5 Booming Startups in the Middle East

 During the last couple of years, the Middle East has gained more popularity among investors in the startup ecosystem. In 2020, a massive record of $1B was financed in MENA-based startups, pushed by immense fundraising in the first half of the year ($725MM). Amazingly, mega-rounds were not the stimulator of this expansion, only representing $150MM of the total in 2020.  

Source: Magnitt

Although the UAE still takes the lead in the region with the highest share of startups HQ and funding, other countries are also experiencing a boom in startup acceleration. Based on calculations by Forbes Middle East, nearly 170 startups announced fundraising in the first half of 2021. Around 120 of them managed to secure a total funding amount of over $910M in financing and debt.

Among the industries, Fintech, E-Commerce, Agri-tech, and F&B Delivery are the leading, thanks to the COVID-19 Pandemic repercussions. UAE-based startups attracted almost half of the investments (over $420M), followed by KSA and Egyptian startups with nearly $245M and $110M, respectively. However, it is expected that the second half of 2021 will witness even more significant investments in the MENA region.

To get more insights into the region’s startup ecosystem, we’ve chosen 5 of the hottest in different countries to introduce briefly in this post. All the five have been founded in the past five years and featured in the Forbes Middle East 50 most funded startups’ list. Each is the pioneer in the country established with multiple rounds of fundraising. The list is sorted from the largest total funding amount to the smallest based on Crunchbase.com statistics. Let’s get started!

Halan

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Halan Inc. (also known as حالا) is the leading Fintech platform in Egypt that seeks to fulfill a variety of daily needs in just one app. It was founded in 2017 as Egypt’s initial two and three-wheeler ride-hailing application. Since then, the startup has launched a wide range of services, including on-demand delivery, bill payments, wallet & card, e-commerce with BNPL, and microfinance. It currently operates its ride-hailing app in Egypt and Sudan, with prospects to expand to Ethiopia. The application also provides logistics services to help large enterprises as well as small businesses with their supply chain procedures. Halan’s partnership with chains like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and KFC in Egypt has already given it a boost in the market. 

Halan’s Founder and CEO, Mounir Nakhla is renowned for his entrepreneurial initiative and pragmatic approach to problem-solving, which has positioned the business as the pioneering Fintech app for the unbanked in Egypt. He co-founded micro-financing startups Mashroey and Tasaheel beforehand. Co-founder and CTO, Ahmed Mohsen is also known for founding CircleTie and MusicQ previously. It’s worth noting Oscar Salazar, Uber’s CTO, is also a board member. 

According to Crunchbase, Halan has raised almost $146M over seven rounds of funding so far. The latest one was raised in September 2021 from a Venture-Series amounting to $120M. The business takes pride in 1.1B monthly value of requests (EGP), 1.9M satisfied customers, and 4.1M app installs. Halan is currently aspiring to perfect its technology and scale to tens of millions of users and expand cross-border. 

Founders: Mounir Nakhla, Ahmed Mohsen, Mohamed Aboulnaga

Industry: Fintech, Ride-Sharing & Logistics Services

Headquarters: Cairo, Egypt

Staff: 101-250

Total Funding: $146.4M

Pure Harvest Smart Farms

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Challenging the adverse climates of the Persian Gulf region to improve farming has been the initial idea behind this pioneering startup. Also Known as PHSF, it is a leading regional modernizer in sustainable farming dedicated to the production of affordable, quality fruits and vegetables using cutting-edge controlled-environment technologies. According to the founders, it currently produces six varieties of strawberries and above 20 varieties of tomatoes, among other items.

They claim that their product is cleaner-than-organic. PHSF’s tech-based greenhouses guarantee augmented productivity and decreased waste through providing accurate environmental and climate controls (considering water, energy, and time). To ensure food safety, the company employs sophisticated on-site water treatment systems and packs its own produce. PHSF’s innovation in immediate cooling of the newly-picked produce helps to prolong shelf life, maintaining firmness and flavor.

The startup was founded by Sky Kurtz and Robert Kupstas in 2016 through the Stanford University alumni network. Following the seed fundraising in 2017, the company started to construct its first tech-based greenhouse in Abu Dhabi in 2018. So far, it has gone through over eight rounds of fundraising, amounting to slightly over $89M. According to Crunchbase, their last funding – $50M- was raised in March 2021 to help them grow their business throughout the region. It is currently completing the company’s Kuwaiti facility and developing plans to expand to KSA while broadening its product portfolio.        

Founders: Sky Kurtz, Robert Kupstas, Mahmoud Adi

Industry: Tech-based Agriculture

Headquarters: Abu Dhabi, UAE

Staff: 11-50

Total Funding: S89.4M

Nana

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COVID-19 pandemic has remarkably made grocery online shopping a much more popular experience all around the globe. That’s no exception in countries in the region providing a golden opportunity for e-Grocery Marketplace platforms to thrive. Nana Direct (also known as Nana|نعناع) is the most leading one that currently responds to the increasing needs of many Saudi Arabians. It was born in 2016 in Riyadh with an ambition to lead the development of grocery shopping throughout the MENA region via cutting-edge technology. It currently operates in 14 cities across KSA, facilitating doorstep deliveries of high-quality groceries through a few taps on your smartphone.

The platform offers a broad range of items, including fruits, vegetables, bakery products, cosmetics, flowers, electronics, etc., delivered by a skillful, well-trained staff. The platform supplies its products to the whole ecosystem, including consumers, stores, and retailers. Nana’s team includes an aspiring young group that strives to succeed at all local, regional and global levels.

Crunchbase reports reveal that the startup raised nearly $29M in funding over four rounds, with the last one in March 2020 from a Series B round. It helped them raise $18M to further expand their business across the kingdom. According to Forbes Middle East, the company has managed to triple its turnover over the past year. It has also made great accomplishments in partnership with major supermarket chains, including Carrefour, Spar, Panda, Manuel, and Farm Superstores.

Founders: Abdulmajeed Alsukhan, Sami Alhelwah, Ahmed Alsamani, Bakr Elsherif

Industry: E-Commerce Marketplace

Headquarters: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Staff: 251-500

Total Funding: S29M

JustClean

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JustClean is the leading laundry services application that serves customers in the GCC through 3 major products: marketplace application, SaaS product, and logistics services. It offers a broad range of B2B and B2C services, including wash & dry, dry-cleaning, folding, steam & iron pressing, packing, and special cleaning for carpets, shoes, leather, and wedding gowns. Launched in May 2017 by the Al-Enezi brothers, the app currently serves citizens in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, and KSA. It has been downloaded over 100,000 times merely on Play Store. The two young brothers were also featured in Forbes’s “Middle East’s 30 Under 30” list published in 2020. 

The founders’ principal focus is to enrich the present laundry ecosystem by digitizing the region’s $3B cleaning industry. This has been fairly accomplished through incessant development, well-timed service, and ensuring quality and performance. JustClean has already partnered with over 500 laundries across the five countries and hired over 200 employees. 

In terms of financials, the startup has raised nearly $21M over four rounds in funding. All that was received from Faith Capital, led by Mohammed Jaffar, who is well-known as the founder of Talabat. Their last funding was from a Series B round in September 2020, which raised $8M. By attracting more capital, the brothers are determined to receive more global acknowledgment, provide new cleaning verticals, and expand into further geographical locations.

Founders: Athbi Al-Enezi, Nouri Al-Enezi

Industry: Laundry and Dry-cleaning services

Headquarters: Al Kuwayt, Kuwait

Staff: 101-250

Total Funding: $20.9M

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Toters

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“More Life. Less hassle.” is the snappy slogan that the fast-growing Lebanese startup has chosen for its thriving business. Toters is a reliable, consistent on-demand delivery platform that helps customers receive a diverse range of products right at their doorstep: from tea to Italian food, fresh groceries, birthday gifts, and even electronics. It is currently delivering to over 100,000 happy customers every month from reliable partner stores. 

Since its launch in 2017, Toters has flourished exponentially to become one of the hottest startups in the region. It has already expanded to Iraq and KSA with over 100 employees and around 1,000 partners. While there are now loads of chief rivals on the playing field, including the long-established UberEATS, Toters has plans to penetrate into numerous underserved markets. 

According to Crunchbase, the startup has already raised $5M over two rounds of funding. The biggest one was a Series A round in December 2018 that funded the firm $4.5M led by five significant investors, including B&Y, MEVP, and Phoenician Funds. Despite the lower total funding amount compared to the others on this list, Toters has done so well that it’s been ranked #33 on Forbes Middle East’s 50 Most-Funded Startups

¡ Founders: Nael Halwani, Tamim Khalfa

¡ Industry: E-Commerce, Courier Service

¡ Headquarters: Beirut, Lebanon

¡ Staff: 101-250

¡ Total Funding: $5M

Comments

  • Port Products
    January 4, 2022 at 8:11 am

    Great content! Keep up the good work!

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