Saudi Arabia-based tele-health start-up Cura raised $15 million from local investors in an early-stage funding round as it seeks to expand its services at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic spurred demand for online healthcare options.
The Series-A funding round closed with investments from Saudi Aramco's entrepreneurship arm Wa'ed and information security firm Elm, the start-up said in a statement on Sunday.
"We have seen tremendous month-over-month growth during the lockdown and we can’t wait to keep innovating our technology and services to help people in need live their healthiest and most convenient lifestyle we can possibly offer them," Mohammad Zekrallah, co-founder and chief technology officer at Cura, said. “It’s definitely exciting times for the digital health industry in the region nowadays, especially post Covid-19 pandemic."
Start-ups in the Mena region secured $659m in funding in the first half of 2021, an annual increase of 35 per cent, according to data platform Magnitt. Saudi start-ups raised $168m in venture capital funding from 54 deals in the first half of this year, the report said. About 75 per cent of investors that backed start-ups in the Arab world's biggest economy during the first half were based within the country, Magnitt data showed.
Founded in 2016, Cura began to provide on-demand online health and wellness services. The platform offers users instant consultations with doctors around the clock, e-prescriptions and six to eight-week wellness programmes to advise on depression, stress, chronic illnesses, nutrition and other health issues.
Cura plans to use the funds to make the process more user-friendly and introduce additional services for individual users and partner clients, such as collecting blood samples from homes and providing employee health benefits that can be integrated with insurance companies.
"We aim to help redefine the model of care in which patients access health care services in Saudi and move towards digital-first approach where seeing a doctor online becomes people’s first choice and to move as many health services as possible to be at patients' hands," Wael Kabli, chief executive and founder of Cura, said.
More than 4,500 doctors are registered on the platform, serving around 350,000 users since 2016, most of whom live in the kingdom, according to Cura.
The founders are planning an international expansion in the next three to five years, with about five per cent of its customers currently from outside Saudi Arabia.
“Our investment in Cura comes as recognition to acknowledge the incredible milestones that the founding team was able to achieve as the pioneering leaders of telemedicine in Saudi Arabia," Fahad Alidi, managing director at Wa’ed, said.
Majid Alarifi, marketing vice president and spokesperson at Elm, said: "We are looking forward to more investments in pioneering and emerging companies during the coming period."
The latest funding round is the third after two rounds worth 6.5m Saudi riyals ($1.7m) investment made by Enmaa Saudi Business Information Technology (ESBIT) from 2016 to 2018. ESBIT is owned by Enmaa Saudi Business Holding with a mandate to increase local content in the kingdom by investing in localising technologies.