Within the fintech sector, there are a number of startups that have successfully paved the way for the Middle East into the international spotlight, attracting the interest of VC firms and raising millions and thousands of dollars to fund their businesses.
Among these startups are players from diverse fields—crowdfunding (Liwwa, Zoomaal, and Eureeca), retail financial services (bayzat, souqalmal, compareit4me.com) and payments (MadfooatCom).
Total Investment: $6MLaunched by Jon Richards and Samer Chebab, compareit4me is the leading financial comparison platform in the Middle East that helps users to find and compare credit cards, personal loans, mortgages, car loans, insurance and bank accounts from a diverse range of local and international banks and financial institutions.
Until recently, compareit4me focused solely on comparing banking products and services, helping new clients select the best banking options from over 10 insurers and 25 products. However, early last year, compareit4me launched their end-to-end car insurance comparison platform, which allows users to compare and buy instant car insurance quotes and online via credit card or cash collection, a first in the MENA region. The new product has already generated more than 20,000 quotes, sold more than 600 car insurance policies, and saved customers almost AED 1 million in its first month of operation.
Compareit4me currently has eight countries already on board and plans to make its services available across all of MENA as well as in Asia and Africa.
Total Investment: $5M+
Founded by Nasser Saleh, MadfooatCom is an online, real-time, electronic payments solution company that got its start in 2014 with the support of an investment company Oasis 500. The platform connects banks, billers, and customers, facilitating digital bill payments and inquiries and can be tied into other innovative payment solutions as well, such as mobile wallets.
MadfooatCom’s solution acts as a bridge between billing entities and banks, allowing the entire payment process to be carried out online, in a secure manner.
In 2013, Madfoo3at won the contract from Central Bank of Jordan to create, administer and operate the country’s national electronic bill presentment and payment service gateway, eFawateerCom.
Since then, the startup has grown rapidly, and has connected more than 50 billers with 95% of Jordan’s banks and processed more than 4000 bills daily (worth more than $100M total to date).
Saleh says they are now looking to raise a Series B round of around $15-20 million to fund their expansion in emerging markets such as Algeria, Palestine, Kenya and Morocco. Due to increased investor interest in fintech and the rise of fintech accelerators, MadfooatCom is also now considering creating a fintech incubator to nurture the fintech sector.
Total Investment: $4.6MDubai-based Bayzat began as a platform for people to acquire and compare different financial products. However, after launching their health insurance service, co-founders Talal Bayaa and Brian Habibi were surprised by the demand for the service and the gap in the market. Therefore, the team decided to refocus, and today, Bayzat is a cloud-based technology platform focused solely on healthcare that helps individuals and companies find the most suitable medical insurance.
Bayzat currently offers two services: Health Insurance and HR automation. Firstly, the platform enables users to find, compare and buy insurance policies in real-time, and once agreed on a policy, users receive free access to Bayzat’s unique software ‘Bayzat Benefits’ which allows them to access all their medical benefits on their mobiles as well as select healthcare options within their policy while traveling.
Bayzat Benefits also offers online tools to HR departments to automate processes associated with managing their employees’ health benefits, and assists with tasks such as enrollment and filing claims.
Bayzat currently has around 50 companies with 50 or more employees enrolled in plans across the platform including clients such as Deliveroo, Baker & Spice and Propertyfinder, and has over 4,000 individuals comparing policies from insurers such as Axa, Aetna, Orient Insurance and Al Sagr National Insurance Company.
Total Investment: $4.5M
Launched by Ambareen Musa as a financial comparison website, Souqalmal.com empowers users to compare credit cards, personal loans, car loans, mortgages, bank accounts, deposits, mobile phone and broadband plans, as well as schools and nurseries in the UAE and KSA market.
Last June, souqalmal.com moved into insurance and launched its online end-to-end car insurance comparison platform across the UAE, which has since become the fastest growing online retail car insurance portal regarding sales.
During the first six weeks post launch, Souqalmal.com reached $600,000 in total sales, indicating a strong appetite among UAE consumers for an online insurance portal. The souqamal.com car insurance platform not only allows users to get real-time quotes in less than 60 seconds and have their policy issued to them in 60 minutes but customers also have access to a UAE-based call center seven days a week for questions/support.
Since launching, the startup has celebrated several successes such as being named Online Business of the Year at the Gulf Capital SME Awards in 2015 and being shortlisted for the upcoming MENA Insurance Awards this year.
Total Investment: $2.8MLiwwa is a crowdfunding and investment platform founded by Palestinian entrepreneurs Ahmed Moor and Samer Atiani, during Harvard University’s Innovation Lab in 2013.
The platform connects small businesses in need of capital with fixed-income investors and addresses the problem of extremely low financing rates in the region, which make it very hard for SMEs to get a loan. The company’s mission is to deliver job and income growth by helping to close the $240B SME funding gap in the MENA region.
The peer-to-peer lending startup focuses mainly on providing loans to small businesses, operating almost entirely online and sourcing capital from retail and institutional lenders, rather than depositors.
The platform allows borrowers such as SMEs to access capital and apply for small business loans while investors earn regular monthly returns on their investments and grow/diversify their investment portfolios.
Liwwa conducts in-house reviews of the small businesses’ credibility and has two revenue streams. First, they collect 2% of every payment that a borrower makes into the network, and they also lend their own money to borrowers.
Liwwa plans to use the funding they have raised to develop their ability to assess applicants using technology rather than traditional credit ratings as well as grow their underwriting capacity in Jordan and the MENA region while opening the company’s New York software development and data center.
Total Investment: $735KFounded by Abdallah Absi, Zoomaal is a crowdfunding platform aimed at supporting innovative and creative projects in the Arab world with the mission of ‘bringing back Arab creativity.’
In the past three years, Zoomaal has quickly asserted itself as one of the region’s leading crowdfunding platforms and has succeeded in launching over 100 successful funding campaigns totaling over $1.6M for projects and creating 500+ jobs.
Similar to the US crowdfunding site Kickstarter, Zoomaal’s model is a reward-based, all-or-nothing one, meaning project owners must offer investors non-monetary rewards for their support and if the funding goal isn’t reached by the deadline, all the money is returned to the original funders.
However, Zoomaal also only accepts projects that are deemed to be sustainable and not considered ‘one-off’ charity projects. Moreover, applicants must be either Arab citizens or residents of MENA with projects to be implemented within the region.
Once a project is successfully funded, Zoomaal only gets a 5% fee from the fund amount, and 95% goes to the client.
Zoomaal has been a finalist in the MIT Arab Enterprise Forum business plan competition, is backed by four Middle Eastern VC firms, and has been featured on CNN, Forbes, and IHT.
Over the past few years, Zoomaal has hosted several crowdfunding workshops, held 8 crowdfunding challenges and recently launched a global fundraising platform ‘GivingLoop’ which is tailor-made for nonprofits and social enterprises to achieve greater impact in the Arab world and beyond.
Total Investment: $400K
Founded by investment professionals Christopher Thomas and Sam Quawasmi, Eureeca is a global equity crowdfunding platform that allows members of its investor network to buy shares in growth-oriented businesses, while providing operational businesses with crucial access to capital. Eureeca is a multi-regulated platform, having received regulatory approval from the UK Financial Conduct Authority and the Securities Commission Malaysia in 2015 and recent approval from the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets.
Eureeca uses a simple crowdfunding model that focuses on making both investments and funding a simple process for all involved. Businesses interested in raising funds on Eureeca must be operational SMEs raising at least $250,000, and must first pass through Eureeca’s screening and due diligence processes before starting their campaign.
As for investors, once they have registered, they can then deposit funds in their Eureeca account and are ready to start investing. If the proposal receives 100% of its funding within the time allocated, Eureeca take over and complete the share issuance process and issue the share certificates to funders.
Since their platform launch in 2013, Eureeca has set up offices in London, Kuala Lumpur, and most recently in the Netherlands, grown to an active investor base of 12,000 from 42 countries with an average investment size of 5,267 Euros, and funded 18 businesses with 3.3M Euros successfully raised.