Tunisia is Africa’s northernmost country located on the shores of the Mediterranean sea. It has a population of 11m with a GDP of $44bn. It has a GDP per capita of $3,713. Tunisia has an internet penetration of 67% or 8m internet users. There are 17.84m mobile phone subscribers which is 150.2% of the population.
Tunisia ranked 78th out of 190 countries on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report in 2019. This is a high ranking for an African country, but it is far from the 46th position Tunisia was in before 2011. Attractiveness for investors declined greatly after the 2011 Tunisian Revolution that was triggered by the lack of democracy and freedom under the 24-year rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
The Tunisian Startup Ecosystem.
Tunisia has a growing startup ecosystem. Much of the startup activity is based in the capital Tunis, but there are startup communities in other cities like Sousse and Sfax. The stakeholders in this ecosystem include hubs, accelerators, investors, and the government. These are some of the stakeholders in this ecosystem and what they do;
B@Labs is an accelerator program that rewards successful entrepreneurs with 40,000 Tunisian Dinars ($14,000) which is spent as follows: 15,000 dinars ($5,000) spent by B@Labs on startups through support programs, 10,000 dinars ($3,600) to be spent by the startup with the approval of B@Labs, and a further 15,000 dinars ($5,000) cash if B@Labs decides to go further. It takes a 5% Equity stake.
Flat6Labs is a regional accelerator and VC fund with offices in Tunisia. it offers entrepreneurs seed funding, strategic mentorship, office space, training, and workshops that prepare the startups to be investment-ready within 4 months. It offers 6-8 startups an investment of 11 0,000 Dinars ($40,000) in exchange for 10-15% equity in the company. Graduates from the program can get a Pre-Series A of up to 600,000 Dinars ($216,000).
Wiki Startup is a program that helps startups to make business plans before they introduce them to inve4stors in exchange for a flat fee of $5,000 and a 3% commission of the amount that the startup raises during the first year.
Yunus Social Business is an investor that has different phases of selection for the investment process leading to an offer of $150,000 which is an equity-based offer. It also gives startups at the prototyping phase $20,000 in loans. It invests in specific social businesses that are creating jobs indirectly ( Uber-like business models) and developing skills for employability.
AfricInvest is an investment firm based in Tunisia founded in 1994 that invests in financial services, agribusinesses, retail, education, and healthcare sectors. AfricInvest has invested in more than 150 companies across 25 African countries.
Capsa Capital Partners is an asset management firm, that manages private equity funds on behalf of selected groups of institutional investors in Tunisia. It invests in private companies by providing funding and necessary strategic resources to business managers to implement development projects without interfering in the daily management.
The Tunisian government has also been an active supporter of startups in the country. It passed the Tunisia Startup Act in 2018 that eases the starting and runni9ng of businesses in Tunisia. Even though it is not limited to startups, a business must be innovative and utilize a great amount of technology to qualify.
The benefits of this Act including tax exemption for startups for up to 8 years, salary for up to 3 founders, a years’ leave is granted to private and public employees. It also offers government assistance and fast-tracking of international patents.
The Most Funded Startups in Tunisia
The 10 most funded startups in Tunisia have raised $49m across 13 rounds which is $3.7m on average. Of the 13 rounds of investment, there were 5 seed rounds, 4 Series A, 2 Series A, and 1 pre-series B and Angel round each. The 4 Series A raised $24.3m followed by Pre-Series B with $20m. Together, the two accounted for 91% of the funds raised by all rounds.
Of the 10 most funded startups, there are two information technology startups and one each from agriculture, Financial services, robotics, transport and logistics, education, healthcare and pharma, e-commerce and retail, and media and entertainment.
Expensya is a SaaS startup that offers online software which automates expense management for businesses. It has web, mobile and API-based tools that businesses of all sizes can use to file expense reports and upload invoices among others. Expensya has 5,000 customers including large corporations, small and medium-sized enterprises, and freelancers.
Expensya has been funded three times. It raised an undisclosed seed round in 2016 and followed this up with a $4.5M Series A from ISAI and Seventure Partners in December 2018. Its last round of financing was in April 2021, a Pre-Series B of $20m from MAIF Avenir and Silicon Badia.
NextProtein is an insect-based animal feed and fertilizer that makes protein powder for farmed fish, poultry, pigs, and pets that can be used as a substitute for the more resource-intensive or costly feed sources.
NextProtein exemplifies the shift towards a fully circular economy moving away from the industry standard of using cereal by-products as the main feed source. NextProtein raised a Series A of $11.2m in May 2020 from Blue Oceans Partners, Mirova, Telos Impact, RAISE Impact, Kepple Africa Ventures, and Aucfan Incubate.
Instadeep is a machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) startup that helps businesses to develop bespoke apps to harness computer vision, predictive analytics, 3D Imaging, Deep learning Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR). It was nominated as one of the 100 most promising AI startups in the world by CB Insights this year. AfricInvest and Endeavor Catalyst financed InstaDeep’s $7m Series A in May 2019.
4.Enova Robotics ($1.6m)
Enova Robotics designs and manufactures four different types of mobile robots that can be used across education, security, healthcare, and marketing. It has built and sold between 50-60 robots since 2014.
It built an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) called P-Guard that was used to monitor the streets of the capital Tunis during the COVID-19 lockdown. If it saw anyone walking past curfew time, it would approach them, ask them to show IDs and other papers to the robot’s cameras for officers to check them. In September 2018, Enova Robotics raised a $1.6m Series A from Capsa Capital Partners.
IntiGo started as a motorbike-hailing startup that expanded into other categories like delivery services. It owns motorbikes that drivers rent and pay a 20% commission off each ride. It was doing 12,000 rides a month before COVID19. These numbers were badly hit by lockdowns, but the delivery business is picking up. IntiGo has raised funding twice, both times in 2020. In February, it raised a $300,000 angel round from undisclosed investors and then a $1m Pre-Series A from Capsa Capital Partners.
GoMyCode is an ed-tech startup that offers different types of training programs for tech and digital jobs in Tunisia and Algeria. It uses a blended offline and online learning model to teach web/app development, AI and data science, user experience, video game development, and business intelligence. Its programs are 4-16 weeks long
GoMyCode operates a learn by doing approach. Users pay to learn or pay in 4 equal monthly installments or can choose financing options from a partner or pay when hired. GoMyCode raised $850,000 in a Pre-Series A round in October 20202 from Wamda Capital, Meninx Holding, Flat6Labs, and Jasminium Capital.
Med. tn is an online platform that allows users to find a doctor closest to them. Customers can make appointments for free by browsing through profiles of doctors and read their reviews. Users can also search for pharmacies and laboratories and also ask health-related questions. It has 3,000 doctors and traffic of over 550,000 visitors from Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, UAE, and Senegal. Tunisian insurance giant, CARTE Group, invested $660,000 in Med .tn’s seed round in January 2019.
Polysmart is a gaming startup that produces multi-player online games using its in-house server infrastructure and database. It builds strong franchises that can last a decade or more. Its first product was a Veterans Online game that has more than 50m users waiting for it. Polysmart raised a $600,000 seed round from CDC Gestion in June 2017.
9.NG Sign ($0.547m)
NG Sign is an electronic signature web platform on the cloud. It allows users to easily integrate and use the following services: electronic signature and time stamp, validation of electronic signatures, and archiving with legal value. NG Sign raised $547,000 in a seed round from undisclosed investors in March 2021.
Datavora is a market data platform for e-commerce. It gathers information like product assortment, prices, and other specifications to provide e-commerce providers with benchmarks and competitive data. It uses this data to match similar products, analyze market trends and predict market behavior. It currently serves over 2,000 retailers and prices start at $400 to monitor one product category. Investors UGFS and Intilaq funded Datavora’s $408,000 seed round in October 2018.
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