Kuwait's Floward start-up raises $27.5m in STV-led funding round

Online florist and gift-delivery business says revenue in first 100 days of 2021 surpassed annual sales levels for 2020

Kuwaiti start-up Floward, an online florist and gift-delivery business, has raised $27.5 million in a funding round led by Saudi Arabi's technology venture capital fund STV.

Saudi asset management firm Impact46 also participated in the Series B funding round, the start-up said on Sunday.

"We have been on a clear and rapid growth path that was further accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic as e-commerce penetration saw a huge surge during the past year," said Floward chief executive Abdulaziz Al Loughani.

"These circumstances presented to us clear opportunities and accelerated our growth plans in the Mena region and beyond."

The Covid-19 pandemic has hastened a consumer shift to online shopping and food deliveries in the Middle East amid movement restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

Set up in 2017, Floward is now a £21.64m ($30m) business.

Annual revenue grew by 1,400 per cent between January 2020 and 2021 – when the rest of the world was battling the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic – and its transactions surged 1,200 per cent.

Revenue in the first 100 days of 2021 has already exceeded annual sales for the whole of 2020, putting the business on a "clear path to positive unit economics and profitability", said Mr Al Loughani.

Floward plans to use the proceeds from the Series B funding round to expand in the region after venturing into the UK last year, its first foray outside the Gulf.

While its UK operations are now mostly focused on London, it also plans to expand to other major cities across the country during the first quarter of 2022.

"We have a clear expansion strategy that follows our own set playbook, allowing us to swiftly and seamlessly expand to new markets with the aim to become a major global player in the flowers and gifts industry," said Mr Al Loughani.

Floward currently operates in 20 cities across seven countries and employs 450 people.

The online florist offers customers freshly cut flowers that are arranged locally and then delivered within hours.

Ahmad Al Naimi, a partner at STV, said Floward had shown an understanding of consumer trends, customer experience and the supply chain.

STV was an early investor in ride-hailing company Careem, which was later acquired by Uber for $3.1 billion. It has also backed Egypt's online healthcare start-up Vezeeta and UAE-based Trukker.

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 money.

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