Regional startups fuel surge in investments

Regional startups fuel surge in investments
Abu Dhabi-headquartered digital assets infrastructure provider Fuze raised $14 million in a funding round led by Further Ventures and Liberty City Ventures. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 September 2023

Regional startups fuel surge in investments

Regional startups fuel surge in investments
  • Deep tech startups capture significant portion of venture capital activity

CAIRO: Venture capital investments in the region have surged, with deep tech startups capturing a significant portion of the activity.

Web3 applications, blockchain, and ventures focusing on carbon control have secured substantial funding, reinforcing the region’s role as a driver of innovation and change.

UAE-based digital assets infrastructure provider Fuze has announced a successful seed funding round, securing $14 million.

The investment was spearheaded by Abu Dhabi’s Further Ventures and saw participation from US firm Liberty City Ventures.

Founded in 2022 by Mohammed Yusuf, Arpit Mehta, and Srijan Shetty, Fuze offers a platform that enables financial institutions, fintech startups, and traditional enterprises to integrate regulated digital asset products into their native applications.

“We are excited to build the future of regulated financial infrastructure and digital assets out of the UAE,” Yusuf said.

“Regulations have played a pivotal role in propelling the UAE into a central position within the global Digital Assets industry. To receive the backing of Abu Dhabi-headquartered Further Ventures combined with the deep expertise of US-based Liberty City Ventures, confirms the relevancy and potential of Fuze’s mission to rapidly expand our cutting-edge infrastructure across the region,” he added.

With this fresh capital in hand, Fuze is poised to further its expansion goals, enhance its technological offerings, and recruit new talent to its team.

The company claims to be the first-of-its-kind infrastructure provider to offer regulated digital asset products to its customers in the Middle East and North Africa region.

“We are building a suite of products that addresses the growing demand for regulated digital asset capabilities through trusted channels. Our technology-first approach is a game-changer for the region and offers our customers a reliable bridge to the new era of investments and to the future of finance,” Yusuf added.

Dubai’s Cultos Global secures investment for Web3 innovations

Dubai’s Web3 innovator Cultos Global has garnered an undisclosed sum in its recent funding round.

Among the notable contributors were Sameer Mehta of Boat, Tarun Katial of Coto, Ashwath Bhat from Fractal Analytics, and Vijay Ratnaparkhe of Bosch Southeast Asia, the latter of whom will now contribute as part of the company’s advisory panel.

The influx of funds is earmarked to bolster Cultos Global’s product and engineering divisions in both the UAE and India. 

We’re thrilled to welcome his highness Sheikh Ahmed not only as an investor but also as our chairman.

Martin Reynolds, CEO of Zero Carbon Ventures

“Cultos Global is revolutionizing brand-customer engagement with a sophisticated, unified platform that seamlessly combines digital marketing and customer rewards programs. This transforms passive consumers into an active network of nano-influencers,” Adib Samara, the company’s co-founder, said.

The company enables brands to devise and implement their brand token and rewards strategies, ensuring a more organic acceptance which fuels operational efficiency, a surge in conversion ratios, and a tangible uptick in sales, as per the press release.

“Cultos Global is excited to have industry leaders on board as we scale up our mission to offer brands the capability to bring their rewards, loyalty, and influencer marketing to Web3,” CEO Pavan Govindan, said.

“This grants brands access to first-party data with advanced security and enhanced privacy for consumers. With strategic investors supporting our vision, we are more confident than ever in establishing Cultos Global as the preferred Web3 wallet for major global brands,” he added.

Zero Carbon secures $5m from Dubai ruling family

Zero Carbon Ventures, a cleantech startup based in the UAE, has successfully secured a seed funding round of $5 million.

The investment comes from Sheikh Ahmed Mana Khalifa Al-Maktoum, an Emirati businessman and a member of Dubai’s ruling family.

In addition to the financial boost, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Maktoum will also lend his expertise as a strategic adviser and take over the role of chairman of the board.

Co-founded by Peter Jodlowski and Martin Reynolds in 2022, Zero Carbon Ventures is steadfast in its commitment to champion carbon-reduction technologies across the MENA region.

“I initially met Martin and the Zero Carbon team in April this year, and fell in love with their vision,” Sheikh Ahmed Al-Maktoum said.

“The world now needs people like them to actually get to work on the delivery of these kinds of projects. I hired Zero Carbon to begin work on decarbonizing my own Dubai real estate portfolio. I see immense potential in Zero Carbon, and I am eager to guide and do my part in this pivotal journey toward net-zero,” he added

The company’s approach is structured around four central pillars: waste management, water conservation, energy efficiency, and sustainable materials.

The fresh infusion of capital is set to catalyze Zero Carbon’s sustainable endeavors, particularly in the lead-up to COP28.

The global climate summit will be hosted by the UAE later this year, and Zero Carbon Ventures is gearing up to play a significant role in steering sustainable development conversations during the event.

“We’re thrilled to welcome his highness Sheikh Ahmed not only as an investor but also as our chairman,” Reynolds said.

“His involvement is more than an endorsement; it’s a powerful union of vision and purpose. Our ambition has always been to enact tangible change. Our fully established and experienced senior management team, with his Highness by our side, is incredibly well-positioned to drive our sustainability initiatives even further,” he added.

Jordan’s DigiZag secures seven-figure series A funding round

DigiZag, a digital advertising and performance marketing startup headquartered in Jordan, has successfully closed a seven-figure series A funding round.

The substantial investment comes from the SME Investment Fund, which is managed by Al-Arabi Investment Group.

Established in 2015 by Saif Atout, DigiZag offers a suite of technology-driven solutions in performance-based marketing.

These solutions help companies and institutions optimize their advertising campaigns, in order to drive revenue growth and sales.

With the capital, DigiZag is poised to further strengthen its market position and enhance its digital footprint in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, signaling a promising growth trajectory for the startup.

Saudi Arabia’s real estate supply reservations more than double

Saudi Arabia’s real estate supply reservations more than double
Updated 06 December 2023

Saudi Arabia’s real estate supply reservations more than double

Saudi Arabia’s real estate supply reservations more than double

RIYADH: Citizens in Saudi Arabia are gaining greater access to residential units as the real estate supply reservations surged 110 percent year on year in November to reach 12,503, according to new figures.    
The Kingdom’s National Housing Co. announced that residential units were sold at competitive prices starting from SR250,000 ($66,649) compared to the previous year’s rates, in which the lowest contract amounted to SR321,000 per residential unit, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
This falls in line with the Gulf country’s plans and strategies to launch several extensive residential projects in order to achieve a balance between population growth and rapid urban expansion.   
This also comes as the rise in population density has led to increased demand for housing, meaning the Kingdom is working to boost the real estate supply to meet this need, aligning with a sustainable urban approach.
This rapid increase in reservations is mainly attributed to the launch of a number of residential projects in various regions, the most prominent of which is the inauguration of the Al-Fursan Suburb in Riyadh which aims to provide the largest real estate supply with a high level of quality and luxury. Other projects include the Sadayem Suburb which was launched in Jeddah along with many housing schemes in distinctive locations within the main cities.
In fact, the number of residential projects reached 46 during 2023, thereby cementing Saudi Arabia’s innovative model for real estate development.
National Housing Co. is the leader and enabler of the real estate development sector and the largest major developer of suburbs and residential communities in the Kingdom characterized by quality of life.  The company pumps more than 300,000 housing units into eight suburbs and six residential communities on an area of more than 120 million sq. meters, accommodating more than 1 million citizens.
It seeks to find solutions to secure supply chains with high quality and more sustainable construction materials, as part of the company’s keenness to increase the real estate supply with residential options according to international standards.
All the firm’s efforts are directed to achieving the goals of the housing program by raising the percentage of residential ownership for Saudi families to 70 percent by 2030.

Council of Ministers to approve Saudi general budget on Wednesday

Council of Ministers to approve Saudi general budget on Wednesday
Updated 05 December 2023

Council of Ministers to approve Saudi general budget on Wednesday

Council of Ministers to approve Saudi general budget on Wednesday

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers will hold a session on Wednesday to approve the Kingdom’s general budget for the new fiscal year, Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

A preliminary budget statement issued in October showed predictions of real gross domestic product growing by 0.03 percent this year compared with a previous forecast for growth of 3.1 percent.

The document also projected the government would post a budget deficit of 1.9 percent of the gross domestic project in 2024, 1.6 percent of GDP in 2025, and 2.3 percent of GDP in 2026.

The statement said “limited budget deficits” would continue in the medium term.

Meanwhile, total expenditure was seen as rising to SR1.262 billion in 2023, from an earlier estimate of SR1.114 billion, before slowing down marginally to SR1.251 billion in 2024.

A government press conference will be held on Wednesday, with the participation of Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan, during which he will address the state’s general budget for the next fiscal year, and the numbers and indicators of the contents of the budget will be announced.
The finance minister will also answer questions during the conference, which will be broadcast live on Saudi channels.

Saudi Arabia offers tax incentives for companies moving regional HQs to Riyadh

Saudi Arabia offers tax incentives for companies moving regional HQs to Riyadh
Updated 05 December 2023

Saudi Arabia offers tax incentives for companies moving regional HQs to Riyadh

Saudi Arabia offers tax incentives for companies moving regional HQs to Riyadh

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it will offer tax incentives for foreign companies that locate their regional headquarters in the Kingdom, including a 30-year exemption for corporate income tax.

The tax incentives include zero income tax for foreign entities that move their regional headquarters in the Kingdom, and these benefits can be availed from the date of the regional headquarters issuance license, according to Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Investment. 

Saudi Arabia’s program to attract foreign companies to open their regional headquarters in the Kingdom is a joint initiative between the Ministry of Investment and the Royal Commission for Riyadh City. 

The regional headquarters program aims to encourage international companies to open their regional headquarters in the Middle East and North Africa region in Saudi Arabia, and to materialize that the Kingdom is offering a wide range of benefits and incentives. 

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Investment Khalid Al Falih said that Saudi Arabia is offering more incentives to foreign companies which open their regional headquarters in the Kingdom which includes special benefits for firms complying with Saudization requirements. 

He added that the friendly business environment in Saudi Arabia has made over 200 companies relocate their headquarters to the Kingdom. 

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said: “The new tax exemptions, granted on the activities of regional headquarters of international companies in the Kingdom will give these firms more clarity of vision and stability, which will enhance their capabilities for future planning and expanding their business in the region, starting from the Kingdom,” Al-Ekhbariya reported. 

Earlier in November, Al-Falih said that Saudi Arabia has already surpassed the targets of the regional headquarters program which aimed to attract 160 international firms by the end of this year. 

In an interview with Bloomberg, Al-Falih noted that the regional headquarters program is a long journey and added that the Kingdom is working with international entities to create the right ecosystem to open their offices in Saudi Arabia. 

Some of the noted companies that opened their regional headquarters in Saudi Arabia in recent months are PwC Middle East and GE Healthcare. 

He also added that Saudi Arabia is a stable destination for international investors, at a time of geopolitical tensions and economic headwinds. 

Riyadh, Doha sign multiple deals across various sectors

Riyadh, Doha sign multiple deals across various sectors
Updated 05 December 2023

Riyadh, Doha sign multiple deals across various sectors

Riyadh, Doha sign multiple deals across various sectors

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Qatar have signed multiple agreements and memorandums of understanding as both nations continue to strengthen their relationship. 

These deals, which are expected to enhance trade and economic relationships between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were signed during the 44th Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Doha on Tuesday. 

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and the Qatar Investment Authority signed an MoU to accelerate investments in the energy and infrastructure sector, according to a report by the Qatar News Agency.

Another MoU was signed between Saudi Arabia’s Digital Government Authority and Qatar’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to promote cooperation between the two nations in the field of digital governance. 

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Saud Al-Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies signed an additional MoU with Qatar’s Diplomatic Institute of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to cooperate in the field of diplomatic training. 

The Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, signed an MoU with its counterpart in Qatar for cooperation between financial institutions. 

Another agreement was signed between the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property and Qatar’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry to further collaborate in the field of intellectual property. 

An additional cooperation agreement was signed between the Saudi Broadcasting Authority and Qatar Media Corporation to develop relations in the radio and television industries. 

The two countries also signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the fields of sports. 

On Dec.4, foreign ministers of Qatar and Saudi Arabia held a meeting in Doha to develop bilateral relations. 

“Today we held the first meeting of the executive committee of the Qatari-Saudi Coordination Council in Doha, where we discussed ways to develop bilateral relations within the framework of the executive committee,” said Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, who is also the country’s prime minister. 

During the meeting, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Al-Thani discussed ways to deepen cooperation in areas of mutual interest. 

COP28 president hails global leaders’ practical initiatives at final dialogue

COP28 president hails global leaders’ practical initiatives at final dialogue
Updated 05 December 2023

COP28 president hails global leaders’ practical initiatives at final dialogue

COP28 president hails global leaders’ practical initiatives at final dialogue

RIYADH: COP28 President Sultan Al-Jaber has applauded world leaders for their practical initiatives during the final dialogue, expressing optimism for the continued “open mindset” throughout the remainder of COP.  

This comes as high-level dialogues between the COP28 Presidency and the International Energy Agency received a strong endorsement of practical actions. 

The conclusion of the dialogues, co-chaired by Al-Jaber and the executive director of the IEA, Fatih Birol, marked a significant achievement, bringing together over 40 high-level leaders, including four heads of state and 18 heads of delegation and ministers from diverse regions.  

Al-Jaber said: “I am encouraged by the practical actions brought forward by world leaders today at the final dialogue, and I hope that you take this open mindset and optimism throughout this COP.” 

Addressing the significance of the dialogues, Al-Jaber emphasized the need for collaboration, stating: “This series of dialogues has allowed us to converge on the critical elements of the just energy transition. The transition will not be straightforward, but it will be harder if we cannot agree on its central components.”  

Birol echoed this sentiment, expressing satisfaction at the alignment and support for the IEA’s five goals for COP28.  

These goals include tripling renewable capacity and doubling energy efficiency by 2030, a structured decline in fossil fuel use, commitment from the oil and gas industry to align with 1.5 degrees, and financing mechanisms for clean energy in developing countries. 

The leaders showed strong support for the COP28 presidency’s Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge, with over 110 countries signing up to the initiative.   

Urgency on the coal front emerged as a key consensus, with a focus not only on preventing new unabated coal plants but also on accelerating the retirement of existing facilities. 

As the final dialogue unfolded during the World Climate Action Summit as part of COP28 in Dubai, heads of state, government leaders, and international organizations convened to solidify their commitment to an orderly energy transition.  

Al-Jaber urged participants to carry the open mind and optimism demonstrated during the final dialogue throughout COP28, reinforcing the importance of collective action in addressing the pressing challenges of our time.  

This positive momentum sets the stage for further deliberations and collaborative efforts at COP28 UAE, hosted at Expo City Dubai till Dec. 12.