UAE Startups Secure Most of the Region’s Investment

02 May 2019   |  UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) remains the region’s tech startup, attracting the most funding in the MENA region. UAE startups have secured USD 31.36 million in investments or 88% of the total value in the region, according to AIM Startup. Local services, e-commerce and financial services combined account for 44%, other sectors include logistics (9.3%), software (7.1%), media (4.6%), education (4.6%) and transport (4.6%).

Launched in 2017, AIM Startup is an initiative of the UAE Ministry of Economy, aiming to connect startups with investors and business partners. The upcoming event in April which take place during UAE’s annual investment meeting, will host more than 500 promising startups to meet with investors, corporates government representatives and industry experts. The startups will be given the opportunity to demonstrate their groundbreaking solutions to more than 20,000 global audiences.

E-commerce platform

The UAE is estimated to have the highest e-commerce penetration in the region with 4.2% and the market will grow 31% annually, reaching USD 9 billion by 2022., headquartered in Dubai, is the largest e-commerce platform in the Arab world, acquired by Amazon for USD 580 million in 2017. The e-commerce platform has also opened a centre in Dubai which created around 600 jobs, as the company continue to expand its footprint and sales in the Middle East. The opening of the centre enables Souq to handle the current and future demand in the UAE.

Another top online e-commerce site based in Dubai is Namshi, founded in 2011, offering more than 700 apparel and footwear fashion brands. The company is one of the leading destinations for fashion and lifestyle in the Middle East, with 1.2 million active customers. Namshi also becomes the exclusive distributor for many international brands looking for access to the region market. Dubai’s Mall developer, Emaar Malls, has acquired 49% of Namshi’s stake worth USD 129.5 million. It’s planning to expand to Egypt and establish a logistic base in Saudi Arabia.

As a result of oversupply of “unwanted” luxury clothes, bags and shoes in Dubai, Kunal Kapoor launched The Luxury Closet, a platform that allows users to sell and buy authentic, pre-loved goods online and in store. The platform has an estimated 20,000 stock base, adding products worth over USD 5 million on a monthly basis. It achieved USD 8.7 million in funding by Middle East Venture Partners, used to build the “largest community of sellers in the region” then internationally.

Transportation & Logistics

Co-founded in 2012 by Mudassir Sheikha and Magnus Olsson, Careem is a transportation network company based in Dubai, with operations in over 100 cities in 14 countries across the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. As of 2018, the company was valued at over USD 2 billion.

Following the high demand from its customers, Careem introduced a low-cost luxury transport service which offers a comfortable ride at a 50% fare reduction. Expanding its business, the company also launched a food delivery service in Dubai, offering discounts at a selection Dubai eateries. Furthermore, Careem has also launched rewards programme for its 33 million users to recognize their loyalty.

Aside from ride-hailing startups, Dubai-based startup Fetchr also contributes to change the world of shipment and delivery in the Middle East. According to Idriss Al Rifai, CEO of Fetchr, the usual delivery system in the Middle East is unpredictable, about 30-35% packages don’t get delivered because the driver cannot find the customer. The company decided to close the gap in the market by delivering straight to customer’s mobile phone.

Real Estate is a Dubai-based property portal, founded in 2008, which operates in all seven emirates, the world’s second best place to invest in property. The company’s database lists over 95,000 property listings, including homes, villas, apartments and commercial buildings available for rent in the UAE. It helps users customise their search by entering the desired property location, type and price range. also enables interested buyers and investors to contact realty experts.

Another Dubai-based real estate classifieds portal is Property Finder, founded in 2007 and said to be the market leader in real estate in the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Lebanon. The company employs more than 450 people and delivers over 800,000 monthly inquiries through 6 million visits on its platform. Property FInder announced USD 120 million in investment from the latest investment round led by General Atlantic. It is expected to be a major milestone to support the company’s mission of bringing more transparency and information for property seekers.

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