CEO & Co-Founder-
In July 2021, UAE-based cloud kitchen startup Kitopi raised a USD415m Series C led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, at a reported valuation over USD1b, with participation from Chimera, DisruptAD, B. Riley, Dogus Group, Next Play Capital and Nordstar.
GPCA spoke with Mohamad Ballout, CEO & Co-Founder, about scaling managed cloud kitchens across the Middle East
GPCA: Why did you start Kitopi?
Mohamad Ballout: Kitopi is a managed cloud kitchen platform that enables restaurants and food & beverage brands to scale their reach and open delivery-only locations, by providing state-of-the-art infrastructure and proprietary software with minimal overhead. We work with over 200 local and international brands across 60+ kitchens in Kuwait, KSA, Bahrain and the UAE. Our engineering hub is located in Krakow, Poland and our Global Customer Experience Center is based in Dubai
Kitopi was founded in January 2018 by co-founders Saman Darkan (CTO), Bader Ataya (Chief Growth Officer), Andres Arenas (Chief Property Officer) and myself. We saw an opportunity to help restaurants scale and increase their delivery reach and sales, without them having to worry about breaking the bank (with the CAPEX and OPEX).
Prior to working at Kitopi, I co-founded the BMB group, one of the largest confectionery businesses in the Middle East, with my brother and cousin. This is what sparked my interest in the food & beverage industry. I exited BMB group in 2016 and continued my involvement to work in the space as an investor. Cloud kitchens already existed at this point, but as real estate space that were rented out as shared kitchens. They still didn’t solve the end-to-end operations for restaurant owners, so we pioneered the managed cloud kitchen model.
What can you share on Kitopi’s customer base?
We are located across most major GCC cities, Kuwait, KSA, UAE and Bahrain, and have a wide range of brands of nearly all cuisines on our platform, and hence attract a variety of customers. There is a large population of working professionals in the UAE and KSA who are looking for convenience when it comes to food, and this is something Kitopi solves. You will also find that delivery costs are not as high, with multiple subsidized and free delivery options.
Kitopi’s USD415m Series C was a huge round for the Middle East VC ecosystem, which is on pace to exceed its largest year of investment on record for 2021. What was your experience raising such a significant round from investors?
It’s so important to find investors that are aligned with your vision. We’re fortunate to have the support of leading international and regional investors. We were looking for long-term capital investors, and what was unique in SoftBank is their portfolio of phenomenal companies that we can build synergies with globally.
More importantly, this investment is a commitment to our industry and region and we hope it inspires other startups in our region to build and find solutions to complex problems.
We still have a lot of work to do. We’ve already celebrated, but our heads are down and we’re already back to our mission of satisfying the world’s appetite. We will channel the new funding to fuel our continued expansion within the Middle East and support entry to new markets such as Southeast Asia.