10 start-ups to watch out for valuable lessons in expansion and customer diversification

If you are the founder of a start-up, considering floating one, or a business in the making, you would agree that there is no better learning ground than a path already walked by another business. In the words of German author and diplomat Otto von Bismarck, “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others. “

And, you sure want to take the wiser way! To help you with the right examples that you can follow, we’ve curated a list of 10 start-ups that cover a diverse set of geographical pockets, so you can take valuable lessons in expansion and effective diversification of your customer base.

The featured start-ups have had their share of challenges, failures, and hiccups before they climbed the peak of success and made a niche for themselves. One of their major goals in this journey was expansion, with an overarching vision of diversifying their customer base.

Start-ups in the Middle East to learn from

1. Sway the Swvl way

If there are lessons on expansion and good business to be taken, Swvl is the best example. The Dubai-based mass transit and shared mobility services provider Swvl was recently in the news over its plans to go public through a special purpose acquisition company (SAPC) in the fourth quarter of this year. This made Swvl the second technology start-up from the Middle East to list on the Nasdaq stock market and the first from the region with a $1.5 billion valuation. Under its expansion plans for Europe, the company also bought Shotl, an Uber-like service in Barcelona for bus and van operators.

2. Speed it like Speero 

Saudi Arabian entrepreneurs Abdullah Bin Shamlan and Ameen Mahfouz, founded Speero, a Riyadh-based online car parts seller, out of their frustrations with getting a car serviced. The company has grown quickly since its inception in 2017. Speero raised $1.8 million in an early stage (pre-Series A) funding round and, to date, it has raised nearly $3m, with backing from international and local investors. The company’s journey of expansion will be interesting to watch and one with a lot of handy lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs. Speero is looking at expanding to the UAE in the coming year.

3. Catch it like Kitch

Another start-up to watch out for and learn about in the cloud kitchen space is Dubai-based Kitch, a hybrid delivery-focused cloud kitchen business. One of the few businesses in the region that were unfazed by the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic, Kitch was founded during the pandemic and flourished at the same time, making it exemplary in a true sense. The company seeks to expand an additional 15 units across the GCC this year. 

4. Move it like Mabaat

Mabaat is a Riyadh-based marketplace for short-term rentals that recently raised 9 million Saudi riyals ($2.4m) to expand operations, hire new talent, and broaden its reach across the region. Mabaat, which was founded in October 2019, boards properties and administers them on behalf of owners, offering mid-to-high-end private houses and complexes located throughout the kingdom’s major areas.

5. Ooze passion like One Moto

One Moto, an electric bike-maker in Dubai, founded by Adam Ridgway, is revolutionising the way people drive and opt for electric vehicles. The company is chasing the goal of raising the number of electric bikes to more than 23,000 in the region by 2023.

Start-ups from around the world to learn from

6. Ahead of times like Applyboard

A Canadian start-up scaled the ladder from being a start-up to a unicorn in a matter of a few years. The growth is inspiring as well as exemplary. ApplyBoard, a company that works to simplify the study abroad search, application, and acceptance process by connecting international students, recruitment partners, and academic institutions on one platform, was founded in 2015 by Martin, Meti, and Massi Basiri. To date, ApplyBoard has grown to become the world’s largest online platform for international student recruitment and was named the fastest-growing technology company in Canada. Last year, ApplyBoard was ranked 3rd on Linkedin’s Top Start-ups List in Canada. The start-up has raised a total of CAD $600 million in funding, with the last raise valuing the company at CAD $4 billion, making it one of the few unicorn companies in Canada.

7. Master your game like Moglix

Moglix, an industrial business-to-business marketplace in India, recently entered the UAE market after raising $120 million in its latest funding round that valued the company at $1 billion. The company is operating from Abu Dhabi and plans to expand operations across the Middle East. Moglix provides solutions to more than 500,000 small and medium enterprises and 3,000 manufacturing plants and has raised $220 million in financing to date, giving it a $1 billion valuation. 

8. Be striking as Stripe

Digital payments company Stripe has entered the Middle East market with the opening of an office in Dubai after raising $600 million last month that valued the company at $95 billion. The company, which has its main bases in San Francisco and Dublin, has partnered with Dubai-based Network International, one of the top payment processing companies in the Middle East and North Africa, to roll out its services in the region.

9. Revive it like Recharge

Branded payments firm Recharge started operating in the GCC market after raising €10 million ($12.2 million) in debt funding in March 2021. Recharge has launched its services in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and plans to expand to Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman in the coming months.

10. Chase your goals like Chipper

An African financial start-up Chipper has seen a strong growth trajectory wherein the company raised $13.8 million in Series A before raising an African fin-tech start-up raised $100 million in a Series C round. The company’s expansion has been head-turning, to say the least. It has more than 3 million users and processes around 80,000 transactions every day.

What lessons are you taking away from this list? Watch this space for more relevant write ups on taking your business towards success.

READ – The art of expansion: How to take your business to new markets and all you need to know
Take a deep dive into everything a company of any size needs to know about business expansion.


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