The Roundtable was attended by senior representatives from all four fintech hubs and provided an opportunity for the hubs to discuss key topics such as data sharing and open banking as well as areas of collaboration such as how to support fintech companies to scale into the other markets and how to develop local talent. In the evening, Fintech Saudi hosted a GCC Fintech Summit at KAFD Conference Centre that was attended by over 150 people including senior representatives from government agencies, banks, investors, universities and fintech companies. The summit consisted of presentations from the fintech hubs on their activities followed by a panel discussion and a networking session.
The fintech industry, which reached a record $120bn in investment globally last year, is driving the future of the financial services industry, supporting the development of new business models and supporting to tackle key issues such as financial inclusion and transition to a cashless society.
Across the GCC, regulators and government agencies have been launching initiatives to support the development of fintech activity in their local markets. The four largest fintech hubs in the GCC are ADGM (Abu Dhabi), Bahrain Fintech Bay (Bahrain), DIFC Fintech Hive (Dubai) and Fintech Saudi (Saudi Arabia).
The GCC provides an attractive environment for fintech development including a market of 54 million people, a young tech savvy customer base, government support for entrepreneurship and the potential to scale into Europe, Asia and Africa. However despite these qualities, fintech development in the GCC is still in its infancy. According to MENA Research Partners, between 2008 and 2018, Gulf-based fintech startups received only $150m, which is a fraction of the global investment into fintech.
The fintech hubs are working closely together to look at ways in which they can support fintechs scale across the GCC. “By reducing barriers to entry, the fintech hubs are collectively seeking to support the growth of the GCC fintech industry, increase the industry’s attractiveness for investment, support the development of local fintechs that can compete internationally and attract the top international fintech companies to the GCC” said Nejoud Almulaik, Director of Fintech Saudi.
With this in mind, on 17th September 2019, Fintech Saudi hosted the first ever GCC fintech Roundtable and Summit in collaboration with ADGM, Bahrain Fintech Bay and DIFC Fintech Hive in Riyadh. The sessions were concluded by agreements on various action points that will support the development of fintech in the region and future collaboration between the fintech hubs.
Dubai-based fintech startup Statys secures Pre-SEED funding round from Dtec Ventures and Propeller Inc.
Statys announced today, that it has successfully closed the pre-seed funding round for its credit assessment solution, powered by artificial intelligence. The company will use the capital to grow their team, particularly on the engineering and data science side. The funding came from Dtec Ventures, the venture capital unit of Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) and part Dubai technology entrepreneur campus, the largest hub for technology startups in the Middle East, and Propeller Inc., a VC fund with an acceleration arm focusing on cutting edge product and technologies.
Statys develops a business platform to power the future of financial services. The company offers a solution that uses deep learning to reduce defaults, shorten time to decision and provide ongoing monitoring for predictive management of risk, enabling financial institutions and fintechs to get access to a real-time credit assessment while reducing the need for time-consuming and laborious processes.
The approach is not to replace existing risk management practices and system, but to combine traditional credit scoring models with machine learning techniques and data analysis. Thereby enabling lenders to extend credit to more end-consumers and SMEs and reduce default rate from borrowers. Statys customers will get performance, compliance, and the transparency need to satisfy lending regulations.
In addition to serving banks and non-bank lenders, Statys is also exploring lending directly to borrowers themselves. “Our goal is to help usher in a new era of lending that’s seamless for the borrower. We believe we are on the cusp of a new era of financial products, including lending, that are designed to fit around the customer’s needs not the other way around. We feel we are well positioned to help lead this trend globally.”, said Pierre Proner (Co-founder & CEO of Statys).
Commenting on the investment, William Chappell, CFO & Executive Vice President of Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority, said, “Digital technology, big data and analytics is changing the financial-services industry in unprecedented ways. The Fintech sector in the region is progressing very fast. We have seen the launch of fintech startup programs, the creation of regulatory sandbox environments for fintech firms, and an increasing number of deals. Statys is leveraging advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence to make lending more efficient to improve access to finance the private and business sector.”
Tambi Jalouqa CEO of Propeller said, “Companies like Statys are exactly what we look for here at Propeller. The team possesses complementary skills and the product is tackling one of the oldest industries with a lot of room for disruption and opportunity. We believe financial intermediary functions will continue to change rapidly to capture more market share leveraging advanced technology, be it payment, trading or lending.”
Statys are the winners of the AWS MENA startup challenge, Seamless FinTech competition and AI Everything Supernova Competition.
Waking Up To The Future Of Banking: UAE Fintech Startups Take On The Challenge Of Financial Inclusion
When Bill Gates famously said “banking is necessary, banks are not,” Saad Ansari paid attention.
The founder and CEO of Xpence set out to innovate for financial inclusion to solve the biggest barrier facing startups in the UAE today: setting up a bank account.
Entrepreneurs in the UAE highlight banking services, and in particular the obstacles to opening a bank account, as their number 1 challenge according to entrepreneurship advocacy white paper released by Dubai Chamber and Roland Berger in 2018.
To read more click https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/337362
UAE, Bahrain leaders in Fintech ; Milken Institute.
In the Middle East, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have emerged as fintech leaders, thanks to the supportive ecosystems these have managed to develop for fintech development. At the same time, their leadership positions are not guaranteed going forward and several challenges remain and must be overcome, according to a new report by the Milken Institute.
Over the past two years, Bahrain and the UAE have witnessed an explosion of fintech-related activity, a growth largely driven by both governments’ efforts to diversify their respective economies and establish a welcoming legal and regulatory environment for fintech startups and mature growth platforms.
Bahrain’s and the UAE’s fintech ecosystems showcase several similarities. First, both governments have put importance in fostering a collaborative mindset. A testimony of that is the launch of two prominent accelerators: the Bahrain Fintech Bay, launched in February 2018, and the DIFC Fintech Hive, launched in January 2017.
The Bahrain Fintech Bay, which counts the likes of Microsoft, American Express and Cisco as founding partners, seeks to accelerate local early-stage companies, attract foreign growth-stage fintech companies, and facilitate their go to market approach into the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The DIFC Fintech Hive provides a dynamic 12-week acceleration program where startups can test and develop their solutions under mentorship. Its corporate partners include Accenture, HSBC, Visa, Standard Chartered and MetLife.
Beyond facilitating networking and fostering collaboration, Bahrain and the UAE have also launched regulatory sandboxes to attract international firms to their respective countries. These sandboxes allow companies test innovative products and model businesses, while giving regulators the opportunity to reassess legacy regulatory frameworks in light of the information received from each test.
As of today, the UAE has three regulatory sandboxes: RegLab and Digital Sandbox by Abu Dhabi’s International Financial Centre, and the Innovation Testing License by the Dubai Financial Services Authority. Bahrain has one, the Central Bank of Bahrain’s Regulatory Sandbox.
Additionally, both Bahrain and the UAE have positioned themselves to act as gateways to the wider region, and by domiciling in either country, fintechs are lured by the opportunity to enter emerging markets across the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, a combined US$8 trillion market and the home to 3 billion people, 70% of whom have limited or no access to financial services.
A Gateway to the Wider Middle East, Africa, and South Asia Region, The Rise of FinTech in the Middle East: An Analysis of the Emergence of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, Milken Institute, September 2019
Despite their ambition to become the region’s leading fintech hubs, both Bahrain and the UAE are still early on in their efforts and only time will tell whether these initiatives will pay off, the report says. Several challenges remain and must be overcome, including the lack of local talent and required skillsets.
Another key hurdle is the amount of red tape fintech companies must deal with before launching operations locally. The cost (time and resources) spent dealing with visa requirements, licensing fees, quotas for employee hiring, and square footage requirements were cited as amongst the major issues.
But Bahrain and the UAE aren’t the only countries in the Gulf region where policymakers and regulators have implemented forward-thinking and agile policies related to fintech, a sector perceived as a leading pillar of economic diversification.
Other countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are catching up. In Saudi Arabia, the Fintech Saudi initiative was launched in 2018 to support the fintech ecosystem, promote the Kingdom as a fintech hub, improve financial inclusion and encourage the rise of digital transactions.
Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) launched its own sandbox regulatory environment in February this year and has already accepted over 20 companies to join in.
The Middle East’s fintech industry
Currently, the Middle East only represents 1% of global fintech investment but by 2022, estimates predict 465 fintech companies in the Middle East will raise over US$2 billion in venture capital funding. In comparison, only US$80 million was raised by 30 fintechs in 2017.
Venture Capital Investment into Middle East FinTech Companies, The Rise of FinTech in the Middle East: An Analysis of the Emergence of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, Milken Institute, September 2019
In the region, the payments space is the most developed fintech segment, representing 85% of all fintech firms in the MENA region. The trend comes with little surprise considering that the region is a hotbed for remittances and payment-related activity. In the UAE, for example, roughly 90% of the country’s total population are expatriates.
In addition to the region’s unique demographic, the ubiquity of mobile devices and Internet connectivity have also driven payments activity in the Middle East.
Mapping the FinTech Ecosystem in the MENA Region, The Rise of FinTech in the Middle East- An Analysis of the Emergence of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, Milken Institute, September 2019
Dubai Cultiv8 commits multimillion dollar investment in FinTech startup Wahed Invest
Dubai Cultiv8 announced a multimillion-dollar investment in Fintech startup Wahed Invest through its 100 million Technology Fund.
Dubai Cultiv8 is a category 3C Wealth and Asset Management Company that enables savers from all income brackets to invest in a diversified portfolio of Sharia-compliant stocks, Sukuk and commodities. With an expansive investment background and a long-term mission statement, Dubai Cultiv8 seeks to offer investment capital and growth to Sharia-compliant businesses. Additionally, its team of experts routinely engage with these businesses to increase sector knowledge and regional expertise.
Wahed Invest is an online investment portfolio company that allows users to register, invest and track progress of their investments. These investments are limited to companies that are registered as Sharia-compliant.
The recent investment by Cultiv8 has raised the bar for expansion for Wahed Invests which seeks to extend operations to different regions of the Muslim World.
Arif Al Alawi, CEO of the Dubai Chapter of Cultiv8 has noted that in recent times, users look exceedingly for Shariah-compliant financial solutions. The shift in user preferences towards sharia-compliant businesses has opened a lot of room for various investment portfolios to adopt a culture of innovation. “Partnering with disruptive FinTech start-ups such as Wahed Invest, which are driving technological innovation in the FinTech sector will open the door to the best-in-class products that promote financial inclusion, literacy and, most importantly, access to ethical investment opportunities to savers from all backgrounds.”
Wahed has a cogent investor base ranging from top PE funds to sovereign entities and goes on to include prominent Family Offices globally. The innovation in financial services that Wahed has so keenly emphasised on has enabled it to become the first Fintech company in the region to get a $100 million-plus valuation which it secured last year.
Junaid Wahed, CEO at Wahed, proclaimed that the organisation is ambitious about keeping up with the growth momentum to increase the shareholder base of the diverse investment platform that the company facilitates. The firm also hopes that with its new partnership with Cultiv8, it will be better equipped to deliver on its promises of improving upon its value-added strategic investor base in line with its mission statement.
Rashed Al Muhtadi, Head of United Arab Emirates, Wahed commented: “Technology is redefining financial services, bringing new and innovative financial prospects to the largely underserved and marginalized populace”.
The opportunity of peer-to-peer lending in Lebanon: Using fintech to unlock SME financing
Through conversations with Lebanese entrepreneurs, business owners, bankers, and politicians, I have had a number of eye-opening discussions into the challenges and opportunities faced by Lebanon’s SME ecosystem. Given the country’s long-standing tradition in financial services and its large banking sector, I believe fintech—with solutions such as peer-to-peer lending, machine learning to personalize insurance solutions, and the use of artificial intelligence for wealth management—stands as a serious contender to unlock the funding challenges faced by Lebanon’s SMEs.
Opportunity for Lebanon
So, what exactly are the factors that could see fintech—in particular peer-to-peer lending—transform Lebanon’s SME and digital ecosystem? Lebanon has several interlocking strengths, namely: its strategic location, its favorable tax system and free-trade zones, its entrepreneurial spirit, a good network of highly successful diaspora around the world, its local talent pool, and an educated and multilingual population.
SMEs, particularly micro-enterprises, are the main economic drivers in Lebanon. They constitute 95 percent of companies and account for 50 percent of employment. Yet, access to finance represents a major constraint; 42 percent of Lebanese SMEs struggle to get finance, according to the 2014 World Bank Enterprise Survey.
Despite having a relatively large financial and banking sector, credit in Lebanon is mostly channeled to a small number of large firms, while SMEs struggle to access finance. Bank loans represent a modest source of real financing to SMEs with only 17.5 percent having access to this funding channel, often against mortgages and guarantees required by Lebanese financial institutions. Since financing of SMEs via the stock market is nonexistent and informal loans are not commonly used, self-financing is the main source of funding for the short- and medium-term. As a result, a large number of SMEs have disconnected from the banking sector altogether, and by doing so have lost growth opportunities.
Peer-to-peer lending could be the solution to the financing problems faced by Lebanese SMEs. In the US and the UK—the two largest peer-to-peer markets in the world by volume—the emergence of the peer-to-peer lending sector has been in response to difficulties in accessing finance in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. The model is a way to allow people to invest in small businesses belonging to their friends and peers. By comparison, the Middle East has one of the highest savings rates in the world, yet people do not use a lot of credit, and there are not many investment opportunities. The peer-to-peer model has the potential to place Lebanon at the receiving-end of savings to be channeled into a dynamic and exciting SME and startup ecosystem.
While Lebanon has more than its fair share of complex and long-term challenges, I truly believe that the country holds the potential to become the “Silicon Valley” of the Middle East. Of course, serious work still needs to be done. Lebanon still needs to continuously improve and enhance its business environment (mainly in infrastructures, world-rankings, ease of doing business, and legal system transparency).
The government has to play a pivotal role in further advancing the startup industry with measures such as: tax cuts for tech companies, removing bureaucratic obstacles to encourage hi-tech mergers, the creation of public-private partnerships to support homegrown venture capital, and high-tech incubator programs to support the sector. Entrepreneurial education is also an important component, and Lebanon’s top universities need to increasingly focus on running entrepreneurship programs to look internationally for talent and target underrepresented local populations. Other initiatives, such as a visa pilot for foreign entrepreneurs, must also be considered.
Yet, underpinning it all is the emergence of a peer-to-peer lending sector that represents a serious opportunity to provide much-needed oxygen to Lebanese SMEs and help build a world-leading startup ecosystem. It also represents a practical solution to some of Lebanon’s funding challenges.
31 start-ups to participate in DIFC FinTech Hive’s 2019 accelerator programme
The Dubai International Financial Centre FinTech Hive, released the details of the third edition of its accelerator programme in an announcement that came yesterday. The region’s first financial technology accelerator launched the 2019 edition of their programme, which generated strong interest with 425 start-ups submitting applications from across the world, including Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Asia.
The third edition of this programme features a larger number of start-ups, almost 50% more than the previous year when only 22 start-ups were selected. The start-ups from different sectors have been included in the programme, including 15 from the FinTech sector, 10 from the InsurTech sector, 4 from the Islamic FinTech sector, and 2 in the RegTech sector.
For the three-month curriculum programme of this year, the shortlisted startups were evaluated by the representatives of the programme’s partners, who took into account the viability of the business proposition, potential benefitting from the programme, and the applicability of technology. The shortlisted participants had to go through an extensive process of interviews as well.
This programme is a result of FinTech Hive’s continued efforts to provide innovative solutions and an environment for the financial services industry to thrive, which is in line with the Dubai International Financial Centre’s 2024 Strategy and the Dubai Plan 2021.
Raja Al Mazrouei, Executive Vice President of DIFC FinTech Hive, said that at DIFC and FinTech Hive, the innovation and financial technology are the basis of their strategy which explores the ways in which the young can be helped and the startups can rapidly grow in an enabling environment. She also expressed her excitement over the overwhelming response this year’s programme has received, which speaks volumes about their efforts and commitment to build the regional financial services landscape.
The finalists will work closely with the representatives and stakeholders from multiple fields for the purpose of creating innovative solutions aiming to address the rapidly changing needs of the region’s financial landscape.
The 21 partners that will mentor and guide the shortlisted start-ups, include Emirates Islamic, Emirates NBD, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB), Finablr, National Bank of Fujairah, HSBC, Riyad Bank, Noor Bank, Visa, Standard Chartered, the Arab Bank and the First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) as well.
InsurTech start-ups will work with key insurance entities, including Noor Takaful (Ethical Insurance), AIG, AXA Gulf, Insurance House, Zurich Insurance Company Ltd (DIFC), MetLife, and Cigna Insurance Middle East S.A.L. Moreover, digital transformation partner Etisalat and the strategic partner Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) will also provide their support for the finalists.
The finalists shortlisted for this year’s accelerator programme of the FinTech Hive are:
AECA (Singapore), AuditXPRT Limited (UK), Azakaw (UAE), BodyO (UAE), Clear Quote (India), Crayon Data (Singapore), DAPI (UAE), Eazy Financial Services (Bahrain), FinFirst (Kuwait), Hakbah (Saudi Arabia), HelloGold (Malaysia), i3systems (India), Intain FinTech (Singapore), IslamiChain (UAE), Jubi.ai (UAE), KASKO (UK), Krowd (UK), LEAP FinTech (UAE), Medyear (USA), Monimove (UAE), NEO MENA Technologies (UAE), Okanii (Canada), Prime Factor (Belgium), Seyula.io (UAE), Statys (UAE), Upswot (Ukraine), UPUP (Czech Republic), Uqudo (UAE), Wally (USA), Wethaq Capital Markets (UAE), and ZappyAI (UK).
The programme will provide the start-ups with an opportunity to showcase their talent and technologies to prospective partners and investors on a scheduled ‘Investor Day’.
Dubai calls for a new wave of international Fintech startups
Applications are now open to join the second cohort of the Startupbootcamp FinTech Dubai Accelerator, supported by the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region’s leading financial hub, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), as well as leading players in the finance and banking sectors like Visa, Mashreq Bank and HSBC.
The accelerator completed its first cohort in April 2019, with ten international and regional Fintech startups landing business development and fundraising opportunities with international market leaders. Startupbootcamp is now recruiting at global scale a new pool of ten promising startups operating in various fields impacting financial services innovation.
Startups applying to the Startupbootcamp FinTech Dubai Accelerator will have the opportunity to join the 3-month acceleration program that will take place in the heart of Dubai’s financial district, in DIFC, from January to April 2020. The program will provide all the tools to take a startup from its initial launch to developing a highly scalable business with substantial revenue growth. Moreover, the selected startups will also have access to Startupbootcamp’s global network of entrepreneurs, investors and corporate partners, free co-working space, €15,000 bonus to cover living expenses and over €300,000 worth of partner deals. Startups interested in joining the accelerator can apply here.
Speaking of his experience with Startupbootcamp Dubai Fintech Accelerator, Kevin Kilty, founder of HubPay, one of the ten startups graduated from the first cohort, said: “It was a very diverse mix of businesses. It was great to see the high calibre that we have, how much we grew in the last three months and also how collaborative the whole process has been”.
Akram El Youssi, founder of Instaval: “We are very happy to have secured engagement with partners in the region, banks, accelerators and VCs.”
Maryna Potemkina, co-founder of UPUP; “It’s very different, dynamic and the business opportunities are very open.”
Lars Buch, CEO of Startupbootcamp MENA, commented on the opening of the application: “Startupbootcamp has developed the world’s largest network of Fintech accelerators and Dubai is among the most interesting hubs at the moment. We notice a sharp upturn in quality of regional startups and forecast a new major leap in building startups with sustainable growth from Dubai. Besides this, the evolution and continuous progress of the industry would not be possible without the outstanding and forward-looking support of companies like DIFC, Visa, Mashreq and HSBC, which are providing startups with an unparalleled level of insights, technology and expertise.“
Khaled Lababidi, Managing Director of Startupbootcamp FinTech Dubai, commented that “Our accelerator is uniquely designed in three phases that take startups from their market-fit validation to building systems and infrastructure with scalable technologies, and lastly, to mastering fundraising techniques and growing their customer base. Startups are supported and coached by our partners and over 80 industry-leading mentors throughout this journey, as well as have the opportunity to meet local and regional angel investors and venture capital firms. Companies who graduated from the Startupbootcamp accelerators, manage to raise on average US$1.3 million in funds to scale their business.”
Peyman Al Awadhi, Head of Marketing & Corporate Communications at DIFC Authority commented, “It’s been a pleasure to see the growth and development of the budding startups selected for the first cohort of the Startupbootcamp FinTech Dubai Accelerator, and we can’t wait to see the innovative ventures that will come our way for 2019 program. The DIFC continues to develop its dynamic FinTech ecosystem to provide entrepreneurs and innovators with everything they need to scale their business – from forward-thinking regulation to access to funding and subsidised licensing. Our accelerator programs are a great way for global startups to experience these benefits first hand.”
Otto Williams, Head of Strategic Partnerships, Fintech and Ventures at Visa for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “We believe that start-ups can thrive and achieve sustainable growth when given the right platform and a collaborative
working environment. And mentorship programs like the Startupbootcamp accelerators do just that – they give fintechs the confidence and vigour to create innovative solutions to address the pain points challenging different sectors of the economy. As part of our partnership with Startupbootcamp, Visa has run mentoring and pitch sessions for these fintechs in our Dubai offices and with our clients. We are proud to continue this association and look forward to mentoring the next wave of start-ups joining the Startupbootcamp FinTech Dubai Accelerator as we continue to support the UAE’s growth as a fintech hub.”
HSBC’s CIO of Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, Ghinwa Baradhi, commented: “HSBC is looking forward to participating in the second cohort of the Startupbootcamp Fintech accelerator programme. We are pleased with the success of the inaugural programme where we have mentored several promising FinTechs and will look to build on that in the next batch. Nurturing young technology firms is an important step in creating an ecosystem of innovation in the region.”
Subroto Som, Executive Vice President – Group Head of Retail Banking Group, Mashreq Bank, commented, “Digital disruption is having a significant impact on the financial services industry and there is a strong realization amongst our peers to evolve and come up with new ideas and solutions to maintain customer relationships and bottom lines. Initiatives such as Startupbootcamp are a great way to stimulate the fintech ecosystem in the region, bringing together financial institutions, local and regional startups on one platform. At Mashreq, we are playing a leading role by supporting and encouraging fintech companies to enhance their business models, with the aim of ultimately deploying new solutions and technologies in the UAE and beyond.”
Over the next two months, the Startupbootcamp FinTech Dubai team will be hosting ‘FastTrack’ events in Dubai and across the Middle East to give startups the chance to present their ideas and to learn more about the program. The Startupbootcamp Fintech Dubai team will visit also other international cities like London, Singapore, New Delhi, Toronto and more, to recruit the best fintech startups.
Dubai Launched its Women-Only Accelerator to Drive Female Fintech Talent
Dubai will be getting its own female-focused accelerator programme soon, run by DIFC FinTech Hive.
AccelerateHer is a mentorship programme held with Carter Murray, and aims to equip budding female professionals with the necessary tools and experience to become more active in the region’s fintech landscape development.
The mentorship programme is already underway, running from April to November 2019.
AccelerateHer connects young aspiring executives to accomplished professionals with relevant experience from the DIFC FinTech Hive’s network—including some of the world’s leading financial organisations.
Raja Al Mazrouei, Executive Vice President of DIFC FinTech Hive, said:
“Research shows that women remain significantly underrepresented in the upper levels of financial services.”
“I’m confident that AccelerateHer will [expose] the young female talent of the UAE to a diverse range of experiences that allow them to play a more influential role in the future of the industry.”
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