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Saudi embraces artificial intelligence for sustainability and gaming for the future. Bahrain's Central Bank is serious about Bitcoin for payments. Sowt acquired Finyal Media. Reports on cryptocurrency sentiments, economic freedom, and ESG for corporates. 

💰 Startup Investments: $17.7M+ was invested across 4 startups this week, led by The Cloud's $10M in series A funding. This brings the total funding in September to $139M across 21 deals. 

P.S. Did you get your GITEX passes? 👇
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Liwwa, Jordan-HQ SME-lending platform, raised $18.5M in a debt and equity pre-series B funding round led by DASH Ventures, Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank FMO, Edgo, Bank Al Etihad, and the German Development Finance Institution DEG. The round consisted of $4.5M in equity and the remaining in debt. The startup was founded in 2016 and provides services in Jordan, the UAE, Saudi and Egypt.

The Cloud, UAE-based cloud kitchen, raised $10M in Series A funding led by Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP) and Olayan Financing Company with participation from Rua Growth Fund. The startup was founded in 2019 and allows restaurant owners to increase their kitchen utilization by hosting third-party food delivery brands.

🚀  Quick Investments

  • Userpilot, (Palestine/US) enterprise Saas startup, raised $4.6M in a seed funding round led by Silicon Badia, and joined by ScOp Ventures, and 500 Global.
  • MetaFi, (UAE) Web3 trading platform, raised $3M in funding at a $25M valuation from DoublePeak Group, Maven Capital, OKX Blockdream Ventures, Megala Ventures, Magnus Capital, Legion Ventures, SL2 Capital, X21 Digital, Good Games Guild, MetaGaming Guild, Mintable Go! Fund, and Athena Ventures.  
  • 5 Quarters, (Egypt) medical edtech startup, raised seed funding from an angel investor, value undisclosed.


Sowt Media, Jordan-HQ podcast network, acquired Finyal Media, UAE-based podcast network, for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition was co-financed with the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF), a US-HQ not-for-profit investment fund for independent news and information businesses in challenging environments. Finyal Media was founded in 2019 and has a portfolio of award-winning fiction podcasts like Juha, Al Silah, and 1001 Nights.

Golden Road, Saudi-based B2B marketplace for hospitality, acquired F-code, Saudi-based development agency, for an undisclosed amount. Golden Road was founded in 2019 and says it serves over 4k F&B outlets in the kingdom. Information about F-code is not available online. (AR)

Lyve Global, UAE-based B2B logistics company, acquired a majority stake in Shopini World, UAE-HQ freight company, for an undisclosed value. Lyve says it plans to invest $150M in high-quality acquisitions within the next two years, and had acquired a majority stake in Jeebly, UAE-based last-mile delivery startup, in July. Shopini was founded in 2017 and provides cross-border logistics services for eCommerce platforms through hubs in ​​the USA, UAE, China, Turkey, and the UK.

ECC group, Egypt-based cosmetics company, acquired a majority stake in Source Beauty, Egypt-based beauty marketplace, value undisclosed. The startup was founded in 2018 and says it has over 85 local and international beauty brands on its platform and 60,000 users.


Pretzel Therapeutics, US-HQ biotech startup, raised $72.5M in series A funding from Mubadala and other global investors. The startup was founded in 2020 and uses mitochondrial biology to advance novel treatments for diseases.

Nexford University, US-HQ online university, raised $8M in series A funding from Global Ventures (UAE) and other global investors. The startup was launched in 2019 and focuses on providing access to students in emerging economies like Africa and the Middle East.

Kippa, Nigeria-based Saas for SMEs platform, raised $8.4M in seed funding from VentureSouq (UAE) and other global investors. The startup was launched in 2021 and provides SMEs with bookkeeping and payment platforms to run their business.


💰 Funds and Programs

Al Waha Fund of Funds and Hambro Perks announced the launch of HP Spring Studios, a Bahrain-HQ fintech venture studio, which will both co-found and invest directly in fintech startups.

Hope Ventures, Bahrain-based investment arm of Hope Fund, completed the raise of $4M (1.5M BHD) from over 30 private investors. The fund will use the capital to invest in Bahrain-HQ startups. It has already invested in startups like Lumofy, Gold Souq and

The Central Bank of Oman (CBO) signed an MoU with Oman Telecommunications Company (Omantel) to launch an accelerator program to enable fintech startups in the Sultanate. Details of the program are not disclosed.

Emirates NBD launched an Application Programming Interface (API) developer portal "Emirates NBD API Souq" to engage with partners and fintechs in the country. The current API gives developers access to six key categories of account services, payments, collections, real-time notifications, trade services and information services. The bank had launched an API sandbox in 2018.

🛑 ✋ Capiter

Capiter is an Egypt-based B2B marketplace and fintech solution, which raised $33M in Series A funding a year ago.

Capiter’s board removes both co-founders from the management of the company following claims of “inability to fulfill their fiduciary duties over the past week and not reporting to representatives of the Board and shareholders during on-site in-person due diligence meetings for a potential merger.” The founders deny the allegations.

As of the time of publishing this newsletter, Capiter's website is still down. 

Recommended reads: [Termsheet Newsletter] [Techcrunch] [Wamda, Aug 2022, in regards to hiring and firing speculations]


Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) signs a non-binding term sheet with Seera Holding to acquire a 30% stake in its subsidiary AlMosafer, Saudi-based online travel, and bookings platform, for $413M (1.55B SAR), thereby valuing Almosafer at $1B. Seera (back then Al Tayyar) had completed the acquisition of Almosafer in 2019 for a total of $25M ($6M for 60% in 2015, and $19M for the remaining 40% in 2019).

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YouGov published global survey findings about consumer sentiments towards cryptocurrencies. The survey was conducted across 18 international markets including the UAE. According to the survey findings, consumers in the UAE have split views about cryptocurrencies; 34% associate them with investments and money making, while 35% view them as a payment method, and the remaining 34% associate crypto will illegal and illicit activities.

The Fraser Institute published the ‘Economic Freedom of the World: 2022 Annual Report’ which measures the degree to which the policies and institutions of countries are supportive of economic freedom for 2020. According to the report, Bahrain ranks first in MENA on the economic freedom index and 39th globally, Jordan ranks second regionally and 46th globally, and UAE ranks third regionally and 49th globally.

APCO Worldwide and GCC Board Directors Institute (GCC BDI) published ‘ESG in the GCC Region: Accelerating Integration 2022’ report which surveyed the leadership of companies across the GCC about their ESG strategies. According to the report, 46.3% of executives said that the pandemic has accelerated their ESG strategies, while the key factors shaping changes in how they report on ESG issues are reputational risks (40%) and investor requirements (30.4%). In 75% of the companies surveyed, the accountability for reaching ESG goals and targets is on the CEO or someone in the C-suite, while 55% of the companies say they are reporting on ESG goals regularly. [Report]


🪙 Our two cents:  This week we witnessed a slew of partnerships and announcements at the Global AI Summit in Riyadh. The partnerships focused primarily on improving the use of AI for sustainability whether it's for humanitarian causes, carbon emissions, energy efficiency, and agricultural development. The GCC and MENA are the prime regions impacted heavily by climate change.  

🇸🇦 The Global AI Summit in Riyadh

The Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO) Member states adopted the ‘Riyadh AI Call for Action Declaration (RAICA)’ which aims to address emerging and future humanitarian issues in Artificial Intelligence (AI) [Declaration]

Aramco launched the ‘Aramco Global AI Corridor’ which includes an AI Delivery Factory, AI Academy, AI Venturing Studio, and multiple R&D AI labs. Details not yet available

Saudi Company for Artificial Intelligence (SCAI) signed a partnership with SenseTime, China, to launch a joint-venture company with a capital investment of $206M (776M SAR) focused on establishing a dedicated research and development center for AI in the kingdom.

Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA), has joined the World Bank’s Digital Development Partnership (DDP) trust fund. Saudi will contribute financially to the fund, as well as contribute to the overall digital development agenda of the partnership with other members. Saudi is the only Arab country that is now part of the Digital Development Partnership (DDP) trust fund.

Google partners with the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, in collaboration with the Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence (SDAIA), to utilize AI to tackle sustainability issues in the kingdom. The partnership covers three programs and 11 initiatives.

The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) and IBM announced the signing of a strategic agreement to drive the adoption of artificial intelligence in the carbon capture and industrial domains across the Kingdom.
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia

Saudi’s Ministry of Commerce issued 10 areas of reform for online stores based on a national survey. The ministry requires all online stores to include all warranty information and inform product agents of the date of purchase (to activate warranty), expand delivery outside main cities, increase delivery and payment options, provide systems for order cancellation and refund tracking, as well as submitting periodic reports containing performance measurement indicators to the Ministry of Commerce.

Saudi launched the National Gaming and Esports Strategy which has 8 focus areas: technology and hardware development, game production, eSports, additional services, infrastructure, regulations, education, and talent acquisition, as well as financing and financial support. [strategy’s dedicated website]

🇧🇭 Bahrain

The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) begins testing a bitcoin payment processing infrastructure with OpenNode, US-HQ Bitcoin payments infrastructure platform.

🇦🇪 UAE

The UAE Cabinet announced a new public-private partnership (PPP) law in order to increase the role of the private sector in the development of the economy. Details of the law are not available yet.

Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM)’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) published its Guiding Principles on its approach to virtual asset regulation and supervision to outline its expectations for the asset class and service providers in the sector. [Guidelines

🇴🇲 Oman

Oman’s Telecommunication Regulatory Authority issues a decision to regulate the provision of ‘Voice Or Video Telecommunication Service Over Internet Protocol’ that regulates the process of applying for and awarding licenses for VoIP services, and the provision required to operate in the Sultanate. The authority also issued a decision regulating the ‘Rights Of Telecommunication Services Beneficiaries’ which stipulates guidelines around promotional messages, customer service provisions, and selling of customer data, among others.

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