Ziina, the UAE's first licensed social peer-to-peer (P2P) payment application, has raised a pre-seed round of $850,000, led by San Francisco based Class 5 Global with participation from Samih Toukan's Jabbar Internet Group, and other prominent angel investors.
The application, which is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, will help the UAE bank account holders to use their smartphones to send and receive money as easily as sending a text message.
Ziina is the latest addition to the Middle East's fintech ecosystem and is capitalising on the region's rapid adoption of fintech friendly regulation. Ziina's cofounders - Faisal Toukan, CEO, Sarah Toukan, Chief Product Officer, and Andrew Gold, VP Engineering - look to encourage the adoption of mobile payment solutions in their bid to fast track the UAE's transition towards a cashless society. They are joined by a strong advisory board including serial entrepreneur Samih Toukan, and Emre Tok, who previously served as VP of Growth at Careem leading a team of 80 people. The founding team recently launched the start-up's operations out of Dubai's In5 tech start-up incubator, with a license issued by Tecom.
Faisal said, "With several user-centric features, Ziina will redefine the way people in the Middle East think of, interact with and experience financial services. Our company is founded on the belief that everyone should have access to the next generation of financial services."
Based on user research from its core target demographic, Ziina plans to gradually introduce several value-added services such as QR Code Integration, Prepaid Cards, and Utility Payments, amongst others. In the medium-term, Ziina will integrate different revenue streams. For POS solutions and prepaid cards, Ziina will take a small percentage fee on all transactions from vendors.
"We want to democratise access to financial services by placing one platform in the hands of every individual. For example, we want to make it possible for anyone who wishes to invest to do so easily by integrating 3rd party robo-advisors to Ziina's platform. We will prioritize use-cases based on customers' largest pain points and add them product by product," said Sarah Toukan, Chief Product Officer.
During 2021, Ziina plans to launch operations in Saudi Arabia to tap into the vast market potential of the GCC's largest market of 32 million people, with 58per cent of those under the age of 30. Nearly 60per cent of the Kingdom's population use smartphones with roughly 23 million of the population being active on social media. In the UAE, 8.8 million individuals, making up 91.57 per cent of the population, access social media with their mobile devices. On average these users spend 2.56 hours on social media daily.
Joel Ayala, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Class 5 Global VC said, "The Middle East has one of the highest rates of smartphone penetration in the world and a young population. However, the economy is still cash-based. It's tough for people to do simple things like paying their friends. Ziina is taking a Silicon Valley mindset to the region and solving this problem with technology. Class 5 is excited to join Faisal, Sarah, and Andrew in their quest to make peer-to-peer payments seamless and social for consumers in the region."
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