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Communicate Online | Regional Edition | Advertising, marketing, public relations and media in the Arab world and beyond

Communicate Online | Regional Edition | Advertising, marketing, public relations and media in the Arab world and beyond

Acquisition or collaboration: what’s the future for MENA startups?

The Startup Studio startups


Acquisition or collaboration: what’s the future for MENA startups?

(Image: TJ Lightwala, head of Future Adaptive Specialist Teams (FAST), Mindshare MENA)

  • Magnitt, the startup for startups, has secured almost $1 million in seed funding
  • $560 million was invested in MENA startups in 2017, up 65% from 2016
  • Digital startups in the MENA region have raised more than $500 million in equity investments in 2017

According to The State of Digital Investments in MENA 2013-2017 report, digital startups in the MENA received $650 million of funding in 2017, with 76 percent going to UAE-based startups.

Known for their agility and innovative thinking, startups are making their way through the cluttered market by offering brands quick, much-needed solutions that help their businesses grow. This also makes them a promising acquisition for not just brands, but also agencies.

And so, in order to facilitate the collaboration between startups and corporates, Mindshare MENA and STEP Group have launched The StartUp Studio. The program aims to facilitate partnerships between corporates and startups to deliver technology-based business solutions across fintech, adtech, and martech.

READ: How luxury brands are embracing startups for digital transformation

STEP Group has worked with more than 1000 startups in the region over the past five years and one of the common challenges faced by startups is accessibility to big corporations, says Nizar Fakih, co-founder and vice-president of strategic partnerships at STEP Group. “For this reason, we believe that a platform such as The StartUp Studio is essential to facilitate this process for startups and also add value to companies looking for innovative solutions to their strategic business challenges,” he adds.

The launch was announced amidst an intimate gathering of clients, startups and key partners. The keynote speaker at the launch event, Yousuf Al Mulla, Partner at E11 Capital, spoke about the importance of collaboration both within the corporate and government sector. He even went on to say that the future of corporate offices will see a space for startups.

“Client feedback clearly shows the need for digital transformation across the businesses they operate. Some are already structuring for this change, so we saw this opportunity to create a defined innovation platform, by joining hands with STEP Group. The goal is to create valuable products/solutions for The StartUp Studio clients,” elaborates TJ Lightwala, head of Future Adaptive Specialist Teams (FAST), Mindshare MENA.

READ: Which agency is the latest to venture into e-commerce?

Initially, the program will have two key tracks, Fintech and Adtech/Martech covering areas of expertise like blockchain, AI, payments, banking, smart finance management, performance & predictive analytics, and personalization. “As the program accelerates, we will bring more tracks to help provide tech-enabled business solutions,” she adds.

The launch event also hosted a panel highlighting the need for collaboration by bringing together Khaled Hassan, head of performance and programmatic MEA at IBM and Nadine Mezher, co-Founder at in a panel hosted by Zaira Lakhpatwala, managing editor, of regional advertising and marketing magazine, Communicate.

The program consists of three core phases:

  1. A workshop where industry-specific future trends are used as a thought starter to build a client-specific business brief
  2. Based on the brief, a hosted session matches the client with multiple pre-selected relevant startups
  3. Finally, shortlisted implementable proposals are delivered against the client’s briefed business challenges

The first sessions of the pilot program are scheduled to start in June 2018, with the full pilot program completed by August 2018.

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