Riding the train to commercial success, the middle-east has become a force to be reckoned with. This year’s top 10 middle east startups alone amass a total of $1.9 billion.
Though fintech and e-commerce remain the most represented sectors in the world of MENA startups, the food-tech industry dominates the list in terms of finance. This is largely due to both Kitopi, a cloud-kitchen operator that topped this year’s ranking, and Pure Harvest Smart Farms, a technology-enabled agribusiness and the second top startup of this year’s list. These two startups alone have received total funding of almost 1 billion dollars. The buy-now-pay-later platforms come second to the food-tech in terms of funding, with Tabby and Tamara receiving 130$ and 116$ million dollars respectively.
The U.A.E dominates the list, representing more than 60% of the top 10 startups of the middle east and securing almost 1.5 billion dollars. The second is Saudi Arabia, with almost 420 million dollars. Ranking third is Egypt, with the funding of 62 million dollars due to the startup investment of the B2B e-commerce platform, MaxAB.
Arab wealth funds proved loyal to the middle east startups this year. Both the Saudi sovereign wealth fund and the U.A.E.’s Mubadala Investment company backed multiple angel investors in this year’s top-funded startups, including Sary and Tabby.
This list only includes startup investments that are no older than 7 years and have received at least $15.5 million in investment funding. The data was collected by December 20, 2021.
1- Kitopi – A tech-powered food company
Total funding: $804 million
Founders: Mohamad Ballout, Saman Darkan, Bader Ataya
Investors: Softbank, Chimera, ADQ, Nordstar, Dogus Group, BECO, Knollwood, CE Ventures
Established in the U.A.E in 2018, Kitopi is the Middle East’s leading cloud-managed kitchen platform. Not only does it operate in U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain with over 60 cloud kitchens, but it also conducts business with international brands, including Papa Johns, Shake Shack, Jollibee, and iHOP. The startup also launched a groceries vertical in 2020, which is a one-stop-shop for food and essentials that deliver in Dubai. 2021 alone witnessed the startup’s impressive commercial rise, where it increased its funding by $715 million.
2- Pure Harvest Smart Farms – A tech-backed agribusiness
Total funding: $272 million
Founders: Sky Kurtz, Mahmoud Adi, Robert Kupstas
Investors: IMM Investment, Abu Dhabi Investment Office, ADQ, Franklin Templeton, Sancta Capital, Shorooq Partners, Shuaa, Wafra International Investment Company, Mission 2040, Archer Private Investments, other institutional and individual investors.
Founded in 2017 in the U.A.E, Pure Harvest Smart Farms is the first of its kind in the MENA region. The Middle east startup develops and operates controlled-environment agriculture technology that yields greenhouse fruits and vegetables. The startup has three farms in the U.A.E., and it is currently developing two new projects in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Agricultural technology helps produce products like tomatoes, leafy greens, and strawberries. All of which would’ve been otherwise almost impossible to grow in the desert.
3. STARZPLAY* – Subscription video-on-demand service
Total funding: $150 million
Founders: Maaz Sheikh, Danny Bates, Khaled Benchouche, Karin Baggstrom
Investors: State Street, Lionsgate, SEQ Capital Partners, Delta Partners, Ruya Partners
Founded in 2014 with headquarters in the U.A.E, STARZPLAY is a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service. It streams Hollywood, Bollywood, and Arabic content across the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan in four languages. The service has partnered with global studios, such as STARZ, MGM, 20th Century Studios, Disney, Warner Bros, Universal, Discovery, and Fox International Channels, and it earned over 1.8 million subscribers.
Also Read: Middle East’s Top Renewable Energy Startups
4. Tabby – A buy-now-pay-later service
Founders: Hosam Arab, Daniil Barkalov
Investors: Global Founders Capital, STV, Arbor Ventures, Mubadala Investment Capital, Delivery Hero, CCVA, Raed Ventures, Global Ventures, MSA Capital, VentureSouq, Outliers VC, JIMCO, HOF
Established in 2019, Tabby has two headquarters, one in U.A.E and the other in Saudi Arabia. The platform offers a fast and easy solution for customers wishing to access over 3,000 brands, such as Adidas, IKEA, SHEIN, and Marks & Spencer. In 2021, the startup rose the commercial ladder by raising $50 million in equity funding and $50 million in debt financing. This has increased its valuation up to $300 million.
5. Tamara – A buy-now-pay-later service
Total funding: $116 million
Founders: Abdulmajeed Alsukhan, Turki Bin Zarah, Abdulmohsen Albabtain
Established in 2020, Tamara is a Fintech startup with a headquarters in Saudi Arabia and offices spanning across UAE, Germany, and Vietnam. The online platform offers both online and in-store buyers in Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., and Kuwait the option of dividing their payments across three installments. After receiving a sandbox license from the Saudi Central Bank, the platform partnered with over 2,000 national and international brands, including IKEA, SHEIN, Faces, Adidas, and L’Occitane.
6. Sary – A B2B marketplace
Total funding: $112 million
Founders: Mohammed Aldossary, Khaled Alsiari
Investors: Sanabil Investments, Wafra International Investment, Endeavor Catalyst, VentureSouq, Rocketship.vc, Ra’ed Ventures, MSA Capital, Derayah VC, STV, angel investors
Founded in 2018 with a headquarters in Saudi Arabia, Sary provides small businesses with an online network of consumers. It allows mini-supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, and hotels to easily connect with wholesalers through mobile and web applications. In 2021 alone, the marketplace received $105.5 million in funding, witnessing a 14-fold growth in its topline. Thus, it is planning to further expand across the GCC region.
7. Postpay – A buy-now-pay-later service
Total funding: $63.5 million
Founders: Tariq Sheikh, Dani Molina Carmona
Investors: Afterpay, Touch Ventures, other investors
Established in 2019, Postpay has two headquarters in Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. The platform allows customers to split their payments across three monthly installments, yet without paying interest or fees. It has partnered with national and international brands, such as Ounass, West Elm, and Bath and Body Works. Though Postpay currently operates exclusively in the U.A.E and Saudi Arabia, it’s planning to expand across the Middle East within the next year.
8. MaxAB – B2B e-commerce platform
Total funding: $62.5 million
Founders: Belal El Megharbel, Mohamed Benhalim
Investors: BECO Capital, 4DX Ventures, Flourish Ventures, RMBV, IFC, Crystal Stream Capital, Endeavour Catalyst, Endure Capital
Founded in Egypt in 2018, MaxAB is a leading e-commerce and distribution platform that provides traditional retailers with a fast network of consumers across the country. In less than three years, the platform assisted over 80,000 retailers and suppliers. In 2021, the startup raised almost $55 million in funds, which is more than 80% of its total funding. It is also planning to expand across at least two more countries within the next year.
9. iMile Delivery Services – Logistics and courier services provider
Founders: Rita Huang Zhen, Naveen Joseph, Gao Wenli, Nancy Chen
Investors: Undisclosed- Chinese Venture Capitalist
Established in 2017 in the U.A.E, iMile is a logistics and last-mile delivery services provider that supplies vendors in China, the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Oman, and Morocco. In 2021, the company received $40 million in a Series A financing round at a $350 million valuation.
10. Quiqup – On-demand delivery platform
Total funding: $47 million
Founders: Bassel El Koussa, Tim Linssen, Danny Hawkins, Federico Ferraro
Investors: JOBI Capital, Delivery Hero, Cedar Mundi, Transmed, Alchimia
Established in 2014 with a headquarters in the UAE, Quiqup is an e-commerce partner that specializes in providing e-commerce businesses, retailers, and restaurants with delivery services. The startup’s services include on-demand, same-day, and scheduled deliveries. In 2020, the company raised $5.5 million in funds, reaching $47 million in total funding.