Start-ups in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) got an overwhelming response from investors last year, with the funding shooting up to $1.76 billion from 38 deals as against $111 million from 26 deals in 2015. The liberal funding also saw two start-ups — Careem and Souq — acquiring unicorn status.
In an analysis of investors and ventures they funded last year, CB Insights said that Wamda Capital led the pack with 18 investments, followed by Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi.
Other venture capitalists included Twofour54, BECO Capital, STC Ventures, Dubai Silicon Oasis and Womena.
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Dubai-based cab-hailing company Careem Networks FZ LLC became a unicorn in December 2016 when it raised $350 million in a round led by Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten and Saudi Telecom Company (STC).
The company's other investors are Lumia Capital, BECO Capital, Wamdo Capital and Kuwait Investment Authority. In all, Careem, which was co-founded by Mudassir Sheikha and Magnus Olsson in 2012, has raised $421.7 million in four rounds.
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Bloomberg had quoted Sheikha as saying that the company would go for an initial public offering (IPO) in 2019. "We are on a path to profitability and over time a potential listing. It would probably be in 2018-2019 when it starts to become more feasible. I don't think we would need more money before a listing," Sheikha, who is also CEO of Careem, said.
Ankur Shah is the Chief Finance and Development Officer of the cab-hailing service that is available in 47 cities, mainly in West Asia.
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Souq.com FZ LLC, a Dubai-based e-commerce company, retails a range of consumer products, apart from serving as a marketplace for other sellers. The firm was founded in 2005 by Ronaldo Mouchawar and has offices in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Its technical and development centres are located in Jordan and India.
Reuters had reported on Wednesday that Amazon has decided to acquire Souq, citing sources.
The e-commerce market size in the Middle East (West Asia for Indians) was pegged at $20 billion in 2016.
The investing firm's profile on crunchbase says it has invested in six companies till date. It is described as an angel investment network that empowers and educates individuals to invest in promising startups in the MENA region. It was founded in November 2014 by Elissa Freiha.