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Four Years & Two Million Dollars Later, Lessons from a Failed Startup



I was recently tagged on a LinkedIn post written by a MENA-based startup founder. The title was “Four years and Two million dollars later. Lessons from a failed startup. ” You always take note when you see something like this. I believe it takes great courage and self confidence to be so transparent and ultimately self critical – I congratulate Bassel Idriss, founder of Generics,  on this excellent piece. Many of the points he makes are great, not only for future entrepreneurs, but also a timely reminder for all current founders who believe they are out of the woods. 

One of the biggest challenges in the region is learning from others. Pieces like this provide the most valuable insights for all stakeholders, whether they are founders, investors, team members or government officials learning about the journeys of the people that are building disruptive businesses. It is also a timely warning for anyone who is looking to do it purely for glory or vanity. I strongly encourage you to read and share this with others so they are able to learn from other people’s journeys. Thanks again to Bassel for sharing it with us. – Philip Bahoshy, Founder and CEO at MAGNiTT

If you’re thinking of starting your own business because you’re after the ‘glorious’ end and not the journey getting there, don’t bother! … If you’re not tenaciously persistent; get excited by seemingly insurmountable challenges; easily swayed or care too much about what others think and say, don’t bother! … If you think failing will be the ‘end of you’, also, don’t bother! At Generics, we set out to solve for poor fitting, uncomfortable earphones. We make custom eartips to the shape and size of individual ears through an App, photogrammetry and 3D Printing. I failed to raise cash fast enough to scale. Here are some of the lessons I learned along the way. 

Make sure you’re really solving a problem, not a nuisance. A solution to a ‘problem’ or pain-point is a must-have. Conversely, a solution to a ‘nuisance’ is a nice-to-have. You’re looking to deliver a pain-killer, not a vitamin! Solving for a problem will dramatically improve your chances of success. The added bonus of solving for a big, difficult problem is a higher barrier-to-entry and fewer competitors. If you don’t know how big the problem you’re solving is, find out quick. Ask ‘potential’ customers and consumers, not family and friends, whether they will go out of their way and pay for your product. @Generics, we knew the problem was prevalent, however, today, judge it was more nuisance vs. pain-point for most people. Be brutally honest with yourself. 

Deliver the simplest solution to the problem. In startup jargon, this is the minimum-viable-product (MVP). Don’t fall into the trap of ‘just one more feature to make product great’. Despite all your efforts to make your first product perfect, it will not be! Don’t waste time and resources trying to achieve the impossible. Just make sure your product provides value to users. Develop the ‘perfect’ solution later, when you better understand what your users want and have more resources. @Generics, we first made fully functional earphones. They had to fit well, feel comfortable, sound great, look beautiful, exude minimalism, have a rotating bezel, a removable ‘custom initials cap’, strong cable, cost less than $45… We should have focused only on making custom great fitting eartips for select earphone models, dropped everything else, we would have saved time and money. Be pragmatic, keep it simple.

Start fast, test faster and pivot faster still. I took too long to decide I am starting my own business. Once I did, spent too much time developing an intricate business model that later proved worthless. Took too much time figuring out how to ‘sell’ my PowerPoint to investors. Took too long to raise money. Took too long to develop the MVP. To go-to-market. Almost 3 years! To get ‘paying’ consumers feedback. Took too long to make our first pivot, a little faster but still slow for our second pivot, even though I knew 73% of startups pivot (EPFL University). At the time, each of these felt really important and merited I spend ample time to get right, in hindsight, while important, they simply took too long. I should have skipped or completed much faster applying Paret’s Law. Don’t waste time, once your mind is made up, take the plunge, go all out, focus on the big things and correct course when you know you’re heading the wrong way. 

Develop and test your ‘go-to-market’ as you build product.  Developing your commercial plan after you’re done building product is too late! Testing various go-to-market models will yield priceless learnings that will impact and shape your product development. Tweaking product to reflect learnings after you’ve locked development will waste time and money. Early results will also flush out ‘red flags’. You would rather find out quick there is no demand to what you’re building so you tweak or abandon project ahead of wasting months and hundreds of thousands in development. Don’t fear getting feedback on a ‘half-cooked’ product. Call it ‘beta’ and sell it at a reduced price if you must. Customers and consumers who don’t like it will not hold a grudge against you. When developing your ‘go-to-market’ don’t just think brand equity and key benefit communication. Think of your audience, the customers and consumers who are struggling most with the problem you set out to solve. Think ‘How’ and ‘When’ you want to reach them. @Generics, our audience were daily earphone users who listen to music while working out. We wanted to reach them during their exercise regiment as they experience their pain-point. Test different channels, figure out what works best for you and optimise for cost. Leverage digital, like SEM and social media, test others. Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares Traction is a great resource to help set your testing framework and inspire ideas. Prove product/ market fit. 

Understand the skill-set required to build your product and commercial plan, only hire for that. Make sure you have the ‘right’ people working your project. ‘Right’ are those with relevant expertise and/ or experience, those who are persistent and will keep at it. Only hire individuals working on your core solution. Make sure to focus their efforts on solving for and delivering your core product. Prioritise and make a deliberate choice to shed anything not fundamental to your core product. This will give you the best chance at successfully delivering solution, fast, without overhead costs spiraling out of control. Tell ‘under-performers’ what they are doing wrong, give them weeks to correct, otherwise, they are not the right fit. You will hesitate to let people go every time you think of the immense effort and time you must re-invest into searching, interviewing, on-boarding new team members. Time you could spend developing product and go-to-market. It remains the right thing to do. Keeping under-performing individuals will impact you more negatively vs. investing time to find the right hires. @Generics, it took me a while to figure out the required skill-set, didn’t find the right talent in the region, ended up developing product without a fully qualified team and only managed to do so due to the team’s intelligence, sheer will and extraordinary effort. Nonetheless, it came at a price! Sapped our energy and took way too long to develop. Another mistake was to front-hire, I expected a deluge of orders that never came. Hire for big impact, make sure individuals have the skills and attitude to succeed, hire slow and keep team focused on solving for core product.

Build traction. Build traction. Build traction. Sell your product to every relevant customer and consumer you meet. Start selling day one, it’s never too early and it’s Ok if you start small! Apart from collecting learnings, it is imperative you build ‘sales-history’ or traction. Traction is like magic! With it everything is, at least, x100 times easier. Motivating yourself, your team and collaborators. Negotiating with suppliers, engaging your community and media. It is also pivotal for investor discussions. A growing sales trend over a sustained period proves customers and consumers want what you built. It is your single, strongest data point with potential investors. Growth hacking will help you get there. Apart from being one of startup world’s biggest buzzwords, growth hacking is combining programming and marketing know-how to get more and more people paying for and using your product. They need to become aware your solution exists, they need to feel compelled to try it and keep coming back for more. Sean Ellis & Morgan Brown’s Hacking Growth is an excellent resource to get started. @Generics, we held back on sharing product until we thought it was ‘perfect’. We also spent a lot of time developing equity, brand character and voice, tweaking our ‘look and feel’, however, kept it locked behind closed doors, didn’t test various channels, too afraid to reach out to our audience ahead of completing our product ‘masterpiece’. We wasted learning and optimisation opportunities. We disproportionately invested in ‘perfecting’ product and started building traction too little too late, when we had run out of money. Without traction our quest to raise more money and investor discussions were painful. Build traction.

Check your bias. Yes you must be data-driven and yes you should ‘marry’ this with gut feel. However, what you think is right because of everything you learned throughout your career might not be right for your current challenge. @Generics, we developed a product to sell consumers. It was always very clear, we are a direct-to-consumer proposition, that’s what I have always done throughout my career. I am a Business-to-Consumer model guy. I overlooked the amount of resources it takes to build awareness, trial and equity (unless you’re lucky and your product goes viral). Throughout my career I was supported by marketing powerhouses, there was always ‘minimal’ support; in startup world there is no ‘minimal support’ at your disposal. We should have focused first on selling to earphone manufacturers (Business-to-Business) vs. trying to sell consumers directly. Take stock, give your innate reaction another thought, (re)assess what others in your space are doing before you decide on your course of action. 

Surround yourself with the right advisers, they make a world of a difference. What is a ‘right’ adviser? Individuals that bring something tangible and fast to the table. Who are ‘advisers’? Mentors, board members, consultants etc. You are not looking for ‘head-nodders’, they will just massage your ego. You also want to avoid constant challengers, they will tire you. You want people who have expertise in a certain area you need, at a specific stage of development, action-oriented and will say it like it is. Leverage advisers to solve a clear imminent challenge, such as introducing you to your first customers, retailers, partners, investors. Give you fast access to legislators and influencers. They will remove ‘roadblocks’. Once up and running, look for more strategic, less operational advisers that can help you make the right decisions long term. Be mindful your requirements will change at various stages of development, change advisers accordingly.

When it’s time for investors, make sure you understand their mindset and needs. Move East or West if you’re building a hardware startup. I judge it’s ‘almost’ impossible to succeed building hardware in the Middle East today. Two key reasons, you will struggle to find (i) individuals with manufacturing expertise and (ii) the right investors. ‘Regional’ investors are not interested in and lack experience with hardware development and startups. The challenges, potential pitfalls and myths of building hardware are ‘top of mind’: takes more money and longer to develop, a mistake more costly vs. software, constricted Arab borders make distribution very difficult. And they are spoiled for choice behind the region’s explosive software startups growth. The good news is these same investors are hungry for software startups, have way more experience working with them. Many have developed best-in-class models for assessing a startup’s potential and providing the required support. Do your homework, research potential investors prior to engaging them, understand their mandate, startup portfolio, affinities and selection criteria. There is money out there for ‘software’ startups, you can get it.

Brace yourself for an emotional roller coaster ride (with a physical toll). A snippet from my ride: Happiness at locking first round of funding… excitement at bringing team together… thrill of first working prototype… despair digesting magnitude of challenge… anguish at delayed production… delight at mass production completion… some sleepless nights… joy at beating crowdfunding target… gratification with first units shipped… elation and despair reflecting on early consumer feedback… anxiety with pivot… misery of new investor rejections… pride with 3rd party product endorsements… a few more grey hairs… heartache with more investor rejections… a minor slipped disc… distress with further investor rejections, as we run out of cash, as sales slow down to a trickle and higher cholesterol levels. The physical toll might be a consequence of me starting my entrepreneurial journey at 40, I am almost sure though stress played a co-starring role. My investors, friends and more importantly family were supportive, without them, I would not have kept on. Reach out to your confidants for emotional support when you need it.

I also made a few promises to myself early on that helped keep me steadfast, here are a few: 

– I promised myself to stay upbeat, optimistic and believe in what I am doing in the face of setbacks. Some days were really tough, I was tested on multiple occasions. Externally… I kept my promise, internally… I doubted myself on occasion, but kept going for my team, investors and self  

– I promised myself to stop if I am not learning. I am a better business person today vs. 2015

– I promised myself I would not compromise my family’s pre-entrepreneurship ‘standard of living’. I slipped here, I intend to make it up over the next few years 

– I promised myself (and partner) to cap my losses at two thirds of my savings. Knowing when to call it a day is mandatory. I delivered. 

I didn’t deliver on my goal: a successful, thriving business. Despite this failure, I loved and embraced the journey. I would do many things differently, however, after a recharge, I would do it all over again!

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Saudi Arabia: Supercharging Startup Opportunities



As the Kingdom amps up its business-friendly credentials and welcomes a new wave of entrepreneurs, Kais Al Essa, Founding Partner and CEO of venture capital firm Vision Ventures, talks opportunity and accessibility

Supercharging opportunities for foreign startups is a high-profile focus for Saudi Arabia. While our nearest neighbours have historically been the go-to hubs, in future a much higher percentage of entrepreneurs are expected to venture into the Kingdom.

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Programme to foster cooperation between startups, corporates in Dubai



Dubai Startup Hub, an initiative of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has unveiled its revamped Market Access programme which pairs leading companies in the UAE with startups that offer innovative solutions addressing their key challenges.

Details of the new Market Access features were announced at a launch ceremony in Dubai and was attended by members of the business community, including previous corporate and startup participants who shared their experiences and success stories. Among the additional benefits provided to companies participating in the programme are: one-year membership, specialised workshops and access to a wider network of solutions, in addition to the ability to list multiple challenges on the Market Access interactive and smart online portal where they can also communicate and collaborate with startups. Startups that are selected to participate in the programme can benefit from training and pitching workshops, access to lucrative business opportunities, as well as a platform to boost their market exposure and build their brand reputation.

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Misk Innovation & 500 Startups Reveal Joining Accelerator Program



The Misk 500 Accelerator program – a collaboration between early-stage venture fund and seed accelerator 500 Startups and Misk Innovation, the Saudi non-profit foundation devoted to developing Saudi youths – have recently revealed the 20 participating companies in the program’s second cohort.

Currently underway in Riyadh, the program’s ‘Batch 2’ comprises a diverse group of startups that span the MENA region, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Jordan. Those startups are building technologies and products that impact B2B, B2C, E-Commerce, FinTech, EdTech, HealthTech, IoT, robotics, artificial intelligence, SaaS, and messaging services.

To read more click–500-startups-reveal-second-batch-of-20-startups-joining-misk-500-accelerator-program

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AgroFood tech

A Lebanese Student Came Up with the Solution to the Apple Crisis in Lebanon




A Lebanese Student Came Up with the Solution to the Apple Crisis in Lebanon featured image


Wissam Hachem · 

Have you ever thought about preventing the oxidation of fruits by extending their shelf life? Biology student Richardos Lebbos found a solution for the apples’ problem in Lebanon, seeing the extent of the damage done to the apple produce in 2017, where tons of Lebanese apples were thrown on the ground after being banned in several countries.

“I remember hearing about the crisis of apples being thrown because of the high price of cold storage and other problems. I was in a taxi at the time, and I had an idea to do something that would preserve the shelf life of the apples,” Lebbos told Berytech, a dynamic environment for Lebanese startups, fostering innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.

Via Food-heritage

It all began in the university lab in USEK, which Lebbos had full access to as an employed student. He started working on creating a starch-based liquid that acts as a bio-coating for fruits and vegetables and extends their shelf life. Starch, in scientific literature, is known to be a natural polymer that is used in many industries.

What Lebbos wanted to do was create a liquid that could turn starch into an invisible layer that is transparent on fruits, and that would consequently act as a barrier to oxygen and bacteria, and hence a barrier to the oxidation of fruits.

Via Berytech

“Fruits that are not exposed to oxygen, and therefore do not have oxidation taking place, have more than twice the shelf life without cold storage,” Lebbos explained. 

The liquid was invented for businesses such as big farmers and retailers that import and export fruits. These retailers usually have a wax line where they polish the fruit with a chemical to make it shiny. “I plan to replace this chemical with the Startchy liquid” said Lebbos. “Once you spray the fruit with the liquid and dry it, it will be ready for shipping without cold storage.”

Via Startchy

While working at the lab, Lebbos met pharmacologist Kayssar Eid and agricultural engineer Tony Barcha, both USEK students. They came together on that one vision and aim and founded Startchy.

With the support of Berytech, Startchy was registered in the US, which allowed the team to test their product with Stemilt, the biggest exporter of apples in the US and one of the biggest in the world.

Via Agrytech Program

“We did a test with Stemilt on their apples, where we coated them with our Startchy liquid, and it worked! We saw an extent of the shelf life twice and more. They gave us a letter of intent, and now we are working together,” boasts Lebbos and for a good reason.

And that wasn’t all. The creation of this product has come to be of benefits to other countries as well.

Via Doehler

Döhler, the German producer of technology-based natural ingredients, invested in Startchy a total of $600,000. Maersk, the Danish growth (incubation) program for international startups worldwide selected Startchy among 30 other shortlisted global startups.

Via FreightWaves

After 30 grueling days with Maersk in Copenhagen, Startchy was selected along with one other startup for a cash investment of $500,000!

The Startchy team is now finalizing the industrialization of their product by partnering with Dohler, and they’re working on getting the certification to enter different markets, beginning with the US market.

Via abedhassoun

In addition, Lebbos and his two partners have started this month (September) running pilot trials with big suppliers and customers. “Hopefully, we will hit the market soon, beginning of 2020,” commented Lebbos. 

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WEEK IN REVIEW : MENA startups under scrutiny – WeWork’s IPOs failure: $3 billion in cash needed to get through 2019 despite $12 billion in investments!!!

WeWork needed $3 billion in cash to get through 2019. Despite $12 billion in investments, i




Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy news pertaining to startups and venture capital.

Three main headlines last week but my favourite is still the completion of Amazon mega merger with – In a press release it says it has completed its acquisition of e-commerce firm, which was first announced at the end of March and sees the U.S. retail giant enter the Middle Eastern market.

Amazon paid $580 million in cash for Souq, according to filings. Bloomberg previously reported that Amazon was in discussions over an investment at a valuation in excess of $1 billion but, amid rivalry from Emaar’s ambitious project and others, an acquisition agreement was reached. The two companies said today that they have completed an initial integration that allows customers to log into  using their Amazon account credentials.

Next is our headline on Middle East StartUps and Silicon Valley Guru look for common synergies

In 2018, a record number of investments – 366 of them – were made in the Middle East and North Africa region, Magnitt 2018 MENA Venture Investment Report found. More widely, it detailed that more than 155 institutions invested in the region’s startups in 2018, 30% of which were from outside the region.

These developments, coupled with efforts seen in the past year – such as the establishment of Egypt’s first venture-capital fund focused on investing in fintech, the $100m for startups in the Bahrain-based Al Waha Fund of Funds, and Tunisia’s startup act – are giving the region’s startup scene unprecedented momentum. With record levels of investment, interest from tech watchers and interesting new ventures launching all the time, the region’s startup scene looks like it’s going to get even hotter.

The region itself covers a total of some 50 million consumers across several countries, as well as a relatively untapped market: only about two percent of all retail spend today is made online, according to a report from McKinsey.

Lastly we look at we work our story focuses on the downturn of the company following the failure of its IPO.

As of the most recent funding round’s valuation, WeWork would be the second-largest IPO of 2019, trailing only Uber.

WeWork has copied an old business model, slapped some tech lingo on it, and suckered venture capital investors into valuing the firm at more than 10x its nearest competitor.

The company also burns tons of cash, carries huge risk factors in a recession, and sports some of the worst corporate governance practices we’ve ever seen. WeWork – now rebranded as The We Company (WE) – filed its initial S-1 on Aug. 14, and the company reportedly plans to go public in September. We don’t have official pricing information,Continue with Free Trial

WeWork’s eccentric CEO/founder Adam Neumann stepped down this week amid pressure from board members (SoftBank) to exit the C-suite. Wall Street doesn’t think Neumann is fit to be CEO of a public company and if you don’t know why, read this WSJ piece.

Kate Clark@KateClarkTweets

What’s next for Peloton? International growth? Doubling down on original content? New hardware? Tell me what to write.1069:13 PM – Sep 26, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy62 people are talking about this

I particularly like an opinion piece on Wework by Japan times

nitially, investors were intrigued. Softbank’s Masayoshi Son provided more than $10 billion in funds, calling WeWork “his next Alibaba” — a reference to a $20 million investment that paid back $50 billion when it went public. As WeWork began preparations to go public, initial valuations reached $47 billion.

The prospectus for that offering was eye-opening and deflating. The company was a huge landlord, but that created sobering operating expenses — $50 billion in lease commitments — and no guarantee of revenue from armies of freelancers that could not afford long-term commitments of their own. The figures were not reassuring: WeWork’s revenue increased to $1.8 billion in 2018, but the company lost $1.6 billion that year. According to projections, WeWork needed $3 billion in cash to get through 2019. Despite $12 billion in investments, it had never reported a profit.

In addition to financial issues, there was the problem of Neumann himself. The prospectus noted that he ensured his continued control of the company through a special class of shares and the power to fire the board of directors; he had used some of his WeWork stock to secure a $500 million personal loan; he owned four buildings that WeWork was paying him to lease; and he was paid nearly $6 million for the trademark “We,” which the company had recently adopted. (Those funds were returned after the resulting uproar). In addition, there were tales of adolescent behavior that raised questions about his judgment. Hanging over it all, however, was a board that did not rein him in.

The furor that greeted the prospectus prompted the shelving of the IPO, the slowing of expansion plans, the prospect of layoffs of as much as one-third of the company’s workforce and Neumann’s decision to step down and his replacement by two co-CEOs.

The WeWork failure is not unique. It follows similarly lackluster IPOs by ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft, and that of Peloton, the stationary bicycle manufacturer that considers itself a technology platform as well. Neumann is another “bad-boy founder” like Travis Kalanick, who was forced to step down as head of Uber after reports surfaced of his abusive behavior. Yet for all the flaws in WeWork’s ambitions, the system worked. Public scrutiny laid bare the gap between WeWork’s aims and its reality. WeWork is, despite the hype, a real estate arbitrage, and should be valued accordingly.

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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.

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Golden Scent First Startup to obtain SAGIA Trading License



Leading beauty e-commerce platform celebrates a remarkable achievement in 2019 with a huge boost to its regional position

Following its four years of continued success, Golden Scent, the leading Saudi Beauty  E-commerce Platform, announced that it has been granted the first commercial license by the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), without the minimum capital requirement.

The company’s excellent reputation, class A investors and customer loyalty all combined to ensure the company could be exempted from the SAGIA’s Minimum Accepted Capital requirement.

The news, which was announced during the 7th Arabnet Riyadh Conference, marks a great achievement in 2019. As Golden Scent has expanded to new GCC markets, by entering the UAE and Kuwait, and exceeding over 3 million app downloads. The E-commerce platform increased its product portfolio by 250%, added new logistics warehouses, and continued to grow its manpower – both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Supporting start-ups has always been a key element for SAGIA’s mission, attracting and retaining investors and establishing Saudi Arabia as a world-class investment destination. As a result, Golden Scent has been granted the commercial license as it represents a perfect example of how Saudi entrepreneurs, supported by foreign capital, can make a significant contribution to developing a sustainable, diversified national economy – a key objective of Saudi Vision 2030.

Founded in 2000, SAGIA is the foreign investment license provider for the Kingdom. Alongside its legislative role, SAGIA works with government entities to create, develop and market business opportunities; offering specialized consultations to companies in different sectors. Through its five business centres, SAGIA provides most of the government services by facilitating the necessary steps for clients to start and maintain business.

Golden Scent is rapidly growing stronger since its launch in 2014 and continues to address and anticipates its clientele needs with special offers and discounts, with more surprises and additions in the pipeline to make 2019 yet another unforgettable year for the platform and its ever-growing client base. As Malik Al Shehab, Co-Founder and CEO of Golden Sent said: “We are very proud of the achievements we have accomplished till now, and receiving the commercial license from SAGIA. And we would like to thank all the supportive parties involved in Golden Scent’s journey in becoming a leading platform and a trusted brand in the Middle East market.”

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Egyptian B2B e-Commerce Marketplace, MaxAB Closes Landmark $6.2 Million Seed Round



MaxAB, an Egyptian B2B e-commerce marketplace that connects informal food and grocery retailers with suppliers via an easy-to-use app, has secured seed funding of $6.2 million, one of the largest ever seed rounds raised by a MENA start-up. The round was co-led by Beco Capital, 4DX Ventures, and Endure Capital, with participation from 500 Startups, Outlierz Ventures and other local investors. With this injection of capital, the company expects to reach 50 percent of Egypt’s population within the next two years before expanding across different markets.

Led by Egyptian and Libyan entrepreneurs Belal El-Megharbel (previously at Careem) and Mohamed Ben Halim (Previously at Aramex), the 270-strong MaxAB team has built a stock list of over 600 products [including groceries, beverages, dairy, confectionery and non-food products]. Using technology to close the gap between traditional retailers [over 400,000 in Egypt] and FMCGs, the Cairo based start-up leverages technology to connect brands to retailers via its Android app. It is working to automate and simplify Egypt’s $45bn FMCG food retail market and has recorded 50 percent month-on-month growth, with 9,000 activated retailers on the platform already.

Brands using MaxAB have access to real-time demand monitoring and business intelligence tools, which improve end-to-end supply chain control, and better forecasting. Retailers in remote and under-served areas will have access to a wide variety of products, the convenience of ordering stock online in addition to second day deliveries not to mention the added benefit of access to credit facilities.

Belal El-Megharbel, Co-Founder and CEO at MaxAB, says: “Nobody has addressed the underserved retailers before; retailers are faced with a limited assortment of products, the hassle of dealing with multiple wholesalers and restricted access to credit facilities. At the other end of the supply chain, the FMCGs have limited visibility on market trends, demand patterns and retailers’ business needs – leading to losing potential revenue opportunities.

“We are using data and analytics to understand purchasing and retail behaviours, as well as make the end-to-end process of brands seamless and convenient. This will enable FMCGs to make informed decisions about their purchasing, which will ultimately have a positive effect on their bottom line and catalyze one of the biggest markets in Egypt. This investment round will allow us to accelerate our growth plans and develop new products and services throughout North Africa using the first of its kind B2B ecommerce platform”.

Yousef Hammad, Managing Partner at Beco Capital, says: “This is Sparta” was the first impression I got when I met this team of warriors, battling one of the biggest inefficiencies on the country’s balance sheets. By leveraging technology, MaxAB is redefining the grocery supply chain in Egypt to fit the requirements of the micro retailers who make up 90% of the grocery market. The metrics they have recorded in such a short period are impressive, and we expect to continue to see double-digit growth as they scale.”

Peter Orth, co-founder and Managing Partner at 4DX Ventures, says: “We’ve been consistently impressed with how Belal and the rest of the team have executed, and achieved significant traction in a very short period of time. We believe that their B2B e-commerce model is the right way to serve this significant market, and we’re really excited to partner with the team to drive the next phase of growth.”

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Ecosystem of the MENA

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