Startup Wrap — regional venture landscape kicks off 2024 with a flurry of deals

Startup Wrap — regional venture landscape kicks off 2024 with a flurry of deals
Clinicy founders. Supplied
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Updated 14 January 2024

Startup Wrap — regional venture landscape kicks off 2024 with a flurry of deals

Startup Wrap — regional venture landscape kicks off 2024 with a flurry of deals

CAIRO: Startups in the Middle East and North Africa are leaving no stone unturned at the beginning of 2024, with a flurry of deals in the second week of the year.

Saudi health tech startup Clinicy has secured substantial investment through a seven-figure Series A funding round, led by Middle East Venture Partners and structured by Gate Capital.

The exact amount remains undisclosed. However, the deal, with the participation of additional investors, is noted as one of the largest in the history of the Kingdom’s health tech sector, as per the company’s press release.

Established in 2017 by Prince Mohammed Al-Faisal, Abdullah Al-Obaid, and Saud Al-Obaid, Clinicy is a Saudi-based tech startup specializing in digital solutions for medical institution management.

Speaking about the impact of this funding, Al-Faisal said: “Clinicy is already making a real, tangible impact on redefining healthcare in Saudi Arabia, enhancing digital experiences for one million patients across the Kingdom.”

He added that the latest investment “underpins our vision to deepen the quality of engagement with medical institutions and patients, ensuring that our technology makes healthcare more accessible, efficient, and user-friendly.”

The capital will be utilized to further Clinicy’s expansion plans across the Saudi market, which is valued at SR7.2 billion ($1.9 billion), according to the press note.

The company’s services aim to address critical issues in the healthcare sector, such as high patient “no-show” rates and administrative inefficiencies, which, the release added, cost over SR3 billion annually.

The company claims that its solutions have led to a 75 percent reduction in missed appointments among its clients.

Saudi AI startup Intella partners with US counterpart

Saudi Arabia’s artificial intelligence startup Intella partnered with US-based Deepgram to build one of the most inclusive AI-powered speech-to-text products in the market.

Founded in 2021 by Nour Taher and Omar Mansour, Intella is a deeptech company that offers AI transcription models for the Arabic market, covering over 25 dialects and sub-dialects with an average accuracy rate of 95.7 percent.

Moreover, Deepgram is a US-based company that utilizes AI to transcribe over 30 languages with a high accuracy rate.

Saudi e-gaming startup raises $430k

Saudi Arabia-based e-gaming startup has successfully completed a pre-seed funding round, securing $430,000 led by a group of angel investors.

Established in 2022 by founder Anmar Alharbi, offers a platform designed to cater to gamers’ needs by providing comprehensive tools for team building, live streaming, and organizing gaming tournaments, making it a one-stop solution for the gaming community.

The newly acquired funds are set to be strategically utilized for the development and enhancement of the platform. This includes expanding its user base and introducing new features aimed at enriching the overall gaming experience.

UAE’s Cargoz raises seed round for Saudi expansion

The UAE-based logistics solutions provider Cargoz has successfully concluded a seed funding round, securing an undisclosed amount.

The funding was led by Saudi-based Nama Ventures and saw participation from RAZ Holding, Innovest Properties, as well as various regional family offices and angel investors.

Established in 2022 by Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony, Cargoz specializes in connecting small and medium-sized enterprises in need of warehousing space with companies that have surplus capacity.

This approach is tailored to optimize logistics efficiency for SMEs. The fresh influx of capital from the seed funding round is poised to play a crucial role in Cargoz’s growth strategy.

The company plans to utilize these funds to launch its operations in Saudi Arabia in the first quarter of 2024.

Saudi logistics firm Nawel raises $1m in seed funding round

Nawel, a logistics firm based in Saudi Arabia, has raised SR3.75 million in a seed funding round led by NOMD Holdings.

Founded in 2022 by Mohamed Balsharaf and Nawaf Al-Shalani, Nawel transforms underutilized spaces in warehouses and retail outlets into efficient storage points and distribution centers.

This strategy proves particularly advantageous for the e-commerce sector, enabling companies to strategically store products and expedite shipping, ultimately enhancing the customer experience.

“This funding round marks a pivotal moment for Nawel, and we look forward to Nomad Holdings becoming a strategic partner on our journey,” said Balsharaf.

Mohammed Al-Khushail, chairman of NOMD Holdings, echoed these sentiments, stating, “We believe that Nawel has the capability to make a significant impact on the future of supply chain management in the region.”

Nawel specializes in establishing delivery centers that operate as parcel sorting hubs, facilitating faster and more cost-effective delivery services. 

This innovation aims to support the rapidly expanding e-commerce industry by ensuring the swift delivery of fast-moving and promotional items.

With this fresh injection of funds, Nawel aims to expedite its expansion, extend its network, strengthen its infrastructure, and advance the development of its unified warehouse management system.

These enhancements are focused on streamlining business operations and enhancing the overall customer experience.

UAE’s Lokalee ink $5.6m in pre-series A

Dubai-based travel tech startup Lokalee has successfully raised $5.6 million in a pre-series A funding round.

This financial infusion was led by Crown Private Fund, with additional investments from three strategic investors with expertise in the hotel and technology sectors.

Founded in 2019 by Samir Abi Frem, Lokalee operates as a business to business platform, enabling hotel guests to browse and book accommodations and various amenities.

The freshly secured funds are earmarked for further development of the Lokalee platform to enhance its offerings and capabilities and to accelerate the company’s expansion into European markets.

Kuwait’s ed tech Baims acquires Egypt’s Orcas

Kuwait-based educational technology company Baims has announced the acquisition of its Egyptian counterpart, Orcas.

Baims, established in 2017 by Bader Al-Rasheed and Yousef Al-Husaini, specializes in offering online pre-recorded courses targeted at university and high school students in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Jordan.

This strategic acquisition will enable Baims to expand its educational offerings by integrating Orcas’ personalized tutoring services into its existing platform.

Orcas, launched in 2019 by Hossam Taher and Amira El-Gharib, is known for providing customized learning experiences to  primary and secondary students, known as K-12,  attending international schools.

UAE’s fintech Maalexi secures $3m

Maalexi founders Azam Pasha and Rohit Majhi. Supplied

Maalexi founders Azam Pasha and Rohit Majhi. Supplied

UAE-based fintech company Maalexi, which focuses on the agriculture sector, has successfully secured $3 million in a pre-series A funding round.

This investment was led by Global Ventures and saw participation from existing investors Rockstart and Ankurit Capital.

Founded in 2021 by Azam Pasha and Rohit Majhi, Maalexi specializes in offering advanced risk management tools.

These include digital contracts, AI-powered inspections, and blockchain-authenticated documentation, which the company asserts lead to increased revenues for customers, improved bankability, and more sustainable business practices.

The recently acquired funds are earmarked for further development of Maalexi’s technology platform and to expand customer acquisition efforts within the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Closing bell: TASI closes in green to reach 11,696 points 

Closing bell: TASI closes in green to reach 11,696 points 
Updated 6 sec ago

Closing bell: TASI closes in green to reach 11,696 points 

Closing bell: TASI closes in green to reach 11,696 points 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index rose on Wednesday, gaining 36.57 points, or 0.31 percent, to close at 11,696.51. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR5.3 billion ($1.651 billion) as 128 of the listed stocks advanced, while 89 retreated.    

Similarly, the MSCI Tadawul Index increased by 11.40 points, or 0.79 percent, to close at 1,460.84. 

The Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu climbed by 68.14 points, or 0.26 percent, to close at 26,302.93. This comes as 24 of the listed stocks advanced while as many as 37 retreated.  

The top-performing stock of the day was the Saudi National Bank, with its share price surging by 5.76 percent to SR34.90. 

Other standout performers included The Mediterranean and Gulf Insurance and Reinsurance Co., and Anaam International Holding Group, whose share prices soared by 4.98 percent and 4.59 percent, reaching SR27.40 and SR1.14, respectively.  

Saudi Chemical Co. and National Medical Care Co. also showed notable performance. 

The worst performer was the National Co. for Glass Industries, whose share price dropped by 4.31 percent to SR41.05. 

Other underperformers included Al-Babtain Power and Telecommunication Co., as well as Saudi Pharmaceutical Industries and Medical Appliances Corp., whose share prices dropped by 3.77 percent and 3.59 percent, to stand at SR37.05 and SR32.20, respectively.  

Additional laggards in the market were Thob Al Aseel Co. and CHUBB Arabia Cooperative Insurance Co. 

In the parallel market, Nomu, Knowledge Net Co. was the top gainer, with its share price surging by 15.97 percent to SR30.5. 

Other top gainers in the parallel market were Shatirah House Restaurant Co. and Nofoth Food Products Co., with their share prices surging by 8.70 percent and 7.23 percent to reach SR12 and SR19.28, respectively. 

Miral Dental Clinics Co. was the major loser on Nomu, as its share price slipped 10 percent to SR90.  

Osool and Bakheet Investment Co. and Al-Modawat Specialized Medical Co. were other major losers on Nomu. Their share prices dropped by 9.50 percent and 7.23 percent, reaching SR40 and SR154, respectively. 

Saudi firms launch $365m fund to boost real estate development in Eastern Province

Saudi firms launch $365m fund to boost real estate development in Eastern Province
Updated 20 min 56 sec ago

Saudi firms launch $365m fund to boost real estate development in Eastern Province

Saudi firms launch $365m fund to boost real estate development in Eastern Province

RIYADH: Real estate development in the Eastern Province is set to receive a boost as two Saudi firms agree to launch a fund worth SR1.37 billion ($365 million) to drive investment in the sector.

Mohammed Al-Nahdi Real Estate and Alinma Investment, the investment arm of Alinma Bank, have announced the launch of the Alinma-Al-Nahdi Real Estate Fund, a property reserve to develop prime land strategically situated in the Eastern Province spanning an area of over 1.6 million sq. m.

In a statement, Abdullah bin Salmeen Al-Nahdi, CEO of Mohammed Al Nahdi Real Estate, emphasized that the fund’s launch reflects his company’s dedication to shaping the Kingdom’s property landscape.

He also underscored his firm’s dedication to enriching its investment portfolio by introducing unique projects to address the housing needs outlined in Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision.

The CEO explained that his property firm will develop the land to become the premier destination for housing and real estate investment in the EP. 

This development will encompass integrated residential communities, public buildings, commercial zones, and entertainment areas. It aims to provide a comfortable and safe residential environment for citizens while enhancing the region’s quality of life.

Al-Nahdi pointed out that the sales permit has been issued, and the project will be sold in stages during the implementation works. This will allow investors and buyers to benefit from diverse and flexible ownership options that suit their needs and aspirations.

The CEO highlighted that the sales permit has been issued, and the project will be progressively released during the implementation phase. 

Mazin Fawaz Baghdadi, CEO and managing director at Alinma Investment, said that the fund’s investment objective is to achieve medium-term capital growth through direct investments in the Kingdom’s real estate sector.

Additionally, Baghdadi emphasized the significant role of real estate development funds as tools that stimulate investment and increase the supply of established land through developmental and urban projects in the Eastern Province.

He stressed that this initiative aligns with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 by boosting the supply of housing units.

As per the announcement, the land is situated along King Abdulaziz Road and GCC Road in Dhahran, adjacent to the Ajyal residential district, one of Saudi Aramco’s major model housing developments. 

This strategic location facilitates convenient access to key landmarks in Dammam, Alkhobar, and Dhahran.

Headquartered in Alkhobar and founded in 1993, Mohammed Al-Nahdi Real Estate is a property company with a rich portfolio of notable projects.

According to its website, Alinma Investment is a Saudi closed joint stock firm that was established by Alinma Bank with a capital of SR1 billion and a paid-up capital of SR500 million.

The business is a leading provider of a comprehensive range of Shariah-compliant investment products and services, utilizing the latest advancements in communication and advanced technological systems.

PIF’s Neo Space Group, SES partner to revolutionize inflight connectivity

PIF’s Neo Space Group, SES partner to revolutionize inflight connectivity
Updated 28 min 30 sec ago

PIF’s Neo Space Group, SES partner to revolutionize inflight connectivity

PIF’s Neo Space Group, SES partner to revolutionize inflight connectivity

RIYADH: Airlines will now experience uninterrupted connectivity services via the aviation industry’s first open-architecture, multi-orbit global network powered by regional partners including Neo Space Group — a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Luxembourg-based satellite telecommunications company SES has announced a collaboration with several regional operators to launch its inflight network, promising seamless global connectivity for airlines.

According to a press release, this Ka-band platform will merge the geostationary earth orbit and medium earth orbit satellite networks of SES including Neo Space Group, AeroSat Link, a subsidiary of China Satcom, and Hughes Communications India.

The SES Open Orbits initiative aims to integrate regional satellite coverage into a global inflight connectivity service, allowing airline passengers uninterrupted connectivity. 

This technology is designed to link global and regional satellites to offer consistent inflight internet, enhancing the experience with high-quality video, data, and communication services comparable to ground-based offerings.

The Global Head of Aviation for SES, Elias Zaccack, emphasized the transformative potential of SES Open Orbits, stating: “By spearheading the creation of SES Open Orbits using an open architecture that supports multiple orbits and multiple waveforms, SES is enabling more satellite operators and inflight service providers to participate in the global market for inflight connectivity.”

Philippe Carette, head of the aerospace segment at PIF, expressed enthusiasm for NSG’s involvement, saying: “NSG is excited to be among the first global partners to join the SES Open Orbits inflight connectivity network.”

NSG was established in May to invest in local and international assets and capabilities, as well as promising venture capital opportunities, to catalyze the advancement and localization of sector-specific expertise. 

The company will contribute to the development and deployment of the latest cutting-edge technologies in the space industry through its four dedicated business segments: satellite communications, earth observation and remote sensing, satellite navigation and Internet of Things, as well as a satellite and space-focused venture capital fund.

China Satcom Vice President Yufei Shen noted the significance of SES’ partnership for the Asia-Pacific region, stating: “Connecting flights over, in, and out of China, and throughout the Asia-Pacific region is extremely important to most major airlines around the world. China Satcom is extremely pleased to partner with SES to help bring a whole new level of inflight connectivity by leveraging our Ka-band network.”

Shivaji Chatterjee, CEO, president, and managing director of HCI, added: “We will also bring our deep experience in providing end-to-end connectivity services in multiple verticals to our partnership with SES to help ensure the best possible passenger experience to airlines using this exciting, first-of-its-kind inflight connectivity network.”

As a managed service provider of Airbus’ HBCplus program, SES Open Orbits will also be accessible to participating airlines. Additionally, SES is working with Safran Passenger Innovations to offer SES Open Orbits on Boeing aircraft through the Boeing TSA process.

This collaboration represents a major step forward for the inflight process, aiming to enhance passenger experiences by delivering reliable, high-quality connectivity worldwide.

Saudi economy shines amid low inflation rates and Vision 2030 success: official report

Saudi economy shines amid low inflation rates and Vision 2030 success: official report
Updated 57 min 17 sec ago

Saudi economy shines amid low inflation rates and Vision 2030 success: official report

Saudi economy shines amid low inflation rates and Vision 2030 success: official report

RIYADH: The Saudi economy has demonstrated resilience, marked by sustained growth in non-oil sectors and a globally low annual inflation rate of 1.6 percent, as per an official report. 

This was highlighted during the latest meeting of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, where discussions covered crucial reports and topics. 

Among these was the Ministry of Economy and Planning’s quarterly analysis of international and local economic performance in the first quarter of 2024. The analysis delved into global economic growth trends and their potential implications for the Kingdom. 

Meanwhile, the council, also known as CEDA, reviewed the Strategic Management Office’s 2023 report on the achievements of targets set by the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, highlighting the significant progress made. By 2023, 87 percent of Vision 2030 initiatives were either completed or on track, surpassing the performance of 2022. 

Additionally, the Ministry of Health presented progress updates on two pivotal initiatives: the establishment of the Health Holding Co. and the Center for National Health Insurance. These initiatives are integral to the ministry’s healthcare transformation plan, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The presentation outlined the health ministry’s strategic ambitions, including goals, essential implementation stages, and the embrace of a contemporary healthcare paradigm.  

This innovative approach has widened access to healthcare services, improved their caliber and efficacy, and strengthened preventive measures against medical hazards. 

Moreover, the presentation highlighted the successful completion of the inaugural phase of the strategy, with 20 health clusters established across Saudi Arabia by the end of 2023. 

The SMO’s report also highlighted notable accomplishments, program evaluations, and an overall performance summary, along with ongoing efforts and future aspirations for 2024.  

The analysis emphasized the ongoing transformation efforts driven by the vision, which have demonstrably achieved and even surpassed the 2023 goals concerning the vision’s three aspects: a vibrant society, a thriving economy, and an ambitious nation. 

CEDA issued pertinent decisions and recommendations concerning all the topics addressed during the meeting.  

Under the Council of Ministers, CEDA aims to establish the governance, mechanisms, and measures necessary to achieve Saudi Vision 2030, addressing issues spanning all domestic matters, from health to labor to education and Islamic affairs.

PIF’s Alat, Lenovo forge $2bn partnership to establish manufacturing hub in Saudi Arabia 

PIF’s Alat, Lenovo forge $2bn partnership to establish manufacturing hub in Saudi Arabia 
Updated 29 May 2024

PIF’s Alat, Lenovo forge $2bn partnership to establish manufacturing hub in Saudi Arabia 

PIF’s Alat, Lenovo forge $2bn partnership to establish manufacturing hub in Saudi Arabia 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of a sustainable manufacturing hub gains momentum as Alat partners with Lenovo Group to establish a facility and invest $2 billion through zero-coupon convertible bonds. 

As part of the agreement, the Chinese firm will set up a regional headquarters in Riyadh for the Middle East and Africa region, along with a new manufacturing hub in the Kingdom, to supplement its existing 30-plus production sites worldwide. The facility will prioritize smart, sustainable manufacturing and will initially cater to customers in the MEA region. 

The Public Investment Fund-owned firm’s investment in Lenovo will be in the form of a bond subscription agreement, with the electronics giant issuing $2 billion in convertible bonds. 

Amit Midha, CEO of Alat, said: “We are incredibly proud to become a strategic investor in Lenovo and partner with them on their continued journey as a leading global technology company.”   

He added: “With the establishment of a regional headquarters in Riyadh and a world class manufacturing hub, powered by clean energy, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we expect the Lenovo team to further their potential across the MEA region.” 

This move aligns with the Saudi firm’s commitment to Vision 2030, supporting environmentally-conscious production powered by clean energy, creating new jobs in the industrial and electronics sectors, and capitalizing on regional economic growth opportunities. 

Through this investment, Alat anticipates creating 15,000 direct and 45,000 indirect jobs in Saudi Arabia, generating a cumulative gross domestic investment impact of $10 billion by 2030. 

Lenovo’s convertible bonds will be due three years after issuance and will convert to equity upon maturity at an initial conversion price of 10.42 Hong Kong dollars ($1.33) per share. 

“Through this powerful strategic collaboration, Lenovo will have significant resources and financial flexibility to further accelerate our transformation and grow our business by capitalizing on the incredible growth momentum in the MEA region,” said Yuanqing Yang, chairman and CEO of Lenovo. 

He added: “Looking ahead, Lenovo plans to build a tech and manufacturing hub in Saudi Arabia and will help define the future of the region as a center of innovation which Alat will benefit from. This is a huge vote of confidence in our company, our market leadership, and our future growth potential.”  

Moreover, the partnership between Alat and Lenovo aims to harness the transformative potential of digital technologies while establishing the region as a global innovation hub.  

This collaboration is expected to significantly impact the region’s journey toward a diversified, resilient, and technologically advanced future. 

Launched in February by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Alat aims to position Saudi Arabia as a global center for sustainable technology manufacturing, focusing on advanced technologies and electronics.