US venture capital fund invests in Abu Dhabi-based Majarra

The technology company runs a subscription-based network of Arabic online content platforms

March 28, 2013 (Abu Dhabi) Abdulsalam Haykal, left, and Ammar Haykal have setup a new media related business in twofour54 March 28, 2013. (Sammy Dallal / The National)
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US venture capital fund North Base Media has made an investment in Abu Dhabi-based Majarra, a technology company that provides Arabic content online, as it continues to expand its global portfolio of digital media investments.

The funding round also included other GCC-based investors, Majarra said in a statement on Thursday. It did not disclose the size of the investment.

Majarra, formerly Haykal Media, offers a single subscription sign-on to a network of online content platforms in Arabic. The network includes Harvard Business Review Arabia, MIT Technology Review Arabia, Stanford Social Innovation Review Arabia, Popular Science, Fortune and Manhom.

NBM’s global perspective ... strengthens our commitment to deliver the best content and user experience for the Arabic-speaking internet users in the region and around the world
Abdulsalam Haykal, executive chairman, Majarra

“NBM’s global perspective and unique insight into the industry strengthens our commitment to deliver the best content and user experience for the Arabic-speaking internet users in the region and around the world,” Abdulsalam Haykal, Majarra’s executive chairman, said.

“We’re delighted to have a high quality and specialised investor like North Base Media as a believer in our vision for a new business model that addresses the massive inefficiency of Arabic online content,”

The total funding secured by start-ups in the Middle East and North Africa region rose by 64 per cent in the first half of the year to $1.2 billion, according to start-up data platform Magnitt. The number of deals in the first six months of 2021, however, dropped by 20 per cent. Mena start-ups raised $1.09bn in the whole of last year.

The UAE led in terms of deal numbers, with start-ups based in the Emirates securing 61 per cent of all Mena investments, according to Magnitt. The UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia accumulated 71 per cent of total capital invested during the period, the data showed.

NBM, a Maryland-based venture capital fund, has been investing in early and mid-stage digital media companies focused on news, business, sports, gaming and entertainment in growth markets over the past decade. Strategic investors in NBM include Bloomberg Beta, Singapore Press Holdings, the family offices of Alibaba’s leaders and individual investors who lead funds in Asia and China, according to the company’s LinkedIn page.

It has invested in companies including Japan’s live-streaming platform Zaiko, Indonesia-based IDN Media, New York-based live media content provider Kiswe and Taiwan’s digital news brand The News Lens, among others, according to its website.

“We look for partners that combine content and technology to unlock the power of the internet in high growth markets,” Marcus Brauchli, NBM’s managing partner, said. “Majarra combines a bold business vision, a solid track record and a strategic approach to addressing the demand for quality Arabic language content.”

Mr Brauchli, a former editor at The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, will join Majarra’s board of directors.

“There is real untapped potential within media and entertainment when it comes to Arabic content – particularly online,” Michael Garin, chief executive of the twofour54 media free zone in Abu Dhabi, said. “This is a high-impact investment both in terms of the growth and development of the knowledge economy in our region, and also in helping unlock the potential of digital Arabic content.”

Updated: July 15, 2021, 10:33 AM