In an interview with Al-Arabiya, Khaldoon Tabaza; founder and Managing Director of iMENA Group, spoke about the performance of technology start-ups during the gradual easing of the lock-down period, the opportunities available to them in this time, and the challenges they face.
Khaldoon stated that the market witnessed unprecedented growth in the past months, especially in online market places like ‘OpenSooq’ which registered over 35% increase in traffic during the the this period. As a result, we estimate that this increase in market share by technology companies will be maintained and, in fact, grow in the future. In the UAE, for example, the only service that was able to buy and sell cars online was SellAnyCar.com. SellAnyCar managed to claim over 10% of the automotive market share without having any physical presence. The same holds true for other online services as well including delivery, logistics, and online payments.
By contrast, Mr. Tabaza stated that sectors relying on the restaurant business suffered the most, but are now innovating new models to help restaurants in overcoming the crisis.
Despite having high returns and high risks, investments in technology start-ups increased by 35%. In fact, the investor base widened to include players other than venture capital funds, like traditional investors and sovereign wealth funds, which historically targeted traditional real estate and retail investments. Such investors have noticed the decrease in investment opportunities in such industries and the increase in opportunities in the technology sectors. The increase in good opportunities in the technology sector was mainly driven by the start-ups that have managed to reach the profitable growth stage which allows them to expand regionally and globally while maintaining healthy financials. As an example, SellAnyCar have managed to expand profitably into Saudi Arabia through their new brand Kayishha with the support of investors like Sanabil, which is owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.
Responding to questions on the practice of exaggerating valuations, Mr. Tabaza stated that the main reason for the failure of many start-ups is chasing exaggerating valuations without an underlying real added value.