CAIRO: IRL, or In Real Life, the US-based messaging social network company, is expanding its footprint in the Middle East and North African region in a few weeks, following its partnership with global mixed martial arts promotion company UFC.
Valued at $1.17 billion, IRL is a leading group messaging social network unicorn that brings people together through groups, events and community engagement.
In finance, a unicorn is a privately held startup company with a current valuation of $1 billion or more.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Egyptian entrepreneur and founder of IRL Abraham Shafi said his platform will be working with UFC to promote an upcoming event in Abu Dhabi through its messaging platform as part of its foray into the region.
“We are targeting the whole region, starting with a few cities to get our playbook right and making sure we support everything, including one of the activations happening in Abu Dhabi,” Shafi told Arab News.
He added that IRL is also expanding into Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt and is keen on establishing regional partnerships.
“I’m deeply interested in the region. We’re actively working in Qatar for the World Cup. I think there’s a ton of opportunity in Saudi Arabia, and I’m pumped up about the overall region,” he said.
The company is in talks with Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s tourism and culture ministries and multiple fintech companies to boost expansion.
“I’m hoping to get as many incredible opportunities as possible. There are so many great partnerships, and people are so open and excited to deepen consumer tech with their culture and communities,” he added.
Shafi also added that the company is planning to open an office in Abu Dhabi before the end of the year to help strengthen its presence in the region. However, it was later confirmed by the company that this is no longer the plan, and the firm is looking at other parts of the region for its office.
Born in Egypt and raised in the US, Shafi harbored dreams of becoming an entrepreneur by watching his father and brothers set up a successful technology company in America.
“The big thing here is that I wanted to work on something that helps me keep a healthy relationship with friends and family and the world around me. I realized social media was just all about media and wasn’t about real human social interaction,” he said.
The company currently has over 20 million active users on its platform. In 2021, IRL managed to secure $170 million in a series C funding round led by Softbank’s Vision Fund 2.