Vezeeta, a healthtech startup operating in the Middle East and Africa, reportedly laid off about 10% of its staff last week. The number of affected employees isn’t known; however, multiple sources who posted the news on LinkedIn, including affected employees, revealed that up to 50 people were let go. Vezeeta has almost 500 employees, according to its LinkedIn page.
TechCrunch reached out to the Egypt- and Dubai-based company for comment but didn’t get any response at the time of publication.
The last time we covered Vezeeta was in 2020, when it raised $40 million in Series D funding (the joint largest single healthtech round in Africa alongside Reliance Health) from Gulf Capital and Saudi Technology Ventures (STV). According to its CEO Amir Barsoum, the healthtech company has received $73 million in total and is generally touted as one of Africa’s and the Middle East’s soonicorns.
Vezeeta’s business has evolved from the “Uber for Ambulance” model it launched in 2012 to what it is now: a subscription-based doctor booking and consultation platform. As of 2020, it was operating in 50 cities across Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon and claimed its userbase had grown 3x year-over-year to 4 million patients, with 30,000 healthcare providers using its software-as-a-service solution. But currently, the platform caters to 10 million patients across 78 cities (including Nigeria and Kenya, its latest addition) via three outpatient touchpoints: doctor consultations, pharmacy and diagnostics.
Like many healthtech startups in the region and globally, Vezeeta benefited from pandemic-induced funding, and before this news, there was no indication that the 10-year-old company needed to cut costs. But if there’s anything the current venture capital landscape has shown, no sector is immune to layoffs, as startups from real estate, crypto, q-commerce and fintech (among others) laid off nore than 16,000 employees just last month.
There are a few notable examples in the U.S. healthtech space. Earlier this month, Carbon Health, a virtual care provider, laid off 8% of its workforce, citing the need to “adapt to the changing market conditions.” Last week, healthcare unicorn Ro, after recently raising $150 million at a $7 billion valuation, relieved 18% of its staff from their duties to “manage expenses, increase the efficiency of our organization and better map our resources to our current strategy.” Other platforms globally, as reported by Layoffs.fyi, include the likes of PharmEasy, Sami and Truepill.
Vezeeta is the first major player in Africa and the Middle East to be affected. The healthtech company didn’t release any statements detailing what led to its decision or plans going forward, but affected employees stated reasons Vezeeta probably highlighted in its discussion with staff. One said the layoffs were a result of “disasters in the market,” while another said it was “due to the global market crisis caused by the war in Ukraine.”
This layoff news is the second coming from an Egypt-born but Dubai-based company in quick succession. In May, publicly traded mobility startup SWVL announced plans to lay off 32% of its workforce. The company noted changes to its financial realities and the need to implement a portfolio optimization program to “focus on its highest profitability operations, enhance efficiency and reduce central costs.”