The Emirates of Startups: Which startups have helped shape the UAE in 2020?

MAGNiTT’s 2019 UAE Venture Report revealed that there has been significant growth in the number of deals over the years, with 2019 being the best on record; not forgetting Uber’s landmark $3.1B acquisition of Careem, resulting in the first-ever unicorn exit in the country/region. Similarly, in the first half of the current year, the UAE has continued to account for the largest share of total funding (59%) attributed to several large funding rounds (keep reading to learn more about these deals!). 

The UAE has emerged as a strong and resilient entrepreneurial ecosystem; from creating a collaborative environment and strong infrastructure, to supporting and nurturing its talent across various prominent sectors, the country is cementing its place as a central innovation hub in the region. 

The country's governments and leading players are encouraging entrepreneurship by placing foundations for up-and-coming entrepreneurs to network, turn their ideas into reality and embark upon their venture journey. They are also taking a proactive approach to push current entrepreneurs to think outside of their comfort zone and take up several incentives/packages to help them expand and grow, whilst also strengthening the ecosystem overall - we have witnessed multiple entities such as Sheraa and DFF offer attractive stimulus packages to help them thrive during the current climate. Similarly, accelerators such as Hub71 and Dtec play a key, critical, and supportive role in helping to boost the country's startup space. 

Despite the current climate, the UAE has seen sizeable deals take place this year; of the top 5 highest funded UAE startups, 2 account for the top 5 funded in the region overall this year - from both regional and international investors, reflecting the trust in the country's ecosystem and reinforcing that it is an attractive destination for both startups to set up & scale too and foreign investors to invest in.


Discover more than 2,800 UAE-based startups on MAGNiTT


Meet the 5 top-funded startups in the UAE so far this year: 

1. EMPG

The Emerging Markets Property Group (EMPG) owns and operates bespoke property verticals in emerging markets, primarily in the Middle East and South Asia. The group's flagship ventures are Bayut.com in the UAE, Zameen.com in Pakistan, and Bproperty.com in Bangladesh.

With a $150M Series E round successfully raised this year, EMPG secures the top spot for the highest-funded UAE-based startup. 


2. Kitopi

Foodtech startup Kitopi stands for Kitchen Operation Innovation. Their managed cloud kitchen network enables food brands to expand their delivery reach without needing to expand their kitchens – Kitopi provides necessary infrastructure and software with minimal capital and time expenditure. 

Kitopi currently runs kitchen networks in New York, London, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia with more than 1200+ members of staff.

Towards the top of the year, Kitopi raised its Series B $60M round.


3. SellAnyCar.com

SellAnyCar.com is a Middle Eastern car buying service that offers free and instant online car valuation and inspection. Customers can purchase a car within 30 minutes, pay immediately, and take care of all the paperwork. Whatever the make, model, age, or condition – SellAnyCar.com will also, of course, buy any car.

Similarly, in February 2020, SellAnyCar.com successfully raised its $35M Series C round


4. Pure Harvest Smart Farms

Pure Harvest Smart Farms is a UAE-based, technology-enabled agribusiness start-up focused on local, sustainable cultivation of premium quality fresh fruits & vegetables sold year-round at affordable prices versus comparable quality imports. They develop and operate high-tech, climate-controlled farms to grow a variety of crops and sell products directly into the markets in which they operate. Pure Harvest is committed to resource efficiency and to overcoming climate challenges to affordably deliver premium quality fresh produce to the Middle East.

During the peak of the pandemic, Pure Harvest announced their Series A $20.6M fundraise


5. Sehteq

Founded in 2013, Sehteq is a Dubai-based digital health insurance startup offering low cost, consumer centric, and regulatory compliant health insurance plans to individuals, SME's and large groups. Sehteq own and operate 5 legacy health insurance providers and have now integrated all companies into a single operating platform and one system. 

In August 2020, Sehteq’s $20M Series A investment round was secured. 


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