10 MENA Startups to Put on Your Radar- Fall 2017

Lynn Bizri, Nov 13 2017

In every issue, we bring you a list of startups from the MENA region to put on your radar. In this edition, we have picked a wide range of startups that include everything from a wellness app and on-demand childcare platform, to 3D-printed anatomical modeling and a financial technology solution for the underserved.

1. Dawsat

Founded by nutritional specialist, Mas Watad, Dawsat started as a unique numerical system of classifying foods that has since evolved into a mobile application, website, magazine, YouTube channel and physical wellness centers. Created after Watad noticed that the region lacked its own specific nutritional guide to healthy eating, Dawsat is the first and only wellness program based on an easy-to-follow points system and the traditional Arab kitchen.

Tailored to the user’s age and gender in accordance with scientific research, the program is based on a daily points-quota system as well as weekly group support meetings. Using Watad’s numerical system, food and drink items are assigned a number based on their ingredients.

Through the mobile app, users can keep track of their daily meals, Dawsat consumption and fitness activities. On the website, they can access success stories, recipes, articles about food, Dawsat news, and cooking videos by Watad herself. Dawsat’s business model consists of the online platforms, offline platforms, and the in-person methodology at the wellness centers and the cost varies according to the type of service offered.

Today, Dawsat has 20 core employees, 65 wellness center leaders working in Palestine, Jordan, UAE and London, and 30,000 users on its mobile application. Watad and her team are currently looking to expand their services in MENA as well as Europe, and are in talks with potential investors to grow the startup, expand and move forward. 

Country: Palestine
Launched: 2016
Category: Wellness

2. Jaleesa

Founded by Angela Solomon, Hassan Baylon and Stephanie D’Arc Taylor, Jaleesa is a Lebanon-based social impact business that connects busy parents with experienced, trusted, child carers. Their mission is to empower women to work in three ways: 1) by offering flexible, trusted childcare for a modern generation of mothers, 2) by recruiting child carers from all backgrounds in Lebanon, and 3) by subsidizing childcare for underprivileged families so more women can enter the workforce.

Parents can browse through the available sitters on Jaleesa website, message and meet them, and once they have chosen their sitter, can book any of the flexible hourly rates, bundles, or subscriptions. Sitters set their own rates depending on their qualifications and experience. All Jaleesa childcarers go through a four-step security and training process, including background checks and training in first aid, CPR, and child development. While Jaleesa is one of its kind in the region, global competitors with similar models do exist.

In April, the startup was selected among 2,000 women-led startups from across the region, and won second prize in the WeMENA final in Casablanca. Jaleesa’s participation in the competition was sponsored by Altcity’s Bootcamp, which Jaleesa graduated from in September 2016. In May 2017, Jaleesa secured a $40K equity-free contribution from the World Bank as part of a $200K seed round which will contribute to the further development of their high quality child care, and allow them to expand to other cities in MENA.

Country: Lebanon
Launched: 2016
Category: Childcare

3. VRapeutic

Founded by Ahmad Al-Kabbany, an assistant professor at the Arab Academy for Science and Technology, VRapeutic is an Egyptian research-based software startup using VR technology to develop therapeutic solutions for patients with autism. By collaborating with therapy centers in Alexandria and Doha, VRapeutic are creating content that supplements the classical approaches taken during a typical therapy session.

VRapeutic have developed their prototype and are currently iterating on its design in collaboration with three therapy centers in Egypt and the Gulf region. In addition to one-size-fits-all VR content, the startup also offers customizable solutions that address the diverse personal needs of people on the autism spectrum. VRapeutic are expected to work side-by-side with and offer services through public and private hospitals, therapy and rehabilitation centers, and private clinics.

During the summer, the team behind VRapeutic sponsored the first AR/VR meet-up in Egypt, alongside AR social platform Augmania and IT service provider ITQAN. The event focused on issues such as social anxiety and how VR can empower individuals to overcome social obstacles. VRapeutic’s future plans involve addressing other disorders and cases such as dyslexia, PTSD, physical therapy, pain management, addiction and elderly care.

Country: Egypt
Launched: 2017
Category: Therapy

4. Synkers

Founded by Audrey Nakad, Synkers is a mobile application connecting students to highly qualified tutors on the spot, with the mission of enhancing students’ academic performance and preparing them for a brighter future. Synkers aims to follow the progress of students, assess their strengths and accompany them until they find a job, as well as connect their high performing tutors with top corporations looking for qualified interns.

Using the mobile application, students can search for the course they need help with, pick a tutor based on their preferences, and directly book a tutoring session on the app. In order for tutors to be qualified, they must have a grade of 85+ on the material they would like to teach, and be interviewed by the Synkers team to assure they have the required communication skills. The application makes money by taking a commission on every booked session, and also offers a money back guarantee.

Today, Synkers has 11 employees, is present in 10 universities, has over 600 verified tutors and is used by over 5000 students. The startup graduated from Speed@BDD in 2016 and has won several competitions including the Hyundai Start-Up Competition, the Femme Francophone competition, and the ArabNet Startup Battle in Beirut. In addition to the competitions, Synkers has also received a grant from Kafalat and is looking for funds that will be used to grow locally among schools and universities, and to penetrate the Dubai market later this year.

Country: Lebanon
Launched: 2016
Category: Education

5. Medativ

Founded by Mohamed Elawad, Medativ is a 3D printing medical solutions startup that was launched late 2015. Operating out of Boston, Massachusetts and Dubai, UAE, Medativ aims to improve patient outcomes and safety while reducing costs.  

Medativ create prosthetics as well as replicas of patients’ anatomy – also known as anatomical modeling. Using medical imaging technology such as CTEs and MRIs, they convert scans of the anatomy or specific organs into 3D models on a computer, which are then printed. The 3D printed replicas are used for a variety of applications from determining optimal surgical entry points and trajectories, to choosing surgical screw size and placement. Patient-specific 3D models in particular increase efficiency and accuracy in the operating room, help physicians offer more personalized care, and reduce operating time, blood loss, and exposure to radiation. The models also give patients themselves a better understanding of their condition and the proposed procedures. 

In September, Medativ were accepted to participate in Dubai Future Accelerators’ 12-week program, where they were given the opportunity to work directly with Dubai’s Health Authority and gained local and international visibility and the chance to meet with strategic leaders and investors. Medativ went on to sign an agreement with the Dubai Health Authority to help implement their 3D printing strategy, and aim to set up a 3D printing facility to serve the needs of Dubai and the greater region. Moving forward, they plan to deliver new solutions to the region, grow their staff, and expand to other markets outside the UAE and into the wider GCC. 

Country: UAE
Launched: 2015
Category: Healthcare

6. FriendyCar

Founded by Abdelrahman Elgamal, FriendyCar is the first marketplace for borrowing and lending cars in the Middle East, and is focused on facilitating the process of car sharing, decreasing the population of cars and providing anyone who doesn’t own a car with a convenient affordable solution. FriendyCar aims to switch the car owner status from someone who pays maintenance, insurance, and parking fees to someone who gets to share their car, make more money, and support their community and the environment, all why their car is completely covered by FriendyCar’s insurance partner. 

FriendyCar aim to shift the car ownership model from its current status to a ‘time-access’ model, allowing people to access any car anytime and anywhere in the world. Through the FriendyCar website, car owners can list their car for borrowing by filling in their car’s details and setting a daily price as well as any weekly or monthly discounts. After listing the car, the car owner can then control who gets to borrow the car, and check borrowers’ profiles, reviews and ratings before accepting or denying a request. Moreover, all car borrowers are screened and must get their accounts verified before they can request to borrow a car. One of the main advantages of FriendyCar over car rental services is the fee, which is 30-40% cheaper.

Earlier this year, FriendyCar came in second place at the Arabnet Startup Battle in Dubai and also claimed the first place prize at the Dubai Smartpreneur Competition in May. Although the startup is currently based in Dubai and targeting the Middle East region, it plans to expand to Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia as a next step. Although FriendyCar has no direct competitors in the region, international players with similar models do exist.

Country: UAE
Launched: 2016
Category: Automotive

7. Favizone

Founded by Mehdi Khemiri, Favizone is a platform that allows e-merchants to fully exploit new technologies and the potential of big data. Favizon taps into customers’ past preferences and real-time behavior to deliver one-to-one recommendations to sellers across all channels, while also boosting a sellers’ e-commerce website performance. The aim is to match complex big data tools with a simple interface to help e-merchants improve their offers.

The service is easy to install, and gathers activity data of each of the customers of Favizone’s e-merchant clients. The clients are then given one-to-one recommendations by Favizone and can choose different actions to push their customers to buy, such as customized recommendations via channels such as e-shop, emails and messaging apps.

Although originally based in Tunisia, Favizone have since opened a subsidiary in the business hub Ill-de-France, which they found easier to expand to in terms of mobility and visas compared to the UAE or the US. The creation of the subsidiary should create about 20 jobs in 3 years and will help the startup to expand its business in Europe.

In May, Favizone was declared the winner of the Tunisian leg of the Seedstars World global seed-stage startups competition and will represent Tunisia at both the Seedstars Global Summit in Switzerland next year and at the Regional Summit in Africa in Rwanda in December. Favizone is aiming to look for funding in France to accelerate Favizone’s growth.

Country: Tunisia
Launched: 2016
Category: E-Commerce

8. Bosta

Founded by Mohamed Ezzat, Bosta is an on-demand delivery platform with a B2C focus that allows businesses and individuals to send, receive and track packages less than 10 kg, in a time that does not exceed two hours, and with insurance up to 5000 EGP.

For businesses to get started with Bosta, they simply need to fill in a signup form, and once verified can start using the services. Businesses receive access to a simple dashboard that will allow them to request, manage and track their deliveries. Moreover, they can communicate with the delivery person or ‘Star’ along the way at any point. Customers also receive a SMS with a tracking link to track their delivery.

The startup is currently working with more than 100 companies. In July, Bosta received funding from Cairo Angels, a global network of angel investors, and plan to use the investment to increase its product offering and expand across the MENA region starting with the UAE. Earlier in March, Bosta also received an undisclosed amount of funds from Dubai-based Numa Capital which they used to hire more people to handle operations, more delivery men to handle customers’ demands and intensify their marketing strategy. 

Country: Egypt
Launched: 2016
Category: Delivery

9. Vision in Motion

Founded by Samy El Khoury, Vision in Motion offers an advanced software-based solution that allows brick-and-mortar businesses to monitor, track and analyze their customers’ behavioral patterns and derive as much value from the data as e-commerce counterparts.

The startup’s tech platform allows retail stores to monitor their customers using image processing and computer vision technology. By connecting to surveillance cameras and tracking people’s behavioral patterns as they shop, businesses can know how many consumers entered the store, what they are looking at and how long they are staying in the store or a certain area.

The dynamic heat maps generated by the startup’s technology and superimposed on actual pictures of the store also help to track their customers’ movements and trace their paths, making the technology more accurate and affordable compared to other similar solutions.

In April 2016, Vision in Motion were part of Speed@BDD’s second batch of startups, and got the chance to travel to Silicon Valley and participate in the Blackbox Connect program. In 2017, the startup came first at ArabNet Beirut’s 2017 Startup Battle and were one of 5 startups selected for the final pitch round at the Startup Championship in Dubai.  Today, Vision in Motion is installed in over 40 locations across Lebanon, and plans to expand to the UAE and KSA in the coming two years.

Country: Lebanon
Launched: 2016
Category: Software

10. Entaleq

Founded by Helm Egypt, an NGO that aims to promote full inclusion of disabled individuals, Entaleq is the interactive website and mobile app designed to allow people with disabilities to identify the places that are fitted to their needs. With the goal of driving economic and social progress, the Entaleq platform locates over 800 accessible places across Egypt, facilitating the movement of those with disabilities in Cairo. 

Through the interactive and easy-to-use mobile application and website, disabled individuals can view and search for places with disabled access. Every place has a profile that includes an access guide with five categories: accessibility, bathroom, parking, braille menu, and sign language, and every category is ranked by its level of accessibility. Users can also find a detailed description of the accessibility features under each category, rank places, add comments/reviews, and recommend venues to become accessible. Venues themselves can also add their businesses to the website.

Since launching, the startup has also succeeded in making hundreds of places more accessible, with the help of trained assessors and architects following measures of the International Standards Organization (ISO) standards for accessibility. The project has attracted big companies such as PepsiCo, Al-Futtaim Group Estate, BMW, and Mall of Arabia, among many others, to come on board. Last year, Entaleq were awarded third place and 70.000 LE at Total’s Startupper of the Year 2016 Challenge, in recognition of their efforts to drive economic and social progress.

Country: Egypt
Launched: 2016
Category: Disability

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