Trailblazers: 16 Singaporean Startups and 12 VCs Already Operating in MENA
Located at opposite ends of Asia, Singapore and MENA have been increasingly exploring opportunities to collaborate and exchange expertise, with a focus on venture capital.
Join our webinar to discover the exciting possibilities of establishing a thriving venture corridor between the MEAPT and Southeast Asia (SEA), sign up here!
After the sell-out success of North Star 2022, North Star is expanding to the iconic Dubai Harbour for Expand North Star 2023, 15-18 October 2023, hosted by the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy.
The Singapore-MENA VC corridor has been growing in recent years. Singapore, with its strong reputation as a regional financial hub, has emerged as an attractive destination for MENA startups seeking funding and strategic partnerships. At the same time, MENA-based VCs are showing an increasing interest in investing in Singapore-based startups. Over the years we have seen the likes of Dubai-based BECO Capital invest in several Singapore-based startups, including Carousell and Nas Academy. Other MENA-based VCs, such as Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP), and VentureSouq have also made investments in Singapore-based startups.
On the other hand, Singapore investors are drawn to MENA-based startups due to their innovative business models, disruptive technologies, and potential for scalability. MENA's strategic geographic location, acting as a gateway between Europe, Asia, and Africa, further enhances its appeal as a market for Singaporean investors seeking diversification and access to new markets. Arbor Ventures and Antler are among the most active backers in the region.
The mutual opportunities between Singapore and the MENA region are significant. MENA startups can benefit from Singapore's advanced tech ecosystem and expertise in areas such as FinTech, AI, and Logistics, while Singapore-based startups can leverage MENA's large and growing consumer market and its increasing appetite for technology. Overall, the Singapore-MENA VC corridor offers great potential for startups and investors from both regions and this trend is likely to continue driving growth and innovation across Asia and the MENA region.
While cross-border expansion or M&As hold significant challenges including legal and regulatory, they also provide startups access to new markets and capital and open up new avenues of growth. A number of Singapore startups have expanded to MENA particularly Dubai, since their inception. Among the most notable startups are:
*Data on Singapore-based startups can be found on MAGNiTT Directories.
Founded in Singapore, the startup has since moved its headquarters to Dubai. Wego provides travel search websites and mobile apps for travelers in the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions. The startup has raised almost $60M in funding and is backed by the likes of Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP) and Tiger Global Management.
A digital wealth management firm, StashAway, founded in Singapore in 2017 announced that it was expanding its services to the MENA region in 2020. The startup launched in the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) after getting an asset management license from the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) with retail endorsement.
Last year in March, Singapore-based FinTech VoloPay announced a $29M Series A debt and equity financing to further expand its footprint in Asia-Pacific and MENA. Dubai-based VentureSouq has been an active backer of VoloPay alongside Antler and Y Combinator.
Cross-border payment company Thunes announced in August 2022 that it is accelerating the expansion of its services in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, particularly KSA, and appointing a new regional head. The announcement came in light of Saudia Arabia’s “Vision 2030”, which aims to increase the number of cashless transactions to 70% in 2025, according to Thunes. The startup is one of the more well-funded startups in Singapore having raised over $100M to date.
There is a trend of FinTech startups flocking to the Middle Eastern region. Another Singapore-based startup, Nium, a payments platform, declared its expansion into the Middle East in 2020. In a statement issued by the startup, it said this move also seeks to enable Nium to more effectively provide ground support for its existing and growing client base in the region such as Mashreq Bank.
Other startups that have expanded their horizons to the Middle East and North Africa include FinTech utu, Aleta Planet, Kilde, Touche and ACX, Enterprise startups Inspire Tech, dltledgers, and Rewardz, IT solutions startups Graymatics and Crayon Data, and F&B startup Tindle.
*For more information on startups from Singapore, visit our MAGNiTT Directories.
Singaporean Investors in MENA-based Startups
The significant economic growth and transformation experienced by the MENA region in recent years have been successful in harboring the interest of investors from Little Red Dot. The region's favorable demographics, expanding middle class, and increasing digital penetration have created a conducive environment for startups to thrive. In line with that, a number of Singapore-based investors have deployed capital in startups hailing from MENA.
*Data on Singapore-based investors can be found on MAGNiTT Directories.
Arbor Ventures is a global, Fintech-focused VC. The firm has been a recurring backer in Dubai-based FinTech startup Tabby. It has deployed over $30M in funding in the startup and was also a part of Tabby’s most recent $58M Series C fundraise which saw investment from Sequoia Capital India and Mubadala Ventures.
Founded in 2017, Antler is currently operating in 25 cities. Antler was a part of the Bridge round raised by the recently acquired UAE-based startup ChatFood. In addition, the VC firm has also invested in FinTech Pemo alongside Speedinvest and Shorooq Partners. Antler has expanded its portfolio beyond the MENA region and has backed the likes of Kenya-based Churpy and Pakistan’s SnappRetail.
Altonomy was launched in 2018 and is a trading firm specializing in cryptocurrencies. The corporate has invested in UAE-based Zone’s $2.4M round, a gamefi ecosystem on the Algorand blockchain that combines on-chain gaming challenges, yield farming, and NFTs to create a free-to-play and play-to-earn ecosystem.
Athena Ventures is a venture capital firm based in Singapore, focusing on blockchain technologies. It has backed UAE-based metaverse firm MetaFi alongside a myriad of investors.
Atlas Asset Management
The investment management company offers discretionary and advisory asset management services as well as access to global private equity investments to investors in Asia. The firm participated in streaming platform LVL’s $4M Pre-Series A round in September 2021.
Education in Motion
Education in Motion is a global education company based in Singapore. It has invested in a Dubai-based online high school, School of Humanity.
An early-stage venture capital firm founded in 2016, Elēkrŏn, acts as a lead investor in startups at the SEED and Series-A stage. Back in 2019, it invested in Abu Dhabi-based The Cloud, a start-up aimed at empowering underutilized kitchens to earn revenue, increase their geographical reach and enter the high-in-demand food delivery space.
Megala Ventures is one of the institutional investors of blockchain and distributed ledger technologies in Southeast Asia. The firm was one of the investors in metaverse startup MetaFi alongside Athena Ventures.
SC Ventures is a business unit that provides the platform & catalyst for Standard Chartered to invest in financial technology and explore alternative business models. SC Ventures was a part of streaming platform LVL’s Pre-Series A round where Atlas Asset Management was also an investor.
Taurus Wealth Advisors Limited
Taurus Wealth is an integrated wealth management platform founded in 2008 with offices in Dubai, Singapore & Zurich. The asset management company invested in KOI Technologies' $3M round last year alongside CEG Invest.
X21 Digital is a Blockchain Advisory and Investment firm founded in 2020. It was one of the investors that backed MetaFi.org’s investment round last year joined by other Singaporean investors including Athena Ventures and Megala Ventures.
For more information on VCs, Corporates, Corporate VCs, and Government institutions investing in the startup space, access MAGNiTT's Investor Directory.
Learn more about Our Data Methodology
This article features data from MAGNiTT, a comprehensive directory of technology innovation trends. The platform provides the following analytics tools:
• Investment directories, a comprehensive list of startup venture funding across the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan, Turkey, and Singapore
• Market Sizing Tools to visualize investment growth and trends across industries, geographies, and stage
• Comparison Tools to benchmark geographies, industries, and investor performance
• Exit comparisons, looking at Mergers & Acquisitions from across the region
About the Sponsor
Expand North Star is the world's largest event for startups and investors. Across four days Expand North Star will present some of the world’s best startups from over 100 countries, welcome 1000 VCs to raise funds and scout for their portfolio.