Maniv Mobility LP, an Israel-based venture capital fund that focuses on smart mobility technologies, said Wednesday that it led a $3.8 million seed round investment in Fenix, an Abu Dhabi-based startup that plans to launch an electric scooter service in the Middle East.
The investment is the first by an Israeli venture fund in a UAE-based tech startup since the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE in September, and is the largest pre-launch funding round in the history of the UAE tech ecosystem, Maniv said in a statement.
The founders of Fenix are Jaideep Dhanoa and IQ Sayed, who will launch scooter service operations in Abu Dhabi in the next few weeks, to be followed by other Emirate and Gulf markets in the coming months. Dhanoa and IQ were senior executives and co-founders of the startup Circ, acquired by US electric scooter provider Bird in January and later shut down once the pandemic started as Bird halted its Middle East business due to the virus.
Convinced of the strength of the opportunity, after the shutdown of Circ, Jaideep and IQ began Fenix as a wholly independent and standalone company, taking with them only the Circ team.
“When it comes to finding safe, affordable, and clean ways of moving people around cities, the same solution sets apply to Tel Aviv, London – or Abu Dhabi. We are delighted to be the first Israeli VC to invest in a UAE-based tech company,” Maniv Mobility founder and managing partner Michael Granoff said in the statement. “Maniv Mobility sees huge potential in the GCC region as a new market for micro-mobility.”
Granoff said Fenix will be entering the market “with the largest fleet of electric vehicles in the region.”
“It is no secret that Israeli mobility companies have enjoyed global success – Waze and Mobileye are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dhanoa, the co-founder and CEO of Fenix, in the statement. “We hope this investment is just the start of a cross-pollination of talent, capital and innovation between the nations that can only be an accelerant in the development of a true middle-eastern tech ecosystem that will greatly benefit the region and its people at large.”
Following the investment, Maniv Mobility founder Granoff will join the board of Fenix. Granoff has been involved in transportation technology for nearly 20 years and serves on the board of Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), a Washington, DC-based policy and advocacy organization he helped establish in 2004. He was also a board member at the Israeli electric vehicle operator startup Better Place, which raised nearly a billion dollars before shutting in 2013.
Dhanoa and Sayed set up Fenix hoping to transform the way people move through the offering of light electric vehicles. The two former co-founders of Circ were also colleagues at Careem, a vehicle for hire company based in Dubai that is a subsidiary of Uber.
The goal is to make mobility easier and cheaper, said Fenix’s Sayed.
“Our collaboration with Maniv Mobility and this historic seed investment provides the resources and expertise for Fenix to build technology innovations that best service the mobility needs of the people and city partners in our region,” he said.
Maniv Mobility invests in early stage innovation companies in the smart mobility sector, including advanced vehicle systems. The venture fund’s portfolio includes companies in Israel and the United States, including Aurora Labs, a maker of “self-healing software” that will enable car manufacturers keep track of software glitches in cars on the road; Autotalks, a maker of vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems for use in autonomous driving cars, and Nexar, a maker of a vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) network that aims detect dangers on the road and prevent collisions.