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Regional startups that attracted funding in June-July- Part II of III

This is the second series of regional startups that attracted funding as part of AMEinfo bringing you the top 15 regional startups that garnered interest from angel investors and venture capitalists, or via their own crowdfunding efforts

IR4LAB, a Saudi-based blockchain startup, closed a $1.5 million investment round Kitopi announced the completion of its $415 mn, Series C funding round Amman-based media startup Wajeez has raised $3 mn in a pre-Series A round

This is the second series of regional startups that attracted funding as part of AMEinfo bringing you the top 15 regional startups that garnered interest from angel investors and venture capitalists, or via their own crowdfunding efforts.

1- IR4LAB (Saudi)

IR4LAB, a Saudi-based blockchain startup, closed a $1.5 million investment round from Wa’ed, the entrepreneurship arm of Aramco.

Founded in 2017, IR4LAB’s solutions are enabling corporations to root out the resume and professional certification fraud certification. Their DocCerts product enables professional and technical certification providers and training centers to issue digital, immutable and instantly verifiable certificates that companies such as Aramco can use to determine whether workers and job applicants possess valid training certificates.

IR4LAB plans to use the investment to increase its customer base, expand the breadth of its coverage to more professional certification societies and intensify an ongoing partnership with Aramco’s Digital Transformation Office.

2- Red Sea farms (Saudi)

Saudi agriculture technology startup Red Sea Farms raised $10 mn which it would use to develop commercial-scale farming facilities and expand into neighboring UAE.

Red Sea Farms, established in 2018, grows tomatoes in an environment-controlled, enclosed farm that primarily uses saltwater to cool greenhouses and irrigate crops. Fresh water is sparsely available in the predominantly desert Gulf region where arable land is also scarce.

Red Sea Farms aims to have between 4 to 8 farming sites across 6 hectares in central and western Saudi and in Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s largest emirate, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Ryan Lefers told Reuters.

“We are looking to also (grow) snack peppers, snack cucumbers as part of this round to really keep that focus around fresh (and) healthy,” he said.

The company plans to sell produce in UAE supermarkets. Its tomatoes are already available in Saudi supermarkets.

Red Sea Farms has trialed its technology using a pilot saltwater greenhouse in Saudi Arabia’s west at the King Abdullah University for Science & Technology.

To date, Red Sea Farms has raised $11.9 mn.

3- Kitopi (UAE)

Kitopi, the world’s leading managed cloud kitchen platform, announced the completion of its $415 mn, Series C funding round.

Kitopi will channel the new funding to fuel its continued expansion within the Middle East and support entry to new markets such as Southeast Asia, which has a highly attractive and fast-growing online food delivery market. Kitopi will also continue to innovate and expand its tech stack, grow its strategic restaurant partnerships and build a best-in-class team across the organization.

Kitopi, which stands for Kitchen Utopia is headquartered in Dubai and has over 2500 Kitopians (colleagues) in its 4 markets, in addition to Krakow, Poland where its engineering hub is located and its global CX center in Dubai.

Kitopi operates 60+ cloud kitchens across the UAE, KSA, Kuwait, and more recently, Bahrain. It partners with restaurants and F&B brands, enabling them to expand its reach through its kitchens, in as little as 14 days.

Kitopi takes care of the entire operations – from the supply chain, staff training, food preparation, delivery to customer experience. It works with over 200+ F&B partners, including several globally recognized brands such as Papa Johns, Nathan’s Famous, and iHOP. The cloud kitchen platform has also diversified its offerings by leveraging its supply chain to include subscription-based meal plans and on-demand groceries delivery.

4- Floward (Kuwait)

Kuwait-headquartered online flowers and gifting platform Floward has raised $27.5 mn in a Series B round taking the total money raised to date by Floward to over $30 mn.

Floward sells prime fresh-cut flowers coupled with gifts and other products from local and international brands.  The startup that has been expanding aggressively currently operates in 20 cities across the region and beyond, offering same-day delivery for all the orders. It expanded to its first market outside the Middle East in December 2020 with the launch of its platform in London.

In a statement, the company said that the surge in e-commerce penetration due to COVID-19 accelerated the growth of Floward and the startup grew 10x in 2020.

Floward registered $30 mn in annualized (net) revenue.

5- Wajeez (Jordan)

Amman-based media startup Wajeez has raised $3 mn in a pre-Series A round.

The app-based platform enables users to read or listen to condensed versions of global and local non-fiction books in Arabic. Wajeez’s library has 15-minute summaries of over 3,500 audio and text-based books that the users can access through its mobile apps for iOS and Android. The access, however, is not free. A user is required to purchase an annual subscription that costs $47.99 or a monthly plan for $4.99 to be able to read or listen to the summaries.

Wajeez’s editors select one summary every day that is made available for the users of the free tier. The platform has recently also expanded its selection to include 5-15 minute summaries of podcasts. It currently offers summaries of over 50 podcasts that can be accessed by any user on the app (including the ones on the free tier).

Audiobooks are not new to the region. Wajeez, however, is going after a completely different audience, by building a Blinkist for the region, and has already registered over 1.2 million downloads on its mobile apps. Its total user base is over 800,000, stated the startup in a statement and that over 50% of their users are from Saudi, with Egypt being the second-largest market.

The startup has recently also introduced an offering for corporates that enables them to offer Wajeez’s summaries to their employees, at discounted prices. The service is already being used by more than 15 companies. Wajeez is also exploring the option of expanding into other languages, including Turkish and Urdu.