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Dubai ‘ultra app’ acquires Botim ahead of $800m launch

Abdallah Abu Sheikh, founder of Astra Tech, wants to set "a global benchmark of what an ultra-app should look like" Supplied
Abdallah Abu Sheikh, founder of Astra Tech, wants to set "a global benchmark of what an ultra-app should look like"

Astra Tech, the Dubai-based technology firm, has bought voice calling platform Botim and intends to incorporate it into the “ultra app” it aims to launch later this year.

Botim, which was founded in 2018 and also has its headquarters in Dubai, is a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) app that allows users across the Middle East to communicate by text and voice messages.

This is Astra Tech’s latest acquisition, following deals to buy home cleaning services app Rizek and fintech app Payby.

“Acquiring Botim puts us on a path to continue our mission of disrupting consumer technology and building a global benchmark of what an ultra-app should look like,” Abdallah Abu Sheikh, founder of Astra Tech, was quoted as saying.

Abu Sheikh describes his upcoming app as an ultra platform, claiming it will be “so much better” than the super apps currently in the market in the Gulf. 

“The super app space is ripe for transformation, and Astra Tech is here to disrupt and innovate,” he told AGBI in August

“In an effort to overcome profitability challenges and poor unit economics, platforms have jumped from one business line to the next in an attempt to force users to complete more transactions with them.

“The result is an overabundance of complex and sluggish digital platforms that aren’t fit for purpose. Our goal is not to reinvent the wheel, but to repurpose familiar platforms to create what we call an ‘ultra platform’.”

With funding of $500 million and the backing of Abu Dhabi tech heavyweight G42, Abu Sheikh said the total value of the app in development would actually be “north of $800 million” when cash funding and shares in acquired apps are added together.

The entrepreneur said he favoured the acquisition model as it was cheaper than building new technology.

“I don’t really like to build things from scratch,” he said. “If you look at the region over the past 10 to15 years, so much technology has been built and more of it was thrown away.

“Why do we need to build everything, which can take two to three years? We can achieve the same result by pulling together different platforms that people are already using, together under one structure.”

Originally set for launch in the third quarter last year, Astra Tech said they will announce an update to plans within the first quarter of 2023.

The UAE app market is already crowded. Its online retail sector will be valued at $8 billion by 2025, up from $5 billion in 2021 and $2.7 billion in 2020, according to a report published in March by e-commerce hub EZDubai and global research firm Euromonitor International.

A survey published in January 2022 by digital advertising services firm AppsFlyer found that 84 percent of UAE businesses surveyed said mobile apps are now a must to remain relevant to their customers.