Tag: investment

UAE-based fintech NOW Money secures $7m to expand digital banking solution across the GCC.

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Construction workers using NOW Money app with NOW Money team.

· NOW Money raises $7m in a funding round led by Anthemis Exponential Ventures.

· Investment will drive NOW Money’s expansion into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and beyond.

· Funding round is the most significant, multinational fintech deal to date in the Middle East.

· NOW Money provides unbanked workers with access to the digital economy for the first time.

NOW Money, the GCC’s first digital banking solution for low-income migrant workers, has secured $7m in a funding round led by venture investor, Anthemis Exponential Ventures.

Anthemis Exponential Ventures was joined by a consortium of investors including Knuru CapitalWamdaCommercial Bank of DubaiDIFC FinTech FundAccion Venture LabGreenhouse Capital and Hambro Perks Oryx Fund, amongst others. NOW Money also received supporting funding from Expo 2020 and card scheme, Visa.

The funding raised by NOW Money is the most significant, multinational fintech deal to date in the Middle East.

The cash injection will initially be used to drive NOW Money in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, beginning with strategic new hires and local infrastructure in Riyadh. In addition, the funding will enable NOW Money to develop its service offering and enable it to continue its exponential growth in the UAE.

Founded in 2016, NOW Money is the first fintech company in the Gulf to use mobile banking technology to provide accounts, low-cost remittance, and other financial services to migrant workers.

Co-founder of NOW Money, Ian Dillon, said: “This funding is a significant milestone for NOW Money. We are eager to build on our progress to date and realise our vision of creating a world where everyone has instant access to financial services they can, and want, to use. The investment has brought us the financial support needed to scale our expansion plans across the GCC, as well as strategic value and partnerships from each of our investors.

“There is no venture capital better placed than Anthemis Exponential Ventures to have led this deal, especially alongside other such high calibre Western and Middle Eastern funds. Two of our key partners, Commercial Bank of Dubai and Visa, have also played a critical role.”

The deal was led by Vica Manos of Anthemis Group, the world’s leading fintech investor, committed to cultivating change in the financial system.

Vica Manos, Partner at Anthemis Group, said: “One of the most impactful actions a company can take is to provide fair and sustainable access to finance, and NOW Money does exactly that. By opening up financial services to some of the most deeply left-out individuals, we’re confident that Katharine, Ian and the rest of the team can achieve genuine impact, changing the face of financial services in a region that right now is showing tremendous promise.”

Alain Dib, CEO of Knuru Capital said: “We were impressed by how NOW Money has solved many challenges and pain points, working with numerous stakeholders and partners to now be in a position to scale dramatically and bank millions of unbanked. We are very excited to be part of the journey.”

NOW Money partners with businesses to provide an end-to-end digital payroll solution. Every company has access to a unique payroll portal – a hassle-free way to transfer employee salaries and other financial-based rewards – and every employee is issued with a contactless-enabled Visa card and receives their salary directly into the NOW Money app. NOW Money gives all customers in-app access to low-cost financial services including mobile top-up, bill pay and remittance, the latter of which enables a quick, safe and cost-effective way to remit money overseas.

Katharine Budd, co-founder of NOW Money, said: “When we started NOW Money in 2016, our mission was clear; simplify the world’s financial services. Initially, we were met with skepticism about a digital financial service, but the success of mobile money in South and East Asia gave us faith that mobile banking would be a sustainable solution for the millions of people who find themselves overlooked by traditional Middle Eastern banking options. We are excited to expand our team and build our customer and partnership base to truly democratise financial services and make money easy, for everyone, every day.”

“In 2020, engagement with the NOW Money app doubled as our customers sought to make use of online services like remittances, in-app purchases and transactions. The restriction of movement forced upon the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital as consumers’ transaction channel of choice and these habits are likely to remain ingrained long after Coronavirus. For financial services it has proven that digital solutions are more than a luxury, they are an urgent necessity.”

-ENDS-

For further information or to request an interview, please contact, pr@nowmoney.me.

Notes to editors

· Co-founders Katharine Budd (@kat_budd) and Ian Dillon (@ian_dillon5) are available for interview.

· NOW Money is the working name of NOW Payment Services Provider L.L.C, license number 767072. The company was launched in 2016 by Ian Dillon and Katharine Budd.

About NOW Money

· NOW Money uses proprietary mobile technology to provide accounts and low-cost financial services to lower-income people in the Gulf Cooperation Council (‘GCC’) countries.

· NOW Money works with companies as a payroll service. Every company receives the easy-to-use NOW Money payroll portal, and every employee receives a NOW Money account, card and the NOW Money app, which gives them the ability to remit money overseas safely and quickly at low cost.

· NOW Money has won awards internationally for financial inclusion and is backed by the world’s best-known fintech venture capital funds.

· NOW Money is the working name of NOW Payment Services Provider L.L.C, licence number 767072 since 2016.

·  To find out more about NOW Money, visit www.nowmoney.me or follow on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Press contact information.

Emma Allsebrook
pr@nowmoney.me

NOW Money closes $1.46m bridge funding round

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NOW Money has closed its bridge funding round with a total of US$1.46m.

In addition to the recent US Venture Capital investment, mentioned in a previous press release, this funding round includes $700,000 from Dubai-based Venture Capital firm, Myrisoph Capital. Other contributions have come from private investors and MENA-based women’s investor network WAIN.

Myrisoph Capital focuses on investments into SMEs that want expert advice and mentorship to take their business to the next level. It invests specifically within the team’s core skill-set and expertise, and in territories they know well, ensuring they can provide the best support possible.

WAIN is the first investor network for women in the MENA region.  Its goal is to build an informed ecosystem of women investors who support women entrepreneurs in the Arab world.

Co-founder of NOW Money, Ian Dillon said, “we’ve been working with Myrisoph since the beginning of 2017, and what struck us about the company was their extensive knowledge and understanding of the Gulf region and their unparalleled expertise and connections within financial services here.

“We’re incredibly enthusiastic about this new partnership and believe the collective experience of the team at Myrisoph will add a lot of value to the business.

“The positive contributions we are seeing from Myrisoph, WAIN and the private investors – in addition to those from Accion and Newid Capital – are fantastic and are already adding real value to NOW Money’s business. We’re thrilled to be closing this round with so much support and belief in the company.”

Managing Partner of Myrisoph Capital, Hassan Alhassani said, “we’ve been looking at partnering with an impact player within the FinTech space in the GCC for a while now, and we believe NOW Money is that partner. We were impressed by the business model as well as the social implications in the region. We were also struck by the passion and capabilities of the founders Katharine and Ian, and we are proud to be a part of the NOW Money future.”

Heather Henyon, Founder & Director of WAIN, added, “we are proud to invest in this local FinTech start-up, which has a female co-founder, as we believe the potential for the $100 billion remittances Gulf market is massive. We love the dynamism of the team and are impressed by their track-record, commitment, and tenacity.  We look forward to NOW Money’s continued growth and scale across the region, especially with its strong international investor backing, a testament to the company’s strength.”

NOW Money is paving the way for the FinTech ecosystem in the GCC. Already an active participant of Abu Dhabi Global Market’s (ADGM) Regulatory Sandbox, they have recently been accepted as one of the first two entrants into the Central Bank of Bahrain’s (CBB) Regulatory Sandbox. The company hopes that these recent milestones, and their latest round of funding, will help lay the foundations for a successful FinTech ecosystem in the GCC and provide confidence for more early stage investments into FinTech companies in the region.

UAE-Based Fintech Start-Up Secures $700K Investment to Advance Financial Services Access for Underserved Migrant Workers

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NOW Money has secured an investment of $700,000 from two U.S.-based venture capital investors – Accion Venture Lab, the seed-stage investment initiative of financial inclusion leader Accion, and Newid Capital.

Both Accion Venture Lab and Newid Capital make investments that target the financially underserved.  Venture Lab invests capital in, and provides support to, innovative fintech start-ups that increase access to, improve the quality of, or reduce the cost of financial services for the underserved at scale. Newid Capital focuses on such investments outside of North America and Western Europe.

NOW Money uses mobile banking technology to provide accounts, financial inclusion and a range of low-cost remittance options to low-income migrant workers in the Gulf region. It aims to provide access to affordable financial services for everyone.

The investment comes a year after NOW Money’s initial seed funding, which allowed the company to expand the team and develop the technology and brand. With the latest investment, also a part of its seed round, the team plans to launch the service across the United Arab Emirates and expand into the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

Co-founder of NOW Money, Ian Dillon said, “Having what’s understood to be the first early stage investment from U.S. venture capital into the Middle East is testament to the opportunities available here and how far the GCC has come in making itself a destination for investment. We hope this will be the first of many U.S. venture capital investments in the region, and will help to grow the ecosystem further.”

“We’re excited to be making such a big social impact in the region. Accion is one of the leading global institutions promoting financial inclusion, and Newid Capital was co-founded by Nigel Morris, who previously co-founded Capital One Financial Services. We’re excited to be working with them to bring financial inclusion to the 26 million unbanked in the GCC,” he added.

“Each year, migrant workers contribute more than $400 billion to their home economies, and the United Arab Emiratesis among the top remittance-sending countries in the world,” said Michael Schlein, CEO and President of Accion. “NOW Money’s innovative approach and digital platform provide a faster and safer option for these workers to support their families and communities.”

“Our partnership with NOW Money marks a number of firsts for Accion Venture Lab – our first investment in the Middle East region, our first investment into a wholly-digital neobank, and our first opportunity to focus on reaching low-income migrant workers,” added Amee Parbhoo, Director of Investments at Accion Venture Lab. “As we reach this new group of financially underserved individuals, we’ll look to apply our learnings to Venture Lab’s work around the world.”

In the last 12 months, NOW Money has won six awards, including Chivas’ “The Venture” for the Gulf region. The co-founders Katharine Budd and Ian Dillon speak regularly at fintech events, such as Payfort and Wamda’s State of Fintech report, and are featured regularly in publications such as Entrepreneur Middle East and on the Dubai Eye radio station.

About NOW Money

NOW uses mobile banking technology to provide accounts, financial inclusion and a range of low-cost remittance options to low-income migrant workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, improving their lives and saving them and their families significant money, in a profitable and sustainable manner.

About Accion Venture Lab

Accion Venture Lab is the world’s leading seed-stage investor in fintech for the underserved. Venture Lab invests capital in, and provides support to, innovative fintech start-ups that increase access to, improve the quality of, or reduce the cost of financial services for the underserved at scale. Since launching in 2012, Venture Lab has deployed over US$10 millionacross more than 25 start-ups that work in over 20 countries worldwide. Venture Lab is a part of Accion, a global non-profit committed to creating a financially inclusive world, with a pioneering legacy in microfinance and fintech impact investing. Accion catalyzes financial service providers to deliver high-quality, affordable solutions at scale for the three billion people who are left out of – or poorly served by –  the financial sector. For more than 50 years, Accion has helped tens of millions of people through its work with more than 90 partners in 40 countries. For further information, visit https://www.accion.org/venturelab.

About Newid Capital

Newid Capital is a direct-investment fund focused on financial services and financial technology companies in developing markets. Through its investments, Newid Capital aims to expand financial services to currently underserved markets and individuals. Newid actively seeks early- and mid-stage start-ups that are looking for investment and operational assistance. Newid is able to leverage personal experience in building, and exiting, financial services companies from the viewpoint of both the entrepreneur and the investor.

Why We Invested in NOW Money

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By Amee Parbhoo, Director of Investments for Accion Venture Lab

Despite the fact that they are wealthy and modern, cities like Dubai in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) actually face a big financial inclusion challenge. There are 8 million foreign-born migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) alone, making up some 88% of that country’s total population. These workers come primarily from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Philippines, and are mostly in low-paying jobs such as construction or domestic labor. Across the Gulf region, migrants have faced tough working conditions and have been historically ignored by financial institutions. They lack access to basic financial services, including bank accounts and fast, convenient remittance channels for sending money to their families back home.

This is where NOW Money, Accion Venture Lab’s newest portfolio company, comes in. NOW Money was founded in 2015 by Katharine Budd and Ian Dillon, who were inspired by the digital-only “challenger banks” that had begun to emerge across the US and Europe. While the UAE has over 50 banks in operation, none of them are able to reach the country’s massive and underserved low-income migrant population effectively. NOW Money provides a suite of products to its customers: current accounts for depositing and withdrawing wages; debit cards for use at ATMs and for merchant transactions; and a marketplace of online remittance platforms for cheaper and more convenient money transfer services. By reducing the cost of customer acquisition and reaching a relatively untapped market, NOW is able to offer these services (and eventually others) and cost-effectively serve customers that would otherwise be considered unprofitable by traditional banks.

NOW partners and integrates with large employers to pay workers’ salaries directly into NOW Money accounts. The value proposition is strong for both end customers and employers. For customers, NOW offers a suite of products otherwise unavailable in the market. In particular, during our due diligence we saw customers incredibly excited about the digital interface for access to remittances. In the UAE today, some 95% of remittances are cash-based transactions. The workers we spoke with remit 60% or more of their wages to family members in their home countries, and typically have to take time off work, wait in long lines at remittance houses, and pay high fees in order to make these regular transactions.

Accion Venture Lab and NOW Money staffers talk to migrant worker customers about their experiences using the service.

For employers, NOW provides a less expensive solution for payroll. In addition, the employers we spoke with were motivated to give their employees the benefits NOW offers for both moral and economic reasons. Some employers see a spike in absenteeism the day after pay is disbursed, as employees go to remittance houses. Lastly, many employers, especially in more skilled and technical professions, value NOW as a way to increase employee retention.

Venture Lab is excited to be supporting the NOW Money team as they grow and scale. We invested in the company — our first in the GCC and one of the first early-stage VC deals in the region — for a number of reasons:

  • Clear social impact: The migrant population in the GCC is historically underserved by basic financial services. The wages these workers earn are low ($200–300 per month, depending on occupation). Due to banking standards in the UAE, it is very difficult and costly for a customer to open an account if they earn less than $1,300 per month, thereby excluding a vast majority of the migrant worker population.
  • Large market with unmet need: The UAE is the third largest market in the world for remittances, trailing only the US and Saudi Arabia. Across the GCC (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman), the total addressable market is some 25 million low-income migrant workers believed to be remitting about $50 billion annually. The remittance corridors used are some of the most active in the world, and NOW fills a crucial gap by providing customers ease of access and lower costs.
  • Innovative “neobank” model: Accion Venture Lab looks to support fintech companies that have innovative approaches to increasing access to and quality of financial services for underserved markets. We have been actively watching the digital-only neobank/challenger bank models around the world and are excited about NOW Money, our very first neobank investment. We’re thrilled to be part of NOW as it expands and aims to become the financial service platform of choice for migrant workers. As NOW truly owns the customer relationship, it will be able to provide incremental value to customers’ financial lives with each further partnership, beyond simply account access and low-cost remittance tools.
  • Opportunity to learn from new customers, market, and product: NOW Money would be a first for Venture Lab in a number of ways. Venture Lab has never invested in the Gulf region, and NOW Money could serve as a way to learn about this fast-growing region and its market dynamics. In addition, Venture Lab has investments reaching many kinds of underserved customers, but we have limited experience serving migrant workers, which is a huge market with demonstrated, specific, and relevant financial needs. NOW Money would help us better understand this vast and growing population of underserved customers.

As is the case for all of our seed investments, NOW Money is early in its journey, but as investors in the company and proponents of financial inclusion for underserved populations, we are excited about their progress so far and the company’s plans going forward.

Rob Stevens contributed to this article. 

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