Akeed: From Investment to Acquisition
Updated: May 29, 2022
I first met Gaurav Nahar in late 2017 at a chance encounter. I had started working behind the scenes with my now partners Mohammed Al-Wahaibi, Masoud Al-Rawahi and a number of angel investors and advisors to build the groundwork for what would later become Phaze Ventures - the first private Venture Capital firm in Oman (for more on our origin story you should definitely read my short article).
Knowing this, my father made a random introduction to a founder looking to pitch an angel investment opportunity into the first food delivery app in Oman: "Areed" (no that isn't a typo, funny story, keep reading).
We set up a meeting soon afterwards where I first got to meet Gaurav Nahar and he explained his vision to me. At the time Talabat was still operating as an aggregator, and he believed the timing was ripe to launch the first food delivery app in the country. It was all still on paper, but I had been speaking to other founders in the ecosystem including the founder of the first non-bank payment app Thawani, and the founders of Geeb, the first C2C delivery service in Oman, so I knew the building blocks for a local e-commerce and delivery scene were being built, and I was keen to learn more.
We stayed in touch, and I had a chance to meet with both Gaurav and his co-founder Moosa Al-Lawati a number of times over the coming months. By early 2018 Areed had coalesced into an MVP with a go-to-market plan and clear ask: $150,000 USD angel investment to launch the App by 2018 with 15 restaurants, 10 drivers and small customer support and marketing team. Luck would have it that by early 2018, Phaze Ventures was also ready to launch, we quickly put together a term sheet and made our first investment alongside a group of angel investors (many of whom later became investors in Phaze Ventures' first fund).
With everything set for a soft launch and early testing well underway by February 2018, we got our first taste of bad news: the trademark of Areed was rejected by the local trademark office as it was viewed as too close to "Oreedoo" - a major telco. Scrambling to find a new name to rebrand the app in the 11th hour a list of dozens of names shot back and forth between founders, friends and angel investors until a simple and elegant compromise was found: a single letter change to "Akeed" - and the App was launched!
100 orders within the first days soon became 100,000 within the first 10 months, it was exponential growth limited only by the companies access to capital and the speed with which a fairly basic technology platform could be scaled to keep up with the raging demand. After a number of small bridge rounds during it's first year, the management quickly realized they needed to raise a major round of capital and by late 2019 they had began talks to raise a Series-A and had secured a term sheet from OTF, with additional capital committed from Phaze Ventures and other existing angels. With a close date set for Q1 2020 and growth accelerating things were looking unstoppable for Akeed - but alas fate had other plans.
Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances I can't get into here, the Series-A fell through, and only months later Covid-19 lockdowns hit Oman, disrupting many restaurants and delivery operations. The company was flung into crisis mode with its' very continuity at risk. Behind the scenes, the founders with the support of Phaze Ventures and the board tapped into emergency funding made available by IDO, and the team fought to stabilize operations through an ever-changing list of Covid restrictions and lockdown rules.
The company survived the worst of Covid, and had grown in the process, fulfilling over 1 million orders within less than 2 years; and for any aspiring founders out there let me tell you: that kind of growth is hard! It was pure pain, with many lessons learnt on how to build operations and technology in a scalable and flexible manner (perhaps for another article). Thankfully a year into Covid, macroeconomic conditions had improved enough by 2021 and the company was able to secure a term sheet for a $2.5million Series-A round of financing.
But the local and global landscape for food delivery had evolved significantly since Akeed's inception, and competition globally was only intensifying. With the support of Phaze Ventures and a number of advisors, several strategic conversations had begun with potential acquirers. We realized that to achieve everything we wanted to achieve we needed to be part of bigger organization of like minded and ambitious people, and we believed we found that in Snoonu - the first Qatari super app and the most successful technology startup story out of Qatar.
After several months of behind the scenes efforts from both management teams and conversations with Hamad Al-Hajri, founder at Snoonu, an acquisition was agreed upon, and we thrilled to announce Phaze Ventures joining the Snoonu investor base and board.
We could not be more proud of Gaurav and team at Akeed for this major milestone and accomplishment for the Omani startup ecosystem (our second exit as Phaze Ventures), and we look forward to continuing the journey alongside Hamad and the phenomenal team at Snoonu!
About Phaze Ventures
Established in 2018, Phaze Ventures is the first private venture capital firm in the Sultanate of Oman, founded to fund early-stage disruptive technology companies from around the globe, and accelerate the transformation of the region’s economies through early-stage investments and strategic partnerships.
The firm manages $30 million, targeting early-stage startups in MENA, Europe and North America, with investments from the country’s largest investors, including Oman Information and Communications Technology Group (part of the sovereign fund of Oman), Ominvest and several prominent family offices.
Phaze Ventures' current investments include eMushrif, Carzaty, and Voyager, and is headed by its three co-founders: Abdullah Al-Shaksy, co-founder and CEO, Mohammed Al-Wahaibi, co-founder and partner, and Masoud Al-Rawahi, co-founder and partner. The team is also supported by a diverse group of advisors with leadership experience at global technology firms including Amazon, Siri, and Spotify.