Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 15 November 2019

Is this the UAE's next $1bn tech unicorn?

Fetchr is one of the best-funded start-ups in the region, according to CB Insights

Fetchr allows users to use GPS co-ordinates to arrange for pick-up and drop-off of goods. Reem Mohammed / The National
Fetchr allows users to use GPS co-ordinates to arrange for pick-up and drop-off of goods. Reem Mohammed / The National

Dubai logistics company Fetchr is a front-runner to be the next UAE technology start-up valued at $1 billion as the UAE makes progress as "a significant incubator of technology start-ups", according to a new report.

Fetchr is on its way to join the likes of the UAE's first unicorn, Careem, which was acquired by Uber earlier this year, as the region’s “next desert unicorn”, said data and research platform CB Insights.

A unicorn refers to a start-up valued at over $1 billion.

The UAE has made significant headway as a key regional incubator for start-ups, following the success of Careem and of online retailer Souq.com, which was sold to Amazon for $580 million in 2017.

Over half of the ten best-funded tech start-ups in the UAE since 2015 are in e-commerce and start-ups are raising more money across more deals than in previous years. The ten biggest start-ups each raised at least $10 million in 2018, which was a new record.

CB Insights found that Fetchr, which allows customers to pick up and deliver packages using GPS co-ordinates instead of a postal address, was the third-best funded start-up in the UAE in 2018, after e-commerce company Noon.com and property portal Property Finder. The company has raised $52m across four funding rounds so far, according to Crunchbase.

Fetchr, which hosts its entire tech platform on Amazon Web Services, could be the global tech giant’s next target for potential acquisition as it looks at further expansion in the region and other emerging markets, according to CB Insights. Fetchr declined to comment on the possibility of acquisition when contacted by The National.

AWS first launched in the Middle East in 2019 to support its expanding client base in the region.

Fetchr operates in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain, with a new funding round for the company likely to be deployed in expanding outside of the region, according to CB Insights.

Fetchr, founded by chief executive Idriss Al Rifai and Joy Ajlouny, looked to bridge a gap in the UAE market, where delivery services often fall short towards the end of the logistics chain. Using a model not too dissimilar to ride-hailing apps such as Uber, Fetchr looks at linking customers in areas with no clearly- defined building numbers or street names, matching couriers with exact pick-up and drop-off points.

The company employs 3,400 people, across more than 200 cities, with eight offices.

Other start-ups identified by CB Insights as well-funded include Noon.com, which obtained $1bn in funding in 2016 from investors such as Emaar’s Mohamed Alabbar and the Saudi sovereign Public Investment Fund. Property Finder is the second-best funded, having secured $120m in a mega-round from investors including US venture capital firm General Atlantic and Sweden's Vostok New Ventures in November last year.

Updated: August 22, 2019 05:30 PM

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