CAIRO: Startup momentum in the Middle East and North Africa region is on the rise, with the eagerly awaited technology event LEAP24 just around the corner.  

Regional venture capitals have replenished their funds and burgeoning enterprises have secured financing – preparing Riyadh’s ecosystem for a significant entrepreneurial uplift from March 4 to 7.

US-based fintech MoneyHash sealed $4.5 million in a seed funding round to further expand its presence in the Saudi and regional markets.  

Founded in late 2020 by Nader Abdelrazik, Mustafa Eid, and Anisha Sekar, MoneyHash is in the field of payment orchestration. (Supplied)

The round was co-led by the UAE’s COTU Ventures and Saudi Arabia’s Sukna Ventures, with additional investments from RZM Investment, Dubai Future District Fund, VentureFriends, and several angel investors.  

Founded in late 2020 by Nader Abdelrazik, Mustafa Eid, and Anisha Sekar, MoneyHash is in the field of payment orchestration, offering a comprehensive payment operating system as a service designed to tackle the diverse technological and product challenges encountered by enterprise merchants.  

“COVID certainly boosted the adoption of digital payments in the region, but the infrastructure remains significantly underdeveloped,” Abdelrazik said.

Established in 2020 by Amir Farha, COTU Ventures boasts a dynamic portfolio of MENA startups, such as Huspy and MoneyHash. (Supplied)

“In MEA, payment failure rates are three times the global average, and fraud rates and cart abandonment are over 20 percent higher than in all other regions. This places merchants in a challenging position, viewing payments as a cost and risk center rather than a strategic enabler,” he added.

Following a $3 million pre-seed round in 2022, the newly acquired funds are earmarked for expanding the business team, enhancing growth capabilities, and sustaining technological advancement.

Saudi investment firm acquires startup platform VeFund   

The Saudi startup ecosystem is set to expand further with investment fund CoreVision acquiring VeFund, infusing artificial intelligence technologies for enhanced venture evaluation, innovation, and strategic growth.  

Third picture shows CoreVision CEO Faisal Al-Abdulsalam and VeFund cofounder Mohamed Gaber at  signing ceremony. (Supplied)

The acquisition of VeFund, a regional platform for venture evaluation and investor connections, represents a significant step in CoreVision’s strategic growth, enhancing its portfolio with advanced AI-driven technologies.  

The Saudi investment firm plans to use VeFund’s AI technology to support startups in navigating competitive environments.   

Following the acquisition, CoreVision CEO Faisal Al-Abdulsalam will lead VeFund as its chief executive.  

COVID certainly boosted the adoption of digital payments in the region, but the infrastructure remains significantly underdeveloped.

Nader Abdelrazik, MoneyHash cofounder

Al-Abdulsalam’s extensive experience and portfolio of over 80 investments in various sectors are set to bring a new strategy of leadership and vision to VeFund, the company said.    

“We at CoreVision are not just investors, we see ourselves as ecosystem builders. As such, our vision is to transform VeFund into a secondary market for startups, offering a platform for investors to trade safe notes, which is essential in contributing to the vibrancy of the startup community here in Saudi Arabia,” said Al-Abdulsalam.    

Launched in 2023 by Mohamed Gaber, an AI specialist and serial entrepreneur, along with co-founder Ahmed Magdy, VeFund’s intelligent evaluator provides a suite of tools, including an AI Survivability Index, valuation calculators, and extensive portfolio management solutions.  

Hayi facilitates connections among residents within the same neighborhood for the exchange of news and services. (Supplied)

“I am excited about the future of VeFund and believe strongly that this transition will drive VeFund’s mission forward, fostering an environment of innovation and success for startups across the Middle East,” Gaber said.   

VeFund currently has over 1,400 startups registered on its platform and has a database of more than 400 angel investors and investments funds spanning across Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Pakistan.

Saudi Arabia’s Tawaref inks MoU with Plus VC

Saudi Arabia’s Tawaref, recognized for financing regional startups and providing entrepreneurial services, has inked an agreement with Kuwait-based venture capital firm Plus VC.

The memorandum of understanding will see both firms collaborate to facilitate accelerated Saudi expansion for Plus VC’s startup portfolio companies through Tawaref’s Saudi Landing program.

We at CoreVision are not just investors; we see ourselves as ecosystem builders, says Faisal Al-Abdulsalam, CoreVision CEO

This partnership underscores Plus VC’s recognition of the crucial role that Tawaref plays in minimizing the time to market for tech startups and assisting them in navigating the complexities of securing approvals from various government departments for establishing operations in Saudi Arabia.  

The Saudi Landing program by Tawaref serves as a comprehensive solution, liaising with over 10 entities within the Kingdom.  

It offers startups advice on market entry strategies, understanding regulatory requirements, and adapting to local business practices, thus streamlining the process for startups to establish and expand their presence in the Kingdom efficiently.

UAE’s COTU Ventures unveiled $54m fund

The UAE-based early-stage venture capital firm COTU Ventures has unveiled a $54 million inaugural fund dedicated to nurturing startups across the Middle East from pre-seed to seed stages.  

Established in 2020 by Amir Farha, COTU Ventures boasts a dynamic portfolio of Mena startups, such as Huspy and MoneyHash.  

This fund is set to provide robust support to startups from their inception to post-production launch, offering up to $2 million in investment, and earmarking additional capital for follow-on investments.

UAE’s Hayi raises seed round

The UAE-based social networking app Hayi has successfully raised an undisclosed amount in a seed funding round led by Plus VC, with additional backing from regional angel investors.  

Launched in 2020 by founders Chris Darnell and Rene Morgan, Hayi is designed as a community-centric platform, facilitating connections among residents within the same neighborhood for the exchange of news and services.  

This infusion of capital is earmarked for scaling Hayi’s operations, enhancing its marketing efforts, and broadening its presence both within the UAE and internationally.  

This follows a pre-seed investment of $325,000 in 2021 from Sarya Holdings and Falak Startups, marking a continued trajectory of growth and expansion for the company.

 

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