Complex Made Simple

Five Arab startups that raised millions in funds last September

From procurement to payment platforms and, why not, laundry services, Startups in the Arab region, including struggling Lebanon, were busy raising funds despite dark COVID-19 clouds impacting regional economies

The global procurement software market is growing at 9% and expected to reach $7.3 billion by 2022 JustClean looks to digitize the region’s $3 bn laundry industry Synkers provides personalized and accessible education by matching every learner with the right tutor or mentor

From procurement to payment platforms and, why not, laundry services, Startups in the Arab region, including struggling Lebanon, were busy raising funds despite dark COVID-19 clouds impacting regional economies.

Procurement- Saudi

Riyadh-based procurement SaaS startup Penny raised $1.35 million seed for its procurement and spending management software.

According to MENAbytes data, it is the largest seed round raised by a SaaS startup in Saudi.

Founded earlier this year, Penny’s online software helps businesses of all sizes digitize their procurement and spending activities. The startup is also building a private B2B marketplace for its clients to make it easy for them to source and procure products from different vendors. When it launches, Penny’s marketplace will be the largest of its kind in Saudi with over 100,000 stock keeping units (SKUs) from 250 brands, claims the startup.

Iyad Aldalooj, the co-founder and CEO of Penny, was previously with Careem serving the company as General Manager and Marketing Director for about three years. He said Penny puts companies in full control of their spending and brings order to procurement. 

“We’re starting with Saudi but what we’re building is a global product. It is about time the region produces a product that’s used across the world.”

International Data Corporation (IDC) notes that the global procurement software market is growing at 9% and expected to reach $7.3 billion by 2022.

Penny, for now, offers its solution to enterprise clients but it is also in the process of building a freemium version for SMEs that is expected to be launched later this year.     

Read: What Careem can teach other aspiring Middle East startups

Laundry- Kuwait

Kuwait-based laundry marketplace platform JustClean, founded in 2017, has raised $8 mn in a Series B funding round.  

JustClean operates as a business to business (B2B) and business to customer(B2C) marketplace platform, offering on-demand dry cleaning and laundry services which it aggregates from hundreds of providers. The startup looks to digitize the region’s $3 bn laundry industry.

It’s a business built for COVID-19 when customers prefer contactless services. JustClean has raised over $20 million since its inception and currently operates in Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, KSA, and Qatar.

Cashless payments- Egypt

Egyptian startup Kashier Payments, a business providing a unified payments platform, announced in September that it has successfully completed a seed investment round, though the amount was not specified. Kashier will be using the investment proceeds to scale up its commercial go-to-market strategy, grow the team, and introduce new products.

Kashier empowers businesses by providing them with simple tools to make it easier for them to make and accept payments from and to their customers, vendors, and partners via a variety of payment methods and channels.

The current global pandemic makes consumers favor cashless payments in a digital economy.

Read:  Things are literally “looking up” for UAE private sector businesses and startups

EdTech- Lebanon

Lebanon-based Synkers, an Edtech startup that connects learners to highly qualified private teachers, announced late September that the company has closed a $1.8 mn Pre-Series A funding round. 

Synkers is planning to deploy the fresh capital towards deeper expansion in its existing market i.e. UAE and Lebanon and further expand into new markets, specifically KSA.  

Synkers provides personalized and accessible education by matching every learner with the right tutor or mentor and offers a wide variety of courses, from school subjects and university courses to prep tests and professional skills. 

All tutors are pre-screened, background-checked, trained, and certified. The platform currently has more than 60,000 learners and 1,000 tutors and mentors.

Back in June 2020, Synkers raised an undisclosed amount of seed funds from 500 Startups and Phoenician Funds. A $30,000 Pre-Seed round for the company came in April 2016 from Speed Accelerator.

Virtual assistant- Egypt

On September 20th of this year, Egypt-based virtual assistant platform Elves raised $2 million in a seed funding round.

Elves is a mobile-first, chat-based application that provides its users with a virtual assistant to perform tasks for its users for free. It uses the human in the loop (HILP) methodology to boost its machine learning capabilities and build Alexa Skills.

Elves in October 2019 was among the winners of Intelak’s Cohort 6 and won a 50,000 Dirhams ($13,600) grant. The company previously raised $2 million from undisclosed investors back in December 2017.

The startup managed to grow its user base by 500% in a six-month period since February.

Elves’ unique combination of AI and human concierge capabilities, gave it superior versatility and scalability over its competitors.   

From flight bookings, hotel reservations, concerts, and cinema tickets where the business made its revenues, COVID-19 shut these down and forced the company to shift its focus to what people would need most while they were confined to their homes. Groceries became very big for the company and it automated it, signed up more than 40 grocery partners.