The startup scene in the Middle East has been growing for years and is showing no signs of slowing down. Now, more than ever, this ecosystem is unleashing the potential of local entrepreneurs with ideas for big innovations. Whether they are looking to make life easier for those living with disabilities or to facilitate more connections among locals, these individuals are using their startups to make a difference in the lives of consumers. Here are seven innovative Arab startups that you need to keep on your radar throughout 2018:
Headquartered in Dubai, SwitchDXB has developed a mobile application that promotes wellness and healthy living among its users. Whether one is looking to pursue a better lifestyle or simply wants to experience new things, the app has activities for everyone.
The SwitchDXB app allows users to peruse lists of exciting experiences in Dubai. Once they have chosen a yoga or high intensity training session that best fits their busy schedules, they can book it immediately and even pay right on the app. Throughout the week, they can monitor their SwitchDXB schedules and make changes as needed.
MIH Systems Corporation
MIH Systems has revolutionized the market for those with visual impairments in the Middle East. Based in the UAE, the startup has created a groundbreaking pair of smart glasses that can accommodate the various needs of its wearers.
The product, known as Amal 1, has consolidated more than two dozen assistive device technologies and artificial intelligence in its operating system. Those with visual impairments can use MIH Systems’ smart glasses to control devices around their homes, relay their location to friends and family, take pictures, and more. The Amal 1 glasses support users in over seven languages, which makes them accessible to a wider audience. To complement the device, MIH Systems has developed an innovative app store that allows wearers to download a broad array of applications for their glasses.
A unique hybrid messaging platform, Flochat is changing the way that the residents of the UAE connect with both one another and the world around them. Since its inception in 2015, the startup has evolved simple instant messaging into a system that allows users to interact with content from several different applications at once. Instead of having to put conversations on hold in order to use other apps, users can do everything they need to do through Flochat.
Through the use of a feature called “Chactions,” users can share music, make dinner reservations, and purchase movie tickets while chatting with their friends. These services provide greater convenience, and they also facilitate better “flow of conversation” between users.
The team behind Tap Payments has leveraged more than two decades of experience in banking and payment services to provide this innovative online platform. The biggest startup of its kind in Kuwait, Tap streamlines the process of making online payments for local users. Designed primarily with businesses in mind, the startup began with the goal of helping business owners to improve their financial management practices. To this end, Tap allows its users to send bills to customers and take electronic payments online. Since 2013, the startup has served more than 1,000 companies of all sizes and helped them to strengthen their business.
Since its launch in 2017, Yo Neighbor has delivered a platform through which the residents of UAE can connect with one another and share their belongings. People who have items that are going unused can lend them to others on the app. Whether a family is looking to borrow camping gear for a weekend getaway or a neighbor is looking to borrow power tools for the afternoon, Yo Neighbor can help them to find and rent anything that they may need. The app is also a place where tutors, personal trainers, and others can offer their services to the public.
Dubai’s BonApp is addressing the challenges of food waste in the food and beverage sector with a unique take on food sustainability. The startup took inspiration from the UAE Food Bank and the Dubai Municipality #ZeroFoodWaste initiative, creating a system that allows eateries to sell their extra food to hungry locals. Restaurants can list any of their unsold products on BonApp, where people can purchase them at a discounted rate. Not only does this allow locals to save money while eating out, but it also helps restaurants to reduce their food waste and improve sustainability.
Entrepreneurs Lulwa AlSoudairy, Leena Al Aufi, and Marwan Cheguenni sought to create a better platform for people to market their handmade goods with the development of their startup, Artistia. The site allows craftspeople, designers, and artists from across the Middle East to promote and sell everything from handmade beauty products to works of art.
Artistia is further supporting the needs of local sellers by helping them to scale their independent businesses. Not only does the site help sellers to advertise their wares among both local and international audiences, but it also enables them to foster relationships with global shipping entities. Through Artistia, sellers can even elicit advice from other artists or find individuals to assist them with their orders.