Startup Wrap – Regional venture capital activity flourishes in first week of Ramadan

Startup Wrap – Regional venture capital activity flourishes in first week of Ramadan
The agreement was signed by Nabeel Koshak, CEO and board member of SVC, and Muhannad Qubbaj, founding partner of Olive Rock Partners, in the presence of key officials from both organizations. SPA
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Updated 17 March 2024

Startup Wrap – Regional venture capital activity flourishes in first week of Ramadan

Startup Wrap – Regional venture capital activity flourishes in first week of Ramadan

CAIRO: Startups across the Middle East and North Africa experienced a surge in funding, bucking the trend of the typically slower business pace during the holy month.  

Contrary to expectations, the region’s venture landscape saw an impressive array of deals, indicating robust activity and investor confidence across various sectors in the first week of Ramadan. 

The Kingdom’s government investment vehicle Saudi Venture Capital Co. announced a $30 million investment in Olive Rock Partners Fund I.  

The investment aligns with SVC’s strategy to develop and sustain financing for startups and small and medium-sized enterprises in strategic sectors. 

Focused on mid-market buyouts that are demographically driven, geographically advantaged, and technologically enabled, Olive Rock Partners Fund I is a regional private equity fund aiming to boost the ecosystem. 

The agreement was signed by Nabeel Koshak, CEO and board member of SVC, and Muhannad Qubbaj, founding partner of Olive Rock Partners, in the presence of key officials from both organizations.  

“The investment in Olive Rock Partners Fund I is part of SVC’s Investment in Funds Program, which is a continuation of the company’s series of investments and an implementation of its strategy related to developing and sustaining financing for startups and SMEs, especially in strategic sectors,” Koshak said. 

Qubbaj expressed gratitude for SVC’s trust and highlighted the partnership’s potential to fuel growth in the SME space and enhance the direct investment landscape in Saudi Arabia. 

Established in 2018 as a subsidiary of the SME Bank, part of the National Development Fund, SVC is committed to stimulating and sustaining financing for startups and SMEs from pre-seed to pre-initial public offering stages through investments in funds and direct investments in startups and SMEs.  

Mitgo Group acquires UAE’s Embedded 

Mitgo Group, a Germany-based marketing technology provider, has expanded its portfolio by acquiring UAE-based Embedded, a finance platform.  

Established in 2022 by Alexander Bachmann, Mitgo Group aims to enhance its service offerings in the affiliate market with this acquisition.  

Embedded, founded in 2023 by Oleg Chanchikov, specializes in integrating financial services within other businesses, aligning well with Mitgo’s strategic direction. 

The acquisition enables Mitgo Group to diversify its solutions, providing clients with innovative financial services embedded directly into their platforms.  

This move is expected to strengthen Mitgo’s position in the market, offering more comprehensive services to its customers in the affiliate marketing sector. 

UAE’s traveltech Seeru raises pre-seed round 

UAE-based traveltech startup Seeru has successfully raised a pre-seed funding round led by US-based venture studio Nabtah Ventures.  

Co-founders Abd Elmohaimen Mansi and Abdullah Mancy launched Seeru to streamline the travel planning process for various stakeholders, including individual travelers and agencies.  

The platform aims to eliminate the complexities associated with organizing trips, offering a comprehensive solution to enhance the travel experience. 

With the injection of fresh capital, Seeru is poised to accelerate its product development efforts and broaden its reach in the global market.   

Kuwait’s Mojo raises seven-figure seed round 

Kuwait-based social commerce platform Mojo has secured a seven-figure seed investment led by Joa Capital and Emkan Capital, with additional support from Plus VC, Atyab Al Marshoud, Wahed Invest, and other angel investors.  

Founded in 2022 by Abdulaziz Al-Bahar and Nadia Al-Hamad, Mojo provides a platform where users can explore, review, and recommend beauty, skincare, and wellness products. 

The funding will be instrumental in enhancing Mojo’s technology stack, attracting top-tier talent, and expanding its market presence, particularly in Saudi Arabia.   

Saudi-based Grintafy receives investment from Chiliz  

Saudi Arabia-based sportstech Grintafy has received an investment from Chiliz, bolstering its position as a leading football talent discovery platform.  

Founded in 2019 by Majdi Allulu, Grintafy connects aspiring footballers with professional opportunities, leveraging technology to scout and showcase talent across the Middle East and Europe. 

The partnership with Chiliz will enable Grintafy to accelerate its adoption of web3 technologies and expand its reach in the international sports arena.  

Chiliz, known for its expertise in blockchain and sports engagement, will provide Grintafy with the technological infrastructure and ecosystem support to enhance its offerings and drive growth. 

Grintafy’s collaboration with Chiliz marks a significant step forward in its mission to revolutionize football talent discovery.  

By integrating cutting-edge technology and expanding its global footprint, Grintafy is poised to unlock new opportunities for players and clubs alike, contributing to the development of the sport on a global scale. 

Egypt’s 30Med secures pre-seed round  

Egypt-based business to business healthtech 30Med has raised pre-seed funding from anonymous angel investors, marking a key milestone in its mission to connect pharmaceutical companies with medical professionals.  

Founded in 2023 by Ayman Ragab, 30Med offers an innovative platform that facilitates the exchange of knowledge and information about new medicines through interactive videos and events.  

The investment will enable 30Med to enhance its platform, expanding its reach within the medical community and further bridging the gap between pharmaceutical firms and healthcare providers.   

Morocco’s ORA Technologies secures $1.5m in a seed round 

ORA Technologies, based in Morocco, has secured $1.5 million in seed funding to drive the growth of its superapp.  

Founded in 2023 by Omar Alami, ORA integrates various features, including peer-to-peer transactions, e-commerce, and social networking, into a single platform.  

ORA also secured a partnership with M2T, a subsidiary of Banque Centrale Populaire, which paves the way for the imminent launch of ORA’s digital wallet. 

The funding will accelerate ORA’s expansion plans, enhancing its suite of services and expanding its user base.

Riyadh’s grade A office renting grew by 5% in Q1 2024: report 

Riyadh’s grade A office renting grew by 5% in Q1 2024: report 
Updated 8 sec ago

Riyadh’s grade A office renting grew by 5% in Q1 2024: report 

Riyadh’s grade A office renting grew by 5% in Q1 2024: report 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s prime office rental space saw a 5 percent growth in transactions in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the previous period, according to an industry report. 

As per the global real estate services provider Savills analysis, Riyadh achieved an occupancy rate of 98 percent in early 2024, with rents increasing by 20 percent year on year.  

“Despite healthy demand, a significant decrease in the number of office rent transactions was recorded in the first quarter, with Ejar data indicating a 27 percent drop in transactions quarter on quarter due to the limited availability of office spaces,” Amjad Saif, head of transactional services at Savills Saudi Arabia, said. 

“However, Grade A offices witnessed an increase in rents by 5 percent compared to the last quarter, owing to the buoyant demand for quality assets amid their limited supply,” Saif added. 

The report also highlighted that 74 percent of Savills’ inquiries originated from overseas, with an impressive 37 percent coming specifically from US corporations. 

“Riyadh is experiencing a remarkable surge in corporate interest, with over 180 foreign companies surpassing the initial target of 160 choosing to establish their regional headquarters in the city,” Ramzi Darwish, head of Saudi Arabia at Savills Middle East, said.   

“This growing confidence reflects the robust potential of the Saudi capital, fueled by the country’s strategic economic diversification plan. Prominent entities such as Franklin Templeton and Allen & Overy have recently set up their regional bases in the capital Riyadh,” he added. 

The report also indicated that the Business Parks and the King Abdullah Financial District are experiencing significant interest, with 75 percent of transactions involving relocations to these areas. 

To address demand concerns, over 420,000 sq. m of new Grade A office space is expected by year-end, providing tenants with greater flexibility and helping to stabilize rental prices, the analysis stated. 

Significant leasing activity was observed in the first quarter of 2024, with legal services leading the way, followed by engineering, manufacturing, and information technology sectors.  

Additionally, technology, media, telecommunications, banking, and financial services, as well as insurance companies, dominated occupier inquiries, reflecting diverse industry interests. 

Saudi Arabia on the verge of launching trials for outer space tourism

Saudi Arabia on the verge of launching trials for outer space tourism
Updated 22 min 41 sec ago

Saudi Arabia on the verge of launching trials for outer space tourism

Saudi Arabia on the verge of launching trials for outer space tourism

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on the verge of launching an initiative in space tourism, according to a top official.

The CEO of the Saudi Space Agency, Mohammed Al-Tamimi, discussed the expanding role of spaceports and satellite deployment on the opening day of the 2024 Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh. 

The first day of the event showcased significant developments in tourism, aviation, and space exploration. Key figures from various sectors emphasized the rapid growth and strategic initiatives driving the industry forward.

“Within a window of 60 days from now, there will be an announcement to do some trials here in Saudi Arabia about space tourism,” Al-Tamimi revealed.

He also projected a significant increase in satellite launches, with expectations to send “36,000 satellites over the coming six years,” tripling the current number.

“Right now, we have more than 10,000 active commercial civil aviation airports. When it comes to spaceports, more than 20-22 are active in 12 different countries,” Al-Tamimi said.

Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb said “over 330 million people are employed in the tourism sector worldwide, or one out of every 10 workers.” 

He also celebrated the Middle East’s post-pandemic tourism surge, led by Saudi Arabia, which saw a “remarkable 22 percent growth compared to 2019.” 

Al-Khateeb attributed this success to value-driven travel options, shorter trips, and closer destinations. 

He praised the new e-visa system that enables travelers from 66 countries, representing over 80 percent of the global travel market, to visit Saudi Arabia easily.

In November 2023, the Gulf Cooperation Council approved the unified tourist visa, which will launch by 2025. Secretary-General Jassim Mohammed Al-Budaiwi announced it during the 40th meeting of the GCC interior ministers in Muscat, Oman. 

Similar to the Schengen scheme, this visa will allow tourists to travel across all six GCC member states.

The senior vice president of Boeing Co. and president of Boeing Global, Brendan Nelson AO, addressed the importance of transparency and integrity in the aviation industry. 

“It’s important that you are authentic, that you’re transparent, that you are open and honest with your customers, your investors, certainly with the flying public,” Nelson stated. 

In January this year, an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 experienced a fuselage rupture shortly after takeoff at an altitude of 4.8 km above Oregon. 

Nelson also discussed Boeing’s strategic decision to slow down production to stabilize supply chains despite the high commercial cost.

“We expect that we’ll have supply chain issues well through to the end of this year, possibly into early next year,” he said. 

Nelson emphasized Boeing’s commitment to sustainable aviation fuel, noting that currently, only “0.2 percent of global aviation fuel demand is being met by SAF.” 

He highlighted the aerospace manufacturer’s partnership with Saudi Arabia in various projects, including a joint venture with Saudi Arabia Military Industries and collaborations on aerospace-grade materials and advanced resins.

Tony Douglas, CEO of Riyadh Air, outlined the ambitious goals of the new airline, which is to become a major international carrier. 

“We’re going to connect to way over 100 different destinations by 2030,” Douglas announced, aiming to achieve in five years what took Qatar Airways over 20. 

He highlighted Riyadh Air’s advantage of starting without legacy systems, enabling a modern and technologically advanced approach. 

Douglas also shared updates on the airline’s progress, including the hiring of top-rated pilots and employees. A cabin crew fashion reveal is scheduled for the Paris Fashion Show next month, and a digital proposition unveiling is in October.

The 2024 Future Aviation Forum continues to highlight the dynamic advancements and strategic collaborations shaping the future of aviation and space exploration in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone secures $3.2bn in project contracts: chairman 

Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone secures $3.2bn in project contracts: chairman 
Updated 30 min 17 sec ago

Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone secures $3.2bn in project contracts: chairman 

Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone secures $3.2bn in project contracts: chairman 

RIYADH: Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone secured 144 projects worth $3.2 billion between July 2023 and April 2024, down from $4.9 billion recorded during July 2022 to May 2023. 

This comes amidst ongoing attacks in the Red Sea since October, leading to significant global economic disruption, particularly affecting container shipping traffic and global trade.  

This is evident in a 50 percent drop in Suez Canal trade in the first two months of 2024 compared to the previous year, and a 32 percent decrease in trade through the Panama Canal, as reported by the International Monetary Fund in a March blog post. 

In a statement issued by the Egyptian Cabinet, Walid Gamal El-Din, chairman of the General Authority for the Suez Canal Economic Zone, revealed that out of the 144 projects in its industrial zones and ports, 67 have obtained final approvals, while 77 have received initial approvals. 

He added that more than 25,000 direct and indirect job opportunities will be created upon the completion and operation of these projects. 

This reflects the authority’s ongoing efforts and activities despite the negative impact of regional developments on port revenues. 

It also aligns with the entity’s mission to attract businesses from around the region by offering easy access to local markets and talent. 

Furthermore, the chairman disclosed that the implementation rates of investment projects within the industrial zones reached 77 percent, while those in ports reached 71 percent. 

Regarding Chinese investments in the special economic zone TEDA, El-Din explained that there are 42 existing projects, with an additional 12 projects under construction awaiting operating licenses. Additionally, 40 projects are currently in the process of completing procedures to obtain building licenses. 

On green hydrogen projects, the chairman highlighted that between January and April, 12 framework agreements and six memorandums of understanding were signed, with an additional MoU set to be signed soon. 

Furthermore, El-Din provided insights into the development work progress in the authority’s ports, noting a 94 percent implementation rate in Ain Sokhna Port, 86 percent in East Port Said Port, and 93.8 percent in West Port Said Port. 

Additionally, he mentioned a 73.7 percent implementation rate in Al-Arish Port and 75 percent in the West Qantara West zone.   

Moreover, the chairman reviewed the ship bunkering operations and marine services at the authority’s ports. He noted that the body implemented the first ship bunkering operation with green fuel in East Port Said Port in August 2023. 

He also highlighted that the development work of the East Ismaili Zone has reached 100 percent implementation of some works. 

About 15 percent of world shipping traffic transits via the Suez Canal, the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia. The Suez Canal is also an important source of foreign currency for Egypt. 

Boeing focuses on quality management enhancement amidst safety concerns, says top official

Boeing focuses on quality management enhancement amidst safety concerns, says top official
Updated 20 May 2024

Boeing focuses on quality management enhancement amidst safety concerns, says top official

Boeing focuses on quality management enhancement amidst safety concerns, says top official

RIYADH: Aerospace giant Boeing is enhancing its quality management system to meet regulatory standards, ensuring passenger safety, a top official told Arab News.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh, Omar Arakat, vice president of commercial sales and marketing of Boeing in the Middle East and Africa, said that the company is putting “a lot of emphasis” to meet the safety standards proposed by regulators. 

The US plane maker is revamping its management in response to increasing pressure from airlines, regulators, and investors as it faces a deepening crisis following a mid-air panel blowout on a 737 MAX plane in January. 

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-9 MAX experienced a mid-cabin exit door panel blowout shortly after takeoff, triggering multiple investigations, including one by the Federal Aviation Administration in the US. 

When asked about safety developments, Arakat said: “I’m assuming you are referring to the quality issues that have made headlines, and I assure you that Boeing’s number one priority is safety and quality. We are doing a lot of plans to strengthen our quality management system.”  

He added: “We’re also sharing with our customers all the steps that were taken to make sure that they feel the comfort that Boeing is doing the right thing.”  

Detailing Boeing’s initiatives to enhance safety standards, Arakat added that the company is directly engaging with its suppliers and increasing involvement by inspecting various stages in the aircraft production cycle. 

He expressed his enthusiasm about the progress in Saudi Arabia’s aviation sector during the discussion. 

“We are very optimistic, and we are very excited about what is going on in Saudi Arabia in general, and specifically within the aviation sector. There is a lot of commitment by the leadership of Saudi Arabia to support aviation, and they recognize it as one of the most important pillars of developing infrastructure and moving forward,” said Arakat.  

He added: “If you look at the mandates of Vision 2030, it really indicates that aviation has a very bright future because it sets some very real targets that the Kingdom is very serious about achieving. We are very proud to be part of that.”  

The executive further noted that Boeing’s relationship with Saudi Arabia spans over seven decades, during which the company has delivered over 240 aircraft to airlines operating in the Kingdom. 

Last year, Riyadh Air, owned by the Public Investment Fund, announced ordering up to 72 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner airplanes in a significant deal. This included 39 confirmed aircraft and an option for an additional 33 wide-body 787-9 Dreamliners, reflecting Saudi Arabia’s ambitions to establish itself as a prominent player in global aviation. 

National carriers collectively announced plans to purchase up to 121 787 Dreamliners, marking one of Boeing’s largest commercial orders by value.

Energy security is vital for prosperity among Arab citizens, says top official 

Energy security is vital for prosperity among Arab citizens, says top official 
Updated 20 May 2024

Energy security is vital for prosperity among Arab citizens, says top official 

Energy security is vital for prosperity among Arab citizens, says top official 

RIYADH: A comprehensive and integrated approach is needed to ensure energy security amongst citizens, according to the Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the Economic Affairs Sector at the Arab League, Ali Al-Maliki.

During the 12th celebration of Arab Energy Efficiency Day, Al-Maliki urged the adoption of new measures to address this critical issue.  

“Energy security is a fundamental issue due to its direct impact on economic growth, national security, and the well-being of all Arab citizens,” he stated in a speech delivered on his behalf by the Director of the Energy Department at the General Secretariat of the Arab League, Jamila Mattar.

“We are all aware of the challenges we face in terms of energy security and the transition to more sustainable sources,” the speech said.  

“To confront these challenges, the world needs to adopt a comprehensive and integrated approach to energy security that takes into account the need to increase energy efficiency, develop renewable energy, protect vital energy infrastructure, and work to reduce harmful carbon emissions,” the text added. 

Al-Maliki emphasized that efficiency is one of the basic pillars of energy security, according to a report by Bahrain News Agency. 

He noted that achieving energy security involves providing services at the lowest cost without compromising quality and managing demand by introducing various concepts related to efficiency.

This approach aims to reduce consumption without conflicting with the developmental plans of each country.  

Al-Maliki highlighted the council’s efforts to monitor the stages of efficiency in the Arab region. This includes developing, implementing, and monitoring national efficiency plans.  

The council has also prepared the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Guide in Arab Countries, which provides statistical information on policies and programs adopted in nations to enhance the efficiency of production and consumption and the use of renewables.  

Additionally, the guide details the institutional and legal frameworks and the necessary financial incentives implemented or planned in these fields.