Meet Careem, Uber’s biggest rival in the Middle East

Uber has major competition in the Middle East.
Image: Jeff Chiu/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Uber’s been too busy dealing with the fallout of its corporate culture in the United States to make too many headlines about its presence abroad recently.

But a major regional rival got a significant batch of funding this week upping the game for Uber in the Middle East.

Careem, Uber’s biggest rival in 80 cities across 12 countries in the region, reportedly raised another $150 million, finishing up a $500 million Series E funding round the company confirmed in December.

The funding values Careem at over $1 billion so it’s not just a startup Uber’s competing with in the Middle East, but a real unicorn.

The German automaker Daimler participated in the funding round, led by Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding. Careem was founded in 2012 and is headquartered in Dubai.

With our investment in Careem, we are now taking the strategic step to becoming the worlds leading provider of mobility services, Klaus Entenmann, CEO of Daimler’s financial services arm, said in a statement to TechCrunch. Careem has quickly leapt to the leadership of ridesharing within the MENA regions by delivering rapid innovation and customer growth, and it is spearheading new ways to transport people from point A to point B.

Careem addresses specific regional challenges, especially payments infrastructure in emerging markets and cultural attitudes toward women driving and taking transit alone. The company was founded as a “local venture with a unique regional vision.”

Meanwhile, Uber serves a little over a dozen cities in the Middle East. With its global ambitions, Uber is less focused on solving problems in transportation and ride-hailing specific to the region.

Daimler, which contributed funding to Careem, is also supposed to be a partner with Uber. The two companies are aligned on a self-driving car initiative.

Daimler’s attention is already wandering. In the Middle East, Uber better watch out.

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