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A Decade In Review: Mudassir Sheikha, Co-Founder And CEO, Careem Careem's co-founder and CEO Mudassir Sheikha says the company's original values will continue to guide its new Super App ambitions.

By Aby Sam Thomas

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Careem co-founder and CEO Mudassir Sheikha

With its February 2024 issue, Entrepreneur Middle East celebrates its 10th anniversary! To mark this milestone, we revisiting 10 entrepreneurs and entities that we featured in the publication a decade ago--we find out how far they have come, and what's next for each of their stories.

Careem is easily one of the MENA's most talked about entrepreneurial success stories today, and given its aim to be known as "the preeminent technology platform of our region" (as co-founder and CEO Mudassir Sheikha told Entrepreneur Middle East last year), it seems safe to say that this UAE-born enterprise -which is now "building 'the everything app' for the greater Middle East"- is set to continue to be an integral component of the business ecosystem here for a long while to come.

Careem has thus clearly come a long way from the fledgling ride-hailing business it was when we first featured the enterprise in 2014 in Entrepreneur Middle East, which was just two years after Sheikha and Magnus Olsson had founded the company in Dubai. "We've seen more growth and impact since we launched in 2012 than we could have ever imagined," Sheikha tells us now. "We've simplified the lives of more than 50 million people, created nearly three million earning opportunities, and expanded from a mobility platform into an everything app offering more than a dozen digital services, and a platform for other startups to scale. We've helped push the limits of what was thought possible for the region, encouraging others to dream big too. We achieved this by staying true to our purpose, persevering through the obstacles, and hiring phenomenal colleagues that acted as true owners."

It's principles like these that led Careem's ridesharing business to be bought by San Francisco-headquartered Uber in 2019, which signaled the start of Careem's "Chapter 2." The company's "Chapter 3" began in December 2023, when UAE-based tech and investment conglomerate e& completed its acquisition of a majority stake in Careem's non-ridesharing business, Careem Technologies, which essentially governs the everything app that it is building. "With two strong partners in e& and Uber, we are now able to simplify the lives of a lot more people in a lot more ways than just mobility," Sheikha says. "e& is on a journey of transformation from being one of the region's biggest telcos into a global technology investment group, and it shares our vision of uplifting the region through the services it delivers, as well as the capabilities it helps build. Beyond funding and commercial support, it brings enormous value to Careem through its large customer base, geographic footprint, and portfolio of companies and network."

The road ahead thus looks set to be an exciting one for Careem, and for his part, Sheikha has no qualms about sharing his excitement for the future that beckons. "The opportunity for an everything app in the wider Middle East is huge," he shares. "There are so many daily frictions across the region that can be solved with digital services, and there are no dominant players in our region offering the convenience and value that an everything app like Careem can offer."

HINDSIGHT IS 20/20: THEN-VERSUS-NOW WITH MUDASSIR SHEIKHA

Looking back at the stage of your entrepreneurial/ career/business trajectory you were in 10 years ago, is there anything you'd do differently knowing what you know now? Alternatively, what's the biggest lesson you wish you'd known 10 years ago?

"It's easy to look back in hindsight, and see where you could have done things better. We made many mistakes along the way, but we survived, because we reacted quickly, and learned and iterated each time. Perhaps the biggest lesson that I wish we'd known back then was the importance of hiring trustworthy and dependable leaders, and then truly letting them run. I had a habit of staying involved with multiple topics, and as you scale in size and complexity, there's just no choice but to delegate and trust in your team!"

Related: A Decade In Review: Prince Khaled Bin Alwaleed, Founder And CEO, KBW Ventures

Aby Sam Thomas

Entrepreneur Staff

Editor in Chief, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.

Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.  

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