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Everything you need to know about the North African startup landscape
If you’ve been paying attention, a lot has been happening in the startup community in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region over the last couple of months.
Some highlights include:
- Egyptian transport startup Swvl’s $42-million raise in June (see this story)
- Cairo-based B2B e-commerce marketplace MaxAB‘s $6.2-million seed round announced on Wednesday (see this story)
- Tunisian enterprise artificial intelligence (AI) startup InstaDeep raised a $7-million Series-A round in May (see this story)
- Algerian ride-hailing startup TemTem raised a $4-million Series-A round in a deal announced on Wednesday (see this story)
- And the acquisition of another Egyptian startup, matchmaking app Harmonica by US online dating services provider and Tinder parent company Match Group (see this story).
Focusing on North Africa alone, so far this year, Ventureburn has tracked disclosed venture capital (VC) deals involving 15 startups that amount to about $64.1-million.
Although the bulk of this figure is made up of Swvl’s $42-million deal, InstaDeep’s $7-million Series-A round and MaxAB’s $6.2-million raise and TemTem’s $4-million Series A, the frequency and size of the deals — which barring these four biggest deals average about $407 000 per startup — as well as the source of the investments all point to how important the North Africa’s startup community has become on the continent.
For those who want a piece of the action, this article serves as a guide for anyone who wants to get involved with, or have a better understanding of, the region’s fast-growing startup space.
We have scoured North Africa’s entrepreneurial landscape and hand-picked some of the top players to get you started, looking at all sectors from education, investment (angel, venture capital, private equity), government, accelerators and incubators to media players.
This article is not meant to be a definitive guide. With your comments and suggestions, we hope to create a clear overview of the people and organisations that influence and shape North Africa’s tech venture space. Please feel free to comment or tweet us any suggestions you may have.
500 Falcons, 500 Startups‘ $33-million MENA-focused fund, claims to be the most active early-stage VC fund in the region. The funder earlier this year claimed that since 2017 it has invested in 32 North African startups from Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia (see this story).
In Egypt, Cairo-based Algebra Ventures claims to be Egypt’s leading venture capital (VC) firm that invests in technology. Algebra has so far this year invested or announced investments in Egyptian startups GoodsMart, Trella and Dsquares.
Ezdehar Management is a private equity fund manager that invests in high-growth businesses in Egypt. Its portfolio includes loyalty solutions startup Dsquares.
Cairo-based EFG EV is combining the financial know-how of EFG Hermes and entrepreneurial expertise of Egypt Ventures to launch what it says is the country’s most powerful fintech-focused startup accelerator. EFG EV invests in fintech startups with the potential to grow domestically and expand beyond the Egyptian market. It also provides innovators with services they need to thrive, ranging from funding to mentorship, to training and office space.
Cairo-based Enara Ventures was established with the mission to find, fund, and foster entrepreneurs with ideas to solve our greatest environmental and energy challenges. Through its annual business competition and accelerator programme, Enara connects clean-tech startups with the people and resources that will accelerate their success.
Egypt Ventures is an investment firm focused on supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem by investing in venture capital firms, accelerators and high-growth enterprises.
Endure Capital is an early stage investment fund with offices in the US, Cairo and Dubai. Some of its investments include Egyptian end-to-end distribution platform Brimore and fintech NowPay.
Set up in 2017 bu Pharos Capital and Kamelizer, Pride Capital claims it is Egypt’s first early-stage fund focused on fintech.
Cairo-based EdVentures is the corporate venture capital arm of Egypt’s Nahdet Misr Publishing Group. EdVentures incubates, accelerates and invests in startups serving the sectors of education, culture, and innovative learning solutions. The VC has this year invested $100 000 seed rounds in Egyptian startups Colnn and Career 180.
Averroes Ventures, based in Cairo, is out to invest in ambitious startups that it says have “grit, vision and innovation”.
When it comes to angel investment networks, Cairo-based HIMAngel is a $5-million angel fund that invests in early-stage Egyptian startups. Its portfolio includes esports and gaming community GBarena. Established in 2012, Cairo Angels is Egypt’s first formal angel investment network. This, while Egypt’s AUC Angels says it is the first university-based angel investor network in the MENA region. Alexandria Angel Network (AlexAngels) helps those looking to back startups invest in promising early-stage companies.
In Morocco, Casablanca-based Maroc Numeric Fund invests in high-potential tech startups. This, while Rabat-based Caisse Centrale de Garantie (CCG) has been known to fund innovative Moroccan startups.
Morocco-based VC fund Outlierz Ventures invests in tech-enabled companies that solve a real problem with a scalable business model, in key industries across Africa. Some of its investments include Morocco’s WaystoCap and Egypt’s MaxAB.
In July the SEAF Morocco Growth Fund (SMGF) made an undisclosed investment in Casablanca-based fintech startup SOS Credit.
In Tunisia Impact Partner (previously Yunus Social Business Tunisia) is a non-profit organisation that aims to improve life standards through supporting impactful startups and small businesses. It offer testing funds as well as investment opportunities through the first Impact Investment fund in Tunisia.
There’s also Tunis-based investment firm Capsa Capital Partners. The asset management firm manages private equity funds on behalf a selected group of institutional investors. Last year the firm invested $1.6-million in Tunisian robotics startup Enova Robotics.
Tunis-based private equity investor AfricInvest has dedicated investment teams focused on North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. The firm, which co-founded African Venture Capital Association as well as the Middle East North Africa Private Equity Association, is an active promoter of the private equity industry in the region.
AfricInvest also manages the Cathay Africinvest Innovation Fund, which it launched in April with Cathay Innovation, the VC arm of French-Chinese private equity firm Cathay Capital. The fund, which is projected to be capitalised at €150-million, will invest ticket sizes of between €3-million and €15-million or the equivalent in local currency (see this story).
Innovest is a Tunisian investment company which specialises in financing innovative technology projects in the country. This, while Flat6Labs Tunis‘ Anava Seed Fund aims to invest in Tunisian early-stage companies.
From its offices in Dubai and Amman, Jordan, Wamda Capital has become one of the leading VC firms in the region. The firm deploys growth capital to entrepreneur-led tech companies in MENA. It currently manages a $75-million growth capital fund.
There are a number of other Dubai-based funders. Dubai Angel Investors invests seed and Series-A rounds in early-stage tech companies with high growth. Dubai Angel Investors participated in the $1-million pre-Series-A funding round of Egyptian fintech MoneyFellows together with MENA-focused and Lebanon-based Phoenician Funds.
Then there’s a seed fund Numu Capital that invests in MENA tech startups. It claims to have an average deal cycle of 30 days. The fund has backed startups that include Egypt’s Mintrics and Doctoorum.
Dubai-based early-stage venture capital firm BECO Capital holds investments in at least 19 companies in the MENA region. These include Swvl and Vezeeta.
Arzan VC invests in tech startups in MENA region and helps them expand to different regions. The Dubai-based VC also has offices in Palo Alto and Kuwait.
The Mediterranean Business Angels Network (Med Angels) which was expected to launch at the September 2019 Techne Summit 2019 aims to bring together a large number of business angel networks, groups, funds as well as individual angel investors from across the region. The network also has plans to launch an accelerator programme.
There are a number of Saudi investors that focus on the MENA region. These include Daal VC, which focuses on high-growth startups operating in the artificial intelligence (AI), fintech, big data, Internet of Things (IoT) e-commerce and software-as-a-service verticals.
The Saudi Venture Capital Company provides a variety of Sharia Compliant asset management services that cater for institutional investors, corporate clients, and high net worth individuals. The firm was involved in a $300 000 seed round in Tunisian fashion marketplace Dabchy (see this story).
Vision Ventures is a Saudi VC that has been investing in innovative seed and early-stage startups since 2016. Its areas of interest include cloud and mobile, smart transportation as well as e-commerce and cyber security.
Further afield, early-stage Africa-focused venture firm 4DX Ventures was one of four investors that co-led MaxAB’s $6.2-million seed round.
Swedish investor Vostok New Ventures was one of many that participated in Egyptian startup Swvl’s $42-million round in June (see this story). Vostok New Ventures portfolio also includes Egyptian online recruitment job site Wuzzuf and healthtech Vezeeta.
Global funder (with an Africa office in Nairobi) Bamboo Capital Partners’ Bloc Fund, which has a €100-million target size, is a blended finance technology impact fund which is aimed at under-served communities in emerging markets. The fund will invest between €200 000 and €2-million in tech startups from Smart Africa Alliance member states, including those in Egypt and Tunisia (see this story).
SEAF is a global impact private equity manager achieving meaningful and measurable impact results and positive financial returns by providing entrepreneurs in emerging markets with the capital, knowledge, and networks they need to grow their businesses.
French Development Agency (AFD) is committed to projects that improve people’s daily lives in developing and emerging countries.
Accelerators and incubators
Regional startup accelerator programme Flat6Labs provides startups with seed funding, strategic mentorship, a creative workspace, entrepreneurship-focused business training and access to an expansive network of partner entities, mentors and investors.
AfriLabs works with several tech hubs in North Africa which serve as a meeting point for entrepreneurs, technologists, investors, tech companies. In Egypt they are Cairo Hackerspace, GESR-MEK Cairo and Maamal for Development. In Morocco AfriLabs works with Wired Startups and Tatweer Research in Libya, as well as CoZi Coworking and Café Djerba in Tunisia.
Mowgli Mentoring is a social enterprise driving inclusive economic and social change in the Middle East, North and Sub-Saharan Africa. Mowgli’s unique, accredited methodology provides a supportive framework which empowers and supports the talent and leadership development of entrepreneurs (micro, refugee and small businesses), women, youth as well as corporate leaders and employees to unlock their potential and seize new opportunities for growth.
Flat6Labs was started in 2011 by the American University in Cairo (AUC) and Egypt’s Sawari Ventures with Cairo hosting its first office in the MENA region. Flat6Labs also has an office in Tunis, Tunisia.
Endeavour supports local entrepreneurs in Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia.
In Algeria, the Algiers-based Algerian Centre for Social Entrepreneurship (ACSE) promotes social entrepreneurship in Algeria, and supports social entrepreneurs through initiatives that include an incubation programme.
Algiers-based tech and entrepreneurship hub Sylabs provides startups with tailor-made incubation and support services. Also in Algiers, incubator IncubMe was launched last year and aims to assist between 20 and 30 entrepreneurs per year (see this story).
In Egypt, Startupbootcamp Fintech Cairo is a six-month programme that supports innovative early-stage fintech startups in Egypt with a targeted focus on financial inclusion, payments, capital market, insurance, identity authentication, small business lending and investment. The accelerator is backed by Pride Capital and its first cohort graduated in May.
Cairo-based AUC Venture Lab is a university-based startup accelerator with a 16-week programme that is aimed at early-stage startups. AUC Venture Lab also has a 16-week customised programme for fintechs.
Also in Cairo Changelabs Egypt runs a six-week accelerator programme aimed at startups that have the potential to deliver meaningful change while generating sustainable profits. This, while Falak based in the same city, is a government-backed startup accelerator created to support entrepreneurial teams build high-growth businesses in Egypt.
Cairo-based Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre (TIEC) runs an entrepreneurship accelerator supports early-stage, growth-driven companies through education and mentorship.
Egyptian government founded and private-sector-led incubator Bedaya provides startups with 150 000 Egyptian Pounds in funding as well as office space, business development services, networking opportunities and manufacturing spaces.
According to an article by Egypt’s Information Technology Industry Development Agency (Itida), the incubator’s Bedaya Fund — which is managed by Al Ahly for Development and Investment (ADI) — provides startups in the food, agriculture, manufacturing, services and IT sector with between 2-million and 50-million Egyptian Pounds in equity funding.
In Libya, Benghazi-based Tatweer Entrepreneurship Campus provides startups with the support, expertise, services and tools needed to succeed in the market.
In Morocco, Casablanca-based Impact Camp helps startups, companies and public institutions to respond innovatively to their growth challenges in Africa.
StartUp Morocco (or Startup Morocco) is a non-profit organisation that aims to accelerate job creation and boost Morocco’s economic development through entrepreneurship and innovation. It operates in 15 cities across the country and claims to have assisted more than 10 000 entrepreneurs at different phases through training, acceleration programs, conferences and competitions in partnership with renowned national and international organisations.
CEED Morocco offers unique programmes designed to develop a new generation of international entrepreneurs.
Dare Incubation, the flagship programme of the Moroccan Centre for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship’s (Moroccan CISE), aims to boost social enterprises in the country as well as to market a significant flow of startups capable of attracting domestic and foreign investment.
The Impulse Accelerator is a zero-equity tech accelerator located in El Kelaa of Sraghna, about 100km from Marrakesh. It was launched earlier this year by University Mohammed VI Polytechnique (UM6P) in partnership with the OCP Group and its subsidiary OCP Africa.
Casablanca-based LaFactory facilitates collaboration between startups and big corporates.
The National Agency for the Promotion of Small and Medium Enterprises (Maroc PME) supports Moroccan startups that have validated the viability of their business models.
Morocco Incubation and Spin-Off Network (RMIE) was established by the Moroccan government in 2002 to bring together universities and the corporate world together to encourage innovation and the creation of innovative companies. RMIE is composed of at lease 13 universities ( see this PDF for more information).
In Tunisia there’s Lab’ess, a collaborative platform based in Tunis that incubates social entrepreneurs, and Founder Institute. The latter’s four-month part-time programme helps startup entrepreneurs to “learn by doing” and enables them to launch a company through structured training courses, a practical business-building assignments and expert feedback from a broad network of business mentors.
Houmt Souk-based Business Intelligence Centre is a Tunisian business incubator in the medical sector. It supports multidisciplinary teams to accelerate the development of innovative projects through meetings, workshops, training, community, conferences, debates and seminars.
The Biat Foundation supports the Tunisian entrepreneurial ecosystem and young entrepreneurs. One of its initiatives is the Entrepreneurs of Tunisia platform which gives users the opportunity to discover all the entrepreneurial players of the ecosystem.
StartUp Wiki is a Tunis-based private business incubator that facilitates access to expertise, specific business development tools, funding and crucial connections to an international professional network. This, while B@Labs is an intensive four-month programme which provides early-stage startups with hands-on mentorship, access to market and expertise.
Tunisia Startups acts as a representative and the voice of startups in the country. The association, which was founded by Tunisian startups, also aims to connect the startup ecosystem including startups, investors and support structures, etc and connecting the Tunisian startup ecosystem with other ecosystems all over the world.
Founded in 2017, Tunis-based Factory 619 claims to be the first startup studio and tech innovation hub in Tunisia. It provides co-funding opportunities, as well as pre-acceleration and pre-incubation programmes. This, while Tunis-based Impact is the first social enterprises incubator in Tunisia.
DisrupTunisia aims to be the voice of Tunisian startups, the media company also has a directory of Tunisia’s startup ecosystem on its site.
MenaBytes is a Riyadh-based MENA-focused tech publication that was founded in 2017 by Zubair Naeem Paracha. RiseUp, a Cairo-based platform that connects startups to resources acquired the publication in August.
Other publications to look out for include Magnitt and Wamda.
Techne Summit is an international investment and entrepreneurship event. The summit was first held in Alexandria, Egypt in 2015. In 2018 it attracted about 130 speakers, over 6000 attendees, 230 startups and 80 investors from more than 25 countries. The 2019 edition takes place in Alexandria in September 2019.
The RiseUp Summit, which is organised by Cairo-based platform RiseUp, is one of MENA’s largest startup and entrepreneurship events. This year’s edition will be held between 7 and 9 December.
Swiss emerging market startup competition Seedstars World holds several pitching events across North Africa, usually in Algiers (10 October), Cairo, Casablanca, Tunis (7 October) and Tripoli (20 October). Seedstars World will host its regional MENA regional summit in Casablanca between 10 and 12 December.
Vested claims it is the world’s largest conscious tech summit. This year’s edition will take place between 9 and 11 November at Sahl Hasheesh on the coast of the Red Sea.
Featured image: Cezzare via Pixabay