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Uber, Meet the Middle East’s Careem

Co-founded in 2012 by Mudassir Sheikha (Pakistan) and Magnus Olsson (Sweden), Careem is the Middle East’s response to Silicon Valley’s Uber. Several investors, including Saudi tycoon Prince Alwaleed, poured $500 million into the Dubai-based firm, which recently added services such as water taxis in Egypt.

Built and tested in Dubai, Careem offers similar services, rates, and in some cities, bonus services such as female-only drivers.

Standout features:

  • A water taxi for cities with rivers
  • Delivery service for companies and individuals
  • Accepts cash payments
  • Aims to hire more women

Luxury car giant Daimler AG, Saudi Prince Alwaleed and other investors poured $500 million into the firm in 2017. Careem’s growth has made it one of the Middle East’s only two tech ‘unicorns’ for 2017 – a financial term for startup companies worth $1 billion or more. Launched in 2012 – three years after its main competitor Uber, the cab-hailing service has since been adopted in a growing network of over 80 cities, including in the Middle East,

Water taxi, by Careem
Water taxi, by Careem

Launched in 2012 – three years after its main competitor Uber, the cab-hailing service has since been adopted in a growing network of over 80 cities, including Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

Careem in 5 figures:

  • Started in 2012
  • 30% growth rate
  • Operates in over 80 cities
  • Connects 250,000 captains (drivers)
  • Over 12 million customers so far

Corporation-wise, staff seem happy. Small, yet responsible decisions, like their quest to hire more women, extending their maternity leave, and charmingly referring to their drivers as “captains” which they train, seem to be paying off big-time for the Careem, whose name means “generous” in Arabic. The founder believes in “working hand-in-hand with local authorities, including governments and regulators” to solve local transportation issues. The company learns locally too, through developing the choice of paying with cash in certain cities.

Year Event
2012 Mr. Sheikha and Mr. Olsson co-found Careem in Dubai, three years after Uber
2013 Careem secures $1.7 million thanks to efforts by STC Ventures, a Saudi venture capital fund
2014 Saudi startup Enwani, as well as its owner, are acquired by Careem, taking the startup to new heights
2015 Bahrain, Cairo and Egypt’s Sahel are serviced by Careem
2017 Careem celebrates its 10 millionth customer, large investments deem the firm a ‘unicorn’