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Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Meet our founder of the week: Khazna’s Ahmed Wagueeh

OUR FOUNDER OF THE WEEK- Ahmed Wagueeh, co-founder and CTO of Khazna (LinkedIn).

My name is Ahmed Wagueeh, and I’m the chief technology officer and co-founder of Khazna. I studied computer engineering at Cairo University, and prior to co-founding Khazna, I worked with multinational corporations like Intel, Valeo, and IBM.

Khazna, launched in 2019, targets the middle and lower economic classes of the Egyptian population. Khazna caters to around 53% of Egyptians who are underbanked and lack access to formal financial services. The branch-based model, given its high costs, does not adequately serve the needs of low-income segments of the population, and we aim to tackle this problem. Khazna currently offers general purpose credit, buy now, pay later (BNPL), and bill payment services.

The fact that Egypt has the highest number of smartphone users in the region opened our eyes to the potential of our business model. We knew we could provide financial services digitally to our users and provide them with a platform that integrates them within the formal financial system.

Providing a seamless user experience is a top priority for us; everything you need is just 2 or 3 clicks away, without lengthy processes that bore users. We also focus on providing top-notch customer support and onboarding processes.

The most important KPIs we focus on include our outstanding loan book, which enables us to track the number of loans and services utilized by our users. Increasing numbers are indicative of the fact that current users are utilizing more of our services, which would in turn mean that we are acquiring more users through referrals. We also focus on the number of our monthly active users; these are the northstars that guide us on a weekly basis.

Our customer acquisition strategy is twofold: We partner with employers to validate the data and credit score of their employees, so we can establish a logical, multipurpose credit line based on the information provided to us. Users can utilize their credit line in several ways, whether it be withdrawing funds in cash or using it for BNPL services through any one of the top 100 merchants we partner with, or for bill payment services. We also acquire users through traditional marketing channels.

We also recently acquired a license to issue a card of our own, Khazna Card. We were the first fintech app in Egypt that launched such an offering. Khazna card, a Meeza prepaid card launched in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB), provides our unbanked users access to a wide range of financial services. It also enables us to facilitate a unique service: instant disbursement of cashflow through our app, regardless of banks’ working days and national holidays.

So far Khazna raised a total of USD 47 mn. We raised USD 9 mn during our seed and pre-seed rounds. The main investors for these two initial rounds were Algebra Ventures and Accion Venture Lab. We raised USD 38 mn in equity and debt during our series A round, with the equity investment led by Quona Capital with the participation of Speedinvest, Nclude, Khawarizmi Ventures, Algebra Ventures, Accion Venture Lab, Disruptech, AB Accelerator by Arab Bank, and CVentures, among others. The debt financing was backed by Lendable.

Being backed by Nclude was historic for us. The fact that top tier banks are backing us, a fintech startup, is a testament to our impact and gave us an enormous boost of confidence. It is a milestone for us, because we became even closer to regulators and the formal banking sector.

I think bootstrapping your startup entirely can be problematic. You need investors to challenge you, and validate your business model and approach. Bootstrapping can create an echo chamber that isolates you from opposing views, and can leave you unprepared for the challenges you’ll face in the real world, ultimately compromising your survival.

If I had to do it all over again, I would still partner with investors. We always partner with VCs that have similar startups in their portfolio because they can help us grow and navigate challenges. I believe that bringing in the right partners accelerates the business on so many levels. Investors obviously bring capital to the table, but they also bring strategic advice, market insights, help you form meaningful connections with startups that face similar challenges, and can help you expand into new markets.

The best part of the job is seeing our hard work come to fruition: Reaching 1 mn transactions, and getting the approval to launch our Khazna card were both milestones that made us equally ecstatic and proud. Apart from milestones, I truly love my job; I’ve been passionate about software development since I was eight years old, so I consider my job a hobby and a passion project. The fact that our business is impactful and helps better the lives of our users is truly fulfilling.

In another life, I would have been a film critic. I’m a complete movie buff. Movies like Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, and The Green Mile are outstanding and I never get bored of them, even after watching them for the 30th time [laughs]. I’m a sucker for great dialogue and captivating stories.

The last great thing I watched was House. The series is mesmerizing; it captures the brilliance and madness of the antisocial protagonist, Dr. Gregory House, who is played by Hugh Laurie, and is rife with brilliant dialogue and plot twists.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2022 Enterprise Ventures LLC.

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