and SVC (twitter)

JustClean, Kuwait’s on-demand laundry, raise $8M from Faith Capital 

Jumla Club, Kuwait’s B2B F&B platform, “seven-figure pre-Series A” funding from GCC based individual investors 

Emaar buys remaining 49% of website Namshi (previously acquired 51% before launching 

EMPG, parent company of Bayut, acquires Rocket Internet’s Lamdui Bangladesh 

Sector News (sectioned)

Investment Landscape

MEVP announces $125M regional fund (twitter)

Equinox Gold Announces $130 Million Strategic Investment by Mubadala Investment Company 

Speed@BDD, Beirut based accelerator, raised funding for the next three years of acceleration and decrease equity-stake from startups to 5% 

Etihad Airways and the Department of Culture & Tourism – Abu Dhabi Partner with Plug and Play ADGM 


Central Bank of Bahrain issues final rules on Crypto-asset services and Crypto-asset exchanges 

Wahed Invest has received an associate membership approval from the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), a global standard for sharia-compliant financial operations 

Emaar denies that it will be accepting crypto-payment for real-estate 

According to SAMA “2.3B transactions over the last year alone (through SAMA supported payment gateways), with a total financial value exceeding SR50T”

Al Rajhi Bank, Saudi-based Islamic bank, appoints Temenos to “power” digital transformation


Turkcell, Turkish Telecom, Introduces Blockchain ID Management Product 

Etisalat partners with Huawei to deploy Next Generation Modular Data Center & with Ericsson for 5G network (bridging China and the US)

Zain (KSA) partners with Huawei for new video streaming service 

Further Readings: The Bigger Economic Picture

This segment usually focuses on things beyond tech. As I’m seeing increasing big moves in the region that may help facilitate startup growth and economic stability

Warner Music Group is in talks to buy a large minority stake in Rotana Music (who invested in Deezer and empowered their growth into MENA)

Abdul Latif Jameel Land and Al Muhaidib Group form JV facilities management company in Saudi

Jumeirah Group unveils new luxury hospitality project in China’s Zhujiang New Town Central Business District 

Acwa Power, Saudi-based and PIF backed, signed an agreement with the Egyptian Government for an electricity plant with capacity of 2,250MW in Luxor, with total investments estimated at $2.5B (the company will also finalize three projects, valued at $200M and with a total capacity of 160MW, at Benban Solar Park in Aswan by the end of June) 

BlackRock and KKR are acquiring a 40% stake in UAE’s ADNOC Oil pipelines, ADNOC distribution also just inaugurated first service station in Saudi

Emirates NBD will complete the takeover of Turkey’s DenizBank in the first half of this year

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