Egypt is the most populous country in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with a population of 100m, which is 21% of all people in that region. It is also Africa’s second-biggest economy with a GDP of $362bn, according to Statista. These factors make Egypt a potential startup powerhouse on the continent and it has started living up to it.
Egypt has undergone massive economic and political reforms since the 2011 toppling of the Hosni Mubarak government which sparked the Arab Spring. In 2016, it got a landmark $12bn loan from the International Monetary Fund(IMF) to expand its economy and stop the reliance on traditional industries like textiles, tourism, and chemicals.
The Information and Communications Technology(ICT) sector has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of these efforts. In the financial year 2014/15, ICT contributed just $8bn to the Egyptian economy. It is expected to hit $25bn by the financial year 2020/21, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19% compared to an average GDP growth rate of 4.3% over the same period. Egypt has an internet penetration of about 54.7% (about 55m people) and a mobile penetration of about 93%. The smartphone penetration has grown from 12.6m people (13% of the population) to 28M (28%) in 2019.
The startup ecosystem in Egypt is in its early stages. An early-stage startup ecosystem can be described as one that is dominated by investments from accelerators, grants, and angel investors. Such ecosystems raise seed money at low valuations of less than $5m on average and have little or no exits. Majority of the startup ecosystems in the emerging markets fall under this category.
Startups are mainly located in the capital Cairo and the second city of Alexandria. Other cities with a notable startup ecosystem include Sohag, Assuit, Suez, Mansoura, and El Gouna. According to the Startup Friendliness Index (SFI) which ranked 45 global cities using 6 determining factors (human Capital, access to Finance, the liveliness of the startup space, infrastructure quality, Macro framework, and Market conditions), the top 3 cities in Egypt were Cairo which ranked 24th out of 45 and 6th in the MENA region, followed by Alexandria (25th out of 45 and 7th in MENA) and Mansoura (33rd out of 45 and 11th in MENA).
The Egyptian startup ecosystem is centered around incubators, accelerators, and angel investors just like in most other African countries. The most active accelerators are Flat6labs founded in 2011 by Sawari Ventures, and Falak Startups which is powered by the Egyptian Ministry of International Cooperation and its venture capital arm, Egypt Ventures. 500 Startups, a MENA region accelerator with headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is also active in Egypt. The most popular angel investors are Cairo Angels, which is the 2nd most active angel network in Africa according to Africa Business Angel Network (ABAN). There is also Algebra Ventures, a micro Venture Capital (VC) firm which has raised funds twice ($54m in 2017) and ($94m on 6th April this year) to fund Egyptian startups at the angel and seed level. Other active investors include Innoventures and Pride Capital which runs Startupbootcamp Fintech Track accelerator. The Egyptian Investment Bank EFG Hermes also has an angel arm that invests $100,000 in early-stage companies.
When it comes to venture capital and investments in general, Egypt emerged from the ashes and made a traditional big 3 of Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, a big 4. These are the countries that attract the most investment in startups in Africa. In 2020, the big 4 accounted for 77% of funded start-ups and 89% of total investment. Egypt has an advantage since it attracts investment from both Africa and the Middle East due to its strategic location.
The Most Funded Startups in Egypt
The 10 most funded startups in Egypt have raised a combined $323,079,000 across 32 rounds of financing which is an average of just over $10,000,000 per round. The most funded startup, Alfa Medical Group alone, has raised $100m which accounts for 31% of the entire amount.
Of the 32 rounds, 7 were series A and seed stage rounds each. There were 5 Series B, 3 Series C and 2 Angel and private equity rounds each. There were 1 Series D, Series B II, Post Series B, Grant, undisclosed round and a convertible note round.
The most funded rounds were the two private equity rounds in Alfa Medical Group($100,000,000) and the digital advertisement startup, Adzily ($12,200,000) , a total of $112,200,000 which is 35% of the entire amount raised. The 3 Series C amounted to $55,000,000 (17%), 5 Series B to $42,500,000(13%) while the 3 Series D to $40,000,000 (12%). The 7 seed rounds were worth $5,145,000 which is just 2%.
In the top 10 most funded startups, there are 2 healthcare and pharmaceutical startups as well as a pair of Transport and Logistics startups. Financial services, E-commerce and retail, media and entertainment, Emerging Technology, Talent and jobs and Information Technology have one startup each in the top 10. The most funded sector is healthcare and pharmaceuticals. The two startups (Alfa Medical Group and Vezeeta) raised $163,500,000 which accounts for 51% of the entire total. In second place is transport and logistics which was funded with $87,409,000 which is 27% of the amount raised by the top 10 most funded startups in Egypt. There is no startup in the top 10 that was founded or cofounded by a woman.
1.Alfa Medical Group ($100,000,000)
Alfa Medical Group is one of the largest healthcare providers in Egypt. It has over 140 medical labs, 6 radiology centers, a 170 bed hospital, 2 more hospitals and an Alfa Medical City under construction. It was founded in 1977 as El-Safa Hospital.
In 2021, Alfa Medical Group raised a $100m Private equity round from the CDC Group which is the UK’s development finance institution and impact investor. This is the largest round ever raised by an Egyptian startup.
Swvl is a transport and logistics startup that was started in Cairo in 2017, but is now headquartered in Dubai. It connects commuters with private buses. These buses operate fixed routes and commuters book rides through the app and pay using credit card or cash. Swvl also offers employee transportation solutions to businesses. It now operates in 6 cities in 3 countries; Egypt, Kenya and Pakistan.
In June 2017, Careem funded Swvl’s $500,000 seed round. This was followed by a $30m Series B in November 2018 from BECO Capital, Raed Ventures, Silicon Badia and Arzan Venture Capital. In June 2019, Swvl raised $42m in its Series C. Investors included Vostok New Ventures, BECO Capital, Endeavor Catalyst, off Jasoor Ventures, Sawari Ventures, DASH Ventures and MSA Capital.
Vezeeta is a doctor booking platform founded in Cairo Egypt. It in 50 cities across Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon. It also launched in Kenya last year in November. A user can book doctors in over 30 specialty areas including dentistry, respiratory, dermatology and orthopedics among others. In February 2021, Vezeeta introduced its ePharmacy solution dubbed Vezeeta Pharmacy on which users can order prescriptions through the app. Vezeeta claims to have 4M annual appointments which are tripling year over year.
Vezeeta has raised funding six times. It raised its first round of financing in October 2014 when Silicon Badia invested $1.4m in its series A. Two years later, Silicon Badia was joined by BECO Capital, TDF Capital and Vostok New Ventures in a $5m Series B Investment round. Vezeeta raised its second series B in May 2017 from Silicon Badia, Endeavor Catalyst, New Ventures and Vulkan Equity.
It also raised a couple of Series C rounds. The first one in September 2018 was a $12m round with financing from Saudi Technology Ventures , Sillicon Badia, Vostok New Ventures and Crescent Enterprises Venture Capital The second series C was funded by International Finance Corporation(IFC) in December 2018. It was a $1m round. Vezeeta raised a monster $40m series D in February 2020 from Gulf Capital and Saudi Technology Ventures.
PayMob is a financial services startup that offers Application Programming Interface (APIs), to enable online and offline businesses to accept and send payments. The businesses do this by integrating PayMob’s payment APIs in their websites or apps. It also offers Point of Sale (POS) solutions for offline merchants.
PayMob’s revenue grew 5 times in 2020. It is used by over 35,000 local and global merchants including Swvl, LG, Samsonite, Breadfast, Tradeline and the American University in Cairo. The company claims to have processed payments worth $5bn to date and have over 85% market share in Egypt. PayMob is also available in Kenya, Pakistan and Palestine.
Adzily is an indoor advertising platform. It is a network of digital advertising screens in cafes, restaurants and gyms. Advertisers can choose to target customers at specific locations (city/area/neighborhood) or at specific restaurant chains. They can also choose their type of audience or time to run the ads.
Adzily has over 200 screens installed in different cafes, restaurants and gyms in Egypt. It’s roster of clients include Apple, LG and the Egyptian government. The startup raised a private equity round of $12.2m from the Al-Tharawat Private Investment Holding Company in November 2019.
Wuzzuf is Egypt’s biggest job site. It connects employers with job seekers through its site. Employers list the available jobs and are matched with the best possible candidates. It is one of Egypt’s oldest startups having been founded in 2009.
Wuzzuf got a grant of $150,000 in December 2010 from an undisclosed source. This was followed by an undisclosed seed round in November 2013 from Endure Capital and 500 Startups. In August 2015, Vostok New Ventures, Piton Capital and the returning pair of Endure Capital and 500 Startups invested in Wuzzuf’s $1.7m Series A. It’s Series B in May 2018 of $6m was funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development as well as Kingsway Capital and Endure Capital.. Wuzzuf raised a post Series B of $4,000,000 in May 2020 from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Elmenus is a food discovery, ordering and delivery platform. It has personalized recommendations for users through its AI powered food recommendation engine. Founded in 2011 by Amr Allam, it has 1.5m and grew 3 times in 2020 because more restaurants were forced by COVID19 restrictions to adopt food deliveries to survive. It is expected to grow 10 times this year as the company scales its product and restaurant offerings.
Elmenus raised an undisclosed angel round in February 2012 from undisclosed investors. In April 2017, Algebra Ventures Funded its Series A of $1.5m. In June 2019, Julian Dames funded the company’s series B. The amount was not disclosed. This was followed by another Series B of $8,000,000 with investors like Global Ventures, Algebra Ventures, Tarik Sakr and Hamad Al Homizi coming onboard. Former Just Eat CEO, David Buttress invested in an angel round in the company in February 2021. The amount was also not disclosed.
8.Si-Ware Systems ($9,000,000)
Si-Ware Systems is a Cairo based micro electronics company. It developed a unique sensor which it’s founders believe that it can revolutionize the field of material identification around the globe. In 2016, the company released its first chip which was as big as a matchbox and cost close to $2,000. In 2019, it released its NeoSpectra micro device that can only be seen using an electronic microscope. Its first order was from Henkel, a German chemical and consumer goods company that used the device to build a handheld hair scanner that assesses nutrient needs of a customer’s hair.
In an undisclosed round, Si-Ware Systems raised $9,000,000 in February 2021 from Egypt Ventures and Sawari Ventures. This was an impressive figure considering that it is almost impossible to raise funds for a deep tech company in the region.
Founded in 2014 by Moataz Solomon and Omar Gabr, Instabug is a bug reporting software for developers. It became popular among developers because testers and beta users could report bugs in mobile apps by just shaking their device. It is currently used by thousands of companies and apps. The startup claimed that it is serving 2.5bn devices worldwide and grew by 45% since the COVID19 outbreak last year.
Instabug raised a seed round of $300,000 in December 2013 from Flat6Labs, Middle East Venture Partners(MEVP), Ihab Hinnawi, Georges Harik, Cairo Angels and Amr Awdallah. It also raised another seed round of $120,000 as part of the Y Combinator cohort in March 2016. Its third seed round was in June 2016. Accel, Amr Awdallah, Jim Payne and Sharif El Badawi invested $1.7m into the startup. This was followed by an undisclosed convertible note round in November 2017 from Trend Forward Capital. It last raised funding in May 2020 from Accel, Amr Awdallah and Jim Payne. They invested in its $5m Series A.
Halan was founded in 2017 to provide on-demand transportation with two-wheelers(motorcycles) and 3 wheelers(tuk-tuks) in Egypt. It has since expanded to logistics and e-commerce. It offers last mile delivery for clients such as KFC and McDonald’s.
Halan raised a seed investment of $525,000 from Battery Road Digital Holdings in December 2017 and another one worth $2,000,000 in March 2018 from undisclosed sources. In December 2018, it raised $4,384,000 from Battery Road Digital Holdings again and Algebra Ventures..
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