Regional startups raise funding rounds amid activity flurry

Regional startups raise funding rounds amid activity flurry
UAE-based Web3 gaming platform Exverse successfully secured $3 million in a private funding round. (Supplied)
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Updated 24 February 2024
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Regional startups raise funding rounds amid activity flurry

Regional startups raise funding rounds amid activity flurry
  • Venture capital ecosystem experiences heightened activity with startups securing large investments

CAIRO: Startups across the Middle East and North Africa region have garnered substantial support through significant funding rounds over the last seven days.

The regional venture capital ecosystem experienced heightened activity, with startups securing large investments, with Saudi Arabia at the forefront.
The Kingdom’s logistics startup PIESHIP successfully closed an undisclosed pre-seed investment round from SEEDRA Ventures, Nama Ventures, and various angel investors.
Established in 2023 by founders Nasser Al-Harthi, Musaed Al-Amri, and Mohammed Mohsen, PIESHIP offers a comprehensive suite of logistics solutions.  
These include warehouse management, a dedicated app for shipment deliveries, and a range of technical services aimed at enhancing logistics operations.  
“PIESHIP provides innovative solutions in the logistics sector to improve the last-mile delivery companies’ experience, aiming to deliver shipments faster with practical communication tools with customers. PIESHIP has also enabled delivery companies to increase the efficiency of delivery representatives by creating an effective competitive environment among employees,” Al-Harthi said.
The company has announced plans to allocate the new funds towards its business expansion, as well as the research and development of innovative products and services aimed at enriching customer experience and operational efficiency.




Established in 2023 by founders Nasser Al-Harthi, Musaed Al-Amri, and Mohammed Mohsen, PIESHIP offers a comprehensive suite of logistics solutions. (Supplied)

Saudi Arabia’s PhysioHome secures seed round
Saudi Arabian healthtech startup PhysioHome has successfully closed a seed funding round, securing an undisclosed amount from a group of private angel investors.  
Established in 2021 by Ahmed Sidam, PhysioHome is dedicated to providing comprehensive rehabilitation services directly to patients’ homes or in dedicated rehabilitation centers.  
Currently, their services span across nine cities within the Kingdom, including both medical and behavioral rehabilitation for children.
This recent capital injection follows PhysioHome’s pre-seed funding round in 2022, which was spearheaded by Sanabel 500 and the Saudi Venture Capital Co., alongside contributions from angel investors associated with Oqal.  




Established in 2021 by Ahmed Sidam, PhysioHome is dedicated to providing comprehensive rehabilitation services. (Supplied)

Saudi Arabia’s Basserah merges with UAE’s nybl
Saudi-based data automation company Basserah and UAE’s artificial intelligence innovator nybl have announced a merger that will expand their footprint in the regional market.  
Nybl, established in 2018 by Noor Al-Nahhas, specializes in making AI technology accessible, offering solutions for real-time failure prediction, prescription, prevention, and optimization in critical industries to enhance productivity and reduce expenses.  




Saudi-based data automation company Basserah and UAE’s artificial intelligence innovator nybl have announced a merger aimed at expanding their footprint in the regional market. (Supplied)


On the other hand, Basserah, also founded in 2018 as a part of NOMD Holding, provides services to sectors such as telecommunications, oil and gas, and government, focusing on leveraging data to improve efficiency through robotic process automation.
The merger will retain the nybl brand and team, with Basserah being fully integrated into the combined entity.  
This strategic move is set to bolster their capabilities in delivering advanced AI and data automation solutions across a broad range of industries.

UAE’s Exverse secures $3m in funding
Exverse, a UAE-based Web3 gaming platform known for blending traditional AAA-quality first-person shooter gaming with the Web3 space, has successfully secured $3 million in a private funding round. This significant financial boost was led by prominent investors including Cogitent Ventures, Cointelligence, and Moonrock Capital, with additional support from KuCoin Labs, Epic Games, Seedify, and ChainGPT.
Founded in 2020 by Nikita Uriupin, Exverse aims to set a new standard in the gaming world by ensuring that the quality of its first-person shooter games matches or exceeds that of traditional AAA titles.
The freshly acquired funds are earmarked for several key areas of development and expansion. Primarily, the investment will accelerate the launch of Exverse’s eagerly anticipated products.
Additionally, it will enable the company to forge strategic partnerships and bolster its marketing efforts, particularly across the Asia-Pacific region.

UAE’s GameCentric secures $1.5m
The UAE’s emerging gaming platform GameCentric has successfully raised $1.5 million in a funding round from angel investor Bilal Merchant.  
Launched in 2023 by Saad Khan, GameCentric will cater to a diverse community of gamers, ranging from competitive to casual players, by creating a unified gaming ecosystem.
This financial boost is set to empower the company with the means to expand its operational reach beyond the Gulf Cooperation Council and MENA regions.  
Moreover, the investment will facilitate the enhancement of the platform’s features and  elevate the overall gaming experience for its user base.

UAE’s The Cloud raises $12m
The Cloud, a UAE-based cloud kitchen startup, has secured $12 million in funding from MENA Moonshots, part of its ongoing effort to raise a $30 million series B round, which also includes debt financing from Aluna Partners.  
Founded in 2019 by Kamil Rogalinski and Georges Karam, The Cloud operates within the business-to-business-to-consumer food technology space, providing restaurant owners the opportunity to optimize kitchen utilization by hosting external food delivery services.




“Looking forward, we continue to actively eye more strategic acquisitions while also seeking to raise further capital” — Georges Karam, CEO of The Cloud


This recent financial infusion will support The Cloud’s ambitious plans to penetrate new markets in Lithuania, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the UK.  
As part of its expansion strategy, The Cloud has also completed the acquisition of KBOX, a UK-based food tech company, extending its global footprint to over 200 locations.
Previously, in September 2022, The Cloud successfully raised a $10 million series A round led by Middle East Venture Partners and Olayan Financing Co., with additional backing from Rua Growth Fund.  
To date, The Cloud has amassed a total investment of $22 million, positioning it for further growth and innovation in the global food tech landscape.

DFDF participates in Partech’s $300m fund
The Dubai Future District Fund has joined the second closing of Partech Africa II, a pan-African fund managed by global investment firm Partech, contributing to a total raise of $300 million.
This investment round also attracted participation from Africa Re, Orange, AXIAN Investment, and the African Development Bank Group, signaling robust confidence in Africa’s tech ecosystem.  
Partech Africa II, which celebrated its first closing a year prior, is set on bolstering its investment strategy across the continent.  
The fund aims to support African startups from seed to series C stages, offering initial investments ranging from $1 million to $15 million, a move that underscores the growing interest and potential in Africa’s innovative sectors.


Oil Update — prices rise on China growth, Middle East tensions 

Oil Update — prices rise on China growth, Middle East tensions 
Updated 5 sec ago
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Oil Update — prices rise on China growth, Middle East tensions 

Oil Update — prices rise on China growth, Middle East tensions 

SINGAPORE: Oil prices rose on Tuesday after data showed China's economy grew faster than expected, while heightened tensions in the Middle East also kept markets on edge after Israel said it would respond to Iran’s weekend missile and drone attack, according to Reuters. 

Brent futures for June delivery rose 20 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $90.30 a barrel by 10:57 a.m. Saudi time. US crude futures for May delivery rose 21 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $85.62 a barrel. 

Earlier in the day oil prices had risen nearly 1 percent following the release of official data from China showing gross domestic product in the world’s biggest oil importer grew 5.3 percent in the first quarter, year-on-year, comfortably beating analysts’ expectations. 

However, both benchmarks pared some gains as a raft of other Chinese indicators including real estate investment, retail sales and industrial output showed demand remained weak in the face of a protracted property crisis. 

Oil prices soared last week to the highest levels since October, but fell on Monday after Iran’s weekend attack on Israel proved to be less damaging than anticipated, easing concerns of a quickly intensifying conflict that could displace crude barrels. 

“Israel’s response will determine whether the escalation ends or continues. The conflict could still be contained to Israel, Iran and its proxies, with possible involvement of the US,” analysts at ANZ Research said in a note on Tuesday. 

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday summoned his war cabinet for the second time in less than 24 hours to weigh how to react to Iran’s first-ever direct attack on Israel. 

Iran produces more than 3 million barrels per day of crude oil as a major producer within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. 


World Bank raises Saudi Arabia’s 2025 GDP growth forecast to 5.9%

World Bank raises Saudi Arabia’s 2025 GDP growth forecast to 5.9%
Updated 15 April 2024
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World Bank raises Saudi Arabia’s 2025 GDP growth forecast to 5.9%

World Bank raises Saudi Arabia’s 2025 GDP growth forecast to 5.9%

RIYADH: The World Bank has raised its expectations for Saudi Arabia’s economic growth to 5.9 percent in 2025 from 4.2 percent predicted earlier in January.

In its latest report the bank, however, revised its 2024 forecast for the Kingdom’s gross domestic product growth downward to 2.5 percent from an earlier forecast of 4.1 percent.

Concurrently, the overall GDP growth forecast for Gulf Cooperation Council countries in 2024 has been reduced to 2.8 percent, down from 3.6 percent, while the 2025 forecast has been revised to 4.7 percent from 3.8 percent.  

The report also adjusted the UAE’s GDP growth forecast to 3.9 percent for 2024, up from the previously projected 3.7 percent, with a further rise to 4.1 percent in 2025, from 3.8 percent. 

Kuwait’s economy is expected to expand by 2.8 percent in 2024 and increase further to 3.1 percent in 2025.  

Similarly, Bahrain’s economy is likely to grow by 3.5 percent in 2024 and 3.3 percent in 2025, marking an increase from January’s projections. 

Meanwhile, Qatar’s economy saw a downward revision for its 2024 forecast from 2.5 percent to 2.1 percent but an upward revision for 2025 from 3.1 percent to 3.2 percent. 

Oman’s economy projections for 2024 and 2025 saw a marginal increase of 0.1 percent since the January forecast. 

This adjustment reflects the broader economic trends where the surge in oil prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 bolstered oil-exporting economies in the Middle East and North Africa.  

In contrast, economic growth in non-oil-exporting nations — including MENA oil importers like Djibouti, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and the West Bank and Gaza — has slowed. 

By 2024, the growth disparity between GCC oil exporters and developing oil importers is expected to narrow to just 0.9 percentage points, marking a significant shift from 2022 when GCC countries grew 5.6 percentage points faster, the report stated.  

“Developing oil exporters will grow 2.8 percent in 2024, down from 3.1 percent in 2023 while growth in developing oil importers is forecasted to decrease to 2.5 percent in 2024, down from 3.1 percent in 2023,” the report stated. 

Overall, the MENA region is expected to achieve a growth rate of 2.7 percent in 2024, which aligns with pre-COVID levels but still trails the global average.  

While other emerging markets and developing economies are also projected to remain below pre-pandemic growth rates, they are expected to surpass the MENA region by 1.2 percentage points in 2024.  


GCC oil companies’ capex to grow by 5% to reach $115bn in 2024

GCC oil companies’ capex to grow by 5% to reach $115bn in 2024
Updated 15 April 2024
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GCC oil companies’ capex to grow by 5% to reach $115bn in 2024

GCC oil companies’ capex to grow by 5% to reach $115bn in 2024

RIYADH: The capital expenditures of national oil companies in the Gulf Cooperation Council are likely to grow by 5 percent in 2024 as compared to the previous year and are expected to reach $115 billion, according to a report.

The analysis by S&P’s Global Ratings, however, does not take into account the potential surge in spending from recent expansion plans such as the North Field West Project in Qatar, which it said could significantly boost expenditures.

The report highlighted that while the growth in capital expenditure is modest, Saudi Arabia’s planned output cuts in line with the current policy of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, is likely to decrease demand for drilling platforms, operating ratios, average daily production rates, and profitability among regional drilling companies, especially in the Kingdom.

“We stress-tested the effect of a hypothetical 15-20 percent loss of total rig demand in the region on GCC drillers, and we estimate that the debt to EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) of rated and publicly listed drillers based in GCC countries could increase by about 1x on average,” S&P Global Ratings Credit analyst Rawan Oueidat said.

“At this point, we think that drillers’ rating headroom could shrink, but we don’t expect any short-term rating pressure,” Oueidat added.

The agency also raised concerns about the future of capital expenditure in other oil and gas-producing countries of the GCC, following Saudi Aramco’s decision to suspend its plan to increase the Kingdom’s maximum production capacity.

Despite these concerns, the total oil capital expenditure in the region is expected to remain relatively high due to the ongoing expansion plans in Qatar and the UAE.

However, the pace and magnitude of spending are expected to impact oilfield service companies and the entire value chain, particularly drilling companies whose business models heavily rely on corporate capital expenditures.

The UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. is set to increase its oil production capacity to 5 million barrels per day by 2027, up from 4 million bpd as of February 2024, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Meanwhile, Qatar is aiming to boost its liquefied natural gas production capacity to 142 million tonnes annually by 2030 from the current output of 77 million tonnes.

The report predicted oil prices to average $85 per barrel for the remainder of 2024 and $80 per barrel the following year.

It also suggested that geopolitical tensions and planned production cuts by OPEC+ will support prices and enhance the cash flows of oil companies across the Gulf region.


Saudi housing program Sakani benefits over 32,000 families in Q1

Saudi housing program Sakani benefits over 32,000 families in Q1
Updated 15 April 2024
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Saudi housing program Sakani benefits over 32,000 families in Q1

Saudi housing program Sakani benefits over 32,000 families in Q1

RIYADH: As many as 32,343 Saudi families benefitted from Sakani’s housing options during the first quarter of 2024, marking an annual 15 percent increase.

In collaboration with the Real Estate Development Fund and financial institutions, the program provides a variety of housing support packages to encourage first-time house buyers, including non-refundable financial assistance of SR100,000 ($26,659) or SR150,000.

The number of the Kingdom’s households that purchased their first homes reached 25,391 in the first three months of the year, reflecting the objective of Sakani to offer a variety of residential options and financial solutions.

Founded in 2017 by the Saudi Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund, the program aims to increase the proportion of families that own a home in the Kingdom to 70 percent by 2030, in line with the economic diversification strategy Vision 2030.

Figures from Sakani showed that the number of beneficiary households reached 12,184 in March, with 9,381 Saudi families obtaining their first residence.

In January, Sakani announced that more than 100,000 Saudi families benefited from the initiative in 2023, while the number of applicants who obtained their first home over that 12 month period reaching 98,475.

The core objectives of the Sakani initiative are to enable homeownership in the Kingdom by creating new housing stock, assigning plots and properties to citizens, and providing financing for their purchases.

The Sakani website and application provide a wide range of housing facilities and services, such as real estate consultancy, issuance of real estate transaction tax certificates and a display of financing institution rates.

It also provides electronic financing and the disbursement of land contracts, engineering design services, access to certified contractors, and additional services.


Qatar inflation dips 1.4% in March: official data

Qatar inflation dips 1.4% in March: official data
Updated 15 April 2024
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Qatar inflation dips 1.4% in March: official data

Qatar inflation dips 1.4% in March: official data

RIYADH: A fall in food and beverage prices helped drive Qatar’s inflation down 1.4 percent in March as compared to the previous month, official data showed.

According to a report released by the country’s Planning and Statistics Authority, the consumer price index reached 106.67 points in March.

Compared to February, expenses for food and beverages slid by 4.74 percent in March. Prices for recreation and culture witnessed a decline of 5.58 percent during the same period. 

Similarly, costs for restaurant and hotels, as well as furniture and household equipment, decreased by 1.92 percent and 0.34 percent, respectively, in March compared to the previous month. 

On the other hand, prices for clothing and footwear increased by 1.88 percent, followed by expenses for transport, which went up by 0.23 percent. 

Cost of healthcare and communication remain unchanged in March, data showed.

However, the Gulf country’s annual consumer price index edge up by 0.98 percent in March compared to the same month of the previous year.

The year-on-year surge in prices was driven by recreation and culture (8.48 percent), communication (3.84 percent), education (3.48 percent), food and beverages  (2.73 percent), furniture and household equipment (1.28 percent), and miscellaneous goods and services (0.83 percent).

A year-on-year decrease has been recorded in the prices of  clothing and footwear, followed by housing, water, electricity and other fuel. 

Qatar’s economy is expected to stabilize in the near future after experiencing a surge in 2022 due to hosting the FIFA World Cup, according to the IMF.  

The Washington-based lender has forecasted a 1.9 percent growth in the country’s gross domestic product for 2024. 

Highlighting Qatar’s resilience to recent global disturbances, the IMF stated that the country’s economic prospects are promising. 

Furthermore, it noted that the Hamas-Israel conflict has not had any discernible impact on Qatar. 

“Risks are broadly balanced. Maintaining prudent macroeconomic policy and intensifying reform efforts will support Qatar’s resilience to shocks and accelerate its economic transformation,” the IMF said.