One bounced cheque, one big crash. 39 years ago and now?

One bounced cheque, one big crash. 39 years ago and now?

The Magnificent Nine,The Cavaliers… ever heard of them? Well, they didn’t star in a Western film. Rather a Gulf reality show of early 1980s.


I’ll give you a hint: one bounced cheque would lead to a collapse of the third largest capital market in the world at that time.


The Souk Al-Manakh crash. Nearly 4 decades ago, but its notorious story continues to provide very important lessons. Especially when it comes to today’s overvaluations.



📣 📣 📣


We got a super exciting announcement: we are launching Seed_2021 with $2.5 million up for grabs in 2021! 🤑


If you’re from Saudi, register your team and book your slot. We begin on March 7 🔥






The fate of the most popular casino in the Arabian Gulf


Hollywood or not, the Magnificent Nine of Kuwait were big stars. They allegedly accounted for $55 billion (some say 60) in cheques that proved worthless.


Let’s rewind back to the beginning.


In the late 1970s, Kuwait was the Switzerland of the Arabian Gulf. The new-found wealth of that era (due to oil crises and rising oil prices—and incomes) led to a new-found appetite for investment.


Boursa, the official stock exchange of Kuwait, was founded in 1977 and it laid down strict listing rules for companies. A year later, as a result of the existing stocks scarcity, an air-conditioned parking garage was turned into an informal market for new, innovative stocks. It became known as Souk Al-Manakh. Or the place of unparalleled stock speculation.


Souk Al-Manakh (source: MIT Library)


Unlike at Boursa, the participants at Souk Al-Manakh could trade in shares of unregulated foreign companies. At least 46 local and 38 foreign companies traded their shares there. The government permitted it as long as it ensured that this informal exchange was isolated from the formal financial system. Yet, a perfect isolation was impossible: many individuals took up loans from banks to finance their trades at Souk Al-Manakh. More so, rising oil prices subsequently increased the prices of Souk stocks, and the money from the region rushed into Kuwait.



The financing needs of the Souk were met by spot purchases of stocks by forward postdated cheques. The premiums were reaching up to 400% of the initial stock value. Moreover, these cheques would often mature in a year time. So, in the meantime, they’d be used to buy more stock and thus acted as money. The collateral was the future delivery of a stock (whose price was continuously on the rise). No bank balance was required; the whole transaction was based on mutual trust between the traders as well as their firm belief that the stock prices wouldn’t stop climbing. In fact, shares were doubling by hour. No wonder that one of the Magnificent Nine allegedly bought $14 billion in stock.


The traders simply assumed these cheques could never be defaulted. And if anything bad really happened, everyone counted on the Kuwaiti government to save them like they did in 1977.


By 1982, Souk Al Manakh became the third largest stock market in the world, topped only by the US and Japan.


Yet the price of oil was on a sharp decline in early 1982, which negatively impacted the value of the Souk. People were expecting a market correction…


… until one bounced cheque triggered its unavoidable crash in August 1982. People hurried to cash out their cheques – in vain. The created wealth was fictional. 29,000 worthless outstanding cheques with a total value of $93 billion.



There were over 350 bankruptcies (in the region’s perspective, this was a large number). All Kuwaiti banks except for one became insolvent and the government stepped in and bailed them out (amongst other rescue measures). The financial disruption that followed lasted more than a decade (then it was superseded by another disruption—the Iraqi invasion).


Souk Al-Manakh serves as an excellent example of a speculative craze. It was a place of too much money chasing too few actual investment opportunities.


The Souk was an unprecedently overvalued market with barely any tangible value. Billions of Kuwaiti Dinars were invested into companies with little assets and profits—so-called paper companies. Only about half of the listed companies produced annual reports. Some firms were purely fictional.


Souk Al-Manakh was innovative and it incited a rapid change, but the massive injection of liquidity only skyrocketed the value of many small, unpromising companies as if they were healthy, profiting business giants.


Overvaluations are dangerous and the resulting fall can be instantaneous, sharp and painful. Let’s watch out. (Though, it seems, the mankind can never completely learn from the past lessons of market collapses.)


TL;DR (too long; didn’t read)  
Souk Al-Manakh was short-lived informal stock market in Kuwait (1978-1982), which grew as sharply as it collapsed. Its story reminds of the dangers of unregulated stock playgrounds, lack of data, stock speculations and, of course, greed. Massive injections of liquidity and resulting overvaluations can have shattering consequences.



Family Postcard  


New App on the block


What started as PointCheckout’s Covid relief product for SMEs is now ThePayLink App, a way for small and micro businesses to accept online payments.


Say bye to e-waste


Cartlow is helping
reduce the e-wastein alignment with UAE Vision 2021, which set a target of diverting 75% of municipal solid waste away from landfill.



Flying to the moon


POSRocket’s Chief Executive Astronaut Zeid Husban was questioned about his entrepreneurial endeavors. Read the interview here.


Trend takeaways


CrowdAnalyzer released a report on 2021 social media trends. Download it here.



Innovating management consultancy


SubsBase appeared on The Startup Pill’s list of 101 Best Management Consultancy Startups.




Latest Jobs @ArzanVC Family


  • Product Manager a MUNCH:ON (Dubai)

  • Product Manager at POSRocket (Amman)

  • eCommerce (Digital) Performance Marketing Manager at Cartlow (Cairo)

  • SRE Senior Software Engineer II at Swvl (Cairo)

  • Front-end Developer at Zid (Riyadh)

  • Multimedia Designer at Tamatem (Amman)




Ready for Seed_2021?



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WANTED: startup IPOs in the Middle East

WANTED: startup IPOs in the Middle East

Hope you stepped into 2021 with the right foot.
January is nearly over, so we will go directly to the heart of the matter: why are there no IPOs in our region? And what should be done so we have more of them?
We got a lot of startups with a small market cap and consolidation of the market through acquisitions is nowadays trendier than IPOs. Creating one unified startup market across the region could be a solution.



Middle East vs. startup IPOs


Globally speaking, startup IPOs definitely didn’t take any sick leave last year. On the contrary—it was a wild ride: Airbnb, Snowflake, DoorDash… Well, the 3 biggest tech IPOs ever happened in 2020. Compared to 2019, last year brought a strong IPO flurry. To be followed by more flurry in 2021. Why?


There are countless tech companies spread across many sectors and industries, each offering a solution to a problem. Globalization and digitization are their driving forces. As a result, their growth can’t go unnoticed by investors.


What’s happening on the international scene is that many tech startups are receiving higher valuations than they would have in the past and if they remained private. Investor confidence is there and the perceived risk is small. For now.


When it comes to the regional IPOs, Saudi food delivery startup Jahez is planning to go public this year. Still, I think it’s fair to say that our region is rather failing at incubating and nurturing business giants. So, here’s the puzzle to kick off this year: how come we don’t have (startup) IPOs in the Middle East?


Let’s look at the puzzle piece by piece:


  • Age matters. Most of our regional tech startups are simply too young to go public.

  • Type of ownership.Family-owned businesses constitute a big part of the private sector in the region… and they prefer to remain private.



    • Internal governance. Startups must be well-structured and provide immaculate and transparent reporting. They must be able to handle the demands of going public.

    • Adequate management. International investors have a certain standard for who should be in the company management and what kind of education/experience these individuals should possess.

    • Market outreach. If we consider our region as one whole market, it is still very fragmented which negatively impacts the startups’ abilities to scale up. Including regional stock markets in international indices will help provide the required exposure.

    • Regional politics & economy. Political instability and unclear economic planning push international investors away.

    • Profitability. Though IPOs by unprofitable companies (such as Uber or Airbnb) are nowadays very common, many regional markets around the Middle East doesn’t allow listing unless the business achieved profitability.

    • It’s expensive. Right now, there is so much capital available at cheaper rates that opting for an IPO may simply not be worth it for the business.

    • Illiquidity in secondary markets. The very low liquidity in existing secondary markets in the MENA may deter investors to invest in companies that plan to list in those markets.

    • Regulators & responsibilities. There is a lack of benefits when listing companies due to the ongoing and growing burdens/responsibilities that listed companies have to go through. Plus, headache from regulators. Panadol won’t fix that. (P.S. That’s not to say that our local regulators are stricter than their international counterparts.)



    • Protecting secrets. When listing and going through the required reporting process, startups’ details such as their “secret sauce” are exposed and competitors can take advantage of this…


Healthy IPOs will start happening in the Middle East more often if we (and our governments) allow ourselves to nurture and support companies that address local/regional problems and needs. And we got plenty of such companies.


A possible solution are small cap IPOs—IPOs of companies with a relatively small market cap ($50m – $1bn). The profitability requirement should not be adhered to, since many of the tech startups are focused on growth until scale is achieved (only then profitability arrives). Many investors want to invest when those startups are at the hyper growth. More risk, more return. For all that, we need to educate investors and show the opportunities in the listed companies.


A MENA small cap market would bring startups from around the region in one place, thus creating one unified startup market for all MENA countries where it would be easy for investors to invest. There would be a good volume of startups (options to invest in) and investors would be not only local but regional. What do you say?


TL;DR (too long; didn’t read)  
We see a lot of startup IPOs internationally but barely any in the Middle East. How come? This is an emerging market with startups of a small market cap. Also, there is so much available capital that going public is a very expensive option compared to other sources of liquidity. However,promoting small cap IPOs as well as creating one unified startup market across the region could finally bring some IPO flurry into the Middle East.



Family Postcard  


👏 for Qoyod


Qoyod closed $2.1M Series A investment by Merak Capital and other investors.


Largest-ever venture-debt deal


TruKKer secured $10M venture debt from Silicon Valley’s Partners for Growth (PFG). This is described as the largest-ever venture-debt in the Middle Eastern tech history.



Hello from Lebanon


To meet a 10-fold increase in demand for its services, FlexxPay launched itsTelesales Center in Lebanon.



Toronto’s top fashion


Mejuri appeared on the listof top fashion companies in Toronto.


Loyalty is priceless


Gameball discussed how loyalty & rewards apps help create customer retention.





Latest Jobs @ArzanVC Family


  • Group Finance Manager at TruKKer (Dubai)

  • Product Manager at Crowd Analyzer (Cairo)

  • HR Recruiter at iKcon (Dubai)

  • Senior iOS Developer at POSRocket (Amman)

  • Technical Support Engineer at Swvl (Cairo)

  • QA Specialist at Tamatem (Amman)






Happy and healthy from ours to yours!




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Popping bubbles in 2021

Popping bubbles in 2021

At last, 2020 is at its close (sigh). There are many ways to describe the last 12 months but let’s stay diplomatic—they were very eventful.
On the bright side, all that happens to us—good or bad—is an opportunity to learn and grow. We just have to grasp it. And that’s no cliché.
We @ArzanVC got together to detect the weak points of the startup & VC ecosystem in the Middle East. We present them to you as bubbles



Bubbles of overvalued rounds and entrepreneurial hearts can be dangerous


2020 served us many startup surprises with new winners as well as losers. Some companies found out they had been operating in a bubble that was meant to burst either way—be it for a failing product-market-fit or bad unit economics.


Well, it’s no secret that the startup ecosystem in the Middle East faces its own bubbles. And these bubbles are very much related to the local economic (and so political as well as social) realities of the region. So this is no critique—our bubbles have been created causally; by the law of cause and effect.


First: easy funding money. There is too much of the cake available for startups to grab. While those of you who just said “Hold on, that’s a good thing, isn’t it!” – no, it’s not. There are way too many funding options in the Middle East and sourcing money is the least problem for the local startups. National funds, business funding, family funding… —you name it. However, the kind of funding from developmental investors often comes with restrictions (i.e. invest in a specific country), which may inevitably damage the startups as well as investors. There is also an imbalance between the amounts of funding and the (limited) availability of startups. And this is where our major bubbles mark the beginning of their life.



…. bubbles of unrealistically large valuations.

The region’s startup pool is still not that big so there’s high competition among the startups and hence the valuations they seek are higher. Yet the traction doesn’t always meet the next round valuations as promised. And that’s a problem. Overvalued rounds are becoming a forte of many startups in the Gulf area.

Our principal Eyad believes that the region’s structural changes are long overdue. For example, while KSA has been steadily focused on enabling private enterprise (and startups) over the past 3 years, Kuwait lags behind and this is a structural disadvantage that Kuwait needs to better address at the policy level. The overvalued rounds don’t necessarily mirror some of these structural challenges.

Meanwhile, our analyst Mohanad says that investors are to be blamed for this situation and they should start caring more about the numbers.

It is our job as investors to do our proper and reasonable due diligence, right?



Well, take an example of Kuwait, where the investors’ actions turn troublesome sometimes. The common investors here are family offices who see and value startups as a private equity opportunity rather than venture capital. And that’s not doing any good to the ecosystem. But beware, there are also other kinds of bubbles around us.


…. bubbles of giving all your heart into your startup.


In theory, the order of things is: idea, …….. funding. In our region, it’s sometimes the other way around. Our analyst Asia reminds that certain business ideas get defended no matter if they’re worth it or not (note: being stubborn is not always a bad trait.) That’s when a proper personal market research is preferred over outsourcing feasibility studies to third parties (which is usually very pricey, too). Also, some founders have great networks (while some still don’t network at all), but we shouldn’t forget that our networks not necessarily translate to actual users. Friends and family are not the only users you’d like to have on board in the long-run.


There are also those among us that prefer to remain part-time entrepreneurs with another full-time job. Perhaps they are not incentivized to shift to full-time jobs in their own startups because they think it’s simply not worth it for them. Perhaps they don’t want to lose the high package they’re receiving in the full-time job. However, this prevents them from fully dedicating to their own business, which could suggest they’re not willing to take much risk… Well, if you want to be an entrepreneur, you must give your heart in. All of it. And take good care of your numbers before they turn into bubbles.

TL;DR (too long; didn’t read)  
Bubbles of overvalued rounds are increasingly more common around the Middle East, and especially the Gulf area. Their origins lay in too many available funding options and a still-quite-limited startup pool. Structural policy changes as well as reasonable due diligence on behalf of investors are some of the ways forward. The region also faces bubbles arising from the lack of knowledge and/or will in ensuring that startups are run and grown to their maximum potential.



Family Postcard  


$120,000 for scholarships


In 2020, Mejuripledged $120,000 to scholarships for black women and black non-binary people though the Mejuri Empowerment Fund.


FlexxPay in Bahrain

FlexxPay signed a cooperation agreement with Bahrain’s Al Salam Bank. This first-of-its-kind agreement will give employees and pensioners access to a portion of their earned income whenever they want.


50% off


Corporate clients of Riyad Bank can now receive 50% off on their subscription with Qoyod.


Where did you shop on Black Friday?

Crowd Analyzer

prepared a list of the most popular brands this season and the traction around them on social media in the Middle East.




MUNCH:ON’s Dana Baki was interviewed by Entrepreneur Middle East.



Latest Jobs @ArzanVC Family


  • VIP Business Development Executive at The Luxury Closet (Abu Dhabi / Kuwait / Riyadh)

  • Head of Operations at TruKKer (Cairo)

  • Product Manager KSA at MUNCH:ON (Saudi Arabia)

  • Android Developer at POSRocket (Amman)

  • Multimedia Designer at Tamatem(Amman)




See you next year!




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I have a (smart) farm in… the Middle East

I have a (smart) farm in… the Middle East

How many of you have ever considered investing in agritech? Let’s be honest—it’s definitely not that appealing compared to other sectors, partly because it’s too capital-intensive. Just recall the seed round of Pure Harvest, one of the best known agritech co’s in the region, which brought together 31 investors. Times have changed ever since.

Food security has become the region’s top priority and there hasn’t been a better time to look into the region’s agritech and its potential. Get your shovels ready 👨‍🌾

Farming is the new kid on the block (or the oldest?)


Globally, agritech funding has so far reached $4.1 billion in 2020 and it is poised to reach a new volume high. Agriculture is our future and it should be among the top funded sectors because its sustainability dictates our survival. The pandemic only further highlighted the region’s food insecurity and over-reliance on food imports. Why shouldn’t we be able to source the tomatoes for tonight’s fattouch from a farm few kilometers away rather than from another continent?


While the region possesses only 1% of the world’s fresh water, agritech offers a wide pallet of solutions to tackle to local climate and conditions. Many institutions around the region have already recognized that securing domestic food production is a must: UAE created a post of the Minister of State for Food Security back in 2017, Kuwait’s KFAS is welcoming farm-to-table digital solutions, Bahrain wants to boost their hydroponic farming… Qatar’s local production of fruits and veggies reached almost 30% (up from 10% three years ago). Lebanon operates an agri-innovation hub Agrytech, Jordan has its HASSAD and Morocco recently launched Green Generation 2020-30 strategy. The region is getting pretty busy.


2020 saw the largest ever investment in an agritech company in the Middle East: Wafra’s $100 million commitment to Pure Harvest. The latter also recently secured a $35 million deal with Kuwait’s The Sultan Center to build a high-tech farm in Kuwait.


But Pure Harvest is only a seed in the MENA’s agritech field. Scroll down for an overview of our major agritech startups. They fall under diverse verticals, including controlled environment agriculture (CEA), organic fertilizers, drone planting and workforce management.



Egypt and UAE are currently the largest agritech markets of the region. UAE’s Madar Farms is set to build the world’s first commercial-scale indoor tomato farm using only LED lights. Falcon Eyes Drones Services (FEDS) has successfully demonstrated large-scale drone planting. 


In Egypt, Bea Mahsolk offers a platform for farmers to sell their produce. Schaduf is specialized in urban farming and green solutions. Baramoda helps farmers to maximize the efficiency of agricultural waste.


On the other shore of the Red Sea, Jordan’s Nestrom aids digitization of farm operations. Turtleponics designs aquaponic systems for homes. And Mushroom Box, as its name indicates, provides smart incubators for growing mushrooms with self-control. 


In Saudi Arabia, Desert Agriculture and Green Mast have the answer to the region’s climate and limited water resources: hydroponic farming tech. Red Sea Farms attempts to reduce the carbon and water footprint of the local food sector.


Tunisia’s MooMe collects data on dairy cows. Smart Bee has solutions for hive monitoring and so does Lebanon’s TheBeeHouse. LUXEED Robotics endeavors to develop a robot that would kill weeds in onion and lettuce lands.


In Bahrain, Nakheel tackles palm tree infestation with IoT. Qatar’s Agrico has developed sophisticated hydroponics systems. In Palestine, Agriotec offers precision farming systems and chemical-free production for small farmers..



TL;DR (too long; didn’t read)


Food insecurity and over-reliance on exports have prompted the region to look for home-grown agritech solutions that tackle the local conditions while delivering high quality produce at fair prices. Agritech is certainly becoming a popular investment. Most of the region remains underdeveloped and there is an immense potential in boosting the local-for-local food production.


Family Postcard


$2 million
Cartlow secured $2 million Pre-Series A Funding from Arzan VC, Vision Ventures and other investors. The company also launched a B2B model VASCART for retailers, brands and distributors.



Starring in Forbes again
Swvl, Trukker, Ikcon and Crowd Analyzer were listed in the Forbes’ 50 most funded startups of the Middle East. And Ikcon landed the cover of October 2020 issue.



Snap released a case study on Tamatem’s efficient growth and LTV.


5 years
Mejuri’s Noura Sakkijha reflects on the five years in, future and brand loyalty.


12 interns
Read about Gameball’s Summer Internship 2020, in which 12 undergrad students took part.

Latest Jobs @ArzanVC Family

  • HR Director at  iKcon (Saudi Arabia)
  • Global Market Launcher at Swvl (Dubai)
  • Senior R&D Engineer I at Swvl (Cairo)
  • Customer Success Manager at Crowd Analyzer (Riyadh, Cairo)
  • Software Engineer at POSRocket (Amman)




We can only wish.








Our local SaaSers are now growing faster. Thank you, Covid19

Our local SaaSers are now growing faster. Thank you, Covid19

SaaS is everywhere around us. This newsletter was sent to you by one – Mailchimp. You’ll maybe share it with your colleagues through another – Slack, Zoom or Gmail. Or you’ll WhatsApp it.

While many SaaSers in the west managed to hack their growth, our local SaaSers’ growth has always been sluggish for a number of reasons. Scroll down to read what the team @ArzanVC got to say about post-Covid19 SaaS in the Middle East.




Are our local SaaSers becoming fast-growers?


SaaS  in other words, subscription-based software as a service over the internet is not just about our personal use. Some say 86% of companies will be entirely SaaS-run by 2023.


During the rapid move towards everything remote in 2020, SaaS solutions have proved to be one of the easiest to adopt and roll out. Our colleague Asia agrees that the Middle East, too, has witnessed a higher-than-usual growth of SaaS as a result of the pandemic.


The topic we are tackling this month is whether our local SaaSers may be finally becoming fast-growers like their counterparts in the US and Europe.


A stereotype SaaS business would pursue rapid growth. This can’t be said of the SaaS startups in the Middle East. Not that they don’t have the potential; they do. But they can’t achieve scale very easily because the local SME market (for which most of them are built) is not yet big enough to embrace them all.


According to our colleague Mohanad, the number of SaaS startups in the region is increasing dramatically. Actually, SaaS startups appear as number 1 across all the industries in our pipeline. He says that SaaS startups tend to grow 6-7% MoM on average, but he adds that this is expected to change upwards given the pandemic. More SMEs have started to realize that the use of SaaS products is very important to running their business.


Kenneth Research asserts that the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) segment continues to hold the largest market share in the vertical segment, and the manufacturing segment will be growing at a significant rate in 2020-2023. However, Mohanad believes it is the retail SaaS that is really picking up, fueled by the new demand coming from stores and restaurants who are trying to go from offline to online. That’s why startups like Zid, Taker and Expand Cart are gaining a lot of traction recently. These startups allow retailers and/or restaurateurs to create their own e-commerce websites and apps with their own branding and customization, which reduces their reliance on Delivery Hero, Talabat and other online delivery platforms and saves them the commission they usually pay on every order.



On the other hand, banking and financial services continue to be restricted by the region’s tough regulations and so their potential remains quite suppressed.


Similarly to the retail SaaS, the education segment (e.g. Noon Academy, Ynmo, Praxilabs, Quizzito, etc.) is also experiencing a surge in demand and the same applies to the healthcare SaaS startups (e.g. Vezeeta, Altibbi, etc.). For example, Noon Academy recently launched in India and Pakistan. Earlier this year Vezeeta expanded to Kenya with Nigeria being the next move. The startup also partnered with Saudi STC to provide telehealth services to its employees.


Mohanad notes that one thing that can help SaaS products further expand in the coming period is that their cash burn rate is relatively lower than in the most of the other industries. In other words, SaaS startups can run on much lower costs. Another advantage is that if you have a good SaaS product, you can really sell it anywhere—most of the times you are not constrained by the area you are in. This brings us to the point that making sure your product-market-fit really fits is very crucial. You can have rapid growth but if your product doesn’t fit, you’ll lose your customers just as fast as you gained them.



Mastering content marketing (any educational content for that matter) plays a major role, too. Zid provides education (online courses) for its users in various e-commerce-related topics through its Zid Academy. Also, Altibbi’s “Ask about Coronavirus” hotline has been praised by H.M. Queen Rania for raising medical awareness among the public.


TL;DR (too long; didn’t read)  
Compared to the west, Middle East’s SaaS startups have always had a slower growth due to the small-sized local SME market. Covid19 prompted many SMEs to realize that SaaS products are essential to them. As a result, many SaaS segments, notably retail, education and healthcare, have witnessed an accelerated growth. Also, SaaS startups can run on lower costs, so their relatively low cash burn rate can also come handy in their expansion efforts.
Family Postcard


🥁 rebranding
Reportcard rebranded to
Classcard. Check out their new website!


2 stars in Forbes’ Top 10

TruKKer and Swvl got featured in Forbes’
list of top 10 Most-Funded Startups in the Middle East in 2020.


Top SaaS 👑

Crowd Analyzer was listed in SaaStock’s top SaaS & tech companies in the Middle East and Africa.


Instant commission

FlexxPaysuccessfully launched the “instant commission feature” for Zain KSA sales staff.


Meet Mejuri for Men

Mejuri debuts men’s jewelry offering by launching nine-piece collection for men as of October.


Latest Jobs @ArzanVC Family




Ready for the pumpkin season?




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relaxx your mind. now, not tomorrow.

relaxx your mind. now, not tomorrow.

We exited OnFleet with a higher than 4x return! Thank you @khalednaim for the exciting 4-year ride. We saw how the OnFleet team grew the company and overcame challenges and we wish them all the best in taking OnFleet to the next stage!

And we continue with the good news. Do you know we can now get our emotional states analyzed through our voice? Thank you, Halo by Amazon. This month we will focus on mental health startups. So… how’s your mind today?


Touch base: mental health startups


Covid19 gave us a cold shower of the many realities we neglected. Among them the simple fact that emotional and mental health is sometimes more important than the physical; or let’s say—the mental health is often described as the founding stone of the physical. If the mind is at peace, the body will follow.


Healthtech startups gained sky-high momentum thanks to Covid19 and a huge chunk of them are focused on mental well-being. But how big is the Middle East’s health tech footprint within the mental health field? Small but growing. Yes, there is the issue of stigma when it comes to mental illnesses, but the demand for online mental health services is increasing. Here are some examples of local startups within this field.




Shezlong (Egypt), the first online platform in the MENA where you can book anonymous online mental sessions, had a 31% increase in the number of therapy sessions bookings between February and March. They also recently secured a new investment to expand. Sympaticus (Lebanon) is an online psychotherapy and well-being platform with a prime focus on women.


Saudi Arabia’s Youpositive offers online coaching. There are also various platforms providing medical information and advice such WebTeb (Jordan) and Sohati (Lebanon). eTobb (Lebanon) is a medical Q&A platform while Altibbi (UAE) offers access to health answers from a network of doctors as well as live consults.

TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) 
Mental health is an essential field within healthtech that has grown on importance this year. We reviewed the region's local players providing online psychotherapy, life coaching and helpful information. And although there’s certainly room to grow, the region is moving in the right direction with more funding flowing towards online psychotherapy sessions.

Family Postcard




Cartlow is trending as the no.1 shopping app on the Google Play Store.

Luxury sustainable fashion + beauty tycoon

The Luxury Closet has raised an investment from Huda Beauty Investments (HBI).




iKcon has secured $10M funding since inception, including a recently closed pre-series A round of $5 million led by ArzanVC, AlTouq Group, Nazer Group and others.



Oprah shops here.
Mejuri in an >interview with Vogue revealed that their customers include Lizzo, Selena Gomez, Margot Robbie and Oprah Winfrey.


170 cities

At the request of the merchants, Zid’s network now covers more than 170 cities.



Latest Jobs @ArzanVC Family


  • Business Development Associate at FittiCoin (Egypt)
  • Sr Front-end Engineer at POSRocket (Jordan)
  • Sales Manager at TruKKer (Egypt)
  • Product Manager at Crowd Analyzer (Egypt)
  • Call Center Supervisor – Arabic speaking at iKcon (Dubai)



Take good care.