Nov'17, iyzico New Products, MENA, iyzi-up, iyzi-link, investments  

In startup circles, everyone is wild about Dubai. It is the center for all things MENA tech. This month, however, we’re seeing interesting developments out of Saudi Arabia. The country has pushed forward Vision 2030 – to diversify Saudi’s economy, moving it away from oil. The country has several incubators, Badir, Afkar, Kaust. And one of the hottest apps, Sarahah. Despite the political intrigues in the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia is a place to watch. And so are emerging markets. Not only are we seeing them push forward toward growth, but they’re strategizing and collaborating with one another. Whereas Silicon Valley and the U.S. used to be the hub, we’re seeing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East merge closer together – merging markets. 

iyziEvent: iyzico new product launch 

A new era is about to begin in online shopping. iyzico, the easy and secure payment services company, held a revolutionary event for online shopping on October 4, 2017 at Esma Sultan Mansion. In iyziEvent, two new products that remove the obstacles to digital commerce have been introduced.


iyziLink, one of the new iyzico products, makes payment incredibly easy from anywhere. People who sell on social media especially can receive payments through short links without any need for technical enhancement or even a website, thanks to iyziLink. iyziUp, on the other hand, ensures that shopping is protected from any digital commerce security issues. Buyers can do their online shopping in seconds simply by registering their payment and delivery details with their protected shopping account. During the shopping process, an account is created in the buyer’s name. The payment is lodged with the website, and the money is transferred only when the buyer is satisfied with the product.


Check it out!

Who are you? Americans wild about Saudi app


Innovation in Saudi Arabia. It’s here: Sarahah, an anonymous messaging service. Hence the name “candor.” Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq launched it in Saudi Arabia as a “suggestion box” for office workers. Much to his surprise, it went big among U.S. teens Sarahah has 95 million registered users, most in the U.S. So much for transparency. 



$10 million for Souqamal


Riyad TAQNIA is on a roll. It lead a Series B round for $10 million for the site that allows users to compare retail banking products – credit cards, loans, accounts, and insurance.


The founder, Ambareen Musa, is originally from Mauritius and studied in Australia, landed in Dubai in 2008. 

Fintech in MENA


More good news for FinTech in MENA. Beehive, a peer-to-peer lending platform closed a $5 million Series A from Riyad TAQNIA Fund. 


Merging Markets 


Colombia-Poland-Hungary isn’t the most instinctive route. Espacio, an incubator in Colombia, thinks otherwise. It acquired 150sec, an online publication covering startups in Central and Eastern Europe. And it makes sense. Startups in emerging markets struggle with the same issues. Moreover, there is huge opportunity for collaboration. The global market isn’t just the U.S. This deal is a great signal for those in emerging markets – think bigger. 

Gimme a hammer, not code  


A startup raised money. When it’s in Egypt it’s a big deal. It’s an even bigger deal when it’s a startup that is focused on home maintenance. Fikhedma closed a round with Algebra Ventures and Glint Consulting. We’re excited about this deal because it reaffirms our belief that not everything is about tech. You still need a plumber and an electrician. Fikhedma is providing opportunity to those with old school skills. #FTW


Healthcare innovation from MENA


Know how much governments in MENA spend on healthcare? 8 percent. It’s 17 percent in OECD countries. Altibbi, a digital health platform in the Middle East, hit on that opportunity. It has landed $6.5 million from Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP) and DASH ventures. 

Bull market: Turkey 


You read that right. Turkey’s economy is on point. Fitch, a global credit rating agency, forecast that growth in the Turkish economy will “exceed 7 percent.” Moral of this story, (1) politics isn’t economics and (2) economics isn’t one dimensional. With Turkey’s young and robust consumer society – and commerce with several regions, Turkey holds much promise. 

Turkish e-commerce from 3.5%-8% 


Bloomberg reports that Goldman Sachs is interested in acquiring e-commerce site Hepsiburada. If it goes through it could be Turkey’s largest tech deal.


Ms. Boyner noted that she expects e-commerce in Turkey to increase from 3.5 percent to 8 percent “in the next five years.” That’s big. 

Data center: Istanbul 



Who has $93 million in cash? Equinix does. It paid that much for Zenium’s Istanbul data center. The factors that drew the European firm to Turkey’s largest city and financial center: population and growth, both in people and economics. We mentioned last month that the IMF has ranked Turkey as the world’s 13th largest economy. An Equinix official noted, “ Istanbul will become an increasingly important hub for connectivity and technology infrastructure.” 


After Hours

Saudia Arabia


Read: On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines – and Future by Karen Elliott House 


Drink: Boodles of Arabia 




Read: Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier 



Watch: The best stats you’ve ever seen 



You didn’t think we’d let November go by without talking about gratitude, did you? And we should – all the time. 


Read: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Listen: Choosing Gratitude, Building Friendships, and Showing Up Whole 

Cook: Thanksgiving vegetables, with a new twist 


Up coming events

212 is everywhere in November. From mentoring at ITU Cekirdek on November 2 to Endeavor Case Campus on November 4 in Ankara. 


Ali takes the judges chair at the Big Bang Startup Challenge from November 8-9. 


Breakout your running shoes. We’re running the Istanbul Marathon on November 12 – the only marathon that spans two continents. 


The next night breakout your black tie finest. 212 hits Ashoka’s Gala. Give it up for social entrepreneurs. 


Did you know that Skype came from Estonia? Numan hits the tech capital of Europe for Invest Week from November 23-24. 


Ali takes the mic at Duzce University on November 14 and at Turkey’s Digital Systems Developers event on November 28. 


Numan will end the month at RiseUp in Cairo from November 30-December 3. 

When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” ― Henry Ford


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