Author: Dr. Markus Oliver Heidak (#FORTSCHRITT Global Partner Middle East)
- 08.10.2018 -
The United Arab Emirates continue to dominate the start-up industry in the middle-east region, in terms of deal counts and value. Some of the start-ups are just simple copycats but many others are quite unique and smart. We tested and evaluated the most promising ones for you.
One of the economical targets of the UAE is to attract technology enthusiasts and start-ups worldwide.
Forbes Middle East launched its first-ever list of promising UAE start-ups in 2014, containing of 50 trending and future-orientated start-ups. Two of the most successful ones on this list are Careem, the ride-hailing service similar to UBER, and Souq.com an Amazon-like online store for the UAE. Last year, both of them were already multi-billion-dollar companies, and in March 2017, Amazon confirmed the acquisition of Souq.com for about 580 million USD. However, if you look closer, they are both just simple copycats. But what about other start-ups?
The following list shows an overview of promising start-ups in Dubai, which we have tested evaluated and analyzed this year. They are all focusing on bestseller topics such as car sharing, delivery, holidays or payment. Like the mentioned start-ups Careem and Souq.com, some of the described companies are also copycats, but all of them improved the copied concepts and gave them their own individual touch.
Ekar is an easy-to-use car-sharing platform, which enables you to book different classes and types of cars across Dubai, via your laptop or smartphone. The idea is of course nothing new and already available in many countries worldwide. However, due to continuously increasing fuel costs in the UAE, we thought it would perhaps be worth testing this new service. Ekar does not charge you for fuel, insurance or parking costs. The service is easy to use and the number of available cars within the most popular areas of Dubai are fine. However, it is not clear how fast this service will be accepted by locals and expats because most of them love to drive their own cars and the fuel costs are still much cheaper than in Europe or Asia.
Fetchr is a technology solution that makes shipping as delightful as shopping. Fetchr solves the problem of no physical addresses in emerging markets and eliminates the need for annoying phone calls asking for directions. During the last few months, we used Fetchr to deliver documents from one client to another as well as the method for delivering online shopping items. The main benefit is that they pick up and deliver your order to any place such as a hotel lobby or coffee shop where the client is waiting, or they pick up your shopping bags after a long day at your friend's place during a dinner event. Overall, Fetchr is moving in the right direction and it seems their service will get as common as paying your groceries cashless.
HolidayMe is an online travel booking platform, which introduced on-the-fly customization of holiday packages. The novel concept has managed to bag Series A funding from Saudi-based investors. The start-up intends giving the control in the hands of the customers by allowing them to pick holiday packages and customize them based on their personal choices from a broad database of over 1.000.000 hotels, 8.000 sightseeing activities and airport pick-up and drop facility across 300 cities globally. However, after several trials, we did not recognize the main benefits of their concept in comparison to well-known travel-booking platforms such as booking.com or Expedia. Nevertheless, let´s keep them on the screen and hope to make a real travel bargain.
Topic: Mobile Entertainment
Icflix is the MENA’s first unlimited streaming platform that delivers Jazwood (Arabic content), Bollywood and Hollywood movies, TV series, cartoons, and documentaries, all of which can be watched on any Internet-connected device. Their aims are to provide the best online entertainment value, selection, and experience to a worldwide subscriber base. Our account was easily set up and selecting the right content can be challenging due to the large number of available movies and series. However, someone who used an established streaming platform before will not change and for us, there was no visible benefit recognizable in comparison to Netflix.
Topic: Crowd Founding
Eureeca is an FCA-regulated equity crowd-funding platform with offices in Dubai, London, Amsterdam, and Kuala Lumpur, which is changing the way people invest and businesses raise capital. The platform allows early-stage businesses and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to raise capital from a group of investors in exchange for equity. Eureeca utilizes an "all or nothing" fundraising model, which requires campaigners to hit their targeted fundraising amount during a 90-day campaign period in order to collect the funds. In the event that the target amount is not reached, members of the crowd who have already invested in the business will have their funds credited back to their Eureeca account for future use. Our regional investor contacts are talking most promising about Eurecca and believe in the concept to find here the perfect investment opportunity and possibly the next UBER.
In general, the UAE has the right strategy to be attractive for young entrepreneurs as well as for VCs on their search for new and promising investments.
We will keep you informed and investigate to find more promising start-ups in the Middle East.