GCC Startup Ecosystem News | January 2020

2019 marks a record year in startup investments. Uber completes its acquisition of Careem. Dubai Council announces Dubai Future District and AED1 billion fund. All these and more in our first GCC Startup Ecosystem News roundup for 2020.

You can download the PDF version of the report via this link: GCC Startup Ecosystem News Roundup – 2020-01-v3


  • 2019 a record year for startup investments. Magnitt’s 2019 Venture Investment Report shows a record year with $704 million total funding across 564 deals.
  • Uber completes $3.1 acquisition of Careem. The largest exit for a Middle East startup, Careem preserves it brand while becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of Uber.
  • Dubai Council announces Dubai Future District & AED1 billion Fund. Dubai Council announces initiative to support startups. Dubai Future District to connect Emirates Towers with the Dubai World Trade Center and the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC)


  • Sarwa (Fintech, UAE) $8.M Series A, from Kuwait Projects Company Holding (KIPCO), DIFC, et al
  • Mubawab (Real estate, Morocco) $7M undisclosed round, from Emerging Markets Property Group
  • Saee (logistics, KSA) $2.4M Series A, from  Business Incubators and Accelerators Company (BIAC) et al
  • Lorryz (logistics, UAE) $1.4M Seed round, from Emirates Investment and Development Center et al
  • Basma (health tech, Lebanon) $1.2M Seed round, led by B&Y Venture Partners and Cedar Mundi Ventuers
  • FODEL (logistics, UAE) undisclosed amount & round, from Dubai Cultiv8 Investments Limited
  • Saryah (travel & tourism, KSA) undisclosed amount & round, from Wadi Makkah Ventures Company
  • spiderSilk (cybersecurity, UAE) undisclosed amount & round, led by Global Ventures
  • Leap (F&B, KSA) undisclosed amount & round, from an angel investor

INVESTMENT HIGHLIGHTS | Magnitt’s 2019 Investment Report

  • UAE ranks 1st in amount of funding, Egypt in  number of deals and KSA as fastest growing in both areas
  • In terms of sectors Transportation took 1st place in amount of funding, FinTech ranks 1st in number of deals and IT Solutions is the fastest growing sector in both areas
  • $704M total amount of funding in MENA tech startups; 564 Total number of deals in 2019; $1.9M average investment size

Magnitt venture investment report 2019; magnitt report 2019; startup research report 2019; funding report 2019; MENA funding report 2019; funding landscape 2019; mena funding landscape 2019; investor research; investors in uae; uae accelerators; dtec ventures; careem funding; souq.com funding; 2019 startup investments



  • Anghami assesses business options of either potential sale to Orbit Showtime Network valued at $400M or raising funds to expand ops
  • Ghost kitchen operator Kitopi (founded in Dubai in 2017), signs 10-year lease in Manhattan for its New York operations
  • Uber sells Uber Eats in India to Zomato in an all-stock deal giving Uber 9.99% ownership in Zomato
  • On-demand fuel delivery CAFU (UAE), expands to Muscat, Oman via its partnership with Al Maha Petroleum
  • Coffee ordering app Cofe (Kuwait) prepares to launch in London by April 2020
  • DMCC, Crypto Valley Venture Capital and CV Labs to launch Crypto Valley, the world’s largest ecosystem for cryptographic, blockchain & distributed ledger technologies.
  • Delivery Hero consolidates food delivery across its GCC brands under Talabat brand including Carriage
  • Careem to lay off around 150 employees and pull out operations from Oman and Turkey markets
  • E-scooter startup Bird (USA) acquires competitor Circ, which operates in Europe and Middle East


  • Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) will not invest in SoftBank Vision Fund 2 (for now). Vision Fund 2 has a target of $108 billion, of which $38 billion would come from SoftBank itself
  • Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures, (Dhahran, KSA) plans to set up $500 million (Dh1.84bn) fund. Fund to  boost investments in the technology sector, and set up office in Beijing, China
  • Abu Dhabi Investments Office announced AED60M (US$16.3M) investments in 6 ventures : Securrency, TruKKer, Sarwa, YACOB and Okadoc via the Venture Fund, and signing of first matching fund deal with Global Ventures under the New Fund Managers Programme
  • VentureSouq sold its stake in Frontier Car Group to OLX Group. Frontier Car Group is an online and offline marketplace for used cars based in Germany,


  • Hub71 launches Microsoft Reactor Program. The Program is available for Hub71 residents and the broader community, free of charge
  • Hub71 adds 17 startups to its Incentive Programme. This brings total of 35 startups members benefitting from free housing, office space, health insurance for seed companies & 50% subsidy for emergent companies


  • Dubai Smart City Accelerator concludes its 3rd cohort with a Demo Day for 11 startups
  • Krypto Labs & UAE Space Agency sign for a 3-month incubation programme.
  • Astrolabs KSA graduates 17 startups from its “Forward KSA” accelerator programme
  • DIFC FinTech Hive’s Scale Up Accelerator Programme signs up 6 partners: MEVP, Etisalat, DIFC FinTech Fund, Dubai Cultiv8, FALCOM Financial
  • Mohammed bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) selects 11 startups
  • Startups to join the programme, bringing a total of 39 members since its launch in 2018


  • 03 February – Middle East Youth Expo, Abu Dhabi
  • 10 February – Application Deadline: APIficator Challenge (KSA)
  • 11-12 February – STEP Conference, Dubai
  • 26 February – Application Deadline: Dubai Smartpreneur Challenge
  • 10 March – Application Deadline: startAD Corporate Sprint Accelerator, Abu Dhabi
  • 30-31 March – Innovate4Good Forum, Abu Dhabi