Business trends may come and go, but financial technology (FinTech) has become one of the fastest-growing industries across the globe. In fact, professional services firm Accenture found that worldwide investors have poured more than $50 billion into this sector since 2010. Even with this level of global interest, there’s one particular market where FinTech was slow to take off—until recently.
Now, with its vast financial industry, the Middle East has been steadily garnering the governmental and monetary support needed to build a strong FinTech sector. These efforts have also sparked the interest of entrepreneurs looking to start new businesses across the region. Specializing in everything from investment services to personal finance management, here are five of the most innovative FinTech startups in the Middle East:
In 2011, entrepreneur Danny Abla unveiled Lebanon’s first startup that aimed to simplify the process of making payments on the go. Known as PinPay, the company offers a mobile application for iOS, Blackberry, and Android devices that allows users to “pay anywhere, anyone, anytime,” as its slogan proclaims. Now one of Lebanon’s FinTech leaders, the startup has partnered with the local Bank Med and Bank Audi in an effort to deliver a more streamlined payment process to their clients.
Those looking to use PinPay need only hold an account at one of these financial institutions, download the mobile app, and activate their account. They are then able to securely make payments of all kinds, whether they wish to donate to a charity, settle parking tickets, or simply pay monthly bills. PinPay’s modest group of 26 employees has also worked on other exclusive offerings, such as in-app payments for food delivery and mobile line charging. Over the years, a number of local investors have taken interest in the startup and its services and have provided over $1 million in funding to support PinPay’s development.
In order to save a bit of money, many consumers take extra time to search for and compare the various loans, vehicles, and credit cards they could potentially choose. One startup, Souqalmal, has made this process easier than ever by offering better financial education and resources for consumers and businesses.
Through its website, people can use one of Souqalmal’s online calculators to determine the loan and mortgage amounts they need, and then use the search feature to sift through the available options from various banks and lenders. Parents can also use Souqalmal to compare nurseries and schools when it is time for their children to begin their education. Similarly, small- and medium-sized enterprise owners can get an in-depth look at the financial and insurance plans that are available for their businesses. Souqalmal serves a network of clients in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Some people use Excel as a means of tracking their personal finances, but more and more people across the Middle East have adopted Wally to serve as their digital money manager. The app makes it easy for users to track expenses, see how they spend their money, and ultimately meet their financial goals.
Available in virtually every currency, the app includes a budget-setting feature that allows for seamless monitoring of monthly expenses. Users can input receipts from every purchase they make, from groceries to restaurant meals, and see how much they spend on any given day. Wally subtracts these amounts from their set budget so they can see how much they have left and know exactly where their money goes. People who want to reduce their spending on leisure activities, eating out, or any other type of expense can see how these costs compare to their income and make changes to their habits.
Based in Egypt, Fawry has burst onto the startup scene and revolutionized the process of making electronic payments. With tens of thousands of service points across the country, the startup serves a staggering 15 million people who make over 1 million transactions on a daily basis. Fawry makes it easy for both individual clients and businesses to pay bills securely. Users can complete transactions on Fawry’s website, or use one of the company’s 50,000 point-of-sale devices at Egyptian retailers, post offices, pharmacies, and grocery stores across the country. For businesses, Fawry offers a separate set of services that includes assistance with customer acquisition.
FinTech startups don’t only facilitate transactions in traditional currencies. The Dubai-based BitOasis is breaking new ground as a popular source of bitcoin payments and exchanges in the region. Those living in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the UAE can purchase bitcoin with either UAE dirham or United States dollars. They are then free to use this unique currency to complete online transactions with others. BitOasis also maintains a dedication to users’ security with a multi-signature payment process that involves the use of several online keys and passwords.
In early 2016, BitOasis garnered venture funding from payment services company PayFort, making it the first Middle Eastern startup of its kind to receive such an investment. With this support, BitOasis has become a leader in the region’s bitcoin economy.