Startup Wrap: Saudi leads the way in flurry of regional activity in startups ecosystem

Startup Wrap: Saudi leads the way in flurry of regional activity in startups ecosystem
From left: Tamara co-founder & CEO Abdul Majeed Alsukhan ,co-founder & CEO Turki bin Zarah, and co-founder & CpO Abdul Mohsen Al-Babtain. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 March 2023

Startup Wrap: Saudi leads the way in flurry of regional activity in startups ecosystem

Startup Wrap: Saudi leads the way in flurry of regional activity in startups ecosystem
  • Saudi Arabian startups managed to secure large bulks of funding

CAIRO: The Middle East and North Africa region witnessed staggering activity in the startup and venture capital space last week spearheaded by Saudi Arabia. 

The region’s startup ecosystem experienced debt and equity financing with one mega round as well as cross-border investments. 

For its part, Saudi Arabian startups managed to secure a large bulk of funding while UAE-based startups also participated with a fair share.

Tamara secures $150m in debt financing 

Saudi-based fintech giant Tamara raised $150 million in debt financing from global investment banking company Goldman Sachs. 

Founded in 2020, Tamara is one of the region’s leading buy now, pay later providers with over 15,000 partner merchants using their services. 

“Providing excellent products and services to our customers across shopping, payments and banking is at the core of Tamara,” Abdulmajeed Alsukhan, co-founder and CEO of Tamara, said. 

Abdulmajeed Alsukhan, co-founder and CEO of Tamara. (Supplied)

The funding will provide the company with support to finance the demand for its BNPL product and continue its growth across new verticals. 

“The team has shown the ability to scale a complex B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) business model, and BNPL is just an initial offering. We see a much deeper demand that we can fulfill with the same technology and customer-first approach,” Alsukhan added. 

Aumet raises $7m to expand AI capabilities 

Saudi Arabia’s healthtech startup Aumet raised $7 million in a pre-series A funding round from Tokyo-based venture capital firm AAIC and Swiss private equity firm AIJ Holdings alongside other investors. 

Established in 2016, Aumet is an artificial intelligence-enabled B2B platform that provides software solutions like an enterprise resource planning system and a marketplace for pharmacies. 

The company also facilitates the exchange of data between healthcare providers, manufacturers and distributors to enable them to make the right decision. 

The platform uses predictive analytics to forecast the procurement of products for pharmacies, resulting in cost savings and other efficiencies in the supply chain of pharmacies. 

The company plans to utilize its funding to further expand its artificial intelligence capabilities, reach more pharmacies, and provide better access to affordable healthcare products. 
Aumet serves more than 10,000 pharmacies across Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.

Aumet plans to utilize its funding to further expand its AI capabilities. (Supplied)

Saudi Venture Capital launches $80m fintech fund 

The Kingdom’s booming fintech sector is set to get a boost, thanks to an $80 million investment fund launched by Saudi Venture Capital Co. 

The ‘Investment in Fintech VC Fund’ was launched in partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Capital Market Authority and the Financial Sector Development Program to preserve the Kingdom’s fintech industry growth that attracted almost 25 percent of all Saudi venture capital funding last year.  

SVC aims to stimulate and sustain financing for startups and small and medium enterprises from the early stage to initial public offering by backing venture capital and private equity firms all around the region.  

The firm, which has always been keen to empower the startup landscape in the Kingdom, also signed a memorandum of understanding last month with the Saudi stock exchange Tadawul to support small and medium enterprises going public.  

The company will strategically place the new fund to support Saudi Arabia’s fintech ecosystem which raised $239 million in funding in 2022, according to venture data firm MAGNiTT.  

Saudi Arabia’s venture capital market has been one of the most attractive markets globally, capturing $987 million in funding last year, a 72 percent increase from the year before.  

The Kingdom’s 2022 funding boom came as investment across the world decreased by 35 percent year-on-year, while the US venture market experienced a 37 percent drop, according to Crunchbase.  

The UAE and Egypt, which are the region’s leading venture markets, also witnessed a decline in funding activity last year.  

Founded in 2018, SVC is a government investment company under the SME Bank and has invested in 35 funds which financed 525 companies through 904 deals. 

Spate of regional funding rounds 

UAE-based fintech Credable raised $2.5 million in a seed funding round led by Ventures Platform and Egypt-based Acasia Ventures to roll out new products across Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. 
On the other hand, UAE-based payment solution Qlub raised $25 million in funding co-led by Cherry Ventures and Point Nine with participation from STV, Raed Ventures, Heartcore, Shorooq Partners, FinTech Collective and Al Dhabi Capital.  

In addition, UAE-based edtech almentor raised $10 million in a pre-series C funding round led by e& Capital alongside other Egyptian investors to accelerate the company’s growth and expand into the Kingdom. 

Furthermore, Saudi-based NFT marketplace Nuqtah raised an undisclosed seed funding round led by Animoca Brands with participation from Polygon to scale the business over the next 12 months. 

Also, Bahrain-based proptech Estater raised $5 million in a series A funding round led by undisclosed investors from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to accelerate product development and boost technology infrastructure. 

Iraq Islamic Bank partnered with MSA Novo to launch a new fund targeting Iraqi startups and lead the digital transformation in the country. 

Abu Dhabi investment firm Group 42 went on to acquire a $100 million stake in TikTok’s owner company ByteDance. 

Saudi construction sector accounts for 6% of GDP, says official

Saudi construction sector accounts for 6% of GDP, says official
Updated 14 sec ago

Saudi construction sector accounts for 6% of GDP, says official

Saudi construction sector accounts for 6% of GDP, says official

RIYADH: The construction sector, valued at over SR255 billion ($68 billion) accounts for 6 percent of the gross domestic product of the Kingdom, according to the chairman of Saudi Contractors Authority.

Speaking at the Builders of Egypt Forum in Cairo on Sunday, Zakria Al-Abdulqadir said the construction sector is the second-largest non-oil sector in Saudi Arabia.

The official said the authority organized the sixth edition of the Future Projects Forum last week, which showcased 3,000 projects worth around $270 billion.

He said SCA is the current chair of the Federation of Contractors from Islamic Countries, which represents the construction sector of 26 Islamic countries.

The Cairo event was organized by the Egyptian Federation for Construction and Building Contractors in collaboration with the African Federation for Construction Contractors’ Association.

According to a report issued by the US-Saudi Business Council recently, contract values in the Kingdom’s construction sector reached SR71.5 million during the fourth quarter of 2022, accounting for 37 percent of the total contracts awarded last year.   

The report said the overall deals struck between October and December were the highest since the first quarter of 2015 when contract values touched SR88.1 billion.   

“The surge in contract awards continues unabated on the back of a growing economy that was fueled by significant oil revenues and the acceleration of giga-projects following the COVID-19 slowdown,” said Albara’a Alwazir, director of economic research at the USSBC.

Vision 2030 will improve connectivity between continents and enhance international trade: NIDLP CEO

Vision 2030 will improve connectivity between continents and enhance international trade: NIDLP CEO
Updated 23 min 49 sec ago

Vision 2030 will improve connectivity between continents and enhance international trade: NIDLP CEO

Vision 2030 will improve connectivity between continents and enhance international trade: NIDLP CEO

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 blueprint will have a profound impact beyond the Kingdom as it improves connectivity between continents and enhances international trade, said a top official. 

Speaking at an event organized at the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center on Tuesday, Suliman Al-Mazroua, CEO of the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program, said that the Kingdom had witnessed several monumental changes in its economy since the launch of Vision 2030. 

“Vision 2030 impacts are not limited to Saudi Arabia. Becoming an industrial powerhouse and a global logistics hub will open new possibilities for products and markets. It will also improve connectivity between continents and enhance international trade. Therefore, we continue to invite the international community to be part of our journey,” said Al-Mazroua. 

He added: “Since Vision 2030 was launched, we started to enjoy the fruits of it across all aspects of our lives. Foreign direct investments in Saudi Arabia doubled. Private sector contribution to the GDP (gross domestic product) doubled.” 

Highlighting the growth of Saudi Arabia in the transport sector, Al-Mazroua revealed that Saudi Arabia had jumped 17 places in the Logistics Performance Index released by the World Bank last April. 

The index showed Saudi Arabia reaching the 38th spot, excelling in performance efficiency through several sub-indicators, including logistics competence, tracking, timeliness, customs, infrastructure and international shipments indices. 

According to Al-Mazroua, Saudi Arabia’s National Logistics Strategy, launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2021, is one of the key drivers behind this growth. 

The strategy aims to position the Kingdom as a global logistics hub connecting three continents and improve all transportation services while improving the capabilities of Saudi Arabia’s air cargo sector by doubling its capacity to more than 4.5 million tons by 2030. 

“The customs used to take 288 hours, and now it takes two hours. We are among the best when it comes to processing, both in and out of the country,” said Al-Mazroua. 

According to the NIDLP CEO, technology is one of the most crucial enablers of the goals outlined in Vision 2030. 

“When we look at the future, we know technology is our friend. We will have smart mines, supplying smart factories connected to smart industrial cities powered by smart grids, and move goods and people through smart logistics. Connecting the smart is the new smart,” he said. 

Al-Mazroua added: “Having the right data will help us to predict the future and improvise clean energy generation. Look at the history; the semiconductor challenge the world faced a few months ago. When we look at the data, it was predicted. If we had the right data at that time, we would predict this issue and solve it.” 

Al-Mazroua continued that NIDLP, with its various initiatives, is always trying to minimize the risk and maximize the returns for investors. 

“In NIDLP, we are always investor-centric. We cater to both international and local investors through the fundamentals of risk and return. We try our best to minimize the risk and maximize the return for the investors,” said Al-Mazroua. 
He further noted that NIDLP is committed to maximizing the returns of the investors sustainably. It is enabling regulations, creating digital infrastructure, ensuring the availability of resources, opening world-class research and development centers and providing access to local and international markets. 

The program is also keen on protecting the environment, facilitating global energy transition and creating a transport and logistics sector built for the long term, which is crucial to achieving these sustainable goals. 

Last year, during an interview with Arab News, Al-Mazroua opined that Saudi Arabia’s logistics sector needs a considerable investment combined between the government and private sector by the end of this decade to turn the Kingdom into a global logistics hub. 

He added that the Kingdom would provide the right environment and regulations to attract world transportation companies which would help Saudi Arabia emerge as one of the world’s busiest logistics centers. 

EVs to be at core of shift to green mobility, says UAE minister

EVs to be at core of shift to green mobility, says UAE minister
Updated 30 May 2023

EVs to be at core of shift to green mobility, says UAE minister

EVs to be at core of shift to green mobility, says UAE minister

RIYADH: Electric vehicles are set to be at the core of the shift to green mobility as reaching net-zero emissions has become a collective and urgent priority, according to the UAE’s minister of energy and infrastructure. 

Speaking at the second edition of the Electric Vehicles Innovation Summit organized at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, Suhail bin Mohammed Al-Mazrouei said: “The EV market looks promising and offers unique investment opportunities. We invite future-thinking businesses to capitalize on these opportunities. Investing in the EV industry makes a perfect environmental and economic sense.” 

He said that the UAE is constantly offering incentives to make EVs more appealing to consumers. “To fully realize the potential of electric mobility, we are deploying a nationwide network of public and private charging stations, equipped with the latest innovative technologies to reduce charging time,” he informed. 

The three-day summit that ends on May 31 includes an extensive exhibition throughout the event. In addition, the exhibition space has been expanded, accommodating over 100 products, including vehicles and EV service providers. 

Additionally, EVIS2023 encompasses a two-day conference that has garnered significant attention, featuring more than 100 speakers and over 50 conference sessions covering a wide range of topics relevant to the current and future landscape of e-mobility. 

The summit aims to promote the transition from dependence on fossil fuels to electric mobility, which saves the planet from the environmental consequences of carbon dioxide and other emissions. 

Organized by the Abu Dhabi-based Nirvana Holding, the summit succeeded in attracting and bringing global interest to the Middle East and North Africa region, which is a promising market with significant growth and business opportunities in the coming years. 

The exhibition drew global household brands like Geely, Skywell, Tesla, BYD, Polyester, etc. More than 50 EVs worldwide are on display at the show. 

The event has also attracted global e-mobility service providers, like charging infrastructure and dealerships. 

A notable addition to this year’s edition is the Technology Park, an innovation hub showcasing the latest advancements in e-mobility. This dedicated area showcases the cutting-edge EV technologies developed by universities and technology incubators, shaping the industry’s future. 

Oil Updates — crude slips on US debt ceiling struggles

Oil Updates — crude slips on US debt ceiling struggles
Updated 30 May 2023

Oil Updates — crude slips on US debt ceiling struggles

Oil Updates — crude slips on US debt ceiling struggles

RIYADH: Oil prices fell on Tuesday, giving up earlier gains, as concerns about the viability of the US debt ceiling pact cooled the market’s risk-on sentiment and mixed messages from major producers have clouded the supply outlook ahead of their meeting this weekend. 

Brent crude futures fell 60 cents, or 0.78 percent, to $76.47 a barrel at 9:23 a.m. Saudi time, after rising by 0.5 percent earlier on Tuesday. 

US West Texas Intermediate crude dipped 37 cents to $72.30 a barrel, down 0.51 percent from Friday’s close. There was no settlement on Monday because of a US public holiday. 

Some hard-right Republican lawmakers said on Monday they might oppose a deal that would raise the debt ceiling in the US, the world’s biggest oil user, while Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy remained optimistic the deal will pass. 

Biden and McCarthy forged an agreement on the debt over the weekend, and it must pass a divided US Congress before June 5, the day the Treasury Department says the country will not be able to meet its financial obligations, which could disrupt financial markets. 

OPEC will welcome Iran’s return to oil market when sanctions lifted 

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will welcome Iran’s full return to the oil market when sanctions are lifted, its secretary-general told the Iranian oil ministry’s news website SHANA on Monday. 

Iran is an OPEC member, although its oil exports are subject to US sanctions to curb Tehran’s nuclear program. 

Secretary-General Haitham Al-Ghais, who is visiting Tehran for the first time, added that Iran could bring on significant production volumes within a short period of time. 

“We believe that Iran is a responsible player among its family members, the countries in the OPEC group. I’m sure there will be good work together, in synchronization, to ensure that the market will remain balanced as OPEC has continued to do over the past many years,” SHANA’s website cited him as saying. 

Asked about OPEC’s voluntary production cut and its effect on oil prices, Al-Ghais said, “In OPEC ... we don’t target a certain price level. All our actions, all our decisions are made in order to have a good balance between global oil demand and global oil supply.” 

In a surprise move in early April, Saudi Arabia and other members of OPEC+, which comprises OPEC and allies including Russia, announced further oil output cuts of around 1.2 million barrels per day.  

Brazil’s Petrobras approves new commercial portfolio for natural gas 

Brazilian state-run oil company Petrobras on Monday announced a new commercial portfolio for natural gas, saying it was moving to include “diversified” deadlines, benchmarks and places of delivery to “ensure competitiveness.” 

Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the firm is formally known, said it would resume using Henry Hub benchmark prices for gas in addition to Brent oil prices while offering distributors more options for contract deadlines and delivery locations. 

(With input from Reuters) 

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Global reviews strategic partnership opportunities in Egypt

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Global reviews strategic partnership opportunities in Egypt
Updated 30 May 2023

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Global reviews strategic partnership opportunities in Egypt

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Global reviews strategic partnership opportunities in Egypt

RIYADH: The Saudi-based Red Sea Global company held its second promotional procurement exhibition in Cairo, in cooperation with its media partner, MEED Network, and in the presence of representatives from more than 100 Egyptian companies from the private sector, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
The exhibition is the second of its kind in a series of local, regional and international introductory meetings conducted by the company, which is wholly owned by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund.
The event aims to establish more partnerships with the private sector to enable the delivery of the company’s growing portfolio of projects.
Ben Edwards, group head of cost, commercial and procurement at Red Sea Global, said the opportunity to present projects and opportunities available to the Egyptian market is a major strategic step for Red Sea International this year.
“To achieve the innovative approach that we seek, especially with regard to sustainability, we had to identify organizations and companies that share the same vision to establish real partnerships with them, and we met today with many future partners,” he added.
Red Sea Global is one of the companies with continuous progress in implementing projects for its “Red Sea” and “Amaala” destinations, and the twelve future projects in the company’s portfolio, SPA added.
In March, it held its first regional induction tour in Doha, where the company met with representatives from more than 100 Qatari companies.
The company has awarded contracts worth more than SR40 billion ($10.6 billion) for its “Red Sea” and “Amaala” destinations so far and this year, contracts worth SR5 billion were awarded, with an additional SR20 billion expected to be awarded before the end of the year.