It has been coming for a while, but 2019 was the year when Egypt emphatically established itself as one of the heavyweights when it comes to tech on the African continent.
The local startup scene saw funding galore, a host of new accelerators, and innovation by the bucket load, but what were Disrupt Africa’s big five developments from 2019?
Swvl becomes the most-funded Egyptian startup of all time
The biggest event of the year is beyond any doubt. Egyptian app-based mass transit system Swvl raised a US$42 million Series B-2 round for further expansion, taking its total raised funding to over US$80 million.
The round raised by Swvl, a mass-transit system that enables riders heading in the same direction to share a ride in a van or bus, blew the previous record for an Egyptian startup out of the water, and that was its own Series B round, worth only “tens of millions of dollars”.
A big year for VC in general
Other startups were on the fundraising trail over the course of 2019, with Egypt now firmly in tech investors’ sites. Rounds for, among others, MaxAB, Breadfast, elmenus, Vetwork, Yodawy, Chefaa, XPay, MerQ, Brimore, Trella, GoodsMart and Halan mean the country is now indisputably a hotspot for funding in Africa.
Tinder buys Harmonica
It is not often a local tech startup essentially gets acquired by Tinder, but that is what happened to Egypt’s Harmonica in August. The startup, which uses technology to enhance the matchmaking process in a traditionally acceptable manner, was acquired by Match Group, which owns and operates several online dating sites, including Tinder but also including OkCupid, PlentyOfFish, and Match.com.
Harmonica has effectively become Match Group’s first Middle Eastern office, with the acquisition encouraged by a strategy that has seen Match focus more strongly on market opportunities in Asia, which includes many countries that are predominantly Muslim.
500 Startups busy in Egypt
Silicon Valley-based accelerator and VC fund 500 Startups is yet to get really active in Africa, but Egypt is an exception. The company has invested in a host of local startups, as well as running a number of local programmes (examples here and here). When it comes to encouraging international heavyweights to get active in your local ecosystem, it just doesn’t get much bigger than this.
Egyptian startups head overseas
Swvl grabbed the headlines for launching in Kenya and Pakistan after raising its funding, but other Egyptian startups are on the expansion path as well. Startups in the country have the luxury of being able to easily expand into the Middle East or Sub-Saharan African regions, or both, depending on what their product or service is.
Eventing startup Eventtus did the former, opening its second overseas office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as it expands its operations further into the region. E-health company 7keema, however, is planning on expanding across Africa via a quasi-franchising approach that will see if partner and offer equity to entrepreneurial operating teams in the continent’s major cities.