Mena podcast start-up raises $460,000 in early stage funding

Kerning Cultures aims to launch at least three new Arabic and English shows by year-end

Hebah Fisher, CEO and Cofounder. Courtesy Kerning Cultures
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Duba-based Kerning Cultures, a podcast company, raised $460,000 in early stage funding led by global venture capital firm 500 Start Ups.

The start-up produces and broadcasts cultural radio documentaries across the Middle East and North Africa, and to the region’s diaspora overseas. The company is targeting a potential listening audience of 110 million people between the ages of 15 and 35, and an under-served audience of Middle Eastern diaspora listeners abroad, it said in a statement.

Kerning Cultures was launched in Dubai in 2015 by Hebah Fisher, its co-founding chief executive and a former member of the emirate’s entrepreneurship centre, Impact Hub Dubai, as well as photographer Razan Alzayani, who is also a producer for Vice Media in the UAE, according to a company statement.

The Mena region has among the highest rates of smartphone penetration in the world – more than 200 per cent in the UAE in 2017, the country’s Telecommunications and Regulatory Authority reported at the time – making it a solid market for podcast demand.

The Middle East currently has around 400 active podcast shoes, compared to more than 350,000 active podcasts in the US, according to Kerning Cultures, which said it is one of just four podcast companies in the Middle East.

Kerning Cultures began as a single podcast show telling documentary-style, long-form stories from the Middle East. The Guardian newspaper described the company’s inaugural podcast as “This American Life of the Middle East”.

In 2018, it secured a pre-seed investment of $50,000 from Matter, a media-focused start-up accelerator in San Francisco. Since then, it has scaled up to “position itself at the forefront of podcasting in the region”, and expanded its network of podcast shows.

Kerning Cultures plans to launch at least three new Arabic and English shows by the end of 2019, it said.