On December 19 in Dubai, MetLife Foundation and Village Capital ran the Middle East Financial Health Competition, which included a competition for twelve Middle East startups working to improve financial inclusion for low-to-middle income populations. At the competition’s conclusion, three startups were selected to receive grants from MetLife Foundation:
- Bridg, which allows smartphone users to make Bluetooth payments without using the Internet, was selected for a $25,000 grant by a panel of judges including senior executives from MetLife and MetLife Foundation
- Ennota, a financial management tool that helps SMEs increase efficiency by moving from pen-and-paper to digital, was selected for a $15,000 grant by the other entrepreneurs in the group
- One Clique Systems, which streamlines employee administration for small business owners, was selected for a $10,000 grant by MetLife senior leaders in the room
The twelve participating startups were selected from more than 40 applications, and were chosen for their focus on improving financial health for low-to-moderate income families and promoting economic empowerment. They represented a wide range of financial services, from alternative lending services to a management platform for freelancers. The full list of participating startups is below.
“MetLife Foundation is proud to partner with Village Capital on this innovative financial health forum that identifies and accelerates early-stage entrepreneurs who are leading the way toward a more financially inclusive Middle East,” said Dennis White, President and CEO, MetLife Foundation. “Village Capital’s approach to identify and support local entrepreneurs that have a deep understanding of culturally-relevant customer needs and solutions helps advance MetLife Foundation’s overall goal to provide individuals and communities with the tools they need to achieve sustainable financial well-being.”
The entrepreneurs went through a day-long training where they received guidance from mentors, investors and local sector experts, including MetLife and MetLife Foundation senior leaders. Leading up to the conclusion of the competition, 17 MetLife employees in Dubai had mentored the startups. The entrepreneurs also ran through part of Village Capital’s globally recognized investment-readiness curriculum, which focuses on scaling a successful business and raising investment capital.
The December 19 forum was part of a four-forum program to support financial health startups in Poland, Ukraine, Turkey and the UAE. The next forums will be held in Turkey and Ukraine in 2018.
“The Middle East should be part of any conversation about startups building a more inclusive financial sector,” said Allie Burns, Managing Director of Village Capital. “We were thrilled to work with MetLife Foundation to bring together these entrepreneurs, introduce them to MetLife employees, and help them build their potential to scale.”
The full list of startups that participated in the Metlife Foundation Financial Health Forum Dubai are below:
Bankroll.ai (Dubai) – Bankroll is a digital platform, launching in early 2018, that will use machine learning to help banks more effectively understand their existing customers, decrease costs and defaults, and offer appropriate products to new customer segments.
Bridg (Dubai) – Bridg provides a software application called OneConnect (patent pending) that allows users to make easy, safe, wireless payments using their Bluetooth-enabled smartphones. OneConnect allows a transaction to occur between two devices even if only one of the phones has connection to the internet, enabling the 50 percent of smartphone users that don’t have data plans to make payments using their technology.
Ennota (Egypt) – Ennota is a cloud-based financial management tool that provides analysis on key business financials, such as cash flows, profitability statements and balance sheets, as well as lessons in financial education. Ennota uses the latest data visualization techniques to bypass technical and financial education barriers in the market.
Lendflo (Dubai) – Lendflo is a peer-to-peer invoice financing platform built on the Ethereum Blockchain (similar to Bitcoin). Their vision is to create more efficient use of the working capital currently tied up in outstanding invoices in the UK economy, in order to increase access to credit for small businesses. Lendflo is based in London, and is working with the Dubai government and partners to launch a pilot in the UAE.
Maliyya (Dubai) – Maliyya provides a P2P marketplace offering Sharia-compliant financial products that directly link investors with borrowers. The marketplace aims to bring together regional and global financiers and borrowers, providing lower costs, higher profits, and access to a larger pool of potential investors and borrowers.
MyMoneySouq (Umm al-Quwain) – MyMoneySouq is a comparison platform for life insurance, personal loans, car loans, credit cards, bank savings accounts, and other products that are available in the UAE. The company also offers various calculators for checking affordability, and financial education articles, helping consumers select the right financial product at the right price.
One Clique Systems (Dubai) – One Clique Systems is a cloud-based HR system specifically tailored for SMEs in the MENA region. A large portion of HR systems are one-size-fits-all, including complex software solutions, and don’t have small business owners in mind. One Clique Systems simplifies and streamlines employee administration for the small business owner while also providing advanced features that are normally only available to larger corporations.
Qlikcash (Dubai) – Qlikcash aims to increase access to financial services by providing a comprehensive digital money management and payments ecosystem that is low cost, user-friendly and does not require a brick and mortar bank account (i.e. anyone with a national ID can open an account in under 10 minutes). The company offers a unique combination of mobile money and mobile wallet functionality – allowing customers to make payments with a prepaid card and/or the customer’s own debit/credit cards.
Smart Crowd (Dubai) – Smart Crowd is a digital real estate investment platform that provides the opportunity to buy and sell shares in properties, reducing the barriers to entry for low-middle income individuals to build financial assets and generate investment income. Unlike current real estate investment vehicles, Smart Crowd provides users with active management of their shares, transparency on what properties they are actually investing in and very low minimum investment levels (~USD $1,500).
Solfeh (Jordan) – Solfeh aims to address the cash flow volatility faced by many low-income individuals by providing Sharia-compliant, same-day cash advances with competitive interest rates. The company offers micro loans that have a flexible repayment schedule, and because the service integrates with employers’ payroll systems, loan payments are automatically deducted from an employee’s salary, likely improving repayment rates and reducing defaults.
Uhoncho (Abu Dhabi) – Freelancing is a growing opportunity, as seven in 10 MENA professionals consider it a viable option. However, the constraints of time, resources and a failure to segregate personal and business finances intensify financial burden. Freelancers spend on average 24 days per year on administrative tasks, and they face problems ranging from poor working capital management to poor tracking of expenses. Uhoncho aims to tackle these pain points with a mobile-first platform that provides freelancers with insights on the financial health of their business.