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Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Meet our founder of the week: Lucky’s Ayman Essawy

OUR FOUNDER OF THE WEEK- Ayman Essawy, co-founder and managing director of Lucky (LinkedIn).

My name is Ayman Essawy, and I’m the co-founder and managing director of Lucky. I’m a second-time founder. Before founding Lucky, my co-founders and I founded Dsquares in 2012. Dsquares is the leading loyalty services provider in the MENA region, and operates in nine countries, across several continents, including Africa, Asia, and Europe. We remain the main shareholders of the company, but my focus has been geared towards Lucky since 2021.

Dsquares enabled us to have a direct touchpoint with the population. We manage loyalty solutions on behalf of our clients, and so witnessed lots of transaction patterns and became aware of local consumers’ behaviors and needs. My co-founders and I decided to launch Lucky as a consumer product to tackle the financial problems people face when they make purchases. Lucky started off as a product of Dsquares and operated under its umbrella for two years, before we launched it as an independent entity in 2019.

We kicked off Lucky in 2017, after the EGP devaluation at the end of 2016. We observed that Egyptian consumers’ began prioritizing savings. Consumer credit products were originally designed to cater to lower income segments of the population, but after the devaluation, we noticed that savings products became more prevalent and in demand across different segments.

Lucky functions as a marketing agency for the merchants we partner with. For consumers, we function as their go to savings platform. Lucky provides two types of savings when customers use our app to buy products from our merchant network of more than 40k stores: Direct reductions and cashback.

We recently obtained central bank approval to launch our new Lucky One card. The card is designed to offer market-leading cashback rewards, as well as features including mobile bill payments, withdrawals, and deposits. Lucky One links users’ wallets in our app with a prepaid card, enabling them to use the card at any one of Egypt’s 700k PoS systems and earn up to 5% cashback on every transaction.

The best part of the job for me is solving real problems and helping make users' lives better. Starting a business from scratch and witnessing its progress and impact is exhilarating. It’s the dream of every entrepreneur to create an impactful business, and it’s great to see high levels of investor and consumer confidence and get positive feedback.

I’ve been down both the bootstrapping and the investor route. We started Dsquares as a self-funded business in 2012, and we still remember how difficult it was to get enough funding in the early stages of the business. Our first round of investment for Dsquares took place in 2018. As Lucky was still a product of Dsquares back then, we allocated a portion of the capital we raised to its development.

Lucky raised USD 25 mn in our Series A round in 2022. That financing round (pdf) was led by Global Ventures’ Nclude fintech fund, with participation from PayU, Endeavor Catalyst, Venture Souq, OTF, Arzan Capital, and Disruptech, along with existing investors Lorax Capital Partners. Lucky has been through three financing rounds and raised a total of USD 44 mn. We’re not in fundraising mode at the moment, but we’re planning for our Series B round, which will likely take place in 1Q 2024.

Lucky currently operates in Egypt and Morocco and we hope the next funding round will help fuel our expansion plans. We want to become more active in the Moroccan market before our Series B round, and we plan to expand into the Saudi market by the end of 2023.

The KPIs we focus on have changed as Lucky evolved. At the start, we were focused on building our commerce network to partner with the best merchants in town, and to acquire the largest consumer base. In 2020, our target was to educate our consumer base on how to utilize our services and transact through our platform. We are currently going through our third stage of growth, and are now focused on our financial services, especially increasing the market penetration of our Lucky One Card. We want to ensure that the onboarding process is seamless and that the customer experience is top-tier.

Startups I think are killing it include Trella, Mozare3, and Paymob. They’re solving real problems.

My advice for any would-be founder is to build a scalable business that's solving a real problem. Founders need to have a solid, expandable business model. The availability of more capital is enabling Egyptian founders to expand globally. Businesses that are built with a local business model in mind will not have a competitive advantage.

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