Momentum for entrepreneurship in the Middle East only continues to increase as more companies realize incredible success, and growing numbers of foreign investors are starting to pay attention to the region. Entrepreneurs from several different countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa have been performing admirably in global startup competitions.
For example, the recent startup competition Get in the Ring held competitions in 80 countries across the world that culminated in nine regional tournaments. Two startups from the Middle East were chosen to travel to Colombia to compete in the International Final in mid-March. These two finalists were Vanoman and SolarizEgypt, which are definitely two startups to watch in the coming year.
Vanoman is the first company in the region to use technology to improve the stressful moving process. Through the company’s online platform, individuals can learn about and book a large variety of different moving services in Saudi Arabia. With a few clicks, individuals can get reliable quotes from trusted carriers and book a variety of different sizes of vehicles.
Vanoman accepts a range of different types of payments to streamline the process and currently serves more than 10 cities throughout Saudi Arabia. On moving day, individuals can track vehicles to know exactly when they will arrive to pick up or drop off furniture and boxes through GPS technologies. The Vanoman network includes hundreds of vehicles, and users can access reviews from former customers to make the best choice possible for their needs.
An energy startup, SolarizEgypt sees massive potential in the sun that beats down on the country’s expansive deserts. By installing photovoltaic solar panels in uninhabited regions, the company aims to achieve energy independence for the nation.
SolarizEgypt has operated since 2013 and provides both design and installation services for grid-connected solar power plants that generate electricity for commercial, residential, and industrial consumers. The company also has off-grid and hybrid options to meet the various needs of its clients and provides key operation and maintenance services to keep the solar panels operating at full efficiency.
More Exciting Startups Poised to Take Off in 2016
The participation of companies like Vanoman and SolarizEgypt in international startup competitions like Get in the Ring plays an important role in generating excitement for the developing entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Middle East. The fact that these competitors fare well has brought a lot of investor attention to the region, which serves to increase the resources available to people who want to launch their own companies.
For example, new incubators are opening across the region at an impressive rate, which has led to the rise of startup capital in places like Beirut, Abu Dhabi, and Tunis. Individuals are taking advantage of these opportunities every day to start new companies, and it can be hard to keep up with the most promising ideas. Below is a look at a handful of the most compelling companies that individuals may want to keep an eye on as 2016 progresses.
Refugee Open Ware
Founded in 2015, Refugee Open Ware (ROW) employs advanced technologies to address the humanitarian struggles of refugees from Syria. Based in Amman, Jordan, the company has used robotics, 3D printing, brain-computer interfaces, and more to achieve its mission. The company enters active refugee zones to teach individuals how to turn the materials they have on hand into the tools that they need to make life as comfortable as possible.
A popular ecommerce site in Iran, Digikala is similar to Amazon. The site has 2.3 million subscribers and claims about 90 percent of all ecommerce in Iran, with approximately 750,000 visitors daily. This year, the company will likely get better exposure to Western markets and is expected to benefit from sanctions relief, which will only drive profits higher.
The Blue House
Located in Taghazout, Morocco, The Blue House is a startup-focused startup. The organization provides a retreat for young entrepreneurs who want an unobtrusive, tranquil area to cultivate their concepts. Participants can also engage in collaborative activities that improve social abilities and build professional networks. The Blue House is still in its early stages but has received a lot of international interest because of its potential to bring together entrepreneurs from very diverse backgrounds.
Inspired by the success of Western companies like Spotify, Beirut-based Anghami is the first music streaming platform in the region. The company has been in operation since 2012 and now boasts more than 11 million users. As a middle class with expendable income continues to develop in the region and mobile technology becomes more accessible, the company will only grow in the years to come.
This Dubai-based company offers an app that utilizes a customer’s GPS location to deliver merchandise. At present, individuals in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain can use the service, but Fetchr will likely expand quickly. Last year, the company raised $11 million in series A funding. The largest investor was New Enterprise Association, which made Fetchr the first Arab startup to get an early-stage investment from an American venture capital firm.