Startup Ecosystem News | September 2019

September 2019, startup news, gcc startup news, gcc startup news roundup, careem, rta, voicea, cisco, magnitt, difc, souq,, Uber, Goldenscent, SAGIA, Noon

Cisco acquires Voicea. Total funding in Saudi Arabia soared by 82% YoY. Careem & RTA introduces Hala, while Careem Go & Uber X operations are discontinued. These and more in September’s GCC Ecosystem News roundup.


  • Cisco, announced that it has completed its acquisition of Voicea, which had acquired Dubai-based AI startup ‘Wrappup’ (Dtec Ventures portfolio company) in 2018
  • According to startup data platform Magnitt, total funding in Saudi Arabia soared by 82% year-on-year within H1/2019
  • Dubai DIFC announced that they have registered over 100 fintech firms since 2018 in the free zone


  • Pure Harvest (agri-tech, UAE) – $1.75 million, undisclosed round, from existing investors, founders & senior mgmt.
  • Localized (talent tech platform, Jordan) – $1.2 million, undisclosed round, undisclosed investors
  • Foloosi (fintech, UAE) – $500,000, Seed round, from individual investors (Rasheed Alfalasi & Mohammad Alsuwaidi)
  • Teacherly (edtech, UK/ UAE) – undisclosed amount & round, from Shorooq Investments
  • UPayments (fintech, Kuwait) – undisclosed amount & round, from Hamad Ali AlBahar & Saud Al Aujan


  • Careem & RTA partnered to introduce their joint venture, Hala, enables customers to use Careem’s mobile application to order taxis and reduce arrival time to <5 minutes. The success of the launch prompted RTA to integrate half of its fleet as of September. Careem Go & Uber X operations have subsequently been discontinued
  • Careem to further expand market and functions to realize their Vision 2022 of being the region’s everyday Super App. It plans to provide broader range of services such as financial services and demand delivery use cases
  • launches same-day delivery service in Saudi Arabia
  • Electronic payment network Fawry (Egypt) plans to enter UAE as it carries out a deal with one of the largest listed UAE banks.
  • Google to launch Youtube Music and Youtube Premium in the region, starting with KSA, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman and Qatar. Said services will be offered to these countries for free for one month.
  • Uber sells $1.2 billon of junk bonds to help fund its $3.1 billion acquisition of rival Careem. The acquisition of Careem is expected to close in the first half of 2020
  • Saudi beauty e-commerce platform Golden Scent, is granted the first commercial license by Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), without the minimum capital requirement.
  • Mashreq Bank and ENBD launch NeoBiz and E20, respectively, which are digital banking facilities specifically catering to SMEs and startups
  • Noon quietly launches a low-cost ecommerce platform ‘Kul’ in UAE & Saudi to take on Awok a similar Dubai-based ecommerce platform that targets low to mid-income segments mainly in the UAE & Saudi with its affordable products.


  • Wamda X opens applications for its 2nd cohort – 4-month program in Dubai, investment, workspace & mentoring
  • Badir Program for Technology Incubators & Accelerators to launch first agricultural hackathon in KSA
  • Plug and Play ADGM accelerator selects 11 startups for its third FinTech program and Travel & Hospitality program
  • ENOC launches 2 digital ventures: Link (on-demand refueling) and Beema (pay-per-kilometer car insurance) from its NEXT accelerator
  • C4IR UAE (The Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution) announces plans to launch blockchain accelerator program to be hosted by Dubai Future Foundation
  • Federation Youth Authority launches trade incubator “Youth Hub “, providing services & facilities to help entrepreneurs develop & launch their ideas.


  • Abu-Dhabi state fund, Mubadala Investment Company reconsider to invest in SoftBank Group’s Vision Fund 2 in fall of 2019, focused on technology projects. It previously contributed $15 billion to SoftBank’s Vision Fund 1.


According to startup data platform Magnitt, aside from the UAE other countries have shown flourishing startup ecosystem: Egypt accounted for 21% of all deals in H1 2019, with Bahrain (5%), Saudi Arabia (11%) and Tunisia (8%) each increasing by 3% from H1 2018 to H1 2019, respectively.

  1. Swvl ($80.5M) – Egypt-based ride hailing application has become the highest funded Egyptian startup. Looks into moving its HQ from Cairo to Dubai in November 2019.
  2. Boutiqaat ($45.0M) – Kuwait-based e-commerce cosmetics and goods distributor.
  3. Mawdoo3 ($25.0M) – Jordan-based Arabic content publisher. Closed the largest funding round for a Jordanian startup of $23.5M in May 2019.
  4. Vezeeta ($23.5M) – Caro-based platform platform, which allows its users to easily search for information about medical practices and doctor’s individual schedules.
  5. Unifonic ($21.0M) – highest funded KSA-based startup and leading cloud communications platform in the Middle East.
  6. PayTabs ($20.0M) – B2B payment processing company based in KSA.
  7. Jamalon ($15.2M) – Amman-based online book store that was founded in 2010 and offered 10 million publications in both Arabic and English.
  8. Anghami ($14.3M) – first Arabic legal music streaming platform that helps artists in digital distribution, specifically for MENA market.
  9. JustClean ($13.6M) – Kuwait-based laundry business servicing UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain and expanding to KSA by end of 2019.
  10. UTURN Entertainment ($10.0M) – online entertainment network in Arabic catering to audiences in audiences based in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain.


  • GITEX 2019 – 06-09 Oct, DWTC
  • World Congress Self-Drive Transport – 15-16 Oct
  • Women Power Summit – 13-14 Oct, Bahrain
  • Fintech Abu Dhabi – 21 Oct, Abu Dhabi
  • Deadlines
  • WamdaX program – 20 Oct
  • Kryptolabs Bridge Program application – 20 Oct
  • C3 Accelerator Applications – 31 Oct