MAGNiTT: Record increase for tech startups in MENA region
A recent report from Dubai-based venture data platform tracking firm MAGNiTT reveals 2020 as a record year for investment in technology startups in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This comes despite the economic impacts of the pandemic and an overall drop in investment deals.
MAGNiTT, which tracks startup investments across emerging markets, expanded its coverage for the first time beyond MENA, with the introduction of Emerging Venture Markets (EVMs) in Pakistan and Turkey (MENAPT).
“COVID-19 rapidly accelerated the adoption of technology across emerging markets, creating larger markets and more opportunities to scale,” said Philip Bahoshy, MAGNiTT’s CEO . “By tracking and analysing startup investments in 19 countries and counting, we have been able to provide real-time intel to governments, founders, and investors to support them in making informed decisions and policies.”
Effects of pandemic on investments
According to the report, titled 2021 Emerging Venture Markets Report , 2020 saw a record of just over US$1bn invested in MENA-based startups, a 13% increase that's a clear sign of the continued growth in MENA.
However, the record US$1bn figure achieved was mostly driven by a record first half of the year with US$725m raised, with investment deals decreasing by 35% (compared to 2019) to just 198 in the second half of 2020, a reflection of the far-reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The US$1bn capital was distributed across fewer deals in 2020, down 13% to 496, with transactions done mainly Seed and Series A investments (US$100,000 to US$3m) rather than early-stage ventures and pre-seed investments (up to US$100,000). In comparison, 2019’s report showed all deals were pre-seed.
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic impacted the growth of sectors. Among the sectors that grew in demand in 2020 were eCommerce, Fintech and Healthcare, with the FinTech and eCommerce sectors representing 24% of all deals done, while investment in Healthcare startups “more than tripled, increasing by 280% to US$72m".
UAE secures investment hotspot
In terms of regional dominance, the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia held the top three spots for investment, accounting for 67% of total deals done in 2020. The UAE gained the most funding and highest number of deals, US$579m across 129 deals, accounting for 26% of all transactions across MENA.
Egypt ranked second having raised 31% more funding than in 2019, but across a smaller number of deals (down 10%), but it was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, ranking third, that saw the biggest increase from 2019 with the number of deals the country secured up by 35%.
Newcomers to the MENA table, Pakistan and Turkey recorded US$77m in 48 deals and US$383m in 140 deals, respectively.
Commenting on the 2021 report, Courtney Powell, COO at 500 Startups , stated: “2021 will be the tipping point for entrepreneurship in MENA. Deal flow is healthy and getting stronger every day, there’s more capital available than ever, and there’s an intense hunger to see the region diversify away from historical GDP drivers and become a leading knowledge economy.”
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”