Amazon Web Services (AWS) today announced the opening of AWS Middle East Region in Bahrain. The company that now has 22 geographic regions around the world had announced its plans to launch a Middle East Region in Bahrain in late 2017, saying that it will be launched in early 2019.
“Starting today, developers, startups, and enterprises, as well as government, education, and non-profit organizations can run their applications and serve end-users from data centers located in the Middle East, as well as leverage advanced technologies from the world’s leading cloud, to drive innovation,” said Amazon Web Services in a statement this morning. AWS Regions all around are composed of Availability Zones which are comprised of at least one data center and are located in different geographic locations with enough distance to reduce the risk of a single event impacting business continuity. For Bahrain, AWS has three Availability Zones at launch, the company said in a statement.
Andy Jassy, CEO, Amazon Web Services, commenting on the occasion, said, “The cloud has the chance to unlock digital transformation in the Middle East. Today, we are launching advanced and secure technology infrastructure that matches the scale of our other AWS Regions around the world and are already seeing strong demand in the Middle East for AWS technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, data analytics, IoT, and much more. We are excited to see how our cloud technology will provide new ways for governments to better engage with citizens, for enterprises to innovate for their next phase of growth, and for entrepreneurs to build businesses and compete on a global scale.”
AWS claims to have tens of thousands of customers in the Middle East & North Africa including startups (if we may call them that) like Anghami, Bayt.com, Careem, EKar, Fetchr, Jeeny, Mawdoo3, Property Finder, StarzPlay, and Vezeeta. Some of the enterprises using AWS services in MENA, according to the statement, include Al Tayer Group, Arab Banking Corporation (Bank ABC), Aramex, Bahrain Bourse, Bank Al-Etihad, Batelco, Emirates NBD, Flydubai, Gulf News, MBC Group, OSN, Seera Group, Union Insurance, Virgin Middle East, and many more. AWS is also being used by public sector organizations in the region, including Government of Bahrain’s Ministries, such as the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Information Affairs, Ministry of Labor and Social Development, and more.
Magnus Olsson, co-founder and Chief Experience Officer of Careem, that has been working with AWS since 2012, commenting on opening of AWS Middle East Region, said, “When we started building Careem, we knew that the ability to scale fast, and in a secure and reliable way, would be critical to our long term success. As one of AWS’s early adopters in the region, we have grown with them. With the opening of the new AWS Middle East Region, we will now be able to benefit from data centers with lower latency in the region.“AWS’s commitment to our region shows the enormous potential of the local technology scene and will be instrumental to the success of the new wave of startups to come. We look forward to having them as a strong contributor to the Middle East tech ecosystem,” he added.
Abdulla Qassem, Group Chief Operating Officer, Emirates NBD, one of the leading banking groups of the region, said, “Emirates NBD has been collaborating with AWS and taking advantage of AWS’s technologies and innovation practices to develop personalized, real-time banking experiences. The new AWS Middle East Region will allow us to further experiment and enhance our solutions as we continue to realize our vision of being the region’s most innovative financial services organization that is making banking more easy and intuitive for customers.”AWS today is also launching a new AWS Direct Connect location in Bahrain. Direct Connect enables AWS customers to establish a direct private network connection between AWS and their data center, office, or colocation environment. The company already has two AWS Direct Connect locations in the UAE.
Lebanon’s Basma, the digital dental startup secures US$1.2M Seed funding
Basma, the Beirut-based digital dental startup, secures a Seed round of US$1.2M and opens up access to simple and affordable orthodontics in the MENA region.
Basma is a direct-to-consumer healthcare brand that wants to give customers straighter and brighter teeth. It’s a digital health company founded on the belief that affordable dental care should be accessible to everyone.
According to their Founder and CEO, Dr. Cherif Massoud: “7 out of 10 people in the Arab world can benefit from straighter teeth. But we think that everyone deserves to smile confidently. Aligners are the best alternative to braces, by changing the distribution channel and putting everything online, Basma cuts the treatment cost by up to 65%. Patients are constantly connected to doctors on our advanced telemedicine platform and are able to receive the treatment kit that will have a series of clear custom fitted aligners, straight to their homes.”
“Basma understands the consumer desire to improve their smile discreetly and they have the tools to make it happen.” Their CEO adds: “Adults should not feel pressured to wear wired braces. They are looking for invisible braces that don’t affect their confidence and this is exactly what we can give them.”
Bassel Attieh, Chairman and Managing Partner of Cedar Mundi Ventures, says: “We see much appetite for HealthTech and cosmetics services in the Middle East, both from consumers and professionals. And the teeth aligner industry is only getting started here. We believe in Basma’s bright future, building on local entrepreneurial and tech talents, and leveraging internationally-acclaimed remote professional initiatives for and from the region.”
The funds will further push Basma’s tech base and fuel expansion in the MENA region.
Egypt competition watchdog approves Uber acquisition of Careem with conditions
Egyptian regulators have approved Uber’s $3.1 billion acquisition of regional rival Careem after agreeing to a set of commitments proposed by the U.S.-based ride-hailing service meant to reduce harm to competitors.
The Careem acquisition was announced in March after more than nine months of stop-start talks between the two companies, handing Uber a much-needed victory after a series of overseas divestments.
The deal is expected to close in January, depending on regulatory approval in various territories of which Egypt is among the most significant. Egypt, with a booming population seen swelling to 100 million, is the biggest in the Middle East for ridehailing services.
Careem will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Uber but will continue to operate as an independent brand with independent management.
“We welcome the decision by the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) to approve Uber’s pending acquisition of Careem,” a spokesman for Uber said. “Uber and Careem joining forces will deliver exceptional outcomes for riders, drivers, and cities across Egypt.”
Egypt’s Homemade Food Market Mumm Launches Meal Subscription Service For Companies
Egyptian food-tech startup Mumm has just added a meal subscription service called Mumm Office Club in Cairo to their line of services. Mumm’s kitchen-to-delivery online marketplace has been offering homemade food cooked by partners to users for over three years, but the Mumm Office Club sources a large variety of meals and different cuisines from central kitchens throughout Cairo specifically catered to companies.
Within their operations, Mumm partners with companies from a variety of sizes to offer ‘nutritious meals’ at a discounted rate to its employees, where both companies and employees can save up on costs and receive food on a daily or monthly basis. Once the company partners up with Mumm, their employees are allowed to subscribe to receive food on working day, pick the meals they receive daily or monthly, and have a free deducted from the employee’s salary or pay directly upon receiving.
After piloting last month with several companies varying in sizes, Mumm’s CEO Waleed Abdelrahman watched fellow business owners realise the difference ‘Mumm Office Club’ has made on the overall productivity of their employees in only a few weeks. “Across the board, the employers witnessed a general decrease in wasted office hours and the spread of a positive outlook on company culture,” says Waleed Abdelrahman, CEO and founder of Mumm.
Mumm Office Club is a comprehensive food programme offering over 15,000 unique dishes from a variety of international and Middle Eastern cuisines, giving employees full control over their daily orders by allowing them to set their own dietary restrictions and get information on the nutritional value of each meal. Since its official launch this month, Mumm’s new service managed to gather over 700 paying subscribers at 10 companies and startups ranging in size, including Swvl, Robusta, Harmonica, BasharSoft, and Bel using the subscription service.
Dubai halts Uber X and Careem’s Go ride options
Ride-hailing giant Uber and its UAE-based partner Careem have halted their cheapest ride options in Dubai, following a decision by the emirate’s transport authority. Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) decided to stop the Uber X service and Careem’s Go car service from September 1 after both pilot projects came to an end, the companies said in separate statements on Sunday, without providing reasons.
A spokesman from RTA said both “Uber X and Careem Go were introduced as short-term pilot e-hailing services for customers seeking an economy option. All this was done to compare and evaluate existing and new e-hailing services in the city and check on the feasibility of such technology and services in the market”.
Last week, Careem formed a partnership with the RTA to make more than half of the authority’s taxi fleet available to book through its app by mid-September. Careem will list all 10,000 RTA taxis on the app by early next year. Careem and the RTA created a joint venture company named Hala to operate the service, under which the former aims to forge other public sector partnerships.
“As a result [of the pilots with Uber and Careem], RTA decided to incorporate the entire fleet of over 10,000 taxis onto the platform,” RTA said in a statement to The National.
“This includes all the taxi franchise companies in Dubai through Hala, an economical e-hailing service. Other economical e-hailing services like Uber X and Careem Go, which operated as pilot, were thus requested to cease operations, with a set deadline over a few months ago.”
“Currently there are 5,500 taxis available through the Hala service with fares equivalent to taxis. These can be e-hailed or hailed on the street as well, with the expected time of arrival being under 5 mins. More taxis will be added in phases until the entire fleet is covered.” Careem rolled out its Go service to match the basic price of Dubai’s government-run taxis and to compete with then-rival Uber’s X services.
The Uber X product is billed as the cheapest option among other ride services provided by the San Francisco company. Other services such as Select, Black and XL are still available in Dubai on the Uber app and website. The Select service is a premium ride in high-end cars, Black is a premium ride in luxury cars and UberXL provides rides for groups of up to six people.
Uber has faced challenges in countries where taxi drivers have complained that the ride-sharing company was undercutting their fares and threatening to drive them out of business, leading to strikes and even lawsuits in some places. Uber agreed to buy Dubai ride-sharing rival Careem for $3.1 billion (Dh11.39bn) in March, in the largest technology deal in the Middle East so far, eclipsing Amazon’s $580 million acquisition of Souq in 2017.
Careem operates in 120 cities across 15 countries, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey.
RightDoors launched Dubai’s First No-brokerage platform and eases renting properties
Buying and selling of property has never been an easy process with paper work and cost involved in terms of time and money, it usually gets burdensome and that is exactly what Dubai-based startup RightDoors.com has decided to address this by simply charging a flat fee of Dh999 for all the process involved irrespective of property size or type.The portal allows tenant to book a viewing and allots dedicated property consultant who will conduct the viewing, handle all the negotiation, and all the rental process that needs to be done. Once everything is complete, the tenant can easily move-in to his/her new home. Landlords can list their properties for free on the portal. Once they register their property it instantly gets advertised on top property portals like Property Finder, Dubizzle, and Bayut. This increases the visibility of a landlord’s property, giving it higher opportunities to gain leads and potential viewings. Property Consultants would take care of every negotiation until the landlord’s property gets rented.
“Our company evolved from a simple property portal to a real estate service provider that offers affordable agency fees for a flat fee of Dh999. Paying hefty commission when renting any property is a headache that tenants have been bearing for the longest time. This is also a burden for landlords as their properties become difficult to get rented because of the big amount that tenants need to pay in commission. With this challenge at hand, we made it our goal to start a trend in the market and change the market practice of charging the standard 5 per cent commission,” said Zeeshan Imran, chief executive officer and founder, Right Doors.com. The startup – Right Doors – has been in the market since August 2018 and is successfully operating for 8 strong months. So far, the venture has invested a total of Dh1.2 million for development and building the operations of the company. “For the year 2019, our target is to raise funds which would be utilised to strengthen our brand in the market. It would also be utilised to reach landlords to register their properties. We are Dubai’s first commission-free real estate. We are focused on delivering quality services for an affordable and reasonable flat fee. The market practice that most estate agents do in Dubai is to charge 5 per cent commission when renting any property. We see this amount as a burden for tenants that’s why we decided to become a game-changer in the Dubai real estate rental market,” added Imran.
UAE-based on-demand delivery app One Click Delivery raises funding by MEVP
Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP) has made an undisclosed investment in Dubai-based One Click Delivery Services (1click2deliver.com), a last-mile delivery start-up enabling seamless delivery services from local businesses to the consumer’s doorstep. One Click has built a technology platform that allows it to connect drivers, point of sale and a call centre with businesses needing on-demand delivery. One Click’s platform powers businesses across different verticals, including food delivery, apparel, e-commerce, groceries, and parcel delivery, providing them with on-demand affordable last-mile delivery whereby the hassle and inefficiency of managing a fleet of drivers is eliminated. The entire delivery process is technology enabled, with a robust delivery management system featuring GPS locations tracking, route optimization and automated customer notifications.
“I am really excited about what we are building; we are solving the ‘last-mile’ logistics problem by providing a technology-enabled ecosystem solution, that connects businesses and drivers to a cloud platform, enabling smoother and seamless operations,” said Hassan Hallas, CEO & Co-Founder of One Click.One Click manages a rapidly growing fleet of drivers, and has to date delivered more than one million orders. The company is quickly gaining momentum powering the on-demand economy, growing at 36% month to month, and the founders are looking to expand to other cities in the GCC.
“The eCommerce market is growing substantially in the GCC market,” said Dr. Walid Moneimne, Executive Chairman & Co-Founder of One Click. “We are enabling the last mile delivery to eCommerce market by providing an end to end service to the customers.”
“We were impressed with what the One Click team has achieved in such a short period of time,” noted Walid Mansour, Partner and Chief Investment Officer at MEVP. “We believe that winning in the last-mile delivery space will require strong technology coupled with exceptional operational capabilities, that can make on-demand last-mile logistics economically viable; unlike other players in the space, One Click has a positive contribution margin.”
One Click will use the new capital to accelerate its growth plans, continue to build its team and further develop its proprietary technology.
Careem secures partnership with NBK to provide online payment system
The National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) has just signed an agreement with the transportation company Careem for a joint venture. NBK will provide an online payment system for car bookings of Careem users.
Careem, a UAE-based transportation company, has been operating in Kuwait for the last two years. In addition to its transportation facility, it also provides with delivery and bus services in 14 countries of the Greater Middle East region, ranging from Morocco to Pakistan. The transportation Company Careem reached an agreement with Uber earlier this year. The agreement stated that Uber can acquire Careem for $3.1 billion. Now Uber owns all of the Careem’s transportation facility, payments and businesses.
The General Manager of Consumer Banking Group at the NBK, Mohammad Al Othman expressed his happiness on partnering with Careem and assured that they will provide Careem with the best of their services. He said:“We are pleased to announce our latest partnership with Careem as part of our commitment to providing the best online payment solutions and at the highest standards of safety that enable customers to complete their transactions electronically and increase non-cash payments.”
General Manager of Careem, Khaled Nuseibeh also expressed the company’s excitement to be collaborating with a well-established institute like The National Bank of Kuwait and is up for more of such developments in the future. He said,“We are delighted to join forces in Kuwait with such an established institution as NBK and look forward to rolling out further, exciting developments together in the future,”
Profits of The National Bank of Kuwait are on the rise this year as there is an increase of 12.5% (recorded $689 million) in its profits during the first six months of 2019, as compared to the same period last year.
The bank also announced that it has been selected to be a part of the FTSE4Good Index Series. This Index is considered to be one of the world’s leading Environment-Social-Governance (ESG) which identifies the companies that meet international sustainability standards. The National Bank of Kuwait is now the only bank from Kuwait to be a constituent of this index.
Apilayer acquires two products from Egyptian startup Pushbots
In early 2019, PushBots fired up two SaaS API products: iptrace.io; an API that gives your applications and websites fast, reliable and meaningful IP geolocation data and currencystack.io; an API that provides real-time midrange exchange rates for 154 world currencies. While iptrace started as an internal tool needed to equip PushBots with up-to-date and reliable geolocation data, currencystack sprung as an experiment to localize currency data in push notifications. “We put the two products out there for developers in the community, and received a positive traction that has manifested in the products taking the leaderboard in ProductHunt which turned out as a good validation. In our very short period of operating these two products, we have delivered hundreds of millions of API calls for customers in over 20 countries. Moreover, the two products caught the attention of API marketplaces Manifold and RapidAPI, that’s why we quickly moved to offer integrations there so they can be directly consumed.” Stated Amr Sobhy, PushBots CEO.
Today, they are happy to announce that apiLayer – a Vienna based company that has a range of productivity-boosting Web APIs & cloud-based SaaS Applications for developers have acquired the two products to add them their API portfolio.
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