This month we reviewed 61 MENA startup exits that happened from 01/2018 till now. The results of our analysis show that e-commerce and fintech witnessed the biggest activity and so did the UAE. Strategic acquisitions were the dominant exit type. More below.



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Analysis of 61 MENA startup exits (01/2018-03/2021)


A startup exit is a term referring to when the founders make a return on a startup by selling everything (or a stake) or going public (IPO).


We’ve closely analyzed most of the MENA startup exits* that happened in the period from 01/2018 until 03/2021.


The available data reveals that:


  • 2021: 3 exits (to date)    

  • 2020: 16 exits ($361 million+) 

  • 2019: 27 exits ($3.61 billion+) & 1 startup IPO
  • 2018: 17 exits ($104 million+)

The above numbers confirm that 2019 was a stellar year with the exits by far outnumbering any other year—also in terms of the total value. While 2018 saw exits worth “only” $104 million, the value of exits in 2019 surpassed $3.6 billion. Well, that was mainly thanks to Uber acquiring Careem for $3.1bilion—the first MENA unicorn 🦄 exit.


Let’s dissect now through 61 MENA startup exits that occurred during the above period. (You can check out the A-Z list at the end of the newsletter.) We present you the results in terms of sectors, countries and exit types.



The deals we analyzed spread over 20 sectors. E-commerce (e.g. Namshi and Wadi ) tops the sectorial analysis along with fintech (including the IPO of Fawry ). Adtech and real estate also witnessed a considerable number of exit deals.



Nearly half of the analyzed MENA startup exits happened in the UAE. So had the exit of unicorn Careem.


The deals can be further categorized as acquisitions and IPOs. The acquisitions were either full (82%) or partial (18%).



Almost 84% of the analyzed exits were strategic acquisitions (e.g. GIG acquiring a stake in Yallacompare or Emaar Malls acquiring Namshi), out of which 25% were acquisitions by a direct competitor (e.g. Ureed acquiring Nabbesh or Trella acquiring Trukto. Many of those strategic acquisitions were acquihires or struggling companies with usable products.


Only 14.8% of the acquisitions were by a holding group / PE—for example, B3Bar Holdings’ acquisition of NAR.AI or Helios Investment Partners’ acquisition of TPAY Mobile.


There has been just 1 startup IPO over the past 3 years. So, to finish off on a very good note, we’re excited about Anghami soon becoming the first MENA startup to be listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange. Back in January, we pretty much whined about not having any MENA startup IPOs… it seems like 2021 is catching up quite well.


* Note: In our analysis, the label “MENA startup exits” covers data on 17 MENA countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

TL;DR (too long; didn’t read)  
Our analysis of 61 MENA startup exits (01/2018-03/2021) revealed that most of the exits happened within the realms of e-commerce and fintech, followed by adtech and real estate. Not surprisingly, the UAE was the hotspot with 30+ exits. Only 1 startup IPO took place during the analyzed period and the majority of the remaining deals were strategic acquisitions (83.6%).



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