Exclusive: Swvl quietly raised over $20 million in a new round right before Covid-19

Swvl, the Cairo-born mobility startup quietly raised over $20 million in a new round right before the spread of Covid-19 in the region, MENAbytes has learned. The investment round which hasn’t been officially announced yet, we’ve learned, had both existing and new investors take part in it.

The round was also confirmed in the recent financials of Vostok New Ventures, the Swedish VC that co-led Swvl’s $42 million Series B-2 in June last year. Vostok in its 2020 Q1 report said that it invested $7 million in Swvl in a larger funding round in February 2020, pre Covid-19. The report by Vostok does not reveal the exact size of the round but we’ve learned it is between $24 to $28 million.

We reached out to the company to learn more details but the request for comment went unanswered.

Swvl connects commuters with private buses on its network (that operate on fixed routes), allowing them to book the rides through its app and pay using a credit card or cash. Started with Cairo in 2017, Swvl which is now headquartered in Dubai operates its service in six cities across three countries, including Kenya, where it expanded in early 2019 and Pakistan where it launched a month after announcing its $42 million round.

The startup, like any ride-hailing (and ride-sharing) company, has been hit hard by Covid-19. Its service remains temporarily suspended in Pakistan and the rides and routes have been scaled down (also temporarily) in Egypt and Kenya, as people try to stay indoors (with partial lockdowns). At the time of writing, the number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in Pakistan stands at 24,000. In Egypt, it is over 7,500, and close to 600 in Kenya.

Swvl has also been taking part in different initiatives across all its markets to help the community in these tough times.

Careem earlier this week announced that it is killing its bus-hailing service Careem Bus. The Swvl-like service had launched in December 2018 and was available in Egypt, Saudi & Pakistan. Careem’s parent company Uber, however, continues to operate Uber Bus in Cairo.

Both Uber and Careem have announced massive layoffs this week (and have completely frozen the new hirings). Swvl, however, has been hiring aggressively even during the pandemic. It has announced about 20 new job openings (mainly engineering roles) on its job board within the last week.

The hiring spree suggests that Swvl is preparing to execute its expansion plans once the Covid-19 situation improves.

Zubair Naeem Paracha
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