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Tech giant Cisco acquires Voicea, a voice collaboration platform that provides EVA

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Cisco, an American multinational technology company based in Silicon Valley, has announced that it has bought Voicea, which had acquired Dubai-based AI startup ‘Wrappup’ in 2018.  

Wrappup offers a voice recorder that essentially helps users record their meetings, and summarize them in a text format for later use. It is based on an Artificial Intelligence (AI) backed platform that uses a speech recognition algorithm. The startup received massive praise in the region especially from the business sector, which has greatly benefitted from this application.

Wrappup (Voicea) was incubated at IN5, which focuses on providing early stage startups a level ground for developing their business idea by focusing on the promotion, talent development and marketing strategies. Entrepreneurs are given workspaces to develop their ideas, and afterwards they are mentored by some of the most accomplished figures of the tech world within a few months.

Wrappup was a successful graduate of this incubation program and was immediately appreciated by the response of the business community and above all, it got to represent the UAE last year at the annual Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA), hosted by the Entrepreneurship Organization (EO).

Recently, Voicea, a leader in the A.I. space for conference calls and meetings, had acquired Wrappup. Wrappup’s CEO Rami Salman, hailed the acquisition as a great opportunity that benefits both companies by accelerating the journey toward delivering modern AI-powered productive meetings experiences for the user.

However, in an interesting turn of events, U.S. tech giant Cisco with a market capitalisation of $220 billion, has announced its acquisition of Voicea and consequently Wrappup. Cisco had over the last few months expressed great interest in AI related startups and Wrappup was constantly under their gaze.

Wrappup co-founders, who had decided to keep Voicea’s stocks, said that they welcomed Cisco’s decision to acquire the company. Rishav Jalan, one of the co-founders of the company, said that last year’s GSEA was a great experience that allowed the company to engage with local and international entrepreneurs and had additionally internalised the fame of Wrappup that lead to the subsequent purchase of the company by Cisco.

He also said, “’It’s been a great journey for us, starting from a prototype built in a 24-hour Hackathon to now with Cisco getting the opportunity to impact millions of users with the product we built”.

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Mobile

Mobile tech and services adding $191 billion a year of economic value to MENA

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5G and IoT adoption to drive economic impact to more than $220 billion by 2023.

  • That is equivalent to about 4.5% of regional GDP
  • By 2023, mobile’s economic contribution is forecast to reach more than $220 billion as countries increasingly benefit from the improvements in productivity and efficiency
  • There are forecast to be 470 million IoT connections in MENA by the end of 2019

The GSMA has today released two new reports at the annual ‘GSMA Mobile 360 – MENA’ event happening in Dubai. These reports highlight the positive economic impact of the mobile ecosystem on markets across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, as well as the transformative impact of IoT technologies on regional governments’ strategic national visions. 

The two reports from GSMA Intelligence – ‘The Mobile Economy: Middle East and North Africa 2019’ and ‘Realising the potential of IoT in MENA’ reveal that mobile technologies and services added $191 billion to the region’s economy in 2018 – equivalent to about 4.5 per cent of regional GDP. By 2023, mobile’s economic contribution is forecast to reach more than $220 billion as countries increasingly benefit from the improvements in productivity and efficiency brought about by the increased uptake of mobile services, and 5G and IoT networks are widely deployed.T o date 12 operators have launched commercial 5G services in five Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Arab States. Mobile operators in these countries are aiming to be global leaders in 5G deployments, supporting the digital transformation ambitions outlined in strategic national visions such as UAE Vision 2021 and Saudi Vision 2030. 

Meanwhile, IoT connections in the MENA region are growing at a rate second only to Asia-Pacific. There are forecast to be 470 million IoT connections in MENA by the end of 2019, rising to 1.1 billion by 2025. The deployment of IoT across MENA is expected to add $18 billion to regional GDP by 2025.

“Backed by proactive government support, mobile operators, particularly in the GCC Arab States, have speedily deployed 5G technology,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “Beyond the GCC, the wider MENA region has an opportunity to benefit from the technological developments delivered by 5G and IoT. To fully embrace those benefits the region’s governments must support regulatory frameworks and policies that ensure 5G flourishes, including making sufficient spectrum availabl

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Technology

Smart Dubai’s Pulse Platform Take Lead With Data

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“I’m an idiot,” Dharmesh Shah wrote on his blog in 2012.

His confession came two years before his startup, cloud-based, inbound marketing software company HubSpot, raised US$125 million through its listing at a valuation of $759 million in 2014.

“I’m an idiot,” the MIT graduate, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of HubSpot admitted. “Not all of the time, mind you, not even most of the time, but every now and then, I’m an idiot. Like the time my friend and co-founder Brian Halligan asked me to read the book Moneyball. This was back when we had first launched our startup, HubSpot. ‘But, I’m not a baseball guy,’ I said. ‘It’s not about baseball. It’s about data.’ And, I put it on my reading list, and then still failed to read it. I even bought the book, but still failed to read it That was a mistake.”

To read more click https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/337863

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Entrepreneurship

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

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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 SOUQ.com – In a press release it says it has completed its acquisition of e-commerce firm Souq.com, 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 Noon.com 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 Souq.com  using their Amazon account credentials.

Next is our headline on Middle East StartUps and Silicon Valley Guru look for common synergies http://www.startups.news/?p=7761

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 http://www.startups.news/?p=7770 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 https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2019/09/30/editorials/wework-ipo-didnt-work/#.XZHptuJMRPY

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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Finance

Mena’s Fin-Tech Sector To Raise Over $2 Billion By 2022

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The healthy growth is attributed to the rapid development in the sector since 2017, in addition to the region’s commitment to technology.

Fin-tech companies in the Middle East have the potential to collectively raise venture capital of over $2 billion by 2022, according to data from the Milken Institute Centre for Financial Markets. The healthy growth is attributed to the rapid development in the sector in addition to the region’s commitment to technology. The report’s findings suggest that the regional Fin-tech sector is developing at a compounded annual growth rate of 30% which will boost the future of funding in comparison to the $80 million raised by VC firms in 2017. The boost in financing will be supported by approximately 465 Fin-Tech firms in the Middle East, including key players Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC), Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), and Bahrain Fintech Bay (BFB) which aim to fuel Fin-Tech development in the region. According to the report, the MENA region represents only %1 of Fin-tech investment globally, but mentions the region’s geographic position and demographics as a gateway linking East and West as a favourable source for the growth and development of financial technology.

The study discussed UAE’s expatriate population, which represents around 90% of its total population, and its noticeable remittances which amounted to $44.5 billion in 2017. Three fourths of which were transferred via money exchange services and the remainder transferred through banks to top countries including India, Pakistan and the Philippines. Moreover, the report explains the substantial penetration of smartphone devices and internet connectivity and the role they play in driving the region’s innovational approaches. Mobile penetration went up 100% since 2017, while smartphone penetration neared 60%, making Bahrain, the UAE and Qatar amongst the most penetrated markets in the world today.

Lastly, these developments are somewhat visible in today’s economy with DIFC’s efforts to establish a $100 million Fin-tech fund to facilitate artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and robotics startups and ADGM’s Ghadan Ventures Fund’s contribution of $150m dedicated towards investments in tech-based startups located in Hub71. Additionally, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will join the rest of the GCC in launching 5G networks by the end of 2019.

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Innovation

Saudi ICT Strategy to Bring $13 Billion Boost for Economy

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Saudi Arabia’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Strategy will contribute $13.3 billion (SAR 50 billion) to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) over the coming five years, according to a report by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

“The ICT strategy 2019-23, which will draw a roadmap for the future in innovation and digital economy, also aims at achieving 50 percent growth of the IT sector and raising the Saudi workforce to 50 percent by 2023,” Abdullah Al Swaha, Minister of Information and Communications Technology told the SPA.

According to Al Swaha, the strategy aims to attract foreign investments, in addition to supporting empowerment and more participation of women in the ICT sector.

The strategy’s vision is to empower the Kingdom to be a global leader in ICT by improving and advancing all development activities.

It also aims at maximizing the effectiveness and performance of the public and private sectors by enabling digital transformation.

In addition, Al Swaha also pointed out that strategy is also poised to enable Saudi Arabia to keep up with global developments and attract more foreign technology investments. “This will help create a roadmap for the future in innovation and digital economy,” he said.

The strategy includes an ambitious action plan to attract leading international companies in the priority areas of emerging technologies, increase the share of local content in the IT sector, improve the technical skills of the relevant local workforce, and enhance technical and digital knowledge.

“The strategy is part of the ministry’s efforts to establish a robust digital architecture so that digital transformation accelerates, thus supporting the orientations of the Vision 2030, which aims to promote the ICT sector’s role in order to build a digital society, a digital government, a thriving digital economy, and an innovative future for the Kingdom,” Al Swaha said.

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Finance

Bahrain Credit taps Veeam to accelerate digital transformation

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The Bahrain Credit financing company, under Bahrain Commercial Facilities Company (BCFC), has tapped Veeam Software has announced to guarantee data Availability, improve operational efficiency and better deliver digital services to its customers.

The organisation has opted for the Veeam Backup & Replication to gain greater visibility of their data and can reduce the cost and time spent manually managing and storing data.

Bahrain Credit prides itself on being the first choice for customers by providing excellent products, services and solutions and relies on data Availability for its continued success.

The organisation’s Bahrain Credit’s priority has been the digitization of its services to extend greater conveniences to its customers, while catering to Bahrain’s growing demographic of young, tech-savvy digital natives. Getting to know its customers would be central to its strategy of engaging millennials. Therefore, data would be the nerve-center of its new paradigm.

“Financial services digitization is our key to provide a differentiated customer experience that suits the new lifestyles changes,” said Ali Al Marzooq, Head of Innovation and Business Technology of Bahrain Credit. “With unique digital services on-boarding, we aim to simplify the process to help our customers save their time and effort. We’re building omni-channel engagement for our customers through web portals, mobile apps and self-service kiosks, so their entire customer journey can be managed online.”

Veeam’s scalable backup and replication capabilities accelerates business performance, providing an easier and more efficient way for the Bahrain Credit in-house team to manage scalable workloads. Veeam Backup & Replication takes care of the backup and recovery of several mission-critical virtual machines (VM), including the VM running Bahrain Credit’s core database, which stores all customer data and serves all its enterprise applications. By enabling the group’s Digital Transformation strategy, Veeam has radically enhanced efficiencies across multiple areas of Bahrain Credit’s business.

With huge amount of its data existing solely in digital formats and a single hour of downtime costing a significant amount of money, Bahrain Credit attributes the ability to now smoothly run key operations, guarantee business performance and meet its customers’ needs to Veeam.

Veeam has also given Bahrain Credit the confidence to digitise its mission-critical records, allowing customer records to now be instantly available across all branches, speeding up workflows. This has cut the processing time for new service applications.

Bahrain Credit is now set to partner with Veeam in a cloud migration project designed to be the first step in an ongoing Digital Transformation journey for the company. The programme will also integrate Veeam’s replication solution for disaster recovery and a system for the archiving of emails for off-boarded employees to promote greater service continuity for customers.

“The cloud will enable us to meet our goal of not having any physical servers by 2020 and we see Veeam as being a key partner in achieving this objective,” said Al Marzooq.

“We pride ourselves in delivering effective, easy-to-use services to our clients. Our reliable and robust backup and recovery technology gives customers the confidence to proactively manage their data, drive digital services to market faster and deliver highest value and save them both time and money,” said Claude Schuck, regional manager, Middle East, Veeam.

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StartUps

Oman gearing towards becoming the next big GCC tech startup hub

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Following the lead of its GCC neighbors, Oman is taking big strides towards establishing itself as a tech start-up hub. These technological aspirations of Oman are a part of the broader policy vision known as the ‘2030 Digital Oman Strategy or eOman’.  

In 2016, the Gulf state diverted $200m from the Oman Investment Fund to establish the Oman Technology Fund. The fund was created in a bid to invest in startups emerging from Oman and also to gain the attention of international startups and attracting them to set up in the country. The creation of the Fund was followed by a $15m seed stage programme called the Wadi Accelerator and the launch of a Venture Capital firm in 2017. The VC firm was created with a goal of investing in creative and innovative solutions powered by start-ups.

While addressing these development ventures, Wes Schwalje, the chief officer of Tahseen Counselling, said: “While the development of Oman’s startup ecosystem has trailed its neighbors, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Oman is increasingly building the institutional foundations and addressing funding gaps which remain challenges to its entrepreneurship ecosystem and others across the MENA [Middle East and North Africa] region,”. 

Mr. Schwalje also claimed that a creative and strong business eco-system was a necessity for Oman to fulfil the ‘Vision 2040’, which plans on creating more high-skilled, high-salary employment opportunities for the youth. Currently, the World Bank data indicates that the unemployment rate for the youth is almost 50%, which is an issue Oman plans to tackle with its digital start-up expansion.

Oman is the first member of Gulf Cooperation Council actively working towards establishing an educational system that incorporates technical and practical integration of technology skills into the country’s curricula. Mr. Schwalje adds that Oman was creating a generation of “tech-savvy thinkers” who can spot opportunity gaps in tech market and fill them.

The Gulf Cooperation Council has a large demographic of digital consumers with one of the highest mobile penetration rates, which opens a lot of opportunities for the development of digital economy in the area. The CEO of Oman’s Information Technology, Salim Sultan Al-Ruzaiqi, reinforced this idea by saying that the tech industry is the force behind economic and social development in any country.

There are still some barriers in Oman’s journey to reach its technological vision as the country is yet to develop foundational digital economic policies. The development of these policies needs to be fast tracked as they are vital to give regional and global tech companies the market confidence they need to invest for the long term.

While talking about the need for policy formulation, Mr. Schwalje said: “There is significant interest from global tech companies in Oman – for example, Airbnb chose Oman as one of its initial global launch markets for its Adventures launch. However, Oman still remains an afterthought for most MENA entrepreneurs and global tech companies”.

Oman still has to go a long way before becoming a tech start up hub in the GGC but they are on the right track.  Wes Schwalje also shares the same belief: “We will see Oman rapidly learn from its neighbors to become one of several tech startup hubs in the region”.

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Investments

Egyptian transport start-up Swvl targets expansion in Africa, Asia

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Egyptian transport technology start-up Swvl will expand into two cities in Pakistan in the next two weeks and begin operations in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos before the end of the year, its chief executive told Reuters.

The firm, which operates buses along fixed routes and allows customers to reserve and pay for them using an app, will also expand into Manila in the first half of next year, its co-founder and CEO Mostafa Kandil told Reuters.

“We will enter Lagos before the end of the year, and our eyes are on Dar es Salaam and Abidjan,” he said. The firm is also planning to launch in other South East Asian markets, he added. Kandil said the company is seeking to raise more than $100 million in a financing round in the first half of next year, and is targeting a $1 billion valuation in the next five years.

Since its launch in April 2017 Swvl has secured the biggest round of funding for a tech start-up in Egypt. “We were a company worth about $2 million two years ago and our paid-up capital is now $80 million,” he said.

Kandil said he hoped Swvl would eventually go public, but did not say on which stock exchange. He said he would in the longer term also consider a buyout offer from the likes of ride-hailing giant Uber (UBER.N). Kandil, 25, said the company has been losing money, but expects to turn a profit in two to three years.

“This year we have entered about seven new cities and next year we are targeting another 10 to 20 new big cities,” Kandil said. The Cairo-based firm, which is due to move its headquarters to Dubai in November, launched in Nairobi about six months ago and began operations in Lahore in July.

“We aim to reach one million trips a day in Egypt over the next five years,” said Kandil. He and two other young Egyptian co-founders, Mahmoud Nouh and Ahmed Sabbah, own more than 30% of the company, he said.

The rest is held by 17 investment funds, including U.S.-based Autotech Ventures, Sweden’s Vostok New Ventures, Oman’s sovereign wealth fund, the UAE’s BECO Capital and China’s MSA Capital. The Swvl app, which has fixed bus routes, uses the passenger’s location and destination to determine the shortest possible trip time based on the nearest bus stop.

Uber and regional competitor Careem began operating their own bus services in Egypt in late 2018, competing directly with Swvl.

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Ecosystem of the MENA

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