ME startups pitch at SPARK ignite in Amsterdam

The startup has recently also won a booth at Italy’s Web Marketing Festival, as part of the Startups Without Borders Delegation…reports Asian Lite News

Startups Without Borders and SPARK have just concluded the semi-finals of the Startups on the Move Incubation program, where 10 startups from Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq qualified to travel to Amsterdam for the Final Pitch Competition, at the SPARK Ignite Conference.

The incubation program, built with support from Google, kicked off last April to take 130 startups from Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon through a journey to transform their ideas into thriving businesses. 

The program is the first of its kind in the region, devoted to refugee and local entrepreneurs who are building ventures against the odds with resilience and grit. Hailing from remote areas such as the Gaza strip, war-torn Mosul, and Saida, the startups are innovating across industries as diverse as CleanTech, EdTech, VR, and AgriTech.

Through a series of online training sessions, a network of 100+ international mentors, and networking events in Ramallah, Beirut and Erbil, the incubation program harnessed the ingenuity of diverse founders, connecting them to a global network of entrepreneurs, investors and mentors.

The semi-finals, held on 1-3 August online, included a high-profile panel of judges, including Muneer Zuhdi, CTO of Nokia Enterprise China, India, and MEA; Nicholas Rouhana, Chairman and CEO of IM.FNDNG, Victoria Mehran, Venture Partner at Expert Dojo, Sofia Queiroz, VC at Mustard Seed Maze, Ahmed Eid, Portfolio Manager at 500 Global, and Diego Arias Garcia, Investment Associate at Plug and Play.

The 10 semi-finals are now headed on an all-expense paid trip to Amsterdam, where they will pitch during SPARK’s Ignite conference on September 13th, for a $10,000 cash prize for first place, and $5,000 for second place.

From Agri-tech disruptors to EdTech pioneers, these are the four startups taking off to the Netherlands:

  • DonaLeb, Lebanon

Founded by Yasmine Darwich, DonaLeb is the fitness and wellness app that helps businesses engage their teams and nonprofits to fundraise. We create gamified virtual challenges to connect companies with CSR while they promote health and wellness in their teams. The startup has recently also won a booth at Italy’s Web Marketing Festival, as part of the Startups Without Borders Delegation.

“DonaLeb’s experience with Startups Without Borders has been more beneficial to us than words could express, providing us with opportunities we could have only dreamed of. Reaching the final stage is only our first step though; here’s to collecting more and more,” says Yasmine.

  • Nabeeh, Palestine

Nabeeh is a Web and Mobile App platform for users to get on-demand home and Healthcare quality services conveniently. The startup, led by brothers Fawaz and Saber Samara, raised their first investment round during the incubation program and began expansion to Saudi Arabia.

  • Green GoldIraq

Green Gold creates organic compost and potting soil for Farmers and local agriculture suppliers to fulfill the need for compost and reduce food waste pollution. 

“I am proud to be part of the program; it had a very positive impact on the project’s vision in various aspects, as the goals developed and helped me discover new channels in the local and international market,” says founder Marwah Read Taha.

“As the only qualified founder from Iraq, I believe this competition will help the expansion of the project to increase productivity and environmental awareness in Iraq, thus creating more job opportunities for women and encouraging young people to engage in green entrepreneurship,” she concludes.

  • SunCode, Lebanon

Suncode is developing a convective solar drying machine allowing a safer, faster, and easier drying of food products than the conventional drying method used currently, with zero operational cost.

“The idea came up while working with farmers, as I noticed that the biggest problem they have is the overproduction – which leads to them selling produce at the cheapest prices,” says founder Haydar Mohamad Sleiman. “So we came up with this solution to produce dried vegetables, increase their income and save their crops,” he explains.

  • Blue FilterPalestine

Blue Filter is a chemical-free, environment-friendly system developed to purify underground water from nitrates and salts. Blue Filter presents a simple and cheap solution for sanitizing water,  decreasing the percent of Nitrate from 100% to 2 % and chloride from 100% to 40 % for farmers, through environmentally friendly methods.

  • CONCAT, Lebanon

CONCAT is the first women-led Web Development Agency which aims to create top quality websites whilst providing long term, sustainable employment for talented, marginalized communities.

“The program has been a great opportunity for the CONCAT team, especially when it comes to developing our business model in the sessions. We’ve really enjoyed connecting with all of the other amazing startups who are all so aligned with our mission of creating sustainable employment for marginalized people, says founder Laura Jardine Paterson.

  • Hala Trips, Palestine

Hala Trips is an Arabic language platform for booking tours and hotels in over 1.7M Hotels around the world. “We are very happy to have won amongst a large number of participants and the very strong competitors in this special program; we are now excited to win in Amsterdam,” said founder Razan Abutawaheena, who is based in Gaza.

  • Dooda Solutions, Lebanon

Founded by Nada Ghanem, Dooda Solutions is a woman-led earthworm farm specialized in raising worms and producing premium grade vermicompost.

  • Eyiada, Palestine

Eyiada is a medical platform that connects patients with the most suitable healthcare providers according to their customized cases, allowing them to have online medical consultations with them and making quality healthcare more accessible and convenient.

“I’m very excited to present our startup internationally in Amsterdam and take it to the next level. It was one of my hardest pitching competitions. For me, being a Palestinian under Israeli occupation, this opportunity is a small attempt to break down our borders of restricted mobility and lack of opportunities. We’re working to bring down our own walls and set forth in a new era of innovation and entrepreneurship,” says founder Momen Abusaada.

  •, Palestine​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Full E-commerce Platform that allows customers to find their desired products in a safe and entertaining way, while also enabling vendors to expand their markets and boost their sales.

The final pitching event will take place on September 13th during the IGNITE Conference, and will be streamed live on Startups Without Borders’ Facebook page and Instagram

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Startup CEO salary increased by 2.7% in 2022

Startup CEO salaries vary by the amount of venture/seed funding that the companies have raised…reports Asian Lite News

The average startup CEO salary increased by 2.7 per cent in 2022 to reach $150,000 per annum globally from last year, while the median increased to $140,000, according to a new report.

According to startup accounting firm Kruze Consulting, in 2022, chief executives at early-stage companies that have raised over $10 million in financing were paid just $199,000.

“Founder CEOs at companies that have raised under $2 million were paid $106,000 on average — a difference of over $90,000,” the report mentioned.

Startup CEO salaries vary by the amount of venture/seed funding that the companies have raised.

The accounting firm looked at data from over 250 seed and VC-backed startups.

It found that average represents a 7.9 per cent increase in pay from 2020, when CEO wages went down owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Companies that raised over $5 million and over $10 million in funding saw their CEO pay go up by 7.5 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively.

“However, startups with more limited funding saw their CEOs make less, by about 7 per cent, than in 2021,” the report mentioned.

The report found three primary drivers for this behaviour.

“Firstly, and most obviously, companies with more funding are better able to pay their CEOs. Secondly, the increased CEO salaries recognises that these CEOs are more effective at fundraising, much like how compensation increases for CEOs in mature companies that generate greater profits,” said Healy Jones, VP of Financial Planning & Analysis for Kruze.

“Finally, startup culture can generate pressure to not take salaries,” Jones added.

Biotech and pharmaceutical companies tend to have the highest CEO compensation, with seed funded companies paying their CEOs nearly $161,000.

Healthcare companies had lower founder/CEO pay.

“We realised that this is because of the rise of D2C healthcare companies, which tend to seem more like SaaS businesses and less like a healthcare company with a CEO who has an advanced degree,” the report mentioned.

During Covid, the average startup CEO salary dipped 2 per cent to $139,000, but bounced back to $146,000 at the beginning of 2021.

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US based Rise Capital to launch operations in India

India is currently the third largest startup ecosystem globally, after the US and China…reports Asian Lite News

San Francisco-based investment fund Rise Capital announced it is launching its India operations and will invest in early-stage startups through its global fund III.

The VC fund said tech startups in India will create well over $1 trillion in M-Cap by 2030.

“We are quite bullish on the Indian venture space and remain committed as we are a long-term player. Our ability to spot high potential startups as demonstrated in other emerging regions gives us the confidence to deploy a significant part of our global fund in India,” said Nazar Yasin, Managing Partner, Rise Capital.

Rise Capital is known for investing in emerging economies like Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, South-East Asia and Africa.

India is currently the third largest startup ecosystem globally, after the US and China.

Rise Capital has hired Anuj Mehta as its first investment team member for the development and implementation of its India investment strategy.

“We bring unique value to our portfolio companies because all of our partners are former operators who have helped build $1 billion plus tech companies across emerging economies,” said Yasin, ex-Tiger Global and Goldman Sachs executive, and former CEO of Forticom.

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Deep tech platform Instoried secures $200 mn from GEM

Instoried aims to go public via SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) or the traditional IPO route…reports Asian Lite News

Deep tech platform Instoried on Thursday said it has secured $200 mn commitment from global investment group GEM Global Yield, and will use the funds to expand operations globally and develop artificial intelligence (AI)-based content generation tools.

Led by a woman founder, Sharmin Ali, Instoried uses AI to help people write original and more lively content, make messaging crisper, improve headline impact, improve empathy and tone.

Utilising 30 million data points, the platform’s proprietary algorithm powers a top-notch collaborative content creation tool that provides instant feedback in real-time.

“Instoried helps people convey the proper tonality in everything they write from email to blogs, from marketing copy and advertising to long-form articles,” said Sharmin Ali, also the CEO of Instoried.

The platform will further invest in its technology to add a Google Chrome extension, a WordPress plug-in and other elements to its product portfolio.

Under the agreement, GEM will provide a share subscription facility of up to $200 million, to be drawn at the option of the company, for a 36-month term following a public listing.

Instoried aims to go public via SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) or the traditional IPO route.

Additionally, the platform has plans to grow its executive team and presence globally.

For the India market, Instoried will focus on hiring for leadership and technology roles, develop the tech stack to launch their own content generation tool and invest in marketing in India and Asia markets.

GEM is a $3.4 billion, alternative investment group with offices in Paris, New York and the Bahamas.

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$12 billion growth in India’s startup fundraise

India emerged as the third largest startup ecosystem in the world this year, after the US and China, as per Hurun Research Institute…reports Asian Lite News

Domestic startups have raised over $12 billion during the first three months of 2022 as compared to $4 billion during the same period in the previous year, says a report.

According to data tracking platform Fintrackr, 528 startups, including 324 in their early stage and 123 in their growth stage, have announced their funding rounds worth $12.06 billion during the first quarter of this year.

In December, data provided by a leading startups publication said that India had 82 unicorns with a total funding of over $38.4 billion (from 2014 till December 4, 2021).

India emerged as the third largest startup ecosystem in the world this year, after the US and China, as per Hurun Research Institute.

In the third quarter (Q3) last year, Indian startups received record fundings, with investment totalling $10.9 billion across 347 deals, a PwC India report said.

Meanwhile, a recent report said that accelerated funding activity is expected to create over 100 unicorns in India during 2022.

Over the past five years, the number of software-as-a-service (SaaS) firms have doubled in India and SaaS firms in the country are poised to reach $30 billion in revenue by 2025.

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B2B edtech startup raises $70 mn

The new funding round came eight months after Classplus raised a $65 million series C funding in June last year…reports Asian Lite News

B2B edtech startup Classplus on Tuesday said it has raised $70 million in a Series D round co-led by Alpha Wave Global and Tiger Global.

Founded in 2018 by Mukul Rustagi and Bhaswat Agarwal, Classplus is a mobile-first SaaS (software-as-a-service) platform that allows educators and content creators to build their online presence, digitise their offline tuition centres and sell their courses online.

The startup said that funds will be used to enhance the product and expand its global presence. Classplus recently announced expansion in Southeast Asian markets, including Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia.

The new funding round came eight months after Classplus raised a $65 million series C funding in June last year.

“Going forward, we’ll also be investing in new acquisitions and partnerships that will enable us to continue delivering best-in-class experience to the educators and helping them create an impact in the education system,” said Rustagi.

Abu Dhabi-based Chimera Ventures has come in as a new investor while existing investor, RTP Global, has doubled down on their investment in the NCR-headquartered company.

The new round values Classplus close to $600 million, a more than 2 times jump in the valuation from the previous round.

Classplus has digitised over 1 lakh educators across 3,000 towns and cities serving more than 25 million students.

A majority of its educators have witnessed a 2-3 times increase in profitability within six months of adopting the platform, claimed the startup.

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India targets to be the largest startup ecosystem

The Minister also said that startups need to experiment, fail and learn from their experiences…reports Asian Lite News

India aspires to become the largest startup ecosystem in the world, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said.

Addressing a session on “Gateway to Growth – Roundtable on Indian Startup Ecosystem” in Abu Dhabi, he said: “Today we are the third largest startup ecosystem, but our aspiration is to be the world’s number one startup destination,” as per an official statement.

“The startup bug has caught India’s imagination. The entire innovation ecosystem that the startup industry represents is giving a new direction, new momentum to India,” he said, as per the Commerce and Industry Ministry statement.

According to Goyal, India offers one of the best ecosystems for startups with a special ‘jugalbandi’, or blend between investors and entrepreneurs to get a balanced outcome and achieve a win-win solution for all.

“I have seen tremendous response from the Dubai Expo where our startups have got the opportunity to raise finances, sign MoUs and get angel investments. All these aspects will help strengthen India’s strong bond of friendship with the UAE.”

The Minister also said that startup need to experiment, fail and learn from their experiences.

“I would urge all of you from the startup world to go extra mile and take the startup story to all the remote places, villages, small towns, northeastern India and other regions,” he added.

On the government’s role in promoting startups, he said that India aims to provide a level playing field and the best business ecosystem.

“We have recently finalised the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the UAE, which is expected to further enhance bilateral trade, B2B engagement and explore attractive investment opportunities.

“I can assure you that we will take this partnership to newer heights in the areas of sustainability, aerospace, space technology, connectivity, AI, data analytics, 5G, Metaverse, etc. We look forward to leveraging each other’s offerings and expertise,” he said.

In addition, Goyal said that the UAE-India partnership is destined to play an important role in the global economy and in ensuring a better future for billions of people around the world. “This will be a defining partnership for the 21st century.”

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Pankaj Bansal: Dwarka Expressway will be a game-changer

Over 5,000 recognised startups were added in Delhi-NCR, while 4,514 startups were added in Bangalore in the last two years…reports Asian Lite News

Pankaj Bansal, Director M3M India, believes that 61,400 startups and 83 unicorns will look to invest in commercial and residential properties in NCR-Gurugram and NPR and Dwarka Expressway will be a game-changer.

As per Orios Ventures Partners report, the Indian startups have raised $42 billion in 2021, up from $11.5 billion in the previous year. The Indian government has also recognized 14,000 new startups in 2021. As on January 2022, India has 83 unicorns with a total valuation of $277 billion.

The latest Economic Survey 2021-22 also states that Delhi-NCR has replaced Bangalore as the new startup capital of India. Over 5,000 recognised startups were added in Delhi-NCR, while 4,514 startups were added in Bangalore in the last two years. Though, with a total of 11,308 startups, Maharashtra has the highest number of recognised startups.

The demand for office space in Delhi-NCR region has grown 50 per cent year-on-year in 2021, majorly due to strong absorptions by startups and technology firms. In 2021, the absorption in the office space segment was 6.3 million square feet and the startups absorbed 1 million square feet. By 2022, absorption of Grade-A office space is estimated to exceed 700 million square feet, with Delhi-NCR itself accounting for the majority of this demand. Delhi-NCR has grown by 35 per cent Y-o-Y, from 3.88 million square feet to 5.23 million square feet. The Dwarka Expressway is further going to boost this demand.

“India has become the third largest startup ecosystem in the world after US and China. India has added 33 Unicorns in a single year. India’s 61,400 startups and 83 unicorns are all set to give a booster dose to the Indian commercial real-estate market in the coming years. Startups have leased about 2.2 million square feet office space in 2021 in the top three metros of India—Delhi-NCR, Mumbai and Bengaluru—marking a 56 per cent rise from 2020 in tandem with a spate of $1 billion-plus valuations. Many reports now suggest that India may add another 50 fresh unicorns soon. These startups and unicorns would need office and residential space with most-modern amenities & facilities with good connectivity, and NCR-Gurugram and NPR is expected to be their first choice,” says Pankaj Bansal, Director – M3M India, one of the fastest growing real-estate company in India.

Pankaj Bansal adds, “Keeping the requirements in mind M3M India has recently launched M3M Capital in sector-113, Gurugram, a complete luxury golf residential project, which is on Dwarka Expressway with a top-line of Rs 4,000 crore. At present we have launched about 650 apartments of 2.5 and 3.5 accommodation, and the project has exclusive golf-courses, private foyer, green landscape, separate yoga & meditation area, and a 60,000 square feet clubhouse. The project has close proximity to Aerocity and Delhi International Airport, and is part of larger vision for Smart City Delhi Airport. The response has been immense and in the first three days of its launch the project clocked Rs.800 crore booking.”

The declaration of 16th January, as the National Startup Day by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given new enthusiasm to startups. Recently, Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Rajeev Chandrasekhar also said that during the next 25 years, the Indian economy’s growth and expansion, as well as the creation of employment and investments, will largely be driven by the country’s startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem. NCR-Gurugram and NPR is going to be a major attraction for investors and post commencement of Dwarka Expressway, the demand for residential and commercial space is expected to increase exorbitantly.

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Accenture launches women founders programme in India

The company said that startups applying for the programme must be based out of India and have a working prototype with early adoption metrics…reports Asian Lite News

Global professional services company Accenture on Friday launched the Women Founders Programme in India to help early-stage, women-led Indian startups in the business-to-business (B2B) deep tech and enterprise SaaS domain grow and advance their businesses.

Under this programme, Accenture will provide selected technology startups in India with an equity-free grant of up to $60,000, along with market and network access and mentoring.

“The technology industry needs active participation of women as technologists and entrepreneurs to strengthen its innovation abilities and drive market-relevant solutions using deep tech,” Mahesh Zurale, senior managing director, lead – Advanced Technology Centers in India, Accenture.

“Accenture is committed to supporting women in technology and helping female entrepreneurs grow their businesses, and the Women Founders Programme in India is one of many initiatives underway to contribute to these efforts,” Zurale added.

Registrations for the Women Founders Programme are currently open to early-stage B2B technology businesses that have at least one woman founder and are focused on advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, internet of things, cloud, blockchain, Web 3.0, metaverse, big data and analytics and extended reality.

The company said that startups applying for the programme must be based out of India and have a working prototype with early adoption metrics.

Applicants will be shortlisted and selected by leaders from Accenture and the ecosystem-based on product differentiation, disrupt-ability quotient, leveraging of deep technologies, commercial viability and founder profile.

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Space sector startups boom in India

At present, India accounts for only about two per cent of the space economy, much behind the major players – USA and China…reports Asian Lite News

The number of new startups in the space sector more than doubled in 2021 to 47 as compared to the previous year numbers, said India’s Economic Survey that was released on Monday.

According to the Economic Survey, the number of new startups in the space sector registered in 2021 was 47 up from 21 in 2020 and 11 in 2019.

With recent policy initiatives and private sector participation, the Indian space sector is expected to capture a larger share of the global space economy, which was close to US$ 447 billion in 2020.

At present, India accounts for only about two per cent of the space economy, much behind the major players – USA and China, the Survey said.

According to the Survey, across the globe, the trend of space activities is in a state of transition — from being primarily driven by government, the sector has been witnessing increasing private sector participation not only in the traditional vendor role but also in taking up end-to-end space activities.

With this in mind, the government undertook reforms in space sector in 2020 whereby:

– the public sector NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) would own the operational rockets and satellites of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO);

– The NSIL shall act as aggregator of user requirements and obtain commitments;

– setting up Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), the regulator and promoter of private players in the space sector;

– The IN-SPACe will also allow the private sector to use the facilities of the Department of Space/ISRO for a fee.

The interim IN-SPACe board has received close to 40 proposals from large industries, MSMEs, startups and academia covering broad range of activities in space domain — cutting across both upstream (launch vehicle/satellite manufacturing) as well as downstream (Earth Observation applications, communications, and others), the Survey notes.

According to the Economic Survey, five private satellites have been tested at ISRO facilities, four student satellites were launched aboard the PSLV C-51 rocket.

The national registration mechanism for space objects has been implemented, with five satellites registered.

A total of six MoUs have been signed with private/academic entities for sharing technical expertise and facilities, the Survey said.

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