Dubai-based Opontia raises $20m to acquire and grow e-commerce brands

Jordan's online classifieds marketplace raised $24m from the Saudi Jordanian Investment Fund, FJ Labs and iMENA Group

Manfred Meyer, left, and Philip Johnston founded Opontia in March. The company buys smaller e-commerce businesses and scales them. Courtesy Opontia

Opontia, an e-commerce start-up based in Dubai and Riyadh, raised $20 million in seed funding to expand its business across the Middle East and Africa region.

The funding round was led by various venture capital firms including Dammam-based Raed Ventures, Berlin’s Global Founders Capital, London-based Kingsway Capital and New York's Presight Capital.

Many angel investors – including Tushar Ahluwalia, chief executive of consumer holding company Razor Group, online shopping site Jumia's co-founder Jonathan Doerr and Hosam Arab, chief executive of FinTech start-up Tabby – also participated in the funding round.

The investment will help Opontia to acquire “exceptional e-commerce brands and invest in a team of experienced e-commerce experts” in the region, the company said. The team will be responsible for managing and growing the newly-acquired brands, it added.

Launched in March, Opontia buys smaller e-commerce businesses and scales them, according to its website. It also allows entrepreneurs to profit from future growth.

“We saw that many sellers had started their brand because they were passionate about their product and their customers but had hit a ceiling in terms of how far they could grow due to constraints on working capital, operations, logistics and commercial management,” Philip Johnston, co-founder and co-chief executive of Opontia, said.

E-commerce sales are set to triple in the Mena region to $28.5 billion in 2022, from $8.3bn in 2017, according to research from Bain & Company and Google.

The region's e-commerce market received a further boost last year as homebound users began to shop online amid the pandemic.

Opontia, which is planning to open offices in Istanbul, Cairo and Lagos in the coming months, has recruited a team of executives from Amazon, Noon, McKinsey, Uber-Eats and Namshi to spearhead its growth in the region, the company said.

“The market in the region is currently less mature than in the West but is growing much faster than any other market in the world, with the number of entrepreneurs selling on marketplaces growing at over 50 per cent per year,” Manfred Meyer, co-founder and co-chief executive of Opontia, said.

Start-ups in the Mena region secured $1.03bn in funding last year, up 13 per cent compared with 2019, according to data platform Magnitt. E-commerce start-ups, along with FinTech companies, received the bulk of the funding.

On Monday, a Jordan-based online classifieds marketplace said it raised $24m from the Saudi Jordanian Investment Fund (SJIF), FJ Labs and iMENA Group to further expand its operations.

OpenSooq allows SMEs to trade across sectors including real estate, auto, electronics, furniture and fashion. It also connects consumers with service providers in categories such as education, training and home repair services.

OpenSooq has a total of 65 million consumers and businesses that trade through its platform. The total value of items sold through it amounts to $30bn per year. OpenSooq is active in markets including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Iraq, Egypt and Libya.

The start-up said it plans to use the funding to hire 400 people in Jordan and further invest in developing in-house technology.