Posted on Thursday, Jul 20th 2017
The highest privately valued company Uber is the poster child of ride sharing. One of its strong, regional rivals is Dubai-based Careem, which has recently entered the Billion Dollar Unicorn Club.
Careem was founded in 2012 by former McKinsey consultants Mudassir Sheikha and Magnus Olsson. The service was initially set up as a web-based cab booking service for corporate car bookings. But as its users started using its service for personal rides, it transitioned into a consumer-facing cab booking service.
The company has expanded its geographic presence outside of Dubai as well. Today, it has over 250,000 drivers in 80 cities in 13 countries in the Middle East, North Africa (MENA) and Pakistan regions. It claims that 10 million people are signed up for its app. At the end of December 2016, it had 150,000 drivers transporting 6 million riders in 52 cities.
Careem does not disclose its detailed financials. According to this Forbes article, it has indicated that its annual revenue is in the “hundreds of millions” of dollars. Careem claims to have broken even in Dubai and several cities in Saudi Arabia. It expects to achieve profitability by the year 2018 and is hoping to go public in that year.
Careem has been venture funded so far with $571.7 million raised from investors including Abraaj Group, Al Tayyar, Arzan Venture Capital, BECO Capital, Coatue Management, Daimler, El Sewedy Investments, Endure Capital, Kingdom Holding Company, Kuwait Investment Authority, Lumia Capital, Muna Easa Al Gurg, Rakuten, and Saudi Telecom Company. In June 2017, Careem raised $150 million, closing out a $500 million Series E funding round that values it at $1.2 billion.
Careem is filling up the need for better public transportation in the Arab world where car ownership is low: 2% in Pakistan, 5% in Egypt and 40% in Saudi Arabia. Another gap that it fills is the restrictions on women drivers in Saudi Arabia. About 80% of its customers in Saudi Arabia are women and women account for about 60% of its total users.
Its main competitor is Uber, which entered the Middle East market in 2013 and raised $3.5 billion in funding from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in 2016 to expand in the region. Careem is tiny compared to Uber, which is present in over 400 cities globally and was last valued at $68 billion.
But Careem is not looking at competing globally. It is focused only in the Middle East region, which has a population of 700 million, with the potential of between 150 million and 200 million trips a day. Currently, Careem and Uber are serving just 1% of the opportunity, leaving ample room for both of them to grow.
More investigation and analysis of Unicorn companies can be found in my latest Entrepreneur Journeys book, Billion Dollar Unicorns. The term Unicorn was coined in a TechCrunch article by Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures.
This segment is a part in the series : Billion Dollar Unicorns
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