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Startup Wrap —flurry of funding activity continues in MENA

CAIRO: Startups in the Middle East and North Africa enjoyed a year of massive funding that helped them take root and grow in their respective markets. Saudi Arabia led the way with startups from diverse sectors receiving funding for their expansion and operations. 

Hakbah, a Saudi-based fintech startup, successfully closed a $5.1 million series A round, pushing its total funding to date to $9 million. 

The investment round was led by VentureSouq, with participation from M-Capital, Bunat Ventures, and existing investors including Global Ventures and Aditum Investment Management Ltd. 

Founded in 2018 by Naif Abusaida, Hakbah aims to boost financial inclusion by digitalizing the savings space. The company claims to have recorded spectacular growth in its total savings under management as well as a fourfold increase in its revenue during 2023. 

The influx of new capital is earmarked for product enhancements. A major focus of this development will be on integrating machine learning technologies and refining Hakbah’s savings engine, according to a statement by the company. 

HRtech firm closes seed round 

Saudi Arabia’s human resources technology startup Velents closed a seed funding round led by Egypt’s A15 with participation from Nibras Capital, AUC Venture Lab, and other local investors. The amount remains undisclosed. 

Founded in 2020 by Mohamed Gaber and Abdulaziz Al-Muhaydib, Velents is an AI-powered recruiter that can filter candidates as well as interview them and assess their language, skills, and capabilities. 

The company aims to utilize the new capital to expand its presence in Saudi Arabia by working closely with government entities. 

“Velents is forging a new path in the recruitment automation and assessment phase. The platform is also exploring expansion into sharing its API and expanding with government entities across the Middle East,” Al-Muhaydib stated. 

Marketplace raises $18m 

Saudi-based marketplace for secondhand products Soum closed $18 million in a series A round led by Jahez with participation from Isometry Capital along with existing investors participating, Khwarizmi Ventures, Alrajhi Partners, and Outliers Venture Capital. 

The new funding will accelerate Soum’s regional expansion as well as grow its product offering. 

HRtech firm secures $1.8m 

Saudi Arabia’s HRtech firm Scalers secured $1.8 million led by Sadu Capital and Access Bridge Ventures. 

The company will aim to utilize the new capital to grow its recruitment solutions.

Saudi fintech raises $3m 

Saudi-based fintech startup Spare successfully secured a $3 million funding round led by Vision Ventures and saw contributions from Wa’ed Ventures, Seedra Ventures, the global investment firm 500 Global, and several angel investors. 

Established in 2018 by Dalal Alrayes and Saurabh Shah, Spare offers an open-banking platform that enables businesses to access their customers’ financial data. 

Saudi fund invests in UAE 

Jada Fund of Funds, a subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund, has made an investment in Iliad Partners Tech Ventures Fund I, a venture capital fund based in the UAE and specializing in business-to-business ventures. 

Launched by Iliad Partners, the fund aims for a size of $50 million, with backing from Jada. 

The fund’s investment strategy is centered on supporting technology companies across the MENA region, particularly focusing on businesses based in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

Key sectors of interest for the fund include fintech, logistics, proptech, and edtech, reflecting a broad spectrum of technology-driven industries. 

Egypt’s Chefa raises $5.25m 

Egypt-based healthtech startup Chefaa has successfully raised $5.25 million in a funding round co-led by Newtown Partners from South Africa and Global Brain from Japan, with additional participation from GMS Capital Partners LLC in the US, Verod-Kepple Africa Ventures in Nigeria, and M3, Inc. from Japan. 

The platform is designed to streamline and simplify the process of obtaining medications and healthcare products. 

Following its recent expansion into Saudi Arabia, Chefaa plans to utilize the new funds to strengthen its foothold in the Kingdom. 

UAE’s analytics platform raises $1m 

UAE-based analytics platform Trends, supported by LuckyDodo, has successfully raised $1 million in funding from a group of investors at the DIFC Innovation Hub. 

Trends, which was established in 2022 by founders Mary Queenie and Stephane Adam, provides businesses with an in-depth analysis of market dynamics, consumer trends, and preferences. It achieves this by converting user data into actionable insights. 

This fresh injection of capital is set to propel Trends’ growth, allowing the company to expand its operations. 

iSchool eyes expansion

Egypt-based educational technology company iSchool has secured $4.5 million in funding spearheaded by VentureWave Capital, an Irish venture capital firm, and saw contributions from OneStop Capital UK, Webit Investment Network, and Oraseya Capital, the venture capital arm of the Dubai Integrated Economic Zones Authority. 

Established in 2018 by Muhammad Gawish, Ebrahim Youssef, Mustafa Abdelmonem, and Osama Ghareb, iSchool specializes in providing live, gamified classes taught by coding instructors. 

Tamara achieves unicorn status

Buy now, pay later platform Tamara has become the first Saudi fintech startup to reach a $1 billion valuation after raising $340 million in its series C funding round, according to a statement.   

Led jointly by SNB Capital and the Public Investment Fund’s Sanabil Investments, the capital injection bolsters Tamara’s position in Saudi Arabia’s fintech landscape as it aims to diversify its offerings.   

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