Unicorns are mythical beings, but are unicorn startups also a myth? The response is “no,” at least initially. A company valued at $1 billion is considered a unicorn startup. Companies like Uber, Airbnb, and Facebook are unicorn startups. So are WeWork, Spotify, Stripe, and a few hundred more businesses that you probably haven’t heard of. Since those are actual businesses that have attained “unicorn” status, unicorn startups must also be actual, right?

Well, yes. In the Middle East, there are five unicorns that are valued at $1 billion as of December 2021. Two of these companies have become listed companies, two were born last year and the last one has since been acquired. Want to know more? Read on to find out!

#1 Kitopi (Valuation: $1 billion+)

The cloud-kitchen platform with its headquarters in Dubai became a unicorn in early July 2021 after raising $415 million in a Series C round spearheaded by Softbank Vision Fund 2, one of the biggest fundraising rounds in MENA history. The company’s total investment now stands at $804 million.

Known as Kitchen Utopia, Kitopi was formed by Saman Darkan, Mohamad Ballout, Bader Ataya, and Andres Arenas in January 2018. Through collaborations with more than 200 brands, it runs over 80 cloud kitchens around the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain. On Forbes Middle East’s list of the 50 Most-Funded Startups for 2021, Kitopi comes in first place.

#2 Swvl (Valuation: $1.5 billion)

Swvl, a bus reservation app with headquarters in the UAE, and U.S. SPAC Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital reached an agreement to merge in July 2021. As a result, Swvl will become a publicly traded company and the first $1.5 billion unicorn from the Middle East to list on NASDAQ.

Mahmoud Nouh, Mostafa Kandil, and Ahmed Sabbah established Swvl in Egypt before relocating the company’s headquarters to Dubai in late 2019. With $92 million in funding, it came in second on Forbes Middle East’s list of The Middle East’s 50 Most-Funded Startups for 2020.

#3 Fawry (Valuation: $1.4 billion)

Heralding Egypt’s fintech landscape, this pioneer company surpassed $1 billion in August 2020 and $1.4 billion in 2021. Founded by Ashraf Sabry, the company has a network of about 36 members, with more than 250,000 agents and an average of 3 million transactions per day.

#4 Emerging Markets Property Group (Valuation: Over 1 billion)

EMPG merged with the Netherlands-based OLX group in 2020. The company that owns and operates classifieds portals in the booming markets of MENA raised over $150 million, soaring to a net worth of over $1 billion after the merger. Currently, the group’s flagship venture has a presence in 16 countries with 6,750 employees and 10 brands.

#5 Careem ($3.1 billion)

With a profound presence in more than 100 cities and 14 countries, the company is valued at $1 billion during a funding round in the year 2016. The Middle East’s largest tech deal at the time, Careem was founded by businessmen Abdullah Elyas, Magnus Olsson, and Mudassir Sheikha. Careem was acquired by US ride-sharing corporation Uber in 2020 for $3.1 billion. Both businesses kept running their own brands and local services once the purchase was completed.

This wasn’t the end. Stay tuned to find out more about the leading updates in the UAE enterprise and Fintech landscape.