GCC Startup Ecosystem News | March 2020

Corona Virus, Covid-19, Covid19, pandemic, corona pandemic, GCC ecosystem news, GCC startups, black swan 2020, Sequoia Capital, Nana, funding, fundraising news, Dtec Ventures, ventures news, VC, Dubai VC, Dubai investor, Dubai startup investor, tech investor, Dubai Chamber, iMile, Aanaab, Covid tech news, Covid startup news, Covid news, Corona Virus news

March has been undoubtedly, an extraordinary month as businesses and economies globally felt the impact of the Corona virus pandemic. Touted by Sequoia Capital as the Black Swan of 2020, it has rapidly and negatively impacted businesses — hitting travel, tourism, hospitality and retail sectors the hardest —  as countries began implementing quarantine and lockdown measures in a bid to flatten the curve of virus’ reach. Though there are ventures that are well positioned to rise to the increasing market demand as a resulting effect of such measures (e.g. online groceries, food delivery, online education, etc.), the disruption has certainly brought companies to review their cash positions and assess measures on how to weather this storm.

In this edition of the GCC Startup Ecosystem News, in addition to our regular news bits, we’ve dedicated our Articles Worth Reading section to feature articles on COVID-19’s impact on the regional ecosystem along with relevant information for startups and SMEs to help them navigate the current landscape.

You can download a PDF version via this link: GCC Startup Ecosystem News Roundup – 2020-03


  • Covid-19 is the “black swan” of 2020: As pointed out by Sequoia Capital at the beginning of March. Hard-hit sectors include retail, travel and hospitality
  • Pandemic’s full impact on ecosystem felt in March: Since then startups worldwide are adopting to this new environment in a frantic pace. Many founders are concerned and are switching to survival mode.
  • Investment activity cools down for hard- hit sectors​But companies that are positioned well, structural-wise and cyclical, like Telehealth, Online Groceries, Food Delivery, Online Education or Gaming, still have access to capital as with Nana (KSA) who just raised their $18M Series B round. ​


Startup Sector / Industry Location Amount & Round Investors
Nana Consumer services KSA $18M, Series B STV, MEVP, Impact 46, Wamda Capital, et al​
iMile Logistics UAE $10M, Pre-Series A Undisclosed Chinese VC
Abwab Education Jordan $2.5M, Pre-Seed led by Adam Tech Ventures, incl. Endure Capital, Equitrust, et al​
Aanaab Education KSA $1.5M, undisclosed led by Nour Nouf Knowledge Company and Wamda, incl angels​
Quant Data Science KSA $1.2M, Pre-Series A led by BIAC, incl. angels
Intrro Human Resources UAE $500,000, Pre-Seed led by 500 Startups, incl. Spartech Ventures and angels​
Argineering Hardware Egypt $400,000, Seed led by 500 Startups & Flat6Labs Cairo, incl. angel investors​
Breadfast F&B Egypt Undisclosed amount, Bridget to Series B Shorooq Partners, Endure Capital, et al​
Cartlow Consumer services UAE Undisclosed amount & round Arzan Venture Capital, Vision Ventures & angels
FlexxPay Finance UAE Undisclosed amount, Pre-Series A MEC Ventures
Khazna Finance Egypt Undisclosed amount, Seed led by Algebra Ventures, incl. Accion Venture Lab
Receet Finance Palestine Undisclosed amount, Pre-Series A led by Ibtikar Fund
Rise Finance UAE Undisclosed amount & round led by MEVP, incl. DIFC Fintech Fund, 500 Startups, et al​
Speero Automotive KSA Undisclosed amount, Pre-Series A 500 Startups, Impact 46, Derayah Ventures​


  • DSOA partners with Dubai Chamber for strategic initiatives to support entrepreneurs via a soft-landing program, annual report, and roadshows
  • KSA offers instant visas to entrepreneurs setting up businesses in the kingdom as part of government efforts to boost non-oil private sector growth and create jobs for nationals
  • Kuwaiti beauty e-commerce startup Boutiqaat said to be in talks with banks to raise around $100M-$150M at a valuatioin of around $800M-$900M.​
  • Dubai Entrepreneurship Academy’s “Shadow” initiative to provide Emirati entrepreneurs opportunities to work in the industrial sector & develop sustainable projects
  • F&B supplies marketplace, Jumla (Kuwait) launches its “second-to-last-mile” logistics services in Kuwait.
  • Telecoms provider Zain Bahrain renews its partnership with Startup Bahrain to continue as an enabler in the latter’s startup ecosystem
  • Digital Economy Solutions (DES) launches DubaiStore, UAE’s first online shopping initiative supporting UAE-licensed small & medium businesses


  • Abu Dhabi state fund Mubadala Investment Co joins consortium of investors in Waymo’s recently-closed round of $2.25 billion. US-based, Waymo is owned by Alphabet Inc., and is considered the leader in developing self-driving technology​
  • Arzan VC (Kuwait) announces first close of its second fund at $20M in August last year. With plans to close the fund this year with $25M to $30M, investing in pre-seed to Series A MENA startups


  • DIFC FinTech Hive to triple its size to accommodate more startups and events as it houses 3 accelerator programs in the hub.​


  • Dubai Future Accelerators launched its 7th cohort for their 9-week program. 27 selected companies to work with DFA’s partner entities to test solutions for partner-specific challenges
  • Krypto Labs launches Innovation Hub in University of Dubai campus, offering mentorship and workshops for students, alumni, professors and their community to foster entrepreneurship and innovation.​
  • Startupbootcamp partners with Dubai Smart City Accelerator’s cohort 4 startup, Lexycom, to provide the former access to automated legal solutions​
  • Startupbootcamp Fintech Dubai to hold virtual demo day pitch in light of the Covid-19 situation. Pitches have been recorded for investors to view and schedule  virtual meetings with startups.​


A curated list of essential articles and updates on the Corona pandemic, its impact on the regional ecosystem and approaches on how founders and startups can navigate the current landscape

Sequoia Capital: 

Coronavirus: The Black Swan of 2020




Now might be the perfect time to rethink your fundraising approach

Khaleej Times:

Dubai Free Zones Council launches stimulus package to mitigate economic risks from COVID-19