Under The Mediterranean Sun: A Bright Spot Of Activity


Apr 03, 2023


Cindy Grazer


Apr 03, 2023


Cindy Grazer


Going public locally was always a challenge for startups in the Middle East. Despite having the 10 largest sovereign wealth funds managing over $4t in assets (more than the GDP of France or the UK), investments only flowed from the Gulf “outward.” But the sands are shifting. A wave of entrepreneurial energy is sweeping the desert, with visible interest from foreign institutional investors, asset managers, venture capitalists and hedge fund managers.

In what has otherwise been a stagnant year in the global IPO markets, the Middle East recorded 51 IPOs, raising $22b, making it the only place in the world to post a YoY increase in private investment value, with Saudi Arabia leading the pack.

The going-public playbook starts with state owned enterprises, followed established conglomerates, and finally tech and newborn companies. Ever since plans were announced to float state oil giant Aramco on the public exchange, which resulted in a ~$30b share sale, international banks have been courting the Kingdom, vying for a slice of the IPO frenzy. The Emirates ran a similar playbook, with Adnoc Gas raising $2.5b in the Emirate’s biggest IPO to-date and launching a slew of subsequent IPOs across state-related entities from utility Dewa to road-toll Salik.

Family-owned businesses make-up over 90% of the private sector in the Gulf, ranging from shopping mall conglomerates to retail and hyper-market chains, all of which are receiving strong encouragement to IPO.

In the next phase, homegrown, tech-enabled companies will be the natural extension of this burgeoning market: The younger tech cohorts claiming their moment in the spotlight in one of the fastest growing investment destinations in the world. Investors and founders alike are sure to be in for a wild ride.

newsletter image - 4/3/2023

Portfolio News

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MoneyLion gives people the chance to turn play money into real money with scavenger hunt in NYC - April is Financial Literacy Month and MoneyLion has officially announced a month-long rollout of content, giveaways, and activations promoting financial literacy to all consumers, including the over 1/3 of Americans (36%) that are not financially literate. To kick off things off, MoneyLion is activating a disruptive, gamified campaign in NYC, giving all New Yorkers the opportunity to discover useful money hacks, with the chance to win up to $1,000 in cash. Read more

A Bright Spot Of Activity

Saudi capital market is one of the fastest-growing investment destinations: Tadawul chief - With a value of $2.7t, Saudi Arabia’s capital market is one of the strongest and fastest-growing investment destinations in the world, according to a top official. According to Sarah Al-Suhaimi, chairperson of Saudi Tadawul Group, initial public offerings are booming in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia leading from the front in 2022. She added that listings in the region outpaced Europe last year. Read more

Middle East on ‘radar’ of global investors as it enjoys IPO boom - The FT reports, shares in Presight AI, a data analytics company, soared on Monday, their first day of trading on the Abu Dhabi bourse after a $496m IPO that was 136 times oversubscribed. The demand is no one-off. It comes two weeks after Adnoc Gas raised $2.5b in the emirate’s biggest listing. Read more

Industry News

Apple rolls out buy now, pay later plan - The move is another push by Apple to use finance to deepen its relationship with customers. The new program, called Apple Pay Later, allows consumers to split purchases into four payments spread over six weeks with no interest and no fees. People using the iPhone’s Wallet app can borrow anywhere from $50 to $1,000 using Apple Pay Later. Read more

Small bank deposits fall, but not by much - At the end of last week, the Federal Reserve released its weekly report on the U.S. banking system, which showed that amid the turmoil that's engulfed the banking sector, there was an outflow of deposits from smaller banks in mid-March — though not on a scale that appears overly worrisome. This is a sign that while bank deposit outflows are real, it does not appear to have amounted to a cascade of withdrawals. Read more

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried charged with bribing Chinese officials - The indictment, unsealed Tuesday, is the third Mr. Bankman-Fried has faced since the collapse of the crypto exchange. It alleges that in 2021 he authorized bribing one or more Chinese government officials with at least $40m in cryptocurrency to regain access to accounts that the country’s law enforcement had frozen as part of a continuing investigation into a party that traded with his crypto-investment firm, Alameda Research. Read more

Binance and its CEO sued by CFTC over US regulatory violations - The agency said that Zhao, Lim, other senior managers failed to properly supervise Binance’s activities and took steps to violate US laws, including instructing American customers to use virtual private networks, or VPNs, to obscure their location and directing “VIP customers” with US ties — often institutional market participants — to open Binance accounts under the name of shell companies. Read more

US officials signal new rules for banks after SVB, Signature failures - Top US financial officials outlined what’s likely to be the biggest regulatory overhaul of the banking sector in years, in an initiative aimed at addressing underlying issues that contributed to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and other US regional lenders. Read more

Gen Z, memes, digital revolution kicked to curb in fad-ETF purge - From meme stocks to crypto-themed products, exchange-traded fund closures are mounting in what were once some of the trendiest areas of the $6.8t industry. Thematic ETFs that launched to target the buzziest market themes of the past two ​​years are closing at a rapid pace, as rising interest rates hammer performance and send investors in search of safer options. Read more

Select Financings

Agreena - Copenhagen based climate fintech firm raised €46m in Series B funding led by HV Capital. Read more

Cega - Singapore based crypto derivatives startup raised $5m in new funding led by Dragonfly Capital. Read more

EigenLayer - Seattle based ethereum restaking protocol raised $50m in Series A funding led by Blockchain Capital. Read more

Finverity - London based trade supply chain finance platform raised $5m in new funding led by Outward VC, Acrobator Ventures and s16vc founders fund. Read more

Glopal - Paris based international e-commerce tech startup raised €20m in Series A funding led by Hi Inov, Dentressangle, and Crédit Mutuel Innovation. Read more

Ledger - Paris based crypto hardware wallet maker raised €100m in growth funding led by True Global Ventures, Digital Finance Group and VaynerFund. Read more

Markerr - New York based analytics platform for institutional real estate owners raised $6.6m in Series B funding led by RET Ventures. Read more

Nimbbl - India based one-click checkout startup raised $3.5m led by Sequoia Capital India, Global Founders Capital and Groww. Read more

Open Payments - Sweden based open banking platform raised €3m in new funding led by Industrifonden. Read more

Orb - San Francisco based billing automation startup raised $19.1m in Series A funding led by Menlo Ventures. Read more

Payday - Kigali and Vancouver based pan-African neobank raised $3m in Seed funding led by Moniepoint. Read more

Paytrix - United Kingdom based payments startup raised $18.3m in Series A funding led by Unusual Ventures, Motive Partners and Bain Capital Ventures. Read more

Playbook - San Francisco based Gen Z and millennial-focused personal finance app raised $7m in Series A funding led by Telstra Ventures. Read more

Polytrade - Dubai based web3 protocol focused on global trade raised $3.8m in Seed funding led by Alpha Wave, Matrix Partners, Polygon Ventures and CoinSwitch Ventures. Read more

Presta - Ohio based digital lending platform raised $3.3m in growth funding led by Distributed Ventures. Read more

Raisin - Berlin based savings and investment startup raised €60m in growth funding led by M&G’s Catalyst and Goldman Sachs. Read more

Salt Labs - New York based rewards platform for hourly workers raised $10m in pre-Seed funding led by Fin Capital. Read more

Sarna - Chicago based trading and investing platform raised $2.5m in Seed funding led by by Simplex and Motivate Ventures. Read more

SKUx - Florida based payment and consumer engagement startup raised $11m in Series A funding led by an undisclosed family office and Advection Growth Capital. Read more

Spiral - New York based impact-as-a-service platform for financial institutions raised $28m in Series A funding led by Team8. Read more

StellarFi - Austin based bill payment tool raised $15m in Series A funding led by Acrew Capital. Read more

Stratyfy - New York based provider of machine learning solutions for lenders raised $10m in growth funding co-led by Truist Ventures and Zeal Capital Partners. Read more

Thunes - Singapore based cross-border payments startup raised $30m in Series C funding led by Marshall Wace. Read more

Toku - Chile based payments firm raised $7m in Seed funding led by F-Prime Capital. Read more

Versana - New York based syndicated loan market fintech raised $40m in growth funding led by Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, U.S. Bancorp and Wells Fargo. Read more

Zorro - New York based health care benefits company raised $11.5m in Seed funding co-led by Pitango and 10D. Read more


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