Category Archives: Africa

SEEMEA’s five unicorns for a billion of dollars

Until recently, the word “unicorn” has been referred only to a rare mythical animal. Now this word also determines startups, which are valued at over one billion dollars. On the market there are quite a few of them and they develop their ideas in various areas of life – from music streaming to virtual reality solutions for medical applications. 60% of start-ups known as unicorns come from the US. This is because the US market is very large, extremely open to projects even at an early stage of development, it is relatively easy to get financing there, and besides, it is responsible for 50-70% of global consumption. However, you can also find some interesting startup unicorns in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Here are some of them:

Flipkart – the first wort a billion e-commerce website in India. It is often referred to as the Indian Amazon. It was founded by Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal. The company has been operating since 2007 and in the beginning it dealt only with book sales. Currently on Flipkart you can buy almost anything. The website is worth $ 15 billion, it has has 46 million registered users, it offers over 30 million products and records 10 million daily visits.

Yandex – search engine designed for the Russian-speaking Internet users. The importance and strength of this service is best evidenced by the fact, that in Russia and Ukraine market share of the search engine market world leader – Google – barely exceeds 20%. In the Russian-speaking network, so-called Rusnet, there supremely rules Yandex. The company is valued at $ 4.9 billion. It is worth remembering that Yandex is a part of the Russian empire Internet company Mail.ru Group (formerly Digital Sky Technologies).

12% of unicorns come from Europe. It must be remembered that many companies at some point move to the United States. The rest of the world is lagging behind. But a unicorn can be born anywhere in the world, as evidenced by the first which was established in Nigeria. Nigerian unicorn is a startup called Interswitch, which offers digital financial services, and supports the African market. It uses a switching infrastructure to connect different banks in Nigeria and provides technology for ATM cards. The company has over 11000 ATMs on its network. In 2014 Interswitch acquired a majority shareholding in Paynet Group, an East-African payments provider. In 2015 Interswitch launched a $10m investment fund for African start-ups in the payments sector.

Jumia – it is an online market place from Nigeria where people can buy a wide selection of products and get them delivered at their homes or workplaces. The startup is funded by telecommunications company, MTN and Millicom which develops and operates cellular networks in Africa. It operates in 15 African countries. Last year, its parent company Africa Internet Group was purchased in 8% stake by AXA at a valuation of more than $1 billion, making AIG a unicorn.

Souq.com is the biggest online shopping destination in the Middle East. It gets 1.5 million visits a day and has about 70,000 merchants on its platform. Some of the biggest verticals include:  electronics, health and beauty and home and baby, and brands from Dell to Pampers and Aldo, and from Boss to Nespresso are on the site. Souq is called the Middle East’s first unicorn, after a $275 million funding round from Tiger Global Management, Standard Chartered Private Equity and the International Finance Corp.

Google names new Managing Director for MENA region

Google has revealed that Lino Cattaruzzi has been designated as Managing Director for the Middle East and North Africa. He has over 20 years of experience in the tech industry. Formerly he commanded the Google business in Mexico as Country Director. Beforehand he did that in Argentina too. He also led the global sales strategy team for online media solutions at Google’s headquarters in California, and was responsible for the online sales in Germany, Switzerland and Austria while based out of Dublin.

In his new role in Dubai office, Lino Cattaruzzi will carry on the efforts to let local business partners scale growth online and involve with consumers, as well as support broader digital ecosystem via scalable programs and initiatives. Since Google set up its presence in MENA region 8 years ago, a momentous strains went in successfully enhancing the broad adoption of digital throughout large and small businesses in the Middle East and North Africa.

In 2017 we will see Nigeria blooming

Africa is a market of great opportunities and also of lost opportunities. The second largest continent in the world is slowly rising from his knees – at least in the area of payments. According to data from the African Development Bank, the Black Continent has the fastest growing middle class in the world. More than 313 million people, or 34% of the population of Africa, spends more than $ 2.20 a day – a 100% increase in less than 20 years.

Into this introduction there fits perfectly latest financing acquired by startup Paystack. Nigerians received a $ 1.3 million investment. The startup specializes in handling online payments. In Africa such platforms are still rare.

As one of the first Nigerian companies, Paystack got admitted to Y Combinator – the famous incubator located in Silicon Valley. Paystack then received a grant of $ 120,000, It might seem modest, but in Nigerian terms it was quite a lot. This allowed the startup to build foundation of the company, gaining more than 1.5 thousand active clients and finally win that $ 1.3 million grant.

Nigeria is experiencing real business booming. Last year, Nigerian companies collected a total of $ 150 billion in revenue. Yet, majority of transactions were carried out offline. Nigeria, however, has one of the fastest growing digital markets. By 2020, the country is supposed to significantly increas the use of smartphones.

In Nigeria there also operates FinTech bank Sun Trust Bank, founded by the country’s richest man Aliko Dangote. According to the report by KPMG, in the past two years in the FinTech industries there we invested more than $ 200 million – the third result on the continent – after South Africa and Egypt.

Uber started mapping South African cities

Accurate maps are at the core of providing reliable transportation to everyone and everywhere. Uber has rolled out mapping vehicles in South African cities, beginning with Cape Town. The efforts can be compared to Google Street View vehicles. Uber uses a mix of mapping technologies to provide the underlying infrastructure for its apps. The fleet of cartographers is equipped with rooftop cameras, which will record street imagery of their surroundings, during rides around picking up passengers.

Data collected by Uber’s mapping vehicles will be used to improve driver efficiency by calculating more accurate estimated time of arrival and supporting drivers to choose the best route from one point do another.

Cape Town is one of Uber’s priority markets in Africa. There will be approximately 12 of these vehicles in Cape Town, followed by other cities in South Africa. Earlier this year we put mapping cars on the road in Mexico, Canada and the United Kingdom. Uber has spent $500 million on its global mapping project.

On the question of privacy – if you catch a ride, the devices do not retain any imagery at or around your initial pick-up or final drop-off locations. The imagery neither will be posted online,  nor be made available to the public. Uber will also accept reasonable requests to delete recorded images.

MENA startups you need to know

Recently in Bahrain took place the MENA Angel Investor Summit 2016, which is one of the largest meetings of venture capitalists, angel investors, accelerators, angel investment organizations and entrepreneurs. The event’s purpose is to build a strong supportive and sustainable start-up ecosystem and grow the angel investment community in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Since the first Summit in 2010, over 1000 regional and international investors have been able to connect with around 150 high-potential innovative entrepreneurs from the region. This has resulted in USD 6 million investments. This year gave a chance to over 30 promising start-ups. Most of them had a competitive edge with regional and global appeal. Below we present 5 most interesting ones.

GetBaqala – It comes from Bahrain. It aims to make grocery shopping fast, simple and convenient. It is an m-commerce platform, which enables people to purchase daily needs and groceries from their neighborhood magazines and then brings the products to their doorstep within 2 hours. The goal is to make local shopping experience easy and pleasant for buyers thanks to connecting them to their trusted merchants from their neighborhood via a mobile app. The startup plans to reach 300 orders daily by December 2017.

myU – It comes from Kuwait. It is an app for school communication. In each school it works as intranet social network of pupils, faculty members, clubs and organizations. The tool makes it easy to communicate in real-time with anyone in the school community. It can be used if a teacher wants to announce something to his pupils, or when a school organization wants to promote its events and activities, or when a pupil wants to ask about an exam date. The startup has more than 60,000 users and over 1,000 educators. In 2016 it reached revenues of $75,000.

Masmoo3 – It comes from Jordan. It is an online platform, which produces and publishes Arabic Audiobooks. It offers Arabic speakers a digital library of Arabic audiobooks. They are accessible using the internet download and smartphones apps. The aim is to provide Arabic speakers with luxury of listening to books while practicing everyday activities like driving, walking, playing sports, and relaxing.

Elmuda– It comes from Jordan. It is the Middle East’s premier online luxury fashion store. The online platform connects modern women with more than 150 brands around the world, where they can buy unique products from London to LA, Berlin to Bucharest, Paris to Milan.

Kotobna – It comes from Egypt. It is the first online self-publishing platform in Arab world. The startup enables young Arab authors to publish, promote and monetize their work via website and mobile app. In half a year there were published 200 e-books, which were downloaded 11,000 times.