Quiqup, a London-based last-mile delivery services company, announced a £10 million strategic funding round to open a regional tech hub in Beirut and expand to two cities in the Arabian Gulf, with others to follow.
"We're interested in the whole of the Mena region at the moment," Bassel El Koussa, chief executive and co-founder of Quiqup told The National. "Over the course of 2019, we will decide which direction we're going to take for our roll-out. It will be GCC first." The company opened its first international location in Dubai in September 2017.
The funding round is being led by existing New York-based investor JOBI Capital with participation from Beirut-based Cedar Mundi Ventures, which specialises in cross-border technology investments between Europe and the Middle East and is part of Kuwait Holding group.
Quiqup was founded in 2014 by Mr El Koussa, Danny Hawkins, Federico Ferraro, Rami Idriss and Tim Linssen. The AI powered start-up provides on-demand and same-day delivery services for retailers and restaurants of all sizes. It uses a network of self-employed drivers it calls "Quiqees".
Since its launch in Dubai, the company enjoyed double digit growth in the emirate with more than 125 clients, including retailers like Sephora and Virgin Megastore, restaurants like Pizza Express and Sushi Art, and fashion brands like Milano. Quiqup offers store-to-door delivery, as well as the ability to integrate its delivery solutions into existing e-commerce platforms.
“If you look at the overall size of the e-commerce market and adoption in the Middle East and GCC, it’s quite small, but the growth that area is seeing is incredible,” Mr El Koussa said.
The Middle East’s e-commerce sector is growing at the fastest pace globally with online sales expected to double to $48.8 billion by 2021, according to a report by Fitch Solutions, a unit of the Fitch Group.
Mr El Koussa said the region is also attractive because of the opportunity to adopt new technologies from scratch and leapfrog the types of infrastructures in place in developed markets elsewhere.
“When we look at Europe, our proposition is coming in as a disruptive solution to legacy infrastructures that are already in place. We go to Dubai, these infrastructures are not there, so we’re seeing much faster adoption,” Mr El Koussa said.
“Coming into the region, we have the opportunity to set the rules of the game and that’s why we’re very excited about it.”
Mr El Koussa, who is Lebanese, said Quiqup chose to open the tech hub in Beirut to have a development office close to the region and because of the “rich pool of talent when it comes to areas like data science”. It is due to open in the first quarter of this year.
In 2017, Quiqup raised £20m in Series B funding to support its international expansion.