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SoftBank Group Corp. has made its first investment in a Saudi-based startup, partnering with a unit of the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund Sanabil to lead a $125M fundraise for customer communication platform Unifonic.
Founded by Ahmed and his brother Hassan Hamdan in 2006, Unifonic provides cloud-based communication tools to business customers and enables integration of text- and voice-based solutions via its powerful API platform. By combining cloud-based software, telephony APIs, and real-time data intelligence, Unifonic eliminates the need for costly hardware infrastructure and makes business communication simple, fast, and cost-effective.
2021 has been the year of major and Mega deals as recorded in our H1 2021 Venture Investment Reports and as recorded in H2 where most recently Egypt-based FinTech MNT-Halan raised a $120M in a funding round co-led by Apis Growth Fund II, Development Partners International (DPI), and Lorax Capital Partners. After recording only 1 Mega Deal across MENA, Turkey, and Pakistan in 2020, 2021 emerged with 2 Mega Deals in MENA (adding UAE-based Kitopi) and 4 in Turkey (3 closed by logistics solution provider and marketplace Getir and Gaming startup Dream Games.
As COVID-19 pushed businesses to adopt remote and proxy work models, businesses turned to these services to bridge the distance gap in their operations like sending one-time passwords or shipping updates to customers. The company processed 10Bn transactions last year, charging a small fee for every message it sends to customers. In light of this breakthrough investment in Unifonic’s journey, Co-Founder and CEO Ahmed Hamdan stated “Being able to attract one of the top international funds to invest in Saudi Arabia is a big milestone that will encourage more foreign direct investment to come into the digital and technology space. We will optimize to list on a global market that can provide the best valuation.”
Softbank seems to be keen on funding Unicorns and Decacorns in emerging venture markets, after co-leading investments in Dubai-based cloud kitchen startup Kitopi, and Turkey-based E-commerce startup Trendyol. This reflects highly on the position and potential of Unifonic as Faisal Rehman, Managing Partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers highlighted “Consumers and businesses are increasingly sophisticated in how they communicate digitally, but this has created fragmentation across multiple emerging channels. Unifonic’s technology manages this complexity into a single platform, enabling enterprise clients to form closer relationships with their customers. Our investment team on the ground in Riyadh has followed Unifonic for some time and we have witnessed first-hand the company’s progress in establishing significant market leadership in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi- based startup plans to utilize its newly acquired funds to expand its market in the Middle East and into Asia and Africa, and will also look at acquisitions in those regions to help it expand faster. Following their $21M fundraise 2 years ago, this is the type of breakthrough investment that will position Unifonic as a global player as Ahmed Hamdan concluded with a This raise is an important milestone in our journey, it will allow us to scale our offerings and expand our reach to enable more organizations to connect with customers reliably and effectively. Our team is our anchor and together we aim to continue this journey and serve our clients in the best ways possible."
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