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MENA-based Minly acquires UAE-based Oulo

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Minly, a MENA-based media and entertainment startup, announced today that it has acquired Oulo, a Dubai-based celebrity shoutout platform, for an undisclosed fee.

The acquisition is coming six months after Minly raised a $3.6 million seed round and off the back of an impressive year of growth that saw the platform — which connects fans with athletes, musicians and stars through personalized experiences — acquire 130,000 users and 1,000 celebrities in over a year. 

Oulo, on the other hand, is a video gifting platform with more than 300 celebrities across Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The company was founded in 2020 by Kamal Nazha.

The merged business will operate under the Minly brand and roll out its combined experience offerings across the GCC region. And as part of the transaction, Nazha will join Minly as the chief commercial officer.

There are over 450 million people in the MENA region. One out of three are between the ages of 18 to 30 — a group with a deep connection to social media and fast contributing more to the global creator economy. Minly is optimizing its solution to capture a budding audience in the MENA region. 

When Minly CEOMohamed El-Shinnawy, spoke to TechCrunch in June, he mentioned that the company was doubling down on building local celebrity acquisition teams across MENA and the GCC. One wouldn’t have interpreted his statement as an expansion rather than a literal acquisition play. 

“Whilst Minly’s expansion in the GCC market was possible without Oulo, this acquisition has significantly accelerated our expansion there,” El-Shinnawy said when asked why the company acquired Oulu instead of expanding on its own. “Our mission is to become the number one creator economy platform in the region, and speed to market is critical to achieving this.”

He stated that the acquisition adds critical assets to Minly — Oulo’s roster of tier-1 pan-Arab Levantian stars, its strategic partnerships and team who can support Minly’s existing team, both in the Levant and beyond.

“Historically, the majority of pan-Arab celebrities were either Egyptian or Lebanese. Therefore, combining forces unlocks immense synergies as, together, we dominate the two most important sources of cultural content,” said Nazha.

Minly says that following the acquisition, the company’s primary objectives are to launch new complementary products, deepen its roster of stars and grow its geographic reach via an increased presence in other MENA and Arabic-speaking countries.

“We are the clear choice for stars in the region looking to create unforgettable, authentic digital experiences with fans. This acquisition will widen the gap, as the Oulo team shares the same mission and passion.”

The Minly-Oulo deal is the second major acquisition between an African and a GCC-based startup this year. A month ago, Meddy, a Qatar-based doctor booking startup, was acquired by Nigerian health tech startup Helium Health in an undisclosed deal that saw Meddy services folded into its parent company’s digital healthcare ecosystem.