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This Fin-Tech Startup Is Aiming To Make Tunisia Cashless



Staff Writer Ahmed Budalama speaks to Rostom Bouazizi, co-founder and COO of Flouci and Kaoun.

Kaoun is the first startup in Tunisia to allow for legally recognised remote identification, which customers can use to perform seamless mobile peer-to-peer (P2P) merchandising, e-commerce and bill payments.

Flouci’s electronic Know Your Customer (eKYC) process brings financial services directly to customers by breaking the barriers to entry that resulted in their financial exclusion, such as distance and cost. Customers can open a bank account remotely by submitting pictures of their Tunisian national ID from their phones, then recording a brief video of themselves. Flouci’s machine vision software verifies the authenticity of the ID, runs facial recognition algorithms on the video and ID card, then submits a match confidence score to the back office for final approval from a bank staff member.

Moreover, the eKYC process implements a range of computer vision algorithms to check the authenticity of a submitted national ID in real-time and detect any anomalies to alert the bank compliance team about potential document fraud. The facial recognition mechanism allows to compare the video frames and the ID submitted to generate a confidence score with an interpretation that can be overwritten by the agent. The process also enables the proof of life by detecting that the person is doing the process at the time of the application through simple randomized instructions.

“Our goal is really to use the power of innovative technologies to automate most of the manual processes at the bank level as well as increase efficiency. This results naturally in a service that is more reliable, fast and secure,” adds Bouazizi.

After Bouazizi and two of his colleagues gained their higher education certificates at a private university in the United States, they were fascinated by the easy with which an individual could open a bank account, as well as the quality and affordability of available transactional banking-based services. This signaled the birth of Flouci, which came from the simple observation about the quality and scalability of financial services in Tunisia, and notably the significant room for improvement in the Tunisian financial services industry. A further study of the opportunity revealed how the legacy systems of Tunisian banks, as well as the overly complex regulatory environment, were resulting in the exclusion of millions of individuals from the formal financial system.

Bouazizi went on to establish Kaoun and launch Flouci, Kaoun’s first product that paves the way to financial inclusion in Tunisia, by allowing users to open a bank account and have access to banking services remotely using their electronic Know Your Customer (KYC) process.

“We then made it our mission to bank the 5.5 million unbanked adults in Tunisia as well as provide more reliable and affordable services to the already banked,” said Bouazizi.

As a startup, Kaoun employs many modern-day technological tactics in their continious effort to disrupt the tech ecosystem. Kaoun processes interbank payments using blockchain technology, which allows them to ensure that all transactions are securely and conveniently completed within four seconds. Additionally, by documenting and formalising users’ day-to-day transactions, Kaoun is also able to acquire the necessary data to create alternative credit scores, allowing even informally employed customers to prove credit-worthiness and avoid the need for exploitative loans. Through Kaoun’s partnership with the National Agency of Electronic Certification (ANCE), Flouci also offers digital signatures to every user of the app, which can be used to sign legally binding documents.

Customers use their phones to select which of our partner banks to open an account with. This technology allows banks to reach a bigger market and make procedures that can be currently done only through paperwork and physical presence automated or semi-automated. Blockchain allows the integrity of operations since it is based on a consensus protocol, where nodes vote on the valid and accepted transactions, eliminating fraud and conflictual transactions. Flouci’s interoperable payments product is built using a private blockchain with a consensus protocol for settlement, a chosen method over the traditional centralized ledger-based system because blockchain mitigates the risk of double-counting when transaction. It also allows the startup’s services to be interoperable across all banks while respecting all current laws regarding the protection of personal data, and anti-money laundering in Tunisia and the region.

However, certain processes are known to hinder the process of a startup’s growth, but Flouci had worked in the last 18 months since their launch to forge strong relationships with both the banking and public sectors and prove the quality of their product. Partners are becoming more willing to accelerate their internal processes and align their mission with Flouci. Additionally, Flouci offers banks a competitive advantage in allowing customers to open accounts remotely-banks are therefore encouraged to adapt technically quickly to access this service.

“Our product launch has been slowed by the long administrative processes of partner banks and government ministries. There are high barriers to entry in the sector, which are particularly significant for non-traditional players trying to disrupt the market. While we as a startup depend on our ability to adapt and pivot quickly when necessary, most of our partner institutions are accustomed to more time-consuming processes and are reluctant to change,” explains Bouazizi.

Kaoun has received funding from USAID, Columbia Business School Tamer Center for Social Enterprise as well as two angel investors who stood behind their vision and shown their support throughout the journey. The startup’s research revealed that many of the problems that are hindering financial inclusion in Tunisian- an which we are trying to solve with our solution Flouci- are also relevant in many neighboring and similarly sized market across the MENA region, which is why, in the next 3 years, they plan to integrate with all 23 commercial banks in Tunisia, allowing for a multi-efficient payments solution.

Additionally, Flouci hopes to have started expansion to other countries in the Middle East and Northern African region, notably Algeria, Morocco, and Turkey by the company’s fifth year. Flouci’s services make it easy for small businesses, online businesses and entrepreneurs to accept payments seamlessly and at very affordable rates, as well as helping them focus more on their core businesses and less on cash handling, and collection, hence not only expanding existing markets but also creating new ones by getting their products closer to a more and more tech-savvy clientele.

“The success of the project could also result in creating a Fintech ecosystem in which we could collaborate with existing and emerging players to enhance our offering and move closer towards achieving our mission of promoting financial inclusion,” concludes Bouazizi.

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Lebanon’s Basma, the digital dental startup secures US$1.2M Seed funding




Author: Basma

Basma, the Beirut-based digital dental startup, secures a Seed round of US$1.2M and opens up access to simple and affordable orthodontics in the MENA region.

This financing round was led by prominent Beirut-based VC firms, B&Y Venture Partners and Cedar Mundi Ventures, with the joint participation from iSME and various business angels.

Basma is a direct-to-consumer healthcare brand that wants to give customers straighter and brighter teeth. It’s a digital health company founded on the belief that affordable dental care should be accessible to everyone. 

According to their Founder and CEO, Dr. Cherif Massoud: “7 out of 10 people in the Arab world can benefit from straighter teeth. But we think that everyone deserves to smile confidently. Aligners are the best alternative to braces, by changing the distribution channel and putting everything online, Basma cuts the treatment cost by up to 65%. Patients are constantly connected to doctors on our advanced telemedicine platform and are able to receive the treatment kit that will have a series of clear custom fitted aligners, straight to their homes.”

“Basma understands the consumer desire to improve their smile discreetly and they have the tools to make it happen.” Their CEO adds: “Adults should not feel pressured to wear wired braces. They are looking for invisible braces that don’t affect their confidence and this is exactly what we can give them.”

Bassel Attieh, Chairman and Managing Partner of Cedar Mundi Ventures, says: “We see much appetite for HealthTech and cosmetics services in the Middle East, both from consumers and professionals. And the teeth aligner industry is only getting started here. We believe in Basma’s bright future, building on local entrepreneurial and tech talents, and leveraging internationally-acclaimed remote professional initiatives for and from the region.”

The funds will further push Basma’s tech base and fuel expansion in the MENA region.

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2019 is Record Year Investment for MENA countries; MAGNITT



Another record year for total funding when excluding the investments of Souq & Careem

Main highlight of 2019

2019 saw an increase of 12% in total underlying funding; This reflects a 33% 5-year CAGR as the ecosystem grows and matures. Egypt ranks first by number of deals for the first time

  • Egypt accounted for 25% of all deals in MENA in 2019
  • Saudi Arabia’s share of total deals increased by 4%

MENA deal flow hit a record of 163 investments in Q3 2019

  • 2019 saw a higher number of deals in each quarter compared to 2018
  • Q1 2019 was a record quarter for MENA investments when exc. Careem’s $200M funding in Q4 2018

FinTech ranks first by number of deals for the second year in a row

  • FinTech accounted for 13% of all deals in 2019
  • Accelerators and governments play a key role in supporting FinTech startups

What would MAGNITT expects for 2020??

While this was predicted for 2019, the funding gap left by the Careem acquisition was too big to cover by other, earlier-stage startups.
Moving into 2020, we expect this gap to be filled, as more startups look to raise growth capital, and government initiatives such as
Funds of Funds and matching programs come into effect.

Several industries in the region, including e-commerce and transport, are heavily fragmented, and investors and startups will look to
consolidate to gain a competitive edge. We will also see international interest in more established startups, as we have seen with the
likes of Careem, Souq, Harmonica, and others.

International startups will capitalise on the increased government initiatives to support startups in the region. With the emergence
of flexible co-working spaces across MENA and initiatives to help reduce the cost of setting up and moving, the barriers to entry are
reducing, making the MENA region more accessible than ever.

Bassel Idriss, founder of Generics, shared his 5 learning lessons from the failure of his startup with MAGNiTT. As the ecosystem
matures, it is statistically inevitable that a higher number of startups will fail. This is not a bad thing, as long as we collectively learn
from these experiences and encourage founders to become serial entrepreneurs.

The success story of Careem and the increased media attention for venture-backed companies is a positive. Consequently, many will
start looking to scale out of the region for continued growth – international startups and investors alike will look for opportunities as
they become more familiar with the MENA landscape and as they seek arbitrage opportunities. Look out for more Asian venture capital
and corporate investors with experience in South-East Asia and China to start developing an interest in the region.

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500 Startups company invested in 37 Egyptian startups, making 30% of its MENA portfolio: venture partner




SOURCE: Daily News Egypt

Currently, most of the youth globally, and in Egypt specifically, are pursuing entrepreneurship rather than finding a fixed job. And subsequently, they look for funding or investors for their startups. Accordingly, some companies have made it their mission to help youth around the world succeed in their startups by funding them, and among these companies is ‘500 Startups.’

Meanwhile, there are many summits all over the world that help connect both stakeholders and startups, providing startup owners with exposure, resources. and advice. Among these events is the Rise Up Summit that is held annually in Egypt and will be held this year from 5 to 7 December, which means that there is only a day left for the beginning of the summit which is considered one of the more major summits in the Middle East for entrepreneurship.

On this occasion, Daily News Egypt interviewed Hasan Haider, venture partner at 500 Startups- MENA region, to learn more about his company’s participation in the coming Rise Up summit, the amount of his company’s investments in the Egyptian startups, his company’s selection criteria for the startups that it funds, as well as the company’s five year strategy.

First of all, can you tell us more about 500 Startups?

500 Startups is a venture capital firm on a mission to discover and support the world’s most talented entrepreneurs, help them create successful companies at scale, and build thriving global ecosystems. It is one of the most active venture capital firms in the world.

500 Startups in the MENA region:

Silicon-Valley based 500 Startups is one of the most active early-stage venture capital funds in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Since its first investment in the region in 2012, 500 Startups has committed to investments in over 160 startups across the MENA region.

500 Falcons, a MENA-focused fund, that is a part of the global 500 Startups network, was launched in 2017. To-date, the company has invested in over 150 startups and plans to invest in another 50 companies, in addition to follow-on investments into the top performing companies.
Earlier this year, the oversubscribed MENA-focused 500 Falcons fund was closed at $33m.

Up until now, how many Egyptian startup companies has 500 Startups funded? And what’s the amount of investments?

To-date, 500 startups has invested in 37 Egyptian startups in our portfolio, which is around 30% of our total investments in the MENA region. We typically invest an average of $100,000 as an initial investment and can go as high as $500,000, which is the case of our top 20-30%.

At what stage will 500 Startups prefer to fund the start up? And what is the selection criteria for start-ups to receive funding from 500 Startups?

As a firm, we typically invest at the seed stage of a start-up’s development. How that is defined varies, but on average we are looking for startups that have launched a product and have been generating revenues of at least $5,000 a month, for the last three-six months, growing at least 20% month over month. Startups at this stage are generally raising between $300,000 – $500,000 in total to scale their customer acquisition, traction, and metrics.

We’re looking for balanced founding teams, with a bias towards execution, going after a large market with few to no competitors, and a product that users want.

As we are only a day away for the Rise Up summit, what is your opinion about it?

Rise up Summit is one of the best startup events in the MENA region. We actively look forward to it every year. I believe the key advantage that Rise up Summit has is that it genuinely feels authentic. The startups and community come together to make something grassroots, organic, and real. It’s not a series of government speakers in a ballroom in some hotel, but a real festival and celebration of entrepreneurship, founders, and startups.

How many times have you participated in the Ruse Up summit?

Almost every year.

What’s your expectations for your participation in the coming edition?

I’m looking forward to interacting with amazing startups from Egypt and all over the MENA region again, catching up with the other investors that will be there, and hopefully providing some useful insights to as many founders as we can through our speaking engagements.

How many startups have you funded through Rise Up summit and with how much in investments?

We’ve invested in many startups that we’ve met with during Rise Up and hope to continue doing so.

In your opinion, what distinguishes Egypt in terms of entrepreneurship than other countries in the Middle East? And what are the challenges?

In my opinion, Egypt is one of the fastest growing startup ecosystems in the MENA region. We love investing in Egyptian startups – the founders are passionate, driven, motivated to succeed with an amazing technical talent base. Combining that talent, motivation, and the large market size that exists – Egypt really is the main market to be investing in. Egyptian founders do face challenges, like recruiting talent related to growth, and the low spending power of users, but we’ve generally seen them succeed against all odds.

What are the promising sectors in Egypt that you would like to invest in?

There is a massive untapped opportunity in Egypt in fintech – finding ways to provide financial services to the mass unbanked market is an attractive option, and we’ve seen successes in other markets which leapfrogged the banking system to mobile based wallets. In addition, there are a lot of logistical and transport-based opportunities within Egypt, as well as on-demand products and services. We’ve been actively investing in all these sectors, but more broadly we’re interested in backing starts that can scale both within and outside Egypt.
The government is adopting a digital transformation strategy, in your opinion what are the challenges that Egypt faces in terms of mobile technology and e-commerce? What are the opportunities?

Every challenge and obstacle is just an opportunity to solve in the right hands. I believe that the largest challenge, particularly for e-commerce startups, is the availability of online payment options other than cash on delivery. Additionally, connectivity – making sure the majority of the population can afford data and access to the internet is an infrastructural obstacle. Combined with logistics, these three points are the main obstacles for growth in the tech industry. Having said that, I believe Egyptian founders have overcome these issues and have been thriving with their startups, and Egypt has passed the tipping point to enable success stories in the market.

Finally, what is the company’s five year plan in Egypt?

We’re going to continue to actively invest in the Egyptian market as we have been, and I believe the market will just get bigger and better. We’ll also start to see more and more exits there. Egypt is one of our key markets and will likely be for the foreseeable future.

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Flexxpay eyed by Wamda funds





Wamda has invested in UAE-based financial technology (fintech) startup FlexxPay ( The social impact company provides employee benefit solutions for businesses of all sizes in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region. Wamda’s investment is part of FlexxPay‘s latest round of funding, which includes previous individual and corporate investors.

FlexxPay’s proprietary cloud-based solution provides employees access to a series of services and benefits, including the ability to access their earned salary and earned commissions whenever needed. By offering an alternative to the traditional payment cycle, FlexxPay aims to reduce the financial stress on employees and increase their motivation, and in turn, enhance productivity, sales and employee retention rates for businesses.

“FlexxPay is targeting a very clear pain point with an innovative and unique solution that will help unlock individuals’ income on an as-earned basis. We are confident in the team’s ability to drive the company forward and are excited to partner with them on that journey,“ said Fadi Ghandour, executive chairman at Wamda.

Commenting on the business and Wamda’s investment, Michael Truschler, co-founder and CEO of FlexxPay said: “FlexxPay solves a real world problem for employers and their employees. Giving employees access to what they have already earned helps them to cover unexpected expenses and motivates them at the same time. Having Wamda as an investor further validates our business model and inspires our team as a whole.”

Financial matters rank top of the list for employees when it comes to primary sources of stress, with 59 per cent stating finances were their primary cause of concern, according to “PwC’s 8th annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey” of 2019.

This has created a space for fintech startups to address employee benefits and create a system supporting traditional human resources (HR) and finance teams in addressing pay period timing and bridging the gap between pay and spend times for employees. The model has widely been proven in the US and Europe with players such as Earnin (US), PayActiv (US) as well as Wagestream (UK) and Hastee (UK).

FlexxPay currently operates in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with plans to expand to the rest of Mena in the near future.

The team will use the funds to enhance its technology platform and will focus on onboarding corporate clients.

FlexxPay previously raised an undisclosed funding round in July 2019 and recently signed a partnership agreement with Riyad Bank, one of Saudi Arabia’s largest financial institutions.

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Digital marketing

Indoor digital platform Adzily raises $12.2 mln, expands to Saudi




Cairo-based indoor advertising platform Adzily that claims to be the first of its kind in the Middle East & North Africa has raised $12.2 million from Al-Tharawat Private Investment Holding Company (Private Wealth Investments), a Saudi investment company, the startup told MENAbytes today. It is the first external investment round raised by Adzily and one of the largest-ever raised by an Egyptian startup.

Founded last year by Ahmed Ashoor, Mostafa Hendawy, Mostafa Kamshish, and Mohamed Ossman, Adzily is a network of digital ad screens spread across cafes, restaurants, and gyms, that runs ads.

Think of it as a form of (or somewhat similar to) the traditional Out-of-home (OOH) advertising on steroids; a hybrid of traditional and digital advertising allowing brands to reach audience using these display screens that are spread across malls, cafes, restaurants, gyms and other indoor places that have a high footfall.

OOH advertising that is also known as outdoor advertising, as an industry, has been struggling all around the world including the Middle East & North Africa largely because of brands spending a big part of their advertising money on Facebook and Google ads. According to information available on Statista (that they have apparently sourced from different online sources), the outdoor advertisement expenditure has decreased by over 65 percent from its peak of $1.53 billion in 2014 to $529 million last year.

The internet ad spend on the other hand has been increasing in the region and is expected to reach $1.31 billion by 2021.

What Adzily is trying to do is create a new category that brings the best of both worlds (digital and offline) together and that is its pitch to brands.

Ahmed Ashoor, co-founder and CEO of Adzily, who has co-founded and led different other startups as well, speaking to MENAbytes, said, “Adzily is something like Google Ads but instead of publishing the ads on websites, we publish them on screens located in different areas in Egypt & rest of MENA. So the brands don’t only reach the audience they want to target but also get some very useful insights.”

The targeting options available on Adzily allow brands to target consumers that are at a specific location (city, area, neighborhood) or at a specific chain (e.g. Pottery Cafe). The brands also have the option to choose a specific type of audience and time for their ads. The advertisers can also add call to action (CTA) to their ads in form of QR codes and few other things made using Adzily dashboard (for advertisers).

The startup told MENAbytes that it currently has 200 screens installed in different cafes and restaurants in Egypt including Cafe Supreme and Pottery Cafe (both of which have a large network of branches), and plans to add 1,000 more screens in the country in the next three months and add take the number of total screens to 5,000 in Egypt in 2020. More than half of these screens will be added in Cairo and the rest in other parts of Egypt.

The startup that is also expanding to Saudi with this investment, plans to install 5,000 screens in different cities of Saudi in 2020 and add another 5,000 in 2021. Unlike Egypt, Adzily will face stiff competition from giants like Al-Arabia that have their screens in some of the biggest malls in the country.

“In Saudi, we’re initially focusing on cafes, restaurants, and gyms – the places where there’s no competition before we go to malls and place our screens there,” said Ahmed speaking to MENAbytes.

Adzily that currently counts Apple, LG and Egypt’s government among its clients is only targeting multinational brands, for now, Ahmed told MENAbytes, “We receive a lot of requests every single day from businesses who have seen our screens and are interested to buy ads on it but we’re being selective about who we want as advertisers early on.”

Adzily plans to use most of their investment to fund the expansion of its network of screens across Egypt and Saudi.

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Nala Raises $1m, Debuts World’s First Arabic Medical Artificial Intelligence




RIYADH, Saudi Arabia–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Nala, Saudi Arabia’s leading digital health service, announced the launch of its artificial intelligence platform that enables instant medical diagnosis in Arabic. The platform will provide users with an accurate medical diagnosis within seconds. To further its growth, Nala has raised $1m in its first financing round.

“Our whole team is in Riyadh, and all of our human capital investments go into local talent. We made a bet on local talent, and I can say with full confidence that it pays very well.”Tweet this

Nala’s new platform will be an addition to Nala’s current digital health service, which provides users with instant access to personalized healthcare through a mobile app. Over 50,000 people have used Nala, a number that is growing exponentially. Dozens of licensed doctors have helped in the development of the new platform. With this new technology, patients can now receive instant medical diagnoses with an extreme precision that alleviates human error. It is currently available through Nala’s mobile app.

Nala is a Saudi-based corporation established as one of the private enterprises to solve the challenges of Vision 2030. Since its launch in February, it has quickly become the region’s leading digital health service. Featured multiple times by the minister of communication and information technology, and the winner of numerous awards, Nala’s app is consistently ranking first in app stores.

To strengthen Nala’s growth, The company has raised $1m in its first financing round. AlAraby Investment, which led the funding, is a Dubai-based investment group that invests in high-growth companies. With the funding, Nala will continue to grow its user base, further strengthening its position as the region’s top digital health service.

Othman Abahussein, founder and CEO of Nala, commented: “Our mission is to reduce the cost of healthcare by a tenfold while providing exceptional healthcare experience.”

He continued: “Our whole team is in Riyadh, and all of our human capital investments go into local talent. We made a bet on local talent, and I can say with full confidence that it pays very well.”

About Nala

Headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Nala is the region’s fastest-growing digital health service. Founded as one of the private enterprises that contribute to finding solutions to the challenges of Vision 2030, following an initiative by the National Digital Transformation Unit and the Saudi Ministry of Health. All of Nala’s doctors are licensed by the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties.

Nala’s app is available on Apple’s AppStore and Google’s PlayStore. For more information, visit

*Source: AETOSWire


Othman Abahussein, +966562965555

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Foloosi raise $500,000 in seed funding from Rasheed Alfalasi




UAE-based financial technology (fintech) startup Foloosi has raised $500,000 in seed funding from existing investor Rasheed Alfalasi along with new investor Mohammed Alsuwaidi. 

Founded in 2018, Foloosi aims to facilitate consumer-to-business card payments by enabling businesses to display QR code and share payment links and API integrations that make it possible to accept card payments without the need for a point of sale machine.

Foloosi’s chief executive officer (CEO) Omar Bin Brek said that the company will target all of the GCC countries for growth, with plans to launch in Saudi Arabia soon. 

The company claims its transaction volumes have been growing at more than 40 per cent month-on-month and achieved more than Dh1 million in revenue at the end of July 2019. Foloosi has over 300 businesses signed up to accept card payments and more than 2000 users paid through its platform since its launch earlier this year, which supports more than 150 currencies. 

In June this year, Foloosi raised a pre-seed fund from Angel fund investor Rasheed Alfalasi.

“With the support of our strategic investors, we are accelerating the development of our product further in this digital world,” said Mohan K, chief technology officer (CTO) at Foloosi. 

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Beehive funds first SME in Bahrain



Dubai-based Beehive, the region’s first regulated peer-to-peer lending platform, has funded its first SME in Bahrain.

Funding has been ploughed into kingdom-based Mira Packaging Factory, which manufactures disposable cups and other food packaging solutions for the GCC and African F&B industry.

The company will use the cash injection to expand its output and diversify its product offering.

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Ecosystem of the MENA

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