Moving into the second half: MAGNiTT reflects on the top 5 moments of H1 2020

Despite COVID-19 being the most notable, impactful, and world-changing aspect of H1 2020, we saw a number of defining moments take place in MENA's startup ecosystem. MAGNiTT was at the forefront of all of the key moments that occurred in these very bizarre, and never-ending six months. To that effect, take a trip down memory lane with us, and look back on the top 5 moments that made H1 at MAGNiTT an incredibly special and unique time. 

1. The investments didn't stop 

COVID-19 may have slowed down the venture space, but it didn't bring it to an immediate halt. We saw many, record deals take place with the focal point slowly turning to those who had digitally-focused business models that could pivot and adapt in difficult times. 

Here are the top-funded MENA startups in each month of H1:

January - Sarwa, $8.4M, Series A

Sarwa, a hybrid automated investment management platform for young professionals in the Middle-East, announced its $8.4M Series A funding round, led by Kuwait Projects Company Holding (KIPCO), and was joined by investors including, Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO)500 Startups, Saudi Arabia-based Vision Ventures, UK-based Hambro Perks, as well as others. Sarwa planned to use the funding to strengthen its position in the UAE, and work on further progressing with its expansion plan. 

February – Kitopi, $60M, Series B

Kitopi, the world’s leading managed cloud kitchen platform that partners with restaurants to expand their delivery reach, raised $60 million in its Series B round of funding. The round was led by Knollwood and Lumia Capital with further participation from new and existing global investors, namely BECO, CE-Ventures, GIC, Rise Capital, Reshape, Global Ventures, and Wilshire Lane Partners. They planned to expand with 50 more locations in the US and 100 globally by the end of 2020.

March – Nana, $18M, Series B

Nana, an online grocery platform that serves 14 cities across KSA, raised investment from regional investors Saudi Technology Ventures (STV) and Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP), along with others. The funding will allow them to expand in KSA and outside, as well as to focus on further improving their customer experience and develop technology solutions to support their partner's growth and development.

April Pure Harvest, $20.6M, Series A

Pure Harvest Smart Farms, a tech-enabled agribusiness, secured a multi-stage investment commitment with Wafra International Investment Company, making it the largest-ever agriculture technology investment in the MENAPT region. The strategic investment from Wafra will be used to drive the company’s development and deployment of advanced controlled-environment agriculture solutions across the region to sustainably grow premium quality fresh fruits & vegetables—regardless of outdoor climate conditions. 

May - Brimore, $3.5M, Pre-Series A

Brimore, the social commerce and parallel distribution platform that connects manufacturers with consumers, raised $3.5m in a Pre-Series A round led by Algebra Ventures, with participation from DisruptechVision Ventures, and returning investors, 500 Startups, and Flat6Labs. The company planned to use the new funds to support its accelerating growth and strengthen its infrastructure, whilst continuing to invest in operations, technology, and talent. 

June – Jahez, $36M, Series A

Jahez, a food delivery platform offering a full logistics solution, raised US$36M in Series A funding, led by Impact46, marking the largest VC deal of its kind in Saudi Arabia so far. They aimed to use this funding to invest in building differentiated offerings, plugging the white spaces in the ecosystem, expanding in new verticals and developing in-house technology, and keeping customer experience at the core.

Download the H1 2020 MENA Venture Investment Report.

2. A self-proclaimed billion-dollar business

Emerging Markets Property Group (EMPG), a leading property portal group in emerging markets, and OLX Group, Prosus’s global classifieds business, announced their merger back in April in Pakistan, Egypt, Lebanon, and the UAE. The agreement included a $150M investment round, led by OLX Group along with existing EMPG shareholders, which they then claimed valued EMPG at $1B after the transaction - making them a unicorn company. 

This merger makes it the third-largest technology company deal in the MENA region over the past few years. We saw Amazon buy UAE-based online retailer Souq for $580M back in 2017, as well as Uber purchasing Dubai-based Careem for $3.1B in 2019.

Apply for funding to 80+ investors.

3. MAGNiTT Messaging launched

In the absence of the physical events and gatherings that usually bring us together, we needed other, digital ways to come together. This is how MAGNiTT Messaging was born. With 14,000+ startups, 500+ investors, and 1,000+ enablers from 17 MENA countries on the platform, MAGNiTT is your gateway to discover and connect with everybody in the ecosystem - regardless of whether or not you’re going to be seeing them in person anytime soon. 

Are you an investor with a thesis looking to cherry-pick your next investment? An entrepreneur looking to connect with a subject-matter expert, a mentor, or an angel investor? A corporate looking to partner with a start-up for an innovation initiative? With the launch of MAGNiTT Messaging, you can do all of this by filtering through our directories and instantly creating connections that matter with others in the ecosystem. 

Check out more information on MAGNiTT Messaging.

4. COVID-19 got everyone talking

The long-term effects of COVID-19 may not exactly be clear or determined yet, but over the last few months, the ecosystems thought leaders came together to share their expertise, concerns, action plans, and strategies with us in order to help others innovate, execute, and better understand how to handle such a climate both professionally and personally. 

Six major implications that COVID-19 has on MENA’s businesses
- Catch experiences, not flights: How the TravelTech industry has pivoted in an attempt to adapt to COVID-19
- A look back into the future: Parallels between the Arab Spring and COVID-19
- COVID-19 doesn’t have to result in layoffs: 10 alternative cost-cutting strategies
A 6-step guide to successfully fundraising during the COVID-19 crisis
How tech startups can use COVID-19 to build a new generation of category-leading businesses
- Managing headcount costs during COVID-19: A guide on the right way to do things, morally and legally
Life after COVID-19: Emerging trends on the future of work

Explore more thought leadership articles.

5. It was a webinar-filled world

MAGNiTT hosted 20 webinars in H1 with a number of insightful thought leaders, covering a spectrum of topics from advice for young entrepreneurs and pivoting your business, to managing staff in a time of crisis and scaling to KSA. 

As part of our drive for constant and consistent data transparency, MAGNiTT webinar attendees completed polls relating to the topic of each session, but it was clear that the pandemic was on everyone’s mind. Off the back of this, we collated the poll results and shared them in a comprehensive, data-driven article. This article takes the insights from the polls to act as a reflection from the ecosystem over the last few months and underlines the importance and impact of COVID-19. 

Sign up to our latest webinar with Fadi Ghandour this Wednesday.

Despite the current crisis, H1 2020 has seen $659M invested in MENA-based startups, which is already 95% of total funding full-year 2019. Discover more data, including country and industry trends by purchasing our H1 2020 MENA Venture Investment Report