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.


edtech recipe for happy kids (and parents)

edtech recipe for happy kids (and parents)

Our topic this month is slightly atypical. We focused on kids-centered startups and platforms from around the region that are trying to take the pressure off the parents’ shoulders while the travel and physical socializing options equal to almost zero.


P.S. some are for adult-friendly, too😎


P.P.S. in case you missed it, our super-visual fintech report is available here.


Spotlight on kids’ edtech and edutainment


The famous World Health Organization’s Wash Your Hands With Peppa Pig is just the tip of the iceberg of the edutainment content out there.


Activities and socializing are crucial for the development of kids and, Covid19 aside, the summer in our region is already a tough nut to deal with. Luckily for all of us, there is an increasing number of regional startups/platforms focused on kids (from toddlers to teenagers) and their education, entertainment and socializing.


We prepared for you a snapshot of what the region offers in terms of online learning, coding, gaming, socializing & activities, robotics & engineering and books & music:




Under online learning there are 3asafeer and Alhodhud which are dedicated to teaching Arabic. Cherpa provides courses for teenagers (12-18y) in self-driving cars, building smart cities and cyber security. Coded Minds offers practical tech-enabled iSTEAM subjects designed for both children (4-16y) and adults. And PraxiLabs offers a 3D virtual lab simulation of physics, chemistry and biology.


Coding covers Coded, which runs coding programs (and bootcamps) for high school students and older wanna-be coders, HelloCode, a platform where kids can learn the concepts of coding, and Hello World Kids, which operates HelloCode and teaches programming at eight different levels.


In the gaming field there are players such as GBarenaPlay3arabiRABABA GamesTamatem and The Stories Studio.


Socializing & activities include Join, a go-to guide for activities & clubs in Kuwait, Kiddo App, an education marketplace that recommends activities and classes in the UAE, Kidzapp, a platform listing activities for kids in the UAE and Egypt, Nowaday, a marketplace for kids clubs in Kuwait, and Play:Date, a UAE-based app that helps build your kids’ social circles.


The robotics & engineering field comprises Junkbot, where kids can make their own robots, and The Little Engineer.


Finally, books & music cover excellent platforms for audio books such as Dhad and Kitab Sawti. Book quizzes are available at QuizzitoKidzigo is a YouTube channel streaming fairytales. And those who love music can take lessons at I3zif.


TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) 
Our region is home to a growing number of edtech and edutainment startups and platforms tailored for kids (and not only them). We prepared an overview of the most interesting players in online learning, coding, gaming, socializing & activities, robotics & engineering and books & music.



Family Postcard


5 US stores and 15 minimalist jewelry brands


Mejuri opened its 5th retail store in the US located in Boston and it is one of the 15 best minimalist jewelry brands to shop now.



2 integrations


POSRocket announced 2 new integrations: one with iisal and the other Kitchen CUT. Someone’s on fire!


Forbes Top 10🌟
Dana Baki, the co-founder of MUNCH:ON, got listed as no4 in Forbes Middle East’s ‘Women Behind Middle Eastern Tech Brands’ top 10 list.



TruKKer‘s founder and CEO Gaurav Biswas had an interview with Arab News. Tamatem was featured in The National UAE. Also, iKcon was quoted in an article on the GCC’s cloud kitchen sector by Wamda.


And Shieldfy is now live on Product Hunt.


Latest Jobs @ArzanVC Family


  • Senior Software Engineer (Python) at POSRocket (Jordan)
  • Technical Support Astronauts at POSRocket (Egypt)
  • Back- and front-end developers at Zid (KSA)


what’s on the fintech menu, please?

what’s on the fintech menu, please?


Remember how we spoke last month about the rise of super apps in the Middle East? You definitely came across Careem’s latest announcement of their very own super app. Mind you; we don’t have a crystal ball in our office (yet). Future-telling is our natural talent 🔮


And in July, we are introducing to you super comprehensive visuals accumulating data from 240 local fintech companies in the MENA. This is only a tiny entrée of our upcoming fintech report.



MENA’s fintech riches


You heard it. We are living through the biggest global crisis since 1945. It will set the tone for the years to come. And maybe even decades. Some say that the crisis may lead to a new way of economic thinking. It most probably will. And to new (or enhanced) and more flexible business models.


We @ArzanVC do stress on the fact that proper regulatory scrutiny of the sector is essential least to say. If we nurture proactive, innovative regulators, we will be able to avoid situations like Wirecard. However, if we end up having strictly reactive regulators, then we will face similar problems in the MENA. So, the Wirecard story is a good lesson for our region.


There is certainly no fintech hype in the MENA; on the opposite—there is a need for it. This month, we dug deep to present you the stellar leaders as well as untapped areasand there are quite a few.


Recently, Fintech is MENA’s most active industry by the number of deals. Below is a snapshot from our research—we will be sending you our MENA fintech report in a few days’ time, so stay patient.


The first snapshot is a geographical overview based on an analysis of 240 fintech companies and platforms from the region. The biggest fintech footprint is in the UAE (88), followed by Saudi Arabia (33) and Egypt (28). However, there is a big gap between the UAE and the rest of the countries, especially those at the tail, who need to catch up—in other words, there is a lot of space to grow. For example, we see Bahrain to improve their ranking within the next year due to their proactive regulations which will attract fintech to the kingdom.




Secondly, it’s a must to look at the general functions of MENA’s fintech. We split the functions into 4 key areas: currency & transactionsfunding & capital marketsbusiness tools & management and financial marketplace. The findings conform to the global reality: currency & transactions are at the forefront of the fintech landscape and they represent nearly half of MENA’s fintech market (!).



The last snapshot shows categories that MENA’s fintech companies may fall into. Some companies belong to two or even more areas, so please remember that certain companies may be overlapping categories. Based on the functions graph above, it is clear that payment solutions are by far the top category, followed by alternative private equity and alternative lending. There’s a potential for more growth in areas such as fintech-focused cybersecurityreal estate or niche wealthtech such as retail investments, which have, for now, only few players.


TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) 
Fintech is the most active industry of the MENA by the number of deals. We present you four visuals classifying 240 local fintech companies based on geography, function and category. Payment solutions are at the lead of MENA’s fintech, followed by alternative private equity and alternative lending. While UAE’s fintech strength is profound, other Gulf countries like Bahrain, Qatar and Oman remain largely untapped.


Family Postcard


Keep on munchin’

Probably the biggest announcement of the past month is coming from MUNCH:ON – yes, that’s a new name of LUNCH:ON. You make us proud, guys. Mabrouk!

🎮 1.5 million downloads
Tamatem announced a strategic partnership with a game developer and publisher Tilting Point. Also, its latest published game “Fashion Queen” hit 1.5M+ downloads across 17 countries in the Arab world in a period of 3 months.




💰 1 billion Saudi riyals
Sales executed by stores that rely on Zid amounted to 1 billion Saudi riyals!

14 ports
TruKKer is now operating across 14 ports in the Middle East.

Qoyod offers free accounting material and lectures for students and teachers




Latest Jobs @ArzanVC Family


  1. Senior iOS Developer at Cartlow (Dubai, UAE)
  2. Front-end Engineer at POSRocket (Jordan)
  3. Sales Astronaut at POSRocket (Kuwait)
  4. Junior Sous-chef at iKcon (UAE)



And how’s the summer going with you?





 Is it June or July already? It’s getting harder to keep track of time…


Corona, go… and from this line until the end of the newsletter, we are going to discuss the business as usual. It’s not ignorance, it’s overcoming the present moment. Even more; it’s imagining the future. Our team put their heads together to share with you MENA’s M&A of tomorrow and the day after—maybe realistic, maybe not. If you can dream it…

 Will 2020 give MENA its first super app?


Having a dry-powder in your hands is definitely a wildcard in the current times. And while some valuations are dropping, this is a unique chance for some swift M&A deals for those who spot the right opportunity out there. So, perhaps, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the tech M&A activity reached the highest levels since 2015. We are not even halfway into 2020 and the ‘Big Five’ (i.e. Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft) has already announced 19 M&A deals, out of which 5 belong to Apple alone. The competition in the tech sector is definitely weighty.


 Where does ArzanVC’s Team see the biggest potential for M&A? Remember that we don’t attempt to imply here that companies within the below sectors need some sort of saving. After all, 2020 is already poised for M&A and we see it as a good tool in general.


While we are witnessing more vertical M&A in MENA, Eyad argues it’s yet too early for such moves. He thinks that it still makes more sense to have horizontal rather than vertical deals. The first step could be an in-country M&A that would gradually consolidate smaller players into one bigger platform. Many MENA startups—no matter how big—do need more global scale to make themselves attractive enough to international investors. Laith, on the other hand, suggests that this may be the right time for ride-hailing companies to enter new verticals. And Hasan thinks that COVID-19 made startups realize their weak points, hence M&A activity might be used to elevate those weak points and emerge stronger. 



1. food delivery/e-commerce – food delivery platforms are the no1 place to go to right now. While some well-established food delivery players may be offering a wide variety of food delivery services, they may want to focus on specific outlets to increase the scope of their offering.

2. ride-hailing –ride-hailing companies may consider entering new verticals, out of which logistics (delivery, parcel delivery) or even food delivery appear as plausible options to increase the startups’ growth potential. While ride-hailing may have been paused for a moment, these new segments can provide the companies with a better balance and a new impetus in general while making use of the existing assets and brand name.


3. fintech/payment processing – many POS SaaS platforms can be ready for a merger in order to consolidate their footprints. We see the potential especially in the Gulf area.




4. health tech – given the boom in online mental health services, general health platforms could consider acquiring specific platforms with a niche focus on certain areas such as online therapies.


5. copy-paste startups – many of the startups we have in MENA are basically concepts that were initiated in developed markets and regional entrepreneurs simply copied them. Sectors like grocery delivery, e-commerce or fintech are a playground for a lot of startups that practically do the same thing but each in their own respective country, which represents, in global terms, a very small market. By forming one regional player, they would not only increase their loyal customer bases but also unite into a fairly massive regional platform. Sounds good enough, right?


There is another concept that Hassan El-Keyi pointed out: the possibility of the first super app in MENA. There already exist few semi-super apps, which are apps offering various services in different segments such as transport, food delivery and, for example, a mobile wallet.


And how does he envision the first MENA super app coming to life? Well, most probably a well-established international super app like the Chinese WeChat or possibly a US counterpart would enter the MENA market through mobile carriers, mobile wallets and semi-super apps in general. In the East-West dilemma, China appears to have more experience in building super apps (e.g. combining e-commerce/messaging with mobile payments) than the US. Exciting least to say.


Imagine a well-established telecom operator or ride-hailing business acquiring a digital payments startup. Or a regional retail giant acquiring a retail tech startup. Or an offline hypermarket consolidating the digital grocery market. Or a major pharmaceutical company getting their hands on a health tech startup…


P.S. If you have a minute, tell us your personal M&A dreams.


The word of the COVID-19 crisis is adaptability. Business areas such as groceries delivery, online ed-tech, streaming and online comm platforms are at low risk, while ride-hailing, essential e-commerce and logistics are at medium. High risk zone entails of travel e-commerce, booking apps and non-essential e-commerce. But we must not forget that the survival of each and every business depends on how flexible it is to adapt and withstand the crisis. 

 Family Postcard



Forbes published a feature on Mejuri’s mastership of disrupting the jewelry industry. Read CEO Noura Sakkijhas’ insights here. 


🍕🌮🍜+🤍 = voucher
PointCheckout has launched initiative in partnership with food tech partners to support UAE restaurants. Pick your fav restaurant, buy a gift voucher and spend it when they reopen.

State of social media in 2020
Crowd Analyzer released its famous State of Social Media Report for 2020. Want to know the latest industry insights, social media trends and how to better connect with your audience? Download a free copy 


🚛 TruKKer+Saferoad

TruKKer and Saferoad Information Technology signed in a new partnership agreement to provide joint services and make Saudi road freight even more efficient and safe.


Latest Jobs @ArzanVC Family

  • Senior Software Developer at Cartlow (Dubai, UAE)
  • VP of Engineering at POSRocket (Jordan)
  • Digital Growth Hacker at Repzo (Jordan)
  • Global PR Manager at Swvl (Dubai, UAE)
  • Graphic Designer at Swvl (Egypt)  




Don’t stop dreaming.








sailing the rocking boat

sailing the rocking boat

Do you already see the sun rays that pierce through clouds after every storm?

They are always there, waiting for us 🌤️

And with that in mind, we reached out to a couple of founders to check on how they’re sailing through the rough corona seas. Last month we analyzed the overall endurance of business sectors, and today we will dive deeper to see how startup founders think, how their businesses adapted and what they can teach us.

More good news from ArzanVC’s Family will follow. Hold on tight to your boat’s helm! 

Copy the way I cope

Crises are part of life. They force us to think, rethink and make things better. It’s a rule that crises always give rise to something good. Even John F. Kennedy said: “When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters—one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.” And that’s what we @ArzanVC really believe in.

But what do founders believe in? We asked them. We were in touch with founders from multiple sectors—Algodriven (automotive tech), Almentor (edutech), Teela (essential e-commerce), The Luxury Closet (non-essential e-commerce), Tons (groceries e-commerce) and ViaVii (travel e-commerce)—and these are their insights and words of advice:

Adapt. Act quickly. Innovate. Whenever possible, all teams opted for working remotely, as the rest of the world did. Some of the founders experienced unprecedented demand, while others had to find alternatives to delivering their offering. Algodriven had to fast track new features to enhance their products and offered extended payment terms. Similarly, Almentor had to customize new products to manage the very high demand for the e-learning services. Teela saw it as an opportunity to expand and grow the market share. Tons chose to control the number of orders and slowly grow the capacity while onboarding new stores. The Luxury Closet made sure to implement a healthy supply and demand and stress-test financials. ViaVii was the first to launch online authentic cultural and artistic experiences, which gave them a leverage over international competitors. “We translated going into self-quarantine to a fun, entertaining and educational experience,” said ViaVii.



What are the most important attributes of a startup right now? Speed. Some founders believe that this is a unique opportunity for startups as many governments and corporations realized that it’s startups who can help solve nation-wide problems. Or world-wide. Empathy and communication are also crucial. “We’ve tried to engage all our stakeholders, from employees, to customers and investors so that we can work through the situation together,” explained Algodriven. “Establishing clear communication will help businesses win people’s confidence,” added The Luxury Closet. Teela thinks that having a vision is the key: how do you envision your business after the crisis? If implementation is slowing you down, an alternative route, according to ViaVii, can be a beta.

And the founder’s personal advice? We all have to keep our heads above the water level and stay positive, but don’t forget to always plan for the worst. Countries around the world have started lifting their restrictions. According to Tons, “companies who endure this situation will be more resilient and valuable going forward.” But “don’t jump on any opportunity and lose your original path. Maybe you’re benefiting now because you built the infrastructure to serve the right model, so stick to your model and don’t lose focus with the temporary, and maybe distracting, market needs,” warns Almentor. Teela has another view: “Maybe it’s the time to start a new venture, launch a product or a brand. And while people are staying home, they’re willing to try any product that is delivered to them.”

Who knows; maybe now is the right time to make your big move! Plan well and execute by day.

TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) 
We were in touch with the founders of Algodriven, Almentor, Teela, The Luxury Closet, Tons and ViaVii. According to them, the current times are favoring those who act quickly, innovate, customize and stress-test. What matters is speed, empathy, communication and vision. And don’t just jump on any opportunity out there. Plan well and execute by day.

 Family Postcard

ArzanVC’s family post office was very busy the past month and we couldn’t be any prouder!

Our Eyad AlBayouk participated in an online discussion by Qoyod (April 16th), giving advice on how to invest during corona times.

LUNCH:ON has partnered up with Gulf For Good to allow all the app user to donate to children in Nepal, Tanzania, Uganda, Peru and Lebanon and keep them fed, hydrated and educated.

Swvl has collaborated with Egyptian Food Bank (EFB) to support day laborers during the holy month of Ramadan.

Meanwhile, Repzo is offering Jordan’s supermarket, cafe and restaurant owners their very own application where customers can order their fav food, drinks and meals safely and securely from their homes.


UAE’s iKcon introduced various additional safety measures, including an additional layer of protective plastic packaging for all deliveries. Also, all bike riders are no longer allowed to enter iKcon premises to keep them separated from the in-house staff.

And finally, with all the teaching/learning happening online, Reportcard’s student CRM with an integrated online collaborative classroom becomes definitely handy! Reportcard also hosted a webinar on “Teaching Online with Zoom”.


 Latest Jobs @ArzanVC Family

 Those of you who recently had to downsize your company workforce, don’t hesitate to contact us and we will help your former employees to find a new job in other startups.

 Rehydrate during the night and stay positive. Better times are just around the corner.


MENA startups vs. black swan

MENA startups vs. black swan

No Fool’s day this year.

If you’re reading this on your phone, at least we took you away from your laptop cameras and back-to-back online meetings.

We decided to have a look at the endurance of businesses during these tough times. There are numerous businesses that are doing pretty well right now, to the point that they can’t meet the demand. (And we are not referring to the producers of toilet paper.)

We will also bring you some good news from ArzanVC’s Family. Because what the world needs right now is more good news.

 Black swan is a test of adaptability 

You heard it. We are living through the biggest global crisis since 1945. It will set the tone for the years to come. And maybe even decades. Some say that the crisis may lead to a new way of economic thinking. It most probably will. And to new (or enhanced) and more flexible business models.

 The word of this crisis (and any crisis in fact)—whether for us citizens who have to abide by the rules and restrictions of our governments or for the companies and businesses in our local and international environments—is adaptability.

 And who can adapt best? The businesses that are flexible. We have entered a work-at-home economy, which favors companies that can come up with solutions no matter if the life moved out from offices to our dining tables and living rooms.

 We are noticing uniquely innovative and collaborative actions, with many businesses shifting their modus operandi to adapt to the market demands. This black swan event definitely favors businesses that possess strong organizational agility and alignment. And above all, online players clearly have a top leverage right now.

 In the diagram below, we have included a few examples of local companies (MENA) next to their sectors.

 Disclosure: Some of the companies belonging to the high risk zone of the diagram might not really be affected negatively if they are able to adapt.

 We placed the restaurants delivery platforms into the low-to-medium risk zone. These companies would be expected to do great right now, but the curfew that is set by some governments puts a restriction on when the orders can be made. Customers may also think twice of the extra expenses (cooking at home may be cheaper), and the issue of hygiene during food preparation could also be of concern given the pandemic. 

 Why is ride-hailing at medium risk? Passenger rides are down (for example, they equal 0 in Kuwait). However, if the business model is flexible, the companies can wait things out. Plus, IntiGo (Tunis) is now providing grocery delivery and concierge services, and Lyft and Uber are also considering the same and medical supply. 

Essential e-commerce at medium risk while non-essential e-commerce is at high risk because the consumer choices have been primarily redirected to necessities like staple goods. Yet shopping for home gym equipment, books, toys and games may make a good impact.

We also think that social media may be little squeezed due to decline in advertising spending. Though the current user’s usage is massive.

On the contrary, communication & teleconferencing tools (vs. in-class teaching, office meetings etc.) are booming. WFH is safe and it reduces employers’ costs. Many Gulf countries lifted bans on Zoom, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams and others. Slack shares jumped up by 26% this year, while Microsoft Teams’ DAUs reached 44 million (vs. 20 million in November). And despite the rising demand, Zoom’s call quality has not degraded!

As we are now embracing e-baskets over regular trolleys, online grocery delivery platforms face a doubled or tripled surge in online orders. Additional onboarding of thousands of shoppers and support staff is a new trend as well as safer and contactless delivery procedures. The increase in demand is unprecedented yet definitely a “good” problem to have right now!

And we cannot forget the crucial role of online streaming platforms – movies, series and podcasts alike – that are giving us and our kids a huge helping hand during these quarantine and self-isolation times. In fact, there is so much streaming that the providers had to reduce the quality to SD (primarily in Europe) and ask people to be more data-spending conscious. By the way, Disney+ launched in Europe in the best time possible!

Although this unprecedented growth of new customers and service users may cease once the crisis is behind us, we believe that it will ultimately change certain consumer habits. Just notice the growth of the online grocery stores: many of them gained the trust of their customers only thanks to COVID-19. And that trust won’t be temporary!

Is this the new normal? Will we see more online conferences, bigger online grocery orders and cloud kitchens rivaling the conventional cooking outlets? (Hopefully; we made a recent investment in one cloud kitchen start-up.)

The truth is, many of us desire to have 24/7 goods and services, and the crisis has only pointed out that our day-to-day actions and transactions do not necessarily require in-person, physical presence.

📣Call-out to founders: Share with us how you are adapting your business to the crisis. We would like to include your stories in our next newsletter.

TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) 
The word of the COVID-19 crisis is adaptability. Business areas such as groceries delivery, online ed-tech, streaming and online comm platforms are at low risk, while ride-hailing, essential e-commerce and logistics are at medium. High risk zone entails of travel e-commerce, booking apps and non-essential e-commerce. But we must not forget that the survival of each and every business depends on how flexible it is to adapt and withstand the crisis.

 Family Postcard

Flexxed up

Flexxpay has raised another pre-series A investment.


 Cartlow has secured a six-digit USD figure in its first round of funding from Arzan VC, Vision Ventures and a group of angel investors.

And Lunch:on now provides free & contactless home delivery of its 25AED lunches from 200+ restaurants.


Latest Jobs @ArzanVC Family

 Corona Essentials

  • If they can survive 1 year in the space… notes on self-isolation.
  • Feeling anxious? Snapchat launched a Here for you tool.
  • Once you’re done with Zooming and Slacking for today, throw a Netflix party!

    Black swan, it’s about time you fly away!
    And the rest of us—let’s try to do WFH and social distancing for a little longer.