Abu Dhabi travel start-up Dharma raises $4.7 million in new funding

The latest round brings company's total equity funding to $10 million

Dharma co-founders Nisma Benani, Charaf El Mansouri and Leah Howe. Photo: Dharma
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Dharma, an Abu Dhabi-based business-to-business travel management platform, has raised $4.7 million in a new funding round as it aims to expand its business.

The pre-series A funding round was led by San Francisco-based Convivialite Ventures, with participation from marketplace-focused FJ Labs, Equinox and Soul Cycle fitness clubs owner Stephen Ross, the start-up said on Wednesday.

Other investors and angels include Mubadala-backed Shorooq Partners, Matt Higgins from Shark Tank, football icon Eric Cantona, consumer fund Goodwater and Skift founder Rafat Ali.

The latest round brings Dharma's total equity funding to $10 million, the company said.

Following its recent partnership with Paramount Global to launch “Paris by Emily,” the first official travel experience for the hit Netflix series, Emily in Paris, the funds will allow Dharma to expand its offering of multi-day travel experiences in “new verticals such as culinary, sports, fashion and lifestyle tourism”.

“Our core conviction is that the future of travel is passion-based,” said Charaf El Mansouri, chief executive and co-founder at Dharma.

“If for the past 50 years, people have travelled for the where, the next 50 years, people will travel for the why. That’s the future Dharma is enabling.”

The idea that you could seamlessly book your next trip “hosted by your favourite chef, surfer, or fitness instructor is both universal and extremely personal”, he added.

Launched in 2018 by Nisma Benani, Brice Carpentier, Mr El Mansouri and Leah Howe, Dharma was one of the first start-ups accepted into the Hub71 programme, Abu Dhabi's global technology ecosystem. Its founding team relocated to Abu Dhabi from New York and Marrakesh.

Start-ups in the UAE continue to attract the attention of global investors as the Emirates continues to develop its digital economy.

Last year, the UAE government announced its Digital Economy Strategy with the goal of increasing the contribution of the sector to the gross domestic product by 20 per cent over the next 10 years, up from 9.7 per cent in 2022, as it seeks to leverage cutting-edge technologies and attract high-skilled talent.

Developing start-ups’ contribution to the economy will help achieve the target of doubling the UAE's GDP by 2031, Abdulla bin Touq, UAE's Minister of Economy, said this month.

The UAE also aims to be home to 20 unicorns – start-ups with a valuation of $1 billion and above – by 2031, double the number initially planned.

“Our goal is to continue attracting and retaining the most inspiring people and brands in the world by enabling them to create and host authentic travel experiences for their communities,” said Ms Benani, Dharma's chief revenue officer and co-founder.

Updated: October 06, 2023, 6:14 AM