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3 MENA Companies That Became Unicorns in 2023

These 3 companies out of MENA and the GCC achieved unicorn status in 2023.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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Despite a booming tech sector, a young population, and growing investor interest in the region, there's only been a handful of unicorns out of MENA and the GCC to date. But the prospects for growth are positive, with STV estimating that MENA is capable of producing some 45 unicorns by 2030. These are high-growth companies that can be listed on public markets and provide innovative solutions to traditional market gaps and underserved consumers. [1]

MENA and the GCC provide a fertile landscape for innovation owing partly to MENA's population, which is made up of more than 50% of largely tech-savvy youth, creating a strong demand for digital products and services. The growing needs of the market, coupled with the large percentage of underserved consumers, have created opportunities for entrepreneurs to create a lasting impact, with the rapid growth of fintech as the top-growing sector in the region serving as a testament to that. 

And while 2023 may have seen a slowdown in VC funding, with investors becoming more cautious, it has seen three new startups (all fintechs) cross the $1 billion valuation mark to become unicorns.

1. MNT-Halan

Country: Egypt

Founding Date: 2017

Founders: Mounir Nakhla, Ahmed Mohsen

Industry: Fintech

Egypt-based fintech startup MNT-Halan achieved unicorn status in February of this year, when it raised $400 million in an equity-debt financing round. The round included an equity stake of at least 20% of MNT-Halan by Abu Dhabi’s Chimera Capital for upward of $200 million. An additional $60 million of primary capital was secured from international investors, including the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

MNT-Halan, which started out as a ride-hailing platform, has since expanded its offerings to include small- and micro-business lending, payment, consumer finance, and e-commerce. In 2021, Halan became MNT-Halan after a share swap deal with Dutch microlender MNT Investments BV, which propelled it into fintech services with mobile payments and financial services for the unbanked and underbanked.

2. Tabby

Country: Saudi Arabia

Founding Date: 2019

Founders: Hosam Arab, Daniil Barkalov

Industry: Fintech

Riyadh-based Buy-Now-Pay-Later (BNPL) Tabby became the GCC’s first fintech unicorn in November after a $200 million Series D funding raise gave it a valuation of $1.5 billion. The round, led by existing investors Mubadala Capital, PayPal Ventures, and Arbor Ventures, also included investments from Wellington Management and growth equity investor Bluepool Capital.  

The company, previously headquartered in Dubai and now based in Riyadh, raised $58 million in a Series C round led by Sequoia Capital India and STV less than a year ago. 

Tabby, which is active in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Kuwait, allows customers to pay for purchases in installments. It has partnerships with more than 30,000 global brands and small businesses, including H&M, Adidas, IKEA, SHEIN, and Bloomingdales, among others. 

Last week, Tabby announced a $700 million debt facility facilitated by J.P. Morgan and extended its Series D round to $250 million ahead of its much-anticipated IPO in the Kingdom next year. 

3. Tamara 

Country: Saudi Arabia

Founding Date: 2020

Founders: Abdulmajeed Alsukhan, Turki Bin Zarah, and Abdulmohsen Al Babtain

Industry: Fintech

Also based in Riyadh, Buy-Now-Pay-Later (BNPL) Tamara raised $340 million earlier this month in a Series C funding round that values the fintech at $1 billion. The funding round, composed of primary capital and a transaction of some secondary shares, is among the largest investments in a fintech in the region.

The news comes 10 months after the platform, which allows consumers to shop, pay in installments, and bank, received debt financing from Goldman Sachs and Shorooq Partners to upsize its warehouse facility to $400 million. With this transaction, Tamara has raised a total of $500 million in equity funding, including secondaries, and over $400 million in debt financing since it began operations in 2020.

Tamara has over 10 million users across its primary markets in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait, that shop from 30,000 partner merchants such as regional and global brands SHEIN, IKEA, Jarir, Noon, eXtra, and Farfetch. 

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