From funding rounds to new product launches and partnerships, the MENA region’s startup ecosystem has had quite a busy week. In MENAbytes’ weekly startup news roundup, we highlight the most important news and updates from the MENA tech and startup scene, keeping you informed and up-to-date on the latest developments in the region.
Here’s what happened this week:
Africa Business Heroes, RiseUp’s North Africa Partner, Opens Applications for 5th Edition
Applications are now open for the fifth edition of Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH), a program that gives African entrepreneurs a unique platform to showcase their startups. The top 10 finalists will share a $1.5 million cash grant to grow their businesses. Read more about Africa’s Business Heroes and find out how to apply.
SAMA Grants ’Creative Future for Digital Brokerage’ License to Carry out Finance Aggregation Services
The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has granted Creative Future for Digital Brokerage, a Saudi Arabia-based financial technology company, license to carry out finance aggregation services in accordance with the Rules of Licensing Finance Support Activities.
Creative Future for Digital Brokerage is a leading digital investment platform in Saudi Arabia, offering investors access to a range of investment products through an intuitive digital interface. Granting the license to Creative Future for Digital Brokerage is aimed at promoting financial inclusion and enhancing operational efficiency in Saudi Arabia’s financial sector, while also supporting the development of FinTech in the country—a step towards achieving the objectives of Saudi Arabia’s FinTech Strategy, which aims to position the Kingdom as one of the leading countries in FinTech.
Pepsico’s Greenhouse Accelerator Program Call for Applications Is Now Open
Among the announcements made at this year’s RiseUp Summit of the decade is that Pepsico’s Greenhouse Accelerator program is now accepting applications for its second edition in the MENA region. Startups that offer technological solutions in the agriculture world are encouraged to apply, and funding will focus on those addressing some of the most intractable challenges facing agriculture today. More about Pepsico’s Greenhouse Accelerator Program.
Indian EdTech Unicorn Physics Wallah Acquires UAE’s Knowledge Planet
Physics Wallah’sfirst international acquisition is Dubai-based EdTech startup Knowledge Planet for an undisclosed amount. The move by the EdTech unicorn aims to help it expand across the GCC and “focus on bringing online and offline education to the Indian diaspora in the GCC,” according to a source who spoke to YS Gulf. Physics Wallah also invested an undisclosed amount into Knowledge Planet, which offers a range of educational services from test prep and enrichment courses to training across major competitive examinations.
Paymob Partners With IKEA Egypt to Transform Checkout Processes
A wider range of payment options is now available to IKEA Egypt’s customers thanks to its partnership with Paymob, the leading financial services enabler in MENA and Pakistan. The partnership entails introducing new innovative payment methods such as digital wallets, easy payment plans, and consumer finance options, in addition to traditional bank cards. The trusted infrastructure powered by Paymob’s security system will make IKEA’s products more accessible to a greater number of consumers across Egypt. Customers will also have greater flexibility and control over their spending. Learn more about Paymob’s partnership with IKEA Egypt.
GITEX Africa Morocco to Showcase 100 Moroccan Startups at World’s Largest Startup Event
Marrakech will host GITEX Africa Morocco, the world’s largest startup event, from May 31 to June 2, 2023. Over 20,000 guests, 125 government bodies, and 900 international exhibitors are expected to attend.
The event will feature emerging technologies from FinTech, e-commerce, cloud, IoT, AI, telecom, and cybersecurity. GITEX Africa Morocco is inviting Moroccan startups to apply for the event and will select 100 to participate. The selected startups will receive their own branded sponsored startup pods, participate in a pitch competition, receive matchmaking services, and network with over 900 exhibitors.
GITEX Africa Morocco aims to highlight advances in the public and private sectors and identify investment opportunities and partnerships with technology operators. The event is organized by the Dubai World Trade Center, under the auspices of the Ministry of Digital Transition and Administrative Reform, and in partnership with the Digital Development Agency. The goal of GITEX Africa is to shape the vision for a more sustainable, inclusive, and tech-driven digital economy in Africa.
Abu Dhabi to Host 12th Edition of Annual Investment Meeting in May 2023
The 12th edition of the Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) will be held in Abu Dhabi for the first time from the 8th to the 10th of May, 2023. Over 600 influential speakers are expected to participate in dialogue sessions this year under the theme “The Investment Paradigm Shift: Future Investment Opportunities to Foster Sustainable Economic Growth, Diversity and Prosperity.” The forum will serve in strengthening UAE’s economic position and promote foreign investments in the country. Read more about Abu Dhabi’s Annual Investment Meeting here.
Dubai’s DIFC Launches ‘Launchpad’ for Venture Builders Targeting Middle East Startups
Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has announced the launch of ‘Launchpad’, a dedicated cluster within the free zone for venture builders that will provide funding and support for startups in the Middle East. The Launchpad is aimed at making it easier for UAE and regional startups to access venture capital and accelerate growth.
DIFC is creating a regulatory framework for venture studios, the first of its kind, that eases doing business and provides certainty for how venture studios, entrepreneurs, and spin-off entities engage with each other. The centre expects more than 200 new ventures, with more than 100 of them being scale-ups that could create more than 8,000 jobs and attract $544 million in venture capital.
Launchpad is the latest in a series of DIFC initiatives to create a universe of startups and support funding resources within it, including the Startup Bootcamp and a FinTech-focused fund.
Egyptian Exchange and Financial Regulatory Authority Launch Corbeh at RiseUp ‘23
The Egyptian Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) announced the launch of Corbeh, their latest platform, in collaboration with the Egyptian Exchange (EGX) at RiseUp’s summit of the decade. Corbeh is the first integrated technology innovation hub and sandbox for the nonbank financial sector. It’s aimed at tech-driven startups focused on innovative solutions that transform and boost the Egyptian capital market, providing them with a safe environment to test their new ideas, technologies, and business models. More about Corbeh and its announcement at RiseUp ‘23.
Credable Secures $2.5 Million in Seed Funding From Egyptian Venture Capital Firm Acasia Ventures
Acasia Ventures has finalized an investment in Dubai-based digital banking platform Credable as a part of a $2.5 million seed round led by Ventures platform. Credable is a B2B2C digital banking platform that embeds financial services in up-and-coming businesses in emerging markets. They offer end-to-end solutions for businesses to allow them to go live with their new financial products in weeks. Read more of Credable’s story here.
Turkish Scale-Up Volt Lines Surpasses Fundraising Target by 30% in Carve-Out Funding Round
Turkish scale-up Volt Lines has closed its carve-out round, surpassing its fundraising target by 30%. The company, which specializes in transportation-as-a-service (TaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, has raised twice the cash it needs to reach positive free cash flow by the end of 2023. Volt Lines nearly tripled its monthly recurring revenue in 2022, improved margins by over 25%, and is expected to double its revenue again this year after splitting from SWVL in January.
The company aims to capture 10% of Turkey’s $2bn corporate and school commute market by 2027 and to transition to a fully electric fleet by 2030. Its expansion plans include a dual strategy of profitable growth in Turkey while also expanding its SaaS offering overseas. Possible markets for Volt Lines’ software include Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the UK, and the UAE.
Central Bank of UAE Grants Direct Debit Systems License for Marketplace Operations
UAE citizens and residents can now use a paperless marketplace to facilitate all their recurring payments digitally. The marketplace was developed by Direct Debit System, a fintech firm based in the UAE, and was authorized for launch by the Central Bank of the UAE. Read more about Direct Debit System’s marketplace.
Bahrain-Based PropTech Startup Estater Raises $5 Million Series A Round
Estater, a Bahraini PropTech company, raised $5 million in a Series A round led by undisclosed investors from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Founded in 2009, Estater uses artificial intelligence and data science to estimate the value of properties in real estate, allowing its users to access a property’s value by selecting it on a map. It also operates a real estate consultancy business with more than 100+ clients across financial institutions, and real estate and investment companies. Read more about Estater’s story here.
Tap Payments Partners with PayPal to Expand MENA Businesses’ Global Reach
Tap Payments, the leading PayTech company in MENA, is offering Paypal onboarding, operations, and payouts to businesses through its partnership with the worldwide leader in the payment industry. This allows businesses to have a single partner for all their payment requirements, streamlining operations and providing an easier way to facilitate a seamless payment experience. Read more about the partnership between Tap Payments and Paypal.
Saudi Fintech Platform Madark Raises Pre-Seed Round of Undisclosed Value From Lean Node
Saudi Arabia’s Madark closed a pre-seed investment round of an undisclosed amount through Learn Node Startup Studio. Founded in 2020, Madark specializes in financing annual tuition fees and allows parents to pay various educational institutions in installments without interest. Prioritizing education, Madark’s concept is based on a Study Now, Pay Later model, allowing individuals to enroll in their desired educational systems without worrying about financial pressures. Read more about Madrak’s Pre-seed fund through this link.
MINT by EGBANK Welcomes Startups to 11th Cycle of Incubator Program for Spring ‘23
MINT by EGBANK’s startup incubator kicked off its 11th cycle last night on March 19th, with promising startups enrolled in its three-month program for spring ‘23. MINT’s focus is on startups that have already developed a product and provides them customized support to help their businesses reach the next level. Read the rest of the story on MINT by EGBANK’s latest cycle.
Flat6Labs Announces First Cohort In Riyadh Seed Program, Investing in 10 Innovative Saudi Startups
Flat6Labs, MENA’s leading seed and early-stage venture capital firm, recently announced the first cohort in its Riyadh Seed Program. The four-month program aims to help startups build their products, test the market, improve their business models, and pitch to external investors. Find out more and meet the startups.
Swiss Digital Asset Bank Sygnum Sets Up Middle East Hub in Abu Dhabi Global Market
Sygnum, a Zurich-based bank, received a Financial Services Permission from Abu Dhabi Global Markert’s (ADGM) Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA), following its initial approval late last year. Thanks to the license, Sygnum Bank Middle East can offer regulated crypto banking services to clients in the region through a “concierge-style client service” that includes digital asset banking, asset management, tokenization and B2B banking services. Read the full story.
GEMS Education Launches Youth Entrepreneurship Accelerator in Support of Student Entrepreneurs
GEMS Education, a UAE-based K-12 private education provider, launched its Youth Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program powered by GEMS World Academy and sponsored by CAFU. A first of its kind in the region, the school-based accelerator program covers all aspects of turning an idea into a fully-fledged operational startup. Full details on the GEMS Education Youth Entrepreneurship Accelerator.
Kanari AI Launches Fenek AI, the First MENA-Focused Speech Recognition Solution for Dialectal Languages
Kanari AI, a dialectal speech technology solutions specialist, launched Fenek AI, the first MENA-focused automatic transcription, translation, and subtitling platform for dialectal languages. Fenek AI allows its users to transcribe audio and video files in Arabic and in English, edit and share their files in several formats, subtitle videos, and create workspaces on the platform to work with teams on several projects. What to expect from Fenek AI.