Abu Dhabi-based miromobility startup Fenix has raised $3.8 million in a seed round led by Israeli venture capital firm Maniv Mobility, it announced in a statement to MENAbytes today. The investment which is one of the largest seed rounds ever raised by a startup in the United Arab Emirates is the first by an Israeli VC in the UAE. The two countries had normalized their relationship in September earlier this year and businesses in both the markets have been looking to partner in different ways since then.
Maniv Mobility, as its name suggests, is a VC, focused on mobility startups, with investments in Israel, Europe, United States, and now United Arab Emirates.
An Israeli VC investing in a UAE-based startup is a big story – and one that is going to receive mixed reactions from different stakeholders of the ecosystem but the bigger highlight about Fenix is its team.
The startup was founded earlier this year by the former executives of Careem; Jaideep Dhanoa and IQ Sayed; who had also co-founded European micomobility startup Circ in 2019. Jaideep led the Middle East & North Africa region for Circ and IQ was their CTO – before the company was acquired by US miromobility giant Bird for an undisclosed sum in January.
The two had first met at Careem where Jaideep was the Senior Director of Growth & Strategy, and IQ was Vice President of Engineering. Jaideep left Careem in 2016 to join Grab as their Head of Micromobility and IQ left the Dubai-based firm to work for Lyft – leading their autonomous driving team in Germany.
Fenix is now the third company in the mobility sector where the two are working together – and the second they’ve co-founded (their was Circ was co-founded and led by Delivery Hero’s co-founder Lukasz Gadowski).
Jaideep Dhanoa, the co-founder and CEO of Fenix, commenting on the investment, said, “When we started Fenix, we sought the most value-adding investors that could support our mission of unleashing urban potential and propelling communities forward. As a result of the new friendship that has emerged since normalization between the UAE and Israel, we were grateful to meet the team at Maniv Mobility and now benefit from working with some of the most talented and experienced global investors and tech entrepreneurs in the mobility space.”
“It is no secret that Israeli mobility companies have enjoyed global success – Waze and Mobileye are just the tip of the iceberg. We hope this investment is just the start of cross-pollination of talent, capital and innovation between the nations that can only be an accelerant in the development of a true middle-eastern tech ecosystem that will greatly benefit the region and its people at large,” he added.
The Abu Dhabi-based startup has launched its services in the emirate today, enabling people to book electric scooter rides in Corniche, Al Dana, Al Bateen, Al Reem Island, and Al Maryah Island. The rides can be booked using Fenix’s mobile app. Fenix said that it is launching with the largest fleet of electric vehicles in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey. It did not share the exact number but told MENAbytes that it has a fleet of several throusand vehicles.
The micromobility startup is starting with Abu Dhabi but has plans to expands all across the UAE and then to the rest of GCC – to become ‘first pan-GCC operator’ by 2022.
Fenix’s scooters come with hand sanitization dispensers installed in them. They also feature trackers that notify Fenix’s team whenever the scooters need cleaning.
“We know that proper, thorough hygiene is just as important as a smooth and safe ride. That’s why you’ll find world-first hygiene features on each and every one of our vehicles including individual hand sanitizer dispensers and trackers that notify our team when they need cleaning. This means you’re safer riding solo on our scooters than on a shared train or taxi,” notes company’s website.
The statement by the startup also points out that micormobility has emerged as the safest form of shared transportation globally since the start of Covid-19, “The personal vehicles offer de facto social distancing: no human interaction, reduce load on crowded public transportation systems, and receive natural sanitization from the sun’s UV rays, heat and humidity. Millions of riders and hundreds of cities around the world have turned to and embraced micromobility during the pandemic as a means to safely restart economic activity.”
Michael Granoff, the founder and Managing Partner of Maniv Mobility, commenting on the investment, said, “The challenges and opportunities of mobility cross all borders – Maniv now has portfolio companies in six countries. When it comes to finding safe, affordable, and clean ways of moving people around cities, the same solution sets apply to Tel Aviv, London – or Abu Dhabi. We are delighted to be the first Israeli VC to invest in a UAE-based tech company.”
“Maniv Mobility sees huge potential in the GCC region as a new market for micro-mobility and we were incredibly impressed by the team at Fenix and their drive to change the mobility future across the region. At Maniv Mobility, we eat, breathe and sleep mobility, so we are able to support the team as they bring their service to market and rapidly expand across the Middle East,” he added.
IQ Sayed, co-Founder of Fenix, stated, “The birth of Fenix is conjoined with the rebirth of our cities, our societies, and our economies as we transition out of Covid-19 lockdowns. We believe micromobility has an important role to play in navigating an uncertain present to a better tomorrow. We want to transform the way our cities move and ignite impactful commerce by making mobility easier, cheaper, and quite simply redesigned, so we can all reach our potential.”
“Increasing mobility connectivity creates a more productive and inclusive economy and facilitates local commerce in our communities. Our collaboration with Maniv Mobility and this historic seed investment provides the resources and expertise for Fenix to build technology innovations that best serve the mobility needs of the people and city partners in our region.” added the co-founder of Fenix.
There are different micormobility players active in the United Arab Emirates including Uber-backed Lime and Careem, and European micormobility startup Tier that recently raised $250 million from SoftBank, Mubadala, and others.