The first cohort of companies showcased their validated early-stage ventures in the technology space to investors and representatives of the entrepreneurial ecosystem on Dec. 15
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Sukna Ventures and Unifonic have marked the successful completion of their inaugural entrepreneurial program ‘Unifonic X’ with a Demo Day ceremony held on Wednesday, Dec. 15, in the presence of prospective partners, angels, and institutional investors. The start-ups brought innovative business ideas transforming how traditional services work through cloud communication solutions in multiple sectors like logistics, drop shopping, travel, tutoring, social communities, digital marketing, and more.
Supported by exclusive banking partner Riyad Bank, the Demo Day took place at the Riyadh Bank SME Center based on a hybrid format, allowing the start-ups to present their business concepts physically or virtually. Teams pitched to a distinguished panel comprising senior management from Sukna Ventures and Unifonic, alongside program supporter’s representatives from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises (Monsha’at), plus a large group of potential investors and business leaders.
After announcing ‘Unifonic X’ in June, 27 participants from several countries, the majority from Saudi Arabia and others including Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, and the USA, were selected from hundreds of applications and onboarded to the 14-week program, which started in September. Over the past few months, they have undertaken a series of hands-on learning activities, incorporating live workshops, individual mentoring sessions, online tuition, and internal pitches, empowering them to build impactful, successful, and sustainable ventures.
Some significant successes saw TeamUp sign an agreement with the Ministry of Sports, building a solid foundation for future leads. At the same time, AlGooru secured a pre-seed round, and Logexa secured a seed round, strengthening their positions as they take their companies forward.
The executive teams from Sukna Ventures and Unifonic were actively engaged in mentoring activities and feedback sessions with the start-ups. Additionally, teams had access to a broad range of local and international industry experts as guest speakers and mentors in investment, finance, law, sales, and marketing. These included Chris Neumann (Commonwealth Ventures), Danya Bashir (Arqaam), Hamzah Nassif (Real Ventures), Mike Sigal (Global Start-up Advisor), Pedram Mokrian (Global Innovation Catalyst), Sandeep Kher (Sequoia Capital), and Sebastien Toupy (Global Strategist) among others.
“At Unifonic, we believe it’s crucial to give back to the community that helped us make such a positive impact. With our partner Sukna Ventures, and the backing of our sponsors, we will take it to the next level by empowering an ecosystem that fosters innovation and drives a steady stream of ideas to attract investments and ensure sustainable development for a prosperous future,” said Ahmed Hamdan, Co-founder, and CEO of Unifonic.
Fares Bardeesi, Founder and Managing Partner of Sukna Ventures, explained: “Our ‘Unifonic X’ participants have worked extremely hard over an intense 14-week period of theoretical learning and practical skills application. As this stage of their journey comes to an end, we’re incredibly proud of their engagement and achievements to date. New opportunities are opening up, and each company has a promising future ahead, built on the same high standards and commitment they have demonstrated so far. At Sukna Ventures, we remain focused on contributing to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and we’re very much looking forward to supporting the ventures as they develop their businesses further.”
A spokesperson from the Innovation Department at the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises (Monsha’at) commented: “We are delighted to have been part of the ‘Unifonic X’ program to drive the development of technology and software-based start-ups. Now the program has drawn to a close, we will be glad to offer continued support to the participants involved. Specifically, we plan to provide further assistance through our Thakaa Center, which is the first specialized innovation center to serve entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises in Saudi Arabia. The center’s main focus is to guide promising start-ups, enhance the growth of SMEs, and enable entrepreneurs to maximize their use of emerging technologies in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Data Sciences, Internet of Things, and Cyber Security. In doing so, they can benefit from the most advanced tools available to elevate their performance and maintain their competitive edge, locally and globally.”
During the program, participants not only worked on curriculum-based content but, more importantly, on developing their business. Supported by their mentors, the ventures established a series of strategic milestones to create a clear roadmap ahead. Following the Demo Day, selected participants will be provided with assistance to facilitate their next growth stage, including the coordination of meetings with potential investors and partners from the Demo Day, access to funding, and business support from Sukna Ventures and Unifonic. Other benefits cover technical support and guidance from AWS activate, complimentary enrollment into an international accelerator program, complimentary coworking facilities, legal support, and discounted annual Zoom licensing. Testament to the high level of interest and successful outcomes, subsequent ‘Unifonic X’ cohorts are being considered for the future.
Some of the start-ups in the first cohort of ‘Unifonic X’ include:
- Al Gooru – a tutoring network marketplace that connects students with qualified on-demand tutors.
- ATHR – a B2B Saudi company that provides secure, fast, and convenient digital solutions for cross-border KYC, online onboarding, AML, and background checks.
- Fanera – a 360-degree social platform designed by and for football fans to share their favorite moments and enjoy community-generated content.
- Steer Campaign – offers email marketing, marketing automation, and tools to create incredible customer experiences.
- TeamUp – an event management marketplace for all sports activities.
- Logexa – an on-demand storage platform for SMEs who need flexible storage without long-term contracts and minimum storage volumes.
- DaaS – a B2B platform that facilitates drop shipping in the Saudi market.
- Nawra – a B2B travel tech company that provides a SaaS solution for Umrah travel agents.
- RM – an investment platform that offers a single view of portfolios across multiple broker accounts and is designed to evaluate performance based on the user’s selection of a wide variety of benchmarks.
About Sukna Ventures
Sukna Ventures “Sᵛ” is a Riyadh-based venture studio & VC fund investing in tech-driven, industry-shaping businesses through empowering founders and entrepreneurs. Sᵛ actively supports founders and talent through mentorship and access to a network of industry experts, enablers, and investors. Since 2016, Sᵛ has built and invested in many ventures with a primary focus on the Saudi market and talent. Sᵛ is renowned for combining global outlook and network with local trends in the most efficient capital utilization, thus helping founders co-create long-term superior and sustainable ventures and returns.
Unifonic is a customer engagement platform that enables organizations to delight customers with remarkable omnichannel experiences. Unifonic streamlines conversations at every touchpoint throughout the customer journey by unifying communication channels, messaging apps, and chatbots.
Unifonic connects enterprises like Saudi Electricity Company, Saudi Ministry of Health, Absher, Uber, Aramex, Noon, and leading banks and financial institutions throughout the region and the health, education, travel, etc., e-commerce, and logistics sectors worldwide. With proven expertise in emerging markets since 2006, Unifonic is committed to delivering excellence handling 10+ billion annual transactions for millions of recipients in over 160 countries, backed by a local corporate presence in four countries and a dedicated team of 200 professionals serving clients 24/7.
Established in 2016, the objectives of the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises “Monshaat” are to organize, support, develop and sponsor the SME sector following best global practices, to increase the productivity of these enterprises and increase their contribution to the GDP from 20% to 35% by 2030. Monshaat works on supporting, developing, and nurturing the SME sector in line with best global practices by implementing and supporting programs and projects to promote the culture and spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation, and diversifying sources of financial support for SMEs, and stimulating venture capital initiatives, setting policies and standards for financing projects classified as small and medium enterprises. It also provides administrative and technical support for the establishments and supports them in developing their administrative, technical, financial, marketing, human resources, and other capabilities.