OUR FOUNDER OF THE WEEK– Every Tuesday, Founder of the Week looks at how a successful member of Egypt’s startup community got their big break, asks about their experiences running a business, and gets their advice for budding entrepreneurs. Speaking to us this week is Nader Abdelrazik (LinkedIn), co-founder and CEO of MoneyHash.
My name is Nader Abdelrazik and I’m the co-founder and CEO of MoneyHash. I’m an engineer by training but I explored several fields early in my career. I began my graduate studies, studying innovation at Nile University before switching to politics and economics and earned my master’s in Development Economics and International Development from UC Berkeley. I eventually came across the blockchain and fintech fields, which I found very exciting. So I left academia in 2017 and started joining startups in those fields. I worked in payment, fintech and blockchain for about five years before founding MoneyHash with a couple of my friends.
The best part of my job is definitely learning. I like studying and solving complicated problems, which in my job is figuring out how payments work across an entire region and how we can help businesses grow, so I learn a lot.
The worst part of my job is dealing with all the egos. There are a lot of ego-driven power dynamics between employers and employees, investors and startups, and regulators and companies, which can distract companies from innovation and growth. So we really focused on how to build a company with no internal politics and power dynamics. I have to make sure the team is excited, our investors are aligned, and our customers are happy. This balancing act is quite tough.
In contrast to other industries, I thought the startup world enabled you to make an impact quite quickly. It’s amazing how a group of people can decide to solve a problem together and then take on the pressure of coming up with a solution in a short amount of time with very limited resources. I eventually realized, through working with other founders, that the payments space is particularly painful for companies operating in emerging markets, especially those in the Middle East and Africa.
I founded the business because I believed that the Middle East and Africa deserved high-end technology for their most sensitive infrastructure component — payments. APIs are a way for softwares to communicate data to each other and this is how digital payments work. A traditional business will connect through an API with a payment gateway company — such as Fawry and Paymob in Egypt — to start accepting payments. Companies eventually try to integrate multiple payment service providers, across multiple markets, because they want to offer their customers a variety of payment methods and features to customize their checkout experience.
We then step in with the payments cloud we are creating: MoneyHash’s payment hub contains all integrations with payment service providers, checkout procedures, customization, reporting, and payment transactions across all markets.The platform allows companies to offer payment and fintech services at checkout, collect data and track analytics through a single dashboard, which helps businesses cut back significantly on technical development time. It also boosts conversion rates and recovers failed transactions, opening up numerous revenue streams.
We have the largest network of integration of APIs across the Middle East and Africa; we’re connected to over 100 payment methods and payment processors. We work with medium and large businesses in various fields such as e-commerce marketplaces, booking companies in the ticketing and tourism fields, large fintechs and companies in the investment and trading space.
MoneyHash is based in the US but most of the team is based in Egypt and in other parts of the world. We have team members all around including in Nigeria, South Africa, Berlin, Dubai and Boston. It’s challenging to manage everyone from a distance given the time difference, but so far I’m managing well. Being in California opens up a lot of doors to me. I have two co-founders, Mustafa Eid who is based in Egypt and Anisha Sekar is based in the US as well.
We are in product development mode and we still have a lot to build for our infrastructure to be reliable. In parallel to that, we’re very focused on helping as many customers as possible. In the short term, our target for this year is to cover several hundred customers across the region. In the long term, we want to be the best payment infrastructure across all emerging markets.
I have several KPIs that I regularly look at. Our top metric is how much money we are managing through our system, or total processing value (TPV). A greater TPV indicates that our customers trust and rely on us and our servers to handle that amount of money going through our system. Number of transactions or number of API calls that a business if processing is definitely another metric we look at. Revenue is also an important metric for the growth of our business.
MoneyHash raised a USD 3 mn pre-seed round last year and is currently raising more financing. The USD 3 mn pre-seed round was led by Emirati VC COTU Ventures, along with MENA fintech fund VentureSouq and European fund VentureFriends. Infrastructure companies are costly to build early on. We have a lot of ambitious financing plans that match our ambitious infrastructure.
My co-founder and I were not in a position to be able to bootstrap a startup. We both actually had a side job to be able to manage our living expenses while we were building the company for the first six months. We were very focused and anxious in the beginning to get funding to help us quit our jobs and dedicate our time to MoneyHash.
Starting a business is a very difficult decision but I’m lucky to have had my family’s support. Startups are risky because they may not work out, your income fluctuates or you may not have any income at all for a while. My wife was actually pregnant when I started MoneyHash, and we welcomed our first child as it was kicking off.
Being a founder of a startup is a lonely journey because there are so many stakeholders involved and that’s difficult to navigate. They each have their own biases and interests. Even your own co-founders are each managing their own areas. In addition to all of that you grapple with imposter syndrome, self-esteem, and managing your family life.
When I need advice to fix a difficult problem I tend to turn to my mentors or other founders. Having good mentors that you can pick up the phone and call is important. Other founders in more advanced stages with their businesses can be helpful in giving you some pointers. I also turn to my co-founders, we’ve built a safe space where we can share if we’re going through a difficult time.
I spend a lot of my down time with my family and playing with my son. He’s less than two years old so I’m enjoying/suffering through the perks of parenting. I’m a really good cook and I like to try new recipes. Cooking is a very soothing activity for me. I live in California and I have a lot of nature around so I’m always excited to go on a good walk.
I am a big fan of Instabug in Egypt — I think it’s a fantastic company. I don’t know the founders or the team personally, but I’m proud that Egypt has generated such a complicated technical company. I’m excited for companies like Gameball and Stllr and Welnes. I think they will grow and achieve great things.