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Google, YouTube, Samsung are world’s top brands, but how do they do in Middle East?



Despite a number of challenges over the past year, digital and tech companies dominate this year’s YouGov BrandIndex, an annual list that ranks the health of global brands across 26 different countries.

Based on more than six million interviews over the 12 months to the end of June 2018, rankings for individual countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and UAE, were published alongside global results.

Scores take the average number attributed to brands by consumers across six different indices: impression, quality, value, satisfaction, recommend, and reputation. A zero score means equal positive and negative feedback.

In the Middle East, more than 1,300 brands are tracked every single day, Scott Booth, head of data products at YouGov Middle East and Africa region, tells ZDNet.

“Achieving high performance is an indication of the overall health of a given brand in the marketplace,” he says.

Here are the key findings from the research.

Top brands in Egypt

As with the global rankings, Egypt‘s top six places are occupied by tech companies. However, there are some key differences. Although Facebook fell two places this year to be ranked fifth globally, the social network leads the pack in Egypt.

Facebook’s score of 58.8 puts it comfortably ahead of Google’s 52.4 and WhatsApp’s 51.8.

Egypt is home to an estimated 35 million Facebook users, roughly 35 percent of the population. Facebook accounts for nearly 60 percent of page views in Egypt to social-networking sites.

In a separate index, led by regional and international food brands, YouTube was the only tech and telecoms company in a top 10 of companies recording the largest improvements to their score.

Facebook’s score of 58.8 puts it comfortably ahead of Google’s 52.4 and WhatsApp’s 51.8.

Image: YouGov

Top brands in Saudi Arabia

Tech and telecoms companies have once again performed well in Saudi Arabia, with six spots in the Top 10.

But, in contrast to Egypt, the top spots are held by the dairy company Almarai, and Al Baik, a chain of fast-food chicken restaurants. Almarai has topped the Saudi charts four years in a row.

The biggest tech winners are YouTube, WhatsApp and Google. YouTube, more popular in Saudi Arabia than anywhere else in the world based on viewing minutes per capita, rose four spots to third. WhatsApp remains steady in fourth place, and Google is up three spots to fifth. The biggest losers are Apple’s iPhone, down two to seventh, and Samsung, which dropped three spots to ninth.

SEE: Special report: Tech budgets 2018: A CXO’s guide (free PDF)

Of greater interest, perhaps, is the Index Improvers chart, which features four tech and IT-related companies in the top 10. Of these, Saudi Telecom, Huawei, and the Saudi Payments Network, known as mada, are ranked in the top four.

It will be interesting to see if these brands, along with Western Union in sixth place and Google in ninth, can maintain this momentum in the coming year.

Mada, a central payment service that links all ATMs and POS terminals throughout the country, is a key component in KSA’s fintech plans.

Meanwhile, “Huawei, while still a secondary player in the market, has grown steadily in the past 18 to 24 months, particularly in Saudi Arabia”, notes Booth.


Saudi Telecom, Huawei, and the Saudi Payments Network, known as mada, are ranked in the top four.

Image: YouGov

Top brands in UAE

In UAE, YouGov captured the performance of 550 brands, compared with 500 in Saudi Arabia and 290 in Egypt, allowing for the breakdown of a number of verticals including Internet & Social Media, as well as Telecoms & Handset Providers and Consumer Electronics & Appliances.

“In terms of handsets, iPhone firmly dominates Saudi Arabia and Egypt in terms of consumer perception,” observes Booth.

“In the UAE, the competition is much tighter, with Samsung Galaxy actually showing higher index scores than iPhone from March to July of this year,” he says.

“Our takeaway would be that Samsung’s marketing efforts have been stronger and more successful in the UAE than elsewhere in the region,” he tells ZDNet, “while iPhone has managed to maintain some positive traction in other markets. Scores for iPhone are slightly lower in Saudi and Egypt compared with the UAE, while Samsung’s numbers are substantially lower outside the UAE.”

Although the iPhone is UAE’s highest ranked brand in the Telecoms & Handset Providers indices for the whole year, Samsung pips Apple to the post to top the rankings in the field of Consumer Electronics & Appliances.

As Booth notes, it may not be “particularly surprising, but Samsung has continued to recover from the 2016 Note 7 debacle with strong releases now two years running”.


Samsung pips Apple to the post to top the rankings.

Image: YouGov

Elsewhere, Instagram makes an appearance at number five in the rankings for Internet & Social Media, and UAE’s Top Ten features prominent rankings for Google in second place, WhatsApp in third, YouTube fourth, Samsung fifth, Apple sixth, Facebook eighth, and the iPhone ninth.

The only non-tech brands in the top overall brand rankings are Emirates Airlines occupying top spot, Almarai at seventh, and the hypermarket chain Carrefour at tenth.

With Carrefour dropping three spots in the past year, it’s worth noting that the Retailers enjoying the biggest change in their brand score tend to have a strong digital focus.

Possibly indicating a greater acceptance of e-commerce and the potential for online shopping,, Amazon, the online grocery store Choithrams, and the new portal all see an improvement in the perception of their brands this year.

top-improvers-saudi.jpg, Amazon, the online grocery store Choithrams, and the new portal all see improvements.

Image: YouGov

Looking at tech and telecoms, Booth notes that since YouGov started tracking these fields in 2010, “the most significant changes are the rise of Samsung and the fall of players like Nokia and Blackberry in the handset space”.

“The iPhone has been relatively steady, ranking in the top five every year, while Samsung Galaxy has featured in the top five since 2012 with the introduction of the Galaxy S3,” he says.

However, Nokia, which once ranked at or above iPhone levels, has spent the period from 2013 to present well outside of the top ranks.

SEE: Executive’s guide to the business value of VR and AR (free ebook)

“Only now, with the new line of Nokia handsets from HMD Global, are we seeing Nokia’s numbers recover slightly,” he says.

“Blackberry, meanwhile, has experienced a steady decline since 2013 without a marked recovery.”

In a landscape overwhelmingly dominated at a top level by the popularity of international brands, these insights may help local and regional business to narrow the perception gap between their own brand and those of some of Silicon Valley’s biggest players.

However, the popularity of airlines like Emirates, Saudia, and Almarai also demonstrate that it’s also possible for national and regional brands to sit alongside the global titans.

Learning from these local brands, as well as exploiting sentiment analysis and other insight tools, should be at the heart of any brand’s strategy to grow their impact and further improve consumer opinion of their products and services.

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Cymulate snaps up $70M to help cybersecurity teams stress test their networks with attack simulations – TechCrunch



The cost of cybercrime has been growing at an alarming rate of 15% per year, projected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025. To cope with the challenges that this poses, organizations are turning to a growing range of AI-powered tools to supplement their existing security software and the work of their security teams. Today, a startup called Cymulate — which has built a platform to help those teams automatically and continuously stress test their networks against potential attacks with simulations, and provide guidance on how to improve their systems to ward off real attacks — is announcing a significant round of growth funding after seeing strong demand for its tools.

The startup — founded in Tel Aviv, with a second base in New York — has raised $70 million, a Series D that it will be using to continue expanding globally and investing in expanding its technology (both organically and potentially through acquisitions).

Today, Cymulate’s platform covers both on-premise and cloud networks, providing breach and attack simulations for endpoints, email and web gateways and more; automated “red teaming”; and a “purple teaming” facility to create and launch different security breach scenarios for organizations that lack the resources to dedicate people to a live red team — in all, a “holistic” solution for companies looking to make sure they are getting the most out of the network security architecture that they already have in place, in the worlds of Eyal Wachsman, Cymulate’s CEO.

“We are providing our customers with a different approach for how to do cybersecurity and get insights [on]  all the products already implemented in a network,” he said in an interview. The resulting platform has found particular traction in the current market climate. Although companies continue to invest in their security architecture, security teams are also feeling the market squeeze, which is impacting IT budgets, and sometimes headcount in an industry that was already facing a shortage of expertise. (Cymulate cites figures from the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology that estimate a shortfall of 2.72 million security professionals in the workforce globally.)

The idea with Cymulate is that it’s built something that helps organizations get the most out of what they already have. “And at the end, we provide our customers the ability to prioritize where they need to invest, in terms of closing gaps in their environment,” Wachsman said.

The round is being led by One Peak, with Susquehanna Growth Equity (SGE), Vertex Ventures Israel, Vertex Growth and strategic backer Dell Technologies Capital also participating. (All five also backed Cymulate in its $45 million Series C last year.) Relatively speaking, this is a big round for Cymulate, doubling its total raised to $141 million, and while the startup is not disclosing its valuation, I understand from sources that it is around the $500 million mark.

Wachsman noted that the funding is coming on the heels of a big year for the startup (the irony being that the constantly escalating issue of cybersecurity and growing threat landscape spells good news for companies built to combat that). Revenues have doubled, although it’s not disclosing any numbers today, and the company is now at over 200 employees and works with some 500 paying customers across the enterprise and mid-market, including NTT, Telit, and Euronext, up from 300 customers a year ago.

Wachsman, who co-founded the company with Avihai Ben-Yossef and Eyal Gruner, said he first thought of the idea of building a platform to continuously test an organization’s threat posture in 2016, after years of working in cybersecurity consulting for other companies. He found that no matter how much effort his customers and outside consultants put into architecting security solutions annually or semi-annually, those gains were potentially lost each time a malicious hacker made an unexpected move.

“If the bad guys decided to penetrate the organization, they could, so we needed to find a different approach,” he said. He looked to AI and machine learning for the solution, a complement to everything already in the organization, to build “a machine that allows you to test your security controls and security posture, continuously and on demand, and to get the results immediately… one step before the hackers.”

Last year, Wachsman described Cymulate’s approach to me as “the largest cybersecurity consulting firm without consultants,” but in reality the company does have its own large in-house team of cybersecurity researchers, white-hat hackers who are trying to find new holes — new bugs, zero days and other vulnerabilities — to develop the intelligence that powers Cymulate’s platform.

These insights are then combined with other assets, for example the MITRE ATT&CK framework, a knowledge base of threats, tactics and techniques used by a number of other cybersecurity services, including others building continuous validation services that compete with Cymulate. (Competitors include the likes of FireEye, Palo Alto Networks, Randori, AttackIQ and many more.)

Cymulate’s work comes in the form of network maps that detail a company’s threat profile, with technical recommendations for remediation and mitigations, as well as an executive summary that can be presented to financial teams and management who might be auditing security spend. It also has built tools for running security checks when integrating any services or IT with third parties, for instance in the event of an M&A process or when working in a supply chain.

Today the company focuses on network security, which is big enough in itself but also leaves the door open for Cymulate to acquire companies in other areas like application security — or to build that for itself. “This is something on our roadmap,” said Wachsman.

If potential M&A leads to more fundraising for Cymulate, it helps that the startup is in one of the handful of categories that are going to continue to see a lot of attention from investors.

“Cybersecurity is clearly an area that we think will benefit from the current macroeconomic environment, versus maybe some of the more capital-intensive businesses like consumer internet or food delivery,” said David Klein, a managing partner at One Peak. Within that, he added, “The best companies [are those] that are mission critical for their customers… Those will continue to attract very good multiples.”

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Open-source password manager Bitwarden raises $100M – TechCrunch



Bitwarden, an open-source password manager for enterprises and consumers, has raised $100 million in a round of funding led by PSG, with participation form Battery Ventures.

Founded initially back in 2015, Santa Barbara, California-based Bitwarden operates in a space that includes well-known incumbents including 1Password, which recently hit a $6.8 billion valuation off the back of a $620 million fundraise, and Lastpass, which was recently spun out as an independent company again two years after landing in the hands of private equity firms.

In a nutshell, Bitwarden and its ilk make it easier for people to generate secure passwords automatically, and store all their unique passwords and sensitive information such as credit card data in a secure digital vault, saving them from reusing the same insecure password across all their online accounts.

Bitwarden’s big differentiator, of course, lies in the fact that it’s built atop an open-source codebase, which for super security-conscious individuals and businesses is a good thing — they can fully inspect the inner-workings of the platform. Moreover, people can contribute back to the codebase and expedite development of new features.

On top of a basic free service, Bitwarden ships a bunch of paid-for premium features and services, including advanced enterprise features like single sign-on (SSO) integrations and identity management.


It’s worth noting that today’s “minority growth investment” represents Bitwarden’s first substantial external funding in its seven year history, though we’re told that it did raise a small undisclosed series A round back in 2019. Its latest cash injection is indicative of how the world has changed in the intervening years. The rise of remote work, with people increasingly meshing personal and work accounts on the same devices, means the same password is used across different services. And such poor password and credential hygiene puts businesses at great risk.

Additionally, growing competition and investments in the management space means that Bitwarden can’t rest on its laurels — it needs to expand, and that is what its funds will be used for. Indeed, Bitwarden has confirmed plans to extend its offering into several aligned security and privacy verticals, including secrets management — something that 1Password expanded into last year via its SecretHub acquisition.

“The timing of the investment is ideal, as we expand into opportunities in developer secrets, passwordless technologies, and authentication,” Bitwarden CEO Michael Crandell noted in a press release. “Most importantly, we aim to continue to serve all Bitwarden users for the long haul.”

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downgrade the ‘middle-men’ resellers – TechCrunch



As well as the traditional carbon offset resellers and exchanges such as Climate Partner or Climate Impact X the tech space has also produced a few, including Patch (US-based, raised $26.5M) and Lune (UK-based, raised $4M).

Now, Ceezer, a B2B marketplace for carbon credits, has closed a €4.2M round, led by Carbon Removal Partners with participation of impact-VC Norrsken VC and with existing investor Picus Capital. 

Ceezer ’s pitch is that companies have to deal with a lot of complexity when considering how they address carbon removal and reduction associated with their businesses. Whie they can buy offsetting credits, the market remains pretty ‘wild-west’, and has multiple competing standards running in parallel. For instance, the price range of $5 to $500 per ton is clearly all over the place, and sometimes carbon offset resellers make buyers pay high prices for low-quality carbon credits, pulling in extra revenues from a very opaque market.

The startup’s offering is for corporates to integrate both carbon removal and avoidance credits in one package. It does this by mining the offsetting market for lots of data points, enabling carbon offset sellers to reach buyers without having to use these middle-men resellers.

The startup claims that sellers no longer waste time and money on bespoke contracts with corporates but instead use Ceezer’s legal framework for all transactions. Simultaneously, buyers can access credits at a primary market level, maximizing the effect of the dollars they spend on carbon offsets.

Ceezer says it now has over 50 corporate customers and has 200,000 tons of carbon credits to sell across a variety of categories.
 and will use the funds to expand its impact and sourcing team, the idea being to make carbon removal technologies more accessible to corporate buyers, plus widen the product offering for credit sellers and buyers.

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