Viewpoint: Last Week in the MENA Startup World (Jun 11 – Jun 17)

Vijeesh Papulli

Accelerators, Incubators and all other places startups hang out!

A couple of weeks back I wrote about the fact that SMEs don’t get the level of assistance that they deserve considering the impact that they have on the economy of MENA countries. And this week an article comes out sharing the effort made by the Dubai government in helping SMEs! This is one occasion that I am happy to be proved wrong! Great work Dubai SME! Since its inception, 23,000 Emirati entrepreneurs have received business consultancy services, 4000 enterprises have benefited from incentive packages, and this comes to support exceeding AED 290 million! Added to this, The Mohammed Bin Rashid Fund (MBRF), the financial arm of Dubai SME has had 56 start-ups securing AED 48 million in start-up and growth financing. To make Dubai a real startup heaven Dubai SME might want to look at getting involved in non-emirate started SMEs and Startups too. This intertwining of nationalities will go a long way in making Dubai the go-to location for the best startups in the MENA and even South Asian regions.
Dubai SME Supports More Than 23,000 Entrepreneurs Since Inception

Another initiative taken by Dubai SME is to partner with finance platform Beehive to offer SMEs to tap into crowdfunding and peer to peer finance. The agreement provides for a credit guarantee of up to Dh500,000 on SME financing for 36 months with the Fund acting as the guarantor.

Dubai startups get new funding sources

Startups stories that inspire

Can startups be only companies? Can they be countries too? I guess some of us would have read the book Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle. The book talks about how Israel– a country of 7.1 million, only 60 years old, with no natural resources– produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada and the UK? UAE is not far away from being called a Startup Nation too. The more I track the MENA startup space; it is not difficult to notice that UAE has its foot on the pedal when it comes to promoting entrepreneurship and the startup culture. This article on Dubai Airport use of Blockchain to create the world’s first ‘Gate-Less Border’ just reaffirms UAE efforts on being a leader in technology adoption. Just one of the many cutting edge technology initiatives undertaken by the Dubai government.

Dubai Airport To Use Blockchain To Create The First ‘Gate-Less Border’

Not convinced about the Dubai government’s technology adoption efforts? Then here is one more example. One of the companies who has enrolled in the Dubai Future Accelerators Program – an initiative where startups from all over the world partner with Dubai government to build, test and deploy solutions for the 21st-century challenges is a Silicon Valley company called Cazza, a 3D printing construction technology launched in 2016. Why? Because Dubai has set a target for 25% of buildings to be 3D-printed by 2030! How is that for a vision and goal setting! Read more about it at
This Startup Is Disrupting The Construction Industry With 3D-Printing Robots

Investments, Successes & Failures

Careem known mostly as the Uber of the Middle East is slowly coming out of the shadow of its larger competitor. With all the problems that Uber is facing currently, Careem has been making steady steps forward with expansion into Palestine and in total operates in 50 cities across 13 countries and hosts over 10 million users and 250000 captains (drivers) in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region. It is interesting to note that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal from Saudi Arabia is involved in Careem’s recent fundraising effort and a lot long ago Saudi Investment Fund put $3.5 billion into Uber. Add to that, Saudi Investment Fund has partnered recently with Softbank which in turn has invested in the Chinese Didi Chuxing, Indian Ola cabs and Brazil’s 99 which basically covers all the major players in this space. No matter who wins Saudi Arabia has a stake in it! Howzthat from a coverage and risk management perspective! 😊

Dubai’s Careem says to launch operations in Palestine
Saudi billionaire Alwaleed, Daimler invest in Uber-rival Careem

My brother is a dentist, but that’s not the reason why I share the next article. Sehteq, a medical tourism facilitator, has invested in Dubai-based startup Udenz, a platform that enables to book dental appointments. The investment also aligns with the Vision of Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to launch Dubai as a “Global Destination for Medical Tourism. Udenz also seems to be raising money through Eureeca which is an equity crowdfunding platform based in UAE.
Sehteq backs web start-up for dental bookings
Awards, Recognition, Exits and the Moolah…

The next article shares some fascinating data on a phase in the startup lifecycle that normally doesn’t get a lot of coverage, especially at a consolidated level. The data comes from MAGNiTT which contains data of over 3500 startups that have been listed on it. 38% of startups that existed happened in the UAE, followed by 15% in Egypt. It has also been found that the average time to exit was 7 years.

Up next: A wave of startup ‘exits’

A more in-depth look at the findings of the report from MAGNiTT can be viewed in an infographic form in the below article.
Infographic: Here’s What Five Years Of MENA Exits Looks Like

Fintech is an important sector in the startup space. Some of these startups are quite disruptive in nature and at the same time face a lot of barriers in the form of compliance and regulatory requirements. So unless the startup has a solid business model and founders with high levels of persistence, succeeding in this sector is extremely difficult. Omar Soudodi, the CEO of Payfort is one such person. This article shares his take on the Fintech startup world, his experiences and learnings and his view on the creation of an entrepreneur’s visa.

Starting a fintech company takes patience, says CEO of Payfort

Following on the footsteps of Abu Dhabi’s ADGM and Saudi Arabia’ King Abduallah Financial District in Riyadh, Bahrain too wants to establish itself as a regional powerhouse in Fintech by having its Cental Bank announce new regulations to create a regulatory sandbox. The sandbox will allow startups in the fintech space to test and experiment their banking ideas and solutions. Read more about it in the article

Bahrain launches new rules for financial technology firms

Last year, Abu Dhabi’s financial centre Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) launched a regulatory laboratory (Reglab) that nurtures startups to test their product in a controlled environment with the burden of regulations. The startups are given 2 years incubation period in Reglab to make their product commercially viable. As part of this initiative, ADGM has invited India based Fintech firms Rubique and CapitaWorld to be part of the Reglab. What’s in it for the Indian startups? 1) Support provided by UAE government for development and growth 2) Potential market in the large Indian Diaspora in UAE 3) The governments of India and UAE are working towards fostering a healthy relationship between the two startup ecosystems, to increase engagement, access to funds and build innovation.

Why India’s Fintech Startups Are Flocking To Disrupt The UAE

This article takes a look at how Middle East startup world compares with the US. Of the $5 billion of disclosed funding for startups in 2016, 50% went to startups in the US, next 24% to startups in Canada, Germany, France, India, Israel and UK. Of the remaining, about $1 billion was going to startups in the Middle East and Africa annually. This shows how quickly this market is growing!
How Does the Middle East’s Startup Scene Compare to the US?

To be frank, there are many more interesting articles out there on the internet but I am sharing the ones that I found the most interesting and hopefully you do too! So till next week! A Very Happy Eid !!!

(The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the or TMA Worldwide)

About the Author
Vijeesh Papulli based out of U.A.E is Startup advisor helping entrepreneurs develop ideas, validating commercialization, evaluate challenges, train them to develop business plans to pitch investors.

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