Investing in Noon Academy: Social Learning Anywhere, Anytime, for Anyone

We are co-leading a SAR32.2 million ($8.6 million) investment round in Noon Academy -- The leading EdTech Platform in the MENA Region. Our latest portfolio company gives millions of students access to social collaborative learning and on-demand tutoring.

There is a massive opportunity for the growth of the Educational Technology (EdTech) sector in MENA. Governments in the region spend significant portions of their annual budgets on public education, meanwhile spending on private education continues to grow as well. Globally, EdTech funding reached $16.3bn in 2018, according to market research firm Metaari,

Noon Academy is capitalizing on this trend, offering students on-demand tutoring, group study, and opportunities to participate in live competitions around their curriculum. The platform offers teachers the tools they need to take the classroom experience online, removing friction and increasing student engagement so educators can focus on what they do best: teaching.

When we first met Noon Academy's founders, it was immediately apparent how mission-driven and passionate about EdTech they are. They have been working in the space since 2011 and Noon Academy is their second EdTech company.

Mohammad and Abdulaziz are intensely focused on two goals: making learning more interesting and engaging, and giving more students access to this type of education. Using thousands of data-driven experiments, Noon Academy learned that the problem with education is not comprehension, but boredom. The unique Noon Academy platform can keep a student engaged for more than 55 minutes a day. This level of student engagement far exceeds the industry average of 14 minutes per day for most educational apps. The founders' second goal of increasing access to education is being achieved at an exciting pace; To date, Noon Academy has served more than 2 million students and 1500 certified tutors across Saudi Arabia and Egypt and is continuing to grow rapidly.

Noon Academy was founded in 2013 by Mohammed Aldhalaan and Dr. Abdulaziz (Aziz) AlSaeed. Mohammed, as CEO, has a background in Computer Science and comprehensive experience in strategy formulation and management. Abdulaziz, as COO, has a background in Computer Science and a Ph.D. in Cloud Computing Security and is a teacher himself being an Assistant Professor of Computer Sciences.

Raed Ventures was a co-lead investor in this fundraiser. Alisamiah Investment and a number of prominent angel investors joined this round.

Investing in Mrsool: Fueling the On-Demand Economy in MENA

We are leading, along with Raed Ventures, a multimillion-dollar investment round in Mrsool — the leading Saudi on-demand delivery service. Our latest portfolio company is exactly the type of partner we like: incredibly ambitious, innovative, and attuned to the needs of the region.  

Mrsool is a service where couriers can purchase products on behalf of a consumer from any shop in the city, and then instantly deliver them. The company’s huge potential hinges on the growing consumer demand for fast delivery services and a user experience that takes into consideration local payment preference. In our view, Mrsool is truly unique in what it does. It processed more than SAR 1 billion (approx. $ 270 million) in transactions in 2018, attaining a total of 4 million registered users at the end of the year.

With the growing adoption of digital commerce, consumers are fast becoming accustomed to the convenience of same-day, almost instantaneous, deliveries. A leading category of goods that benefit from instant-delivery is food. Of the $97 billion global food delivery market, 47% of orders are estimated to have originated online in 2018.

We believe this trend holds in MENA and is even amplified by the high mobile penetration rates in markets like Saudi and the UAE, and the sizable offline-to-online movement of demand in that category.

Two things stood out when we first started talking to Mrsool’s founders:  firstly, the depth of their product insight was impressive, and this is reflected in the design of an original user experience solving a common consumer need. Secondly, Mrsool’s business model has been validated by high rates of organic growth they have experienced over the past couple of years.

Mrsool was started in 2015 by founders Ayman Al Sanad and Naif Al Samri. Ayman, as CEO, has a background in software engineering. In 2009, he was the first to localize the android operating system in Arabic -- two years before official Arabic language support in the mobile operating system. Naif, as COO, has a background in architectural engineering and has been handling operations scaling in the bootstrapped company.

Raed Ventures was a co-lead investor in this fundraiser. Alisamiah Investment and a number of prominent angel investors joined this round.

Investing in Careem: MENA’s platform for internet opportunities

We are co-leading a SAR 750 million (USD $200 million) investment round in Careem -- the leading ride hailing app in the greater MENA region. Careem is a true pioneer in the MENA technology industry, a local champion whose rapid rate of growth shows few signs of slowing as it explores new territory in the form of payments and mass transportation.

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For many people, ride hailing is now part and parcel of everyday life. And as internet penetration rates increase, and consumer habits change, analysts expect the ride hailing market to grow 8 times its current size by 2030, with much of this growth coming from emerging markets. Careem is capitalizing on this trend. It has developed one of the most recognizable brands in greater MENA and has become the de facto app for 15+ million riders and 1+ million captains.

We’re excited that this latest investment round will fuel new verticals for Careem that include payments and mass transportation. By expanding the scale and reach of its services, more startups can use Careem as the platform of choice, unlocking a new wave of online retailers and internet opportunities.

Careem started as a small experiment in Dubai in 2012 and today it operates in 120+ cities, from Pakistan to Morocco and everywhere in between. Mudassir Sheikha, Magnus Olsson, and Abdulla Elyas have set a new bar for technology startups in the region - the trio bring a rare mix of world-class operations and purpose-driven management. We share a common belief that technology is the key to simplifying and improving the lives of many. Our journey together continues.

Our co-investors in this fundraise included Al Tayyar Group, Kingdom Holdings, and Rakuten.

Investing in Unifonic: Unleashing the Power of the Cloud

We are leading a SAR78.75 million ($21 million) investment round in Unifonic -- the leading cloud communications platform for emerging markets. Our latest portfolio company empowers thousands of companies (including major firms like Careem, Uber and Domino’s Pizza) to communicate with millions of their customers through text & voice solutions by leveraging advanced data analytics and AI.

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We are particularly excited about this investment given Unifonic’s leading role in the fast-growing cloud communications market. According to IDC, the Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) industry is forecasted to grow from $867 million in 2016 to $8.2 billion in 2021. We think Unifonic is perfectly placed to capitalize on the opportunity that this industry presents.

In our view, Unifonic’s cloud-based communications platform is helping transform major industries. It gives clients like major banks, airlines, and e-commerce companies the ability to send millions of messages in an instant -- allowing them to notify a group of customers of a flight delay, update consumers on an order from their favorite e-commerce store, or even confirm an individual customer bank transaction as a secure and reliable two-factor authentication message. Unifonic offers easy-to-use APIs that allow developers to directly utilize SMS messages and voice calls in their systems and applications.

Our co-investors in this fundraise, which ranks as one of the largest Series A financings in the MENA region, included Riyad Taqnia Fund, Endeavor Catalyst, Elm, and Raed Ventures. The new capital will help accelerate Unifonic’s expansion plans in multiple markets and industries, and support further product platform development.

Unifonic is a great example of the type of founder-driven, capital-efficient businesses we like to invest in. Started by Ahmed and Hassan Hamdan in 2008, Unifonic has since grown into a consistently profitable company with over 100 employees in five different countries.

Investing in Vezeeta: transforming the healthcare experience in MENA

We are leading a 45 million SAR investment round in Vezeeta – the leading digital healthcare platform in MENA connecting patients with healthcare providers and health services. The financing will be used to fund Vezeeta’s continued regional expansion and for further investments in key new products.

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Healthcare is one of the most promising sectors in MENA, with robust annual growth and a value expected to reach $100+billion in 2020. The sector is currently undergoing a transformation driven by the rapid technological adoption across the region.

Vezeeta provides consumers with the ability to discover and book medical appointments and health services improving healthcare access for millions and increasing the efficiency of the sector. Empowering patients through data is Vezeeta’s mission to MENA. It also provides innovative SaaS solutions that utilize cloud computing and big data to empower patients and doctors; building the infrastructure needed for the development of the broader healthcare ecosystem.

Vezeeta has managed 3 million bookings in the region, served 2.5 million consumers/patients, and connected more than 10,000 doctors in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

We love to support capable founders who are transforming major industries. Upon meeting Amir and Vezeeta’s management team, it was immediately apparent to us that they are on such a mission. We believe Amir and the Vezeeta team have built what can potentially elevate the healthcare experience in the region and are ready to scale.

Vezeeta was founded by Amir Barsoum who worked as a management consultant at one of the top global firms, advising public and private clients across Europe and MENA with a focus on the healthcare sector. Amir also led the development of the MENA strategy for one of the largest multi-national pharmaceutical companies in the world. We are excited to be partnering with Amir and his team on the mission of providing a better healthcare experience using technology in MENA.

Our co-investors in the round are BECO Capital, Crescent Enterprises Ventures, Silicon Badia, and Vostok New Ventures.

Investing in Telfaz11: betting on the region’s digital media industry

We are leading a 33.75M SAR investment round in Telfaz11 — our first investment in the Region's digital media space

 

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This deal represents one of our first steps towards investing in a new media industry for MENA. The digital revolution transformed how content is generated and consumed globally, and the rules of the game in the media space are changing at an accelerating rate; especially in our region. We believe that empowering leading players in the digital media ecosystem —connecting areas spanning digital distribution platforms to original content creation engines— is an inevitability and one that comes with a tremendous opportunity.

The demand side of the media market is strong: MENA is the second largest region globally in terms of views for some of the world’s largest video platforms. Additionally, the growth in online video demand is among the highest worldwide when compared to global averages (Saudi Arabia has the highest views per capita globally). Moreover, the majority of these views occur on smart devices (Saudi Arabia is on par with advanced nations such as South Korea and the US when it comes to consuming content on smart devices). This a great demand-side story.

On the flip side, we think the market’s supply side is relatively weak compared to such strong regional demand. Moreover, many traditional broadcasting and content companies, even globally, are trying to catch up with changes in the space. Dealing with disruption is hard but there are emerging vehicles that proved to have the right vision and capabilities to create new forms of value in this new media landscape.

Telfaz11 is one of those vehicles we believe in and in its founders. Founded in 2011 in Riyadh by Alaa Faden, Ali Al Kalthami, and Ibrahim Al Khairallah, Telfaz11 was consistently able to create high quality original content and leverage digital tools and distribution platforms. They have also done that in a way that reflects a deep understanding of the industry’s new dynamics and the needs and opportunities of the regional audiences and market. Today, we announce leading an investment round of 33.75M SAR to accelerate the company’s growth and scale-up plans.

This is our first step. We still have so much to do but we see the size of the opportunity and the building blocks that can be connected and fueled to create new media champions for the region.