50 Most Promising U.A.E. Startups

The 50 Most Promising U.A.E. Startups 2016 3

Last year, FORBES MIDDLE EAST launched its first ever list of promising U.A.E. startups, amid a burgeoning entrepreneurial scene. We have expanded it from 25 to 50, with an additional 50 to watch.

Despite a tougher economic environment, venture capitalists are not holding back. Several startups were able to raise funds since the beginning of the year, including the Luxury Closet, BitOasis, and SocialDice. And recently, Dubai-based accelerator Turn 8 announced a new $60 million fund to invest primarily in its graduates at the seed and series A level.

Of the top 50 most promising startups, 28 have raised a minimum of $1 million for a total of at least $160 million from venture firms, corporate venture arms and angel investors. At the head of the list is on-demand car service Careem, which represents more than 40% of that total amount. Private equity firm Abraaj Group led its $60 million series C round this past November.

Thirty-two startups have raised money from angel investors (excluding friends and family), and 24 on our 50 To Watch list are still bootstrapping.

Startups have been forthcoming in disclosing funding, with only five out of 100 refusing to share that information.

We’ve tried to keep copycats at a minimum, although two pop up at the top of the list: both Compare it 4 me and Souqalmal allow consumers to shop around for financial products, and have raised $5.6 million and $4.5 million, respectively.

Fetchr, Instashop and Wing are in the logistics business in different ways. Wing was formed this year with backing from Souq.com, emerging as a competitor to Fetcher in the quest to modernize delivery services in the region.

In the absence of valuations, which are the ideal measure of a startup’s “hotness,” we ranked companies based on the amount of funding raised. We also looked at backers, the team, and the potential market reach of each business. Startups had to be at most 5 years old.


1CareemMudassir Sheikha, Magnus Olsson, Abdullah ElyasOn-demand car service2012
2FetchrIdriss Al Rifai, Joy AjlounyGPS-based shipping2012
3MumzworldMona AtayaOnline retailer of children's apparel and items2011
4The Luxury ClosetKunal KapoorMarketplace for pre-owned designer labels2011
5HolidayMeGeet Bhalla, Digvijay PratapCustomized travel services2014
6SellAnyCar.comSaygin YalcinOnline used car dealer2013
7MyboxBader and Fahad Al KalootiOn demand home services2013
8Compareit4meJon Richards, Samer ChehabFinancial products comparison site2011
9Souqalmal.comAmbareen MusaFinancial products comparison site2012
10ReserveOutKhalil ShadidOnline restaurant guide and booking2012
11GlamBoxShant Oknayan, Christos Mastoras, Fares Akkad, Marc GhobrielSubscription-based retailer of beauty products2012
12MoveSouq.comBana Shomali, Wim TorfsMoving and home services2013
13BayzatTalal Bayaa, Brian HabibiHealth insurance comparison site2012
14Growl MediaDinesh LalvaniEdutainment apps2013
15NibrasAmmar KhayyatOnline courses for employees2011
16RoundMenuZaid Jawad, Ali SinaeiOnline restaurant booking and review2012
17YouGotaGift.comHusain Makiya, Abed BibiElectronic greeting and gift cards2013
18EnerwhereDaniel Zywietz, David PhilippCommercial-scale solar panels2012
19SnappCardAlborz ToofaniManages loyalty points2012
20Designer-24Sara Alemzadeh, Ranya KhalilOnline designer dress rental company2014
21NabbeshLoulou Khazen BazFreelance work marketplace2012
22Pi SliceGenny GhanimehMicro-lending platform2013
23insydoTanaz DizadjiOnline guide for the U.A.E.2014
24RemitrKanchan Kumar, Sandeep Jhingran, Altaf Ahmed, Sandeep TodiMoney transfer app2016
25Mini ExchangeSarah JonesOnline retailer of children merchandise and womenswear2014
26LamsaBadr Ward, Anas ShamiArabic digital content for kids2013
27SheddTariq Zabian, Alex HutleyFashion reseller app2015
28TaskSpottingKarim Aly, Dirk StevensCustomer rewards2014
29MENA NetworkSalim Akil, Kamila MavadinB2B marketplace2014
30OfficeRock.comChristopher Queitsch, Rami Al SalehOnline retailer for office supplies2012
31BitOasisOla Doudin, Daniel RobenekBitcoin wallet2014
32WrappupRami Salman, Ayush Chordia, Rishav JalanSmart recorder2015
33MelltooMorrad Irsane, Sharene LeeReseller marketplace2014
34InstaShopIoannis Tsioris, Ioanna AngelidakiGrocery delivery app2015
35UrbanBuzMustafa Sadek, Salam SaadehCustomer loyalty and engagement platform2013
36GEEKSMousa Yassin, Fathi Al Sharif, Ala MajajOn demand computer repairs2014
37BoxitPremlal Pullisserry, Abraham Thomas, Joby MathewConnects consumers with storage facilities2016
38LaimoonIhsan and Zaid Jawad, Abed Bibi, Husain MakiyaJob board2011
39CollectionairValerie Konde, Olivier VarenneOnline art gallery2011
40PixelbugDany El EidAugmented reality tools2012
41WingMuzaffar KarabaevDelivery service2016
42ChefXchangeKarl Naim, Marc WashingtonBook private chef2015
43THE LISTAndreas SkorskiMarketplace for luxury collectibles2016
44ShortPointSami AlSayyed, Anas Nakawa, Serhiy Shekhovtsov, Ala AlbataynehSAAS Web design platform2015
45VotekLojain Jibawi, Sawsan SaeedArabic voice recognition2014
46SocialDiceSaed Shela, Nael RamadanRecruitment site2014
47UnnyhogPavel Ignatov, Margarita Belorukova, Andrey ApanasikGame developer2015
48LoadMESebastian Stefan, Sebastian Morar, Claudia PacurarOn demand truck transportation2014
49MENA CommerceMoustafa Mahmoud, Ahmed HassanData management and analytics for retailers2013
50Justmop.comKerem Kuyucu, Ali Cagatay OzcanOn demand home cleaning services2016