GCC Startup Ecosystem News Roundup by Dtec Ventures | January 2019

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A year of accelerated VC activity and startup funding for 2018, Amazon to launch a new Middle East Marketplace, and a month of acquisitions in the news. Read on for more highlights from January 2019. Dtec Ventures brings you the monthly GCC Startup News Roundup.


  • Saudi-Emirati Coordination Council announces 7 new joint initiatives which include Saudi-Emirati cross-border digital currency and a joint platform to support SMEs
  • Mubadala announced it is launching a venture capital unit. The team will be based in San Francisco initially oversee 3 business areas including Mubadala Ventures Fund I ($400M early growth fund), a $200 million Fund of Funds and oversee and manage Mubadala’s $15 billion commitment to the SoftBank Vision Fund
  • Kuwait is launching an initiative to create a $200 million fund for technology investment
  • Amazon plans to launch a new Middle East marketplace, the company is telling sellers to focus on Amazon’s main site instead of Souq.com
  • Magnitt’s 2018 MENA Venture Investment Report shows the following highlights
    • 2018 saw a record of 366 startup deals across MENA, amounting to $893m of total funding
    • Excluding the $200m fundraise by Careem, 2018 saw a record amount of total funding, up 31% from 2017
    • UAE remained the most active with 30% of all deals, followed by Egypt, which was the fastest growing
    • FinTech overtook E-commerce as the most active industry by number of deals
    • 155+ institutions invested in MENA startups in 2018, 47% had not previously invested in the region
    • 500 Startups remained the most active investment house, especially at early stage investments

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Source: Magnitt 2018 MENA Venture Investment Report




  • Yellow Door (solar tech developer, UAE) – $65 million, Series A, from IFC, Mitsui & Co., Equinor Energy Ventures
  • Lucidya (social media analytics, KSA) – $1.1 million, Series A, led by BIAC and Monsh’at
  • WIMO (delivery logistics, UAE) – $500,000, Seed round, led by Dubai Angel Investors
  • Melltoo (secondhand e-commerce platform, UAE) – undisclosed amount, bridge round, from 500Startups, et al
  • Yawmi (F&B, UAE) – undisclosed amount, Seed round, from Shorooq Investments


  • Naspers, one of the largest tech investors in the world, has fully acquired UAE-based dubizzle through its subsidiary, OLX Group, effectively valuing dubizzle at $400 million
  • According to different reports, Online food delivery platform Zomato is looking to sell its UAE business to Germany’s Delivery Hero for $200-250 million
  • Aramex acquires KSA-based Saudi TAL for Commerce and Contract Company for around $80 million (Dh293 million)
  • Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding would back a potential Uber-Careem merger, according to a statement to the head of the investment firm
  • Al Tayyar Group of KSA acquired remaining 40% stake in online travel startup Almosafer for ~$19 million, giving Almosafar a valuation of $47 million. Al Tayyar Group now owns 100% of Almosafer.


  • Tenmou, Bahrain’s Business Angels company, made a partial exit from Eat App. Its shares were acquired by FA Holding, earning Tenmou 20X return on its initial investment.


  • Techstars Dubai Accelerator announced the start of the 2nd cohort with 10 startups
  • 500 Startups and Misk Innovation launch MENA Accelerator in Riyadh, with inaugural cohort of 21 startups


  • Softbank to invest $2 billion in WeWork, which is $6 billion less than it originally planned due to decline in Softbank’s shares. They had earlier invested more than $8 billion in WeWork.


  • Step Conference Startup Basecamp – 01 Feb
  • MBRIF Accelerator – 07 Feb


  • Step Conference, Dubai Internet City – 13-14 Feb
  • 3rd MEA Fintech Forum, Bahrain – 21 Feb
  • GCC Financial Forum, Bahrain – 26-27 Feb
  • Innovation Arabia, Dubai – 25-27 Feb
  • Unbound Bahrain, Bahrain – 06-07 Mar