Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties


RIYADH: Saudi Arabia emerged as a significant player in the startup ecosystem this February, raising $16.3 million, making it the second-highest amount secured by any country across the Middle East and North Africa.

According to Wamda’s monthly investments report for the region, the Kingdom secured the funding across seven transactions, marking a 48.18 percent increase from a total of $11 million in January 2023.

The UAE led the region in startup funding in the second month of 2024, securing $65.6 million across 22 deals. This was greatly influenced by a $35 million sum raised by Flare Network to take over half of the total number of deals.

Investments in MENA startups amounted to $88.7 million in February, after 2024 kicked off at a slow pace with $86.5 million in January. The figure represented an 88.28 percent decrease from the $760 million raised in February 2023. 

Egypt saw only two startups raising $4.6 million in total.

“Web3 providers are the market’s rising stars this month, having raised $39 million in three rounds, led by Flare Network’s $35 million,” the report stated.

In terms of sector performance, foodtech showcased a robust performance, securing $21 million across two deals, with a notable $12 million directed toward The Cloud’s Series B round. 

Fintech and logistics startups raised $6.9 million and $5.4 million, respectively.

Seed-stage ventures continued to dominate investment, with a total of $25.5 million raised by 11 companies.

Business-to-consumer startups received a significant portion of funding, amounting to approximately $55 million across 16 transactions, while business-to-business enterprises secured $18.4 million through 17 deals.

Firms led by men continued to dominate the industry, accounting for over 55 percent of the total transaction value. Startups led by mixed-gender teams received 44.6 percent of the funds, while those led by women captured only 0.2 percent of the total investment.

Additionally, last month saw 14 new ventures not disclosing their fundraising amounts. A conservative estimate of $100,000 each was allocated to 12 of these companies. 

Notable recipients included Bookr, PIESHIP, and PhysioHome. Magpie Protocol and Groene Point received $1 million each for their undisclosed rounds.

In terms of venture capital activity, notable developments included the establishment of the Falcon Foundation in the UAE, with plans to invest $300 million in open-source generative AI models. 

The non-profit Falcon Foundation is dedicated to advancing the development of open-source generative artificial intelligence models and building sustainable ecosystems around projects that accelerate technology development, according to a press release.

Ray O. Johnson, CEO of the Technology Innovation Institute, stated: “We’re committed to fostering transparency and collaboration in AI. Extending the UAE’s collaborative spirit into AI development, we set new standards for openness, and we encourage all other entities that support open source from around the world to join us.”

Jordan’s Innovative Startups and SMEs Fund contributed $5 million to the MENA-focused initiative, MSA Novo.

MSA Novo is a multi-stage investment firm focused on emerging markets, according to its website. It also provides global best practices and institutional support to its portfolio companies, enabling them to scale to regional leaders.

“As a responsible investor in venture capital investment, MSA Novo is committed to building a better business for communities in the region and around the world,” the firm’s website says.

MSA Novo says it integrates environmental, social, and corporate governance to not only serve its goals but also as a powerful tool to further its investment impact, with a policy aiming to incorporate material ESG considerations into investment decisions with the objective of integrating sustainability elements into the fund’s investment process and improving the long-term financial outcomes.

COTU Ventures launched a $54 million inaugural fund, while Globivest completed the second close of its first initiative.

“We are on a mission to transform the culture of venture capital in the Middle East by setting the standard for others to follow,” COTU says on its website.

“We are the Champions Of The Underdog. We help people become extraordinary by showing them how to believe in themselves when they are at the loneliest, earliest, and most challenging parts of their journeys,” according to the firm’s manifesto.

Globivest is a venture capital firm on a mission to “break the myth that opposes capital returns to impact-driven models.”

According to its website, the company focuses on innovative and scalable early-stage startups. 

The firm seeks to establish long-term relationships with visionary entrepreneurs while adding clear value in strategy and execution.

Sawari Ventures also announced plans for a $150 million fund to support Egyptian businesses without specifying a timetable.

The Cairo-based venture capital firm invests in knowledge and innovation-based technologies across North Africa. 

“In our part of the world, everywhere you look, there are huge opportunities to be captured and entire industries ripe for transformation,” the company says in its website.

The firm’s objective is to enable entrepreneurs in the area to generate innovative solutions.

Sawari Ventures believes this will drive the region’s economies for years to come. 

The company invests in sectors including consumer internet, fintech, and ed-tech, as well as health tech, deep tech, and e-commerce.

These insights are a result of a collaboration between Wamda and Digital Digest, providing comprehensive monthly reports on the startup ecosystem

Source: Arab News

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