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🌟 We're celebrating the 200th newsletter edition this week. Thank you for joining us on this journey 🌟

L'Occitane launched an accelerator program in partnership with Chalhoub's Greenhouse. Wise upsets ADGM, and gets fined. SMEs are growing across the region, Saudi and Oman reveal the numbers. Regulators are racing to digitize the financial markets, open up the sector and increase solutions. 

💰 Startup Investments: $8.7M+ was invested this week in 3 MENA-based startups, led by Stake's $8M in pre-series A funding. This brings the total funding in August to $209.9M across 27 deals.
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Stake, UAE-based real estate investment platform, raised $8M in a pre-Series A funding round from BY Ventures, MEVP, and Vivium Holdings. The startup was launched in 2020 and had received shariah certification in 2021. It says it now manages more than 44 properties with a combined value of $17.9M.

🚀  Quick Investments


Symphony Global, UAE-HQ group owned by Mohammad Alabbar, will acquire the 3.2% interest in Yoox Net-a-Porter (YNAP), from Richemont Group, in exchange for its shares in the joint venture with YNAP in the GCC region. As part of the same deal Farfetch, UK-HQ online luxury fashion platform, will also acquire a 50% stake in YNAP from Richemont.


Duplo, Nigeria-based B2B payment platform, raised $3.4M in seed funding from Nama Ventures and other global investors. The startup was founded in 2021 and focuses on helping businesses in FMCG digitize and simplify payments.

OQ Technology, Luxembourg-based 5G satellite operator, raised $13.1M in Series A funding co-led by Wa’ed Ventures. The startup was founded in 2016, and provides satellite cellular 5G for cellular IoT and Machine-to-Machine communication solutions. It will also use the funding to expand to Saudi Arabia.


💰 Funds and Programs

L’Occitane, Geneva-HQ beauty brand, launched a MENA-focused Accelerator Program, powered by Chalhoub Group’s The Greenhouse. The accelerator will invest $50k in 3 startups and provide an opportunity to work with the global brand.  

Shezlong, Egypt-HQ mental health platform, expanded to South Africa under the brand name “Upright”.

Wise, UK-HQ remittances platform, gets fined $360k by the Abu Dhabi Global Market’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) after it “found that Wise did not establish and maintain adequate AML systems and controls to ensure full compliance with its AML obligations”.


Saudi’s Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monsha’at) published ‘Monsha’at Quarterly Report, Q2 2022’ which highlights changes and trends in SMEs in the kingdom. According to the report, 81% of SMEs in the kingdom are micro-businesses (less than 5 employees), and the most attractive city for SMEs is Riyadh with 35% of registered businesses, followed by Makkah which is home to 20% of the kingdom’s SMEs. Female-led SMEs increased to represent 45% of registered SMEs in the kingdom. In total there were 892k SMEs registered in the kingdom by the end of Q2 2022.  

Oman’s Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Development published updated stats on SMEs registered in the Sultanate. It says that SMEs registered with the authority have increased by 46.8% to 81k by the end of July 2022, and that Muscat attracted the highest concentration of SMEs (33.6%).

Outsized, UK-HQ talent-on-demand platform, published ‘2022: Talent-on-Demand Report for Asia and Africa’, which breaks down talent demand globally based on supply and demand on their platform. According to the report, the top 3 skills in demand in MENA are Digital Transformation, Tech Architecture, and Agile, while the top 3 sectors utilizing freelance talent are management consulting, other financial services, and strategy consulting. Demand for payments specialists has increased 11x in 2021, followed by retail banking specialists by 5.5x. [report


🪙 Our two cents: Across the region, financial regulators are updating their regulations, processes, and licensing to expedite digital adoption and launch of new products. It's all about digitizing the flow of money and compliance.
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) announced that it has updated the Framework of its Regulatory Sandbox. One of the key changes is the move from cohort-based cycles to “Always Open” (or on a rolling basis) admission and approvals to increase flexibility for the applying entities.

🇰🇼 Kuwait

The Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK) has granted the green light to test open banking systems in the local market within the Regulatory Sandbox. [Saudi’s central bank just granted two new open banking startups licenses to operate under its regulatory sandbox last week]

🇦🇪 UAE

Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA)
announced regulatory guidelines on marketing, advertising and promotions of virtual assets across the emirate by locally-registered and global companies targeting Dubai-based consumers.  

🇶🇦 Qatar

The Qatar Central Bank has issued its first-ever license for digital payments services to Ooredoo Money and iPay by Vodafone Qatar.  

🇪🇬 Egypt

Egypt’s Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) issued the first license to a financial institution, Egyptian Microfinance Company - Maksab, that allows it to provide microfinancing in the non-banking financial sector according to Islamic financing formulas.

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