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RIYADH: Despite a global decline in available venture funds, the Middle East and North Africa region remains resilient, with early-stage startups attracting significant investments.

UAE-based fintech firm Zest Equity has raised $3.8 million in a seed funding round spearheaded by Middle East Venture Partners that saw participation from the Dubai Future District Fund and DASH Ventures.

Founded in 2021 by entrepreneurs Rawan Baddour and Zuhair Shamma, Zest Equity offers a platform that facilitates founders and venture capitalists to sell their secondary shares online.

“Zest was born with a vision to encourage better communication, transparency and process standardization within private market transactions. At its core, what Zest is building is a convenient and comprehensive tool designed to cut the costs and complexities involved in traditional private market transactions,” Baddour said.  

“Our platform digitizes the transaction process making it easier for existing stakeholders, founders, investors, and employees of private companies to transact and benefit from liquidity, in a pre-approved and transparent manner,” he said.

The recent infusion of capital is earmarked to bolster Zest Equity’s expansion strategies. The startup is setting its sights on penetrating emerging markets, including regions in North Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Turkey.

“We are proud to have supported the team at Zest Equity since day one. Liquidity, as well as the infrastructure to create it, is critical to our burgeoning startup ecosystem. Their success serves everyone. We’re very impressed by their traction and look forward to their exciting future,” Sharif El-Badawi, CEO of the DFDF, said.

Founded in 2021 by Rawan Baddour and Zuhair Shamma, Zest Equity offers a platform that facilitates venture capitalists to sell their secondary shares online. (Supplied)

Moreover, Walid Mansour, co-CEO of MEVP, expressed his trust in Zest’s solution. He stated that the region is in need of the company’s growing solution.

With this recent round of investment, the total funding accrued by Zest Equity now stands at $5.7 million.

UAE’s Dharma secures $4.7m to enhance travel experiences

UAE-based travel management platform Dharma has completed a $4.7 million pre-series A funding round by Convivialite Ventures, as well as from prominent investors including FJ Labs, Equinox, Stephen Ross, and Shorooq Partners.  

Dharma, founded in 2018 by Nisma Benani, Charaf El Mansouri, and Leah Howe, distinguishes itself in the travel market by allowing travelers to craft their itineraries around experiences hosted by renowned personalities from various fields — be it a celebrated chef, an acclaimed surfer, or a popular fitness instructor.

“Our core conviction is that the future of travel is passion-based,” El-Mansouri said, he added “If for the past 50 years, people have traveled for the where, the next 50 years, people will travel for the why. That’s the future Dharma is enabling.” With the fresh capital injection, the company is poised to broaden its horizon. Dharma aims to introduce travelers to an array of multi-day experiences spanning diverse verticals, encompassing culinary, sports, fashion, and lifestyle tourism.

“Our goal is to continue attracting and retaining the most inspiring people and brands in the world by enabling them to create and host authentic travel experiences for their communities,” Benani said. 

Our mission is to transform the lives of legal professionals for the better and with every step App4Legal takes in today’s ever demanding and changing legal industry.

Feras El-Hajjar, App4Legal founder

The startup’s journey has been marked by robust financial backing, reflecting confidence in its novel approach to travel.   Last year, Dharma garnered $3.5 million in funds, with Convivialite Ventures once again taking the lead, complemented by support from Abu Dhabi’s Hub71. Cumulatively, Dharma’s fundraising endeavors have amassed a commendable $10 million to date.

App4Legal bags seven-figure funding to boost legaltech innovations

UAE’s legal technology firm App4Legal has secured a seven-figure investment in a funding round led by the region’s well-regarded Aditum Ventures.  

Established in 2015 by Feras El-Hajjar, App4Legal has carved a niche for itself in the realm of legal practice management and contract lifecycle management.  

“Our mission is to transform the lives of legal professionals for the better and with every step App4Legal takes in today’s ever demanding and changing legal industry, it keeps three things in mind: practicing with constant innovation, gaining the trust of our clients and transforming the narrative associated with the legal industry,” El-Hajjar said.

With a portfolio that addresses the diverse needs of various industries and jurisdictions, the company serves a clientele comprising over 1,400 organizations. Among its patrons are banks, telecommunications companies, airlines, and government bodies.

“We are appreciative of Aditum’s management team for their trust and confidence in App4Legal’s dynamic legal tech solution and ambitious growth plans across Europe and beyond,” El-Hajjar stated.

The recent infusion of capital is set to bolster App4Legal’s innovation drive, particularly in the sphere of artificial intelligence-driven solutions.

Additionally, it will catalyze the company’s ambitious expansion efforts targeting the European market, opening doors to further opportunities and collaborations.

Egypt’s Amenli secures $1m for expansion plans

Egyptian insurance technology firm Amenli has clinched $1 million in its latest equity funding round led by Alter Global, with the corporate venture capital wing of Qatar Insurance Corporation, Digital Venture Partners, also joining the financing initiative.

Amenli, established in 2020 by Adham Nauman, Omar Ezz El-Din, and Shady El-Tohfa, has made a mark in the insurance sector by offering personalized insurance plans, catering specifically to individuals, families, and small and medium-sized enterprises.

This fresh capital infusion is set to bolster Amenli’s operations on several fronts. The company aims to use the funds to enhance its team, fortify its diverse product suite, and carve out a stronger brand presence in the competitive market.

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