Why Fasset is focused on financial opportunities for all

Generation Start-up: The all-in-one Dubai-based super app is built on the blockchain, allowing users to invest in digital assets, remit funds and manage digital wallets

Fasset co-founders Daniel Ahmed, left, and Mohammad Raafi Hossain started working on their start-up in 2019. Pawan Singh / The National
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When Mohammad Raafi Hossain and Daniel Ahmed set out to develop Fasset, a blockchain-based all-in-one super app, more than four years ago, their aim was to solve one of the most pressing issues in the world of personal finance: financial inclusion.

Today, the co-founders have transformed their FinTech company into a mission-driven start-up that focuses on unbanked populations in emerging markets and aims to empower people by providing universal access to financial services.

“Ever since Dan and I met, our personal mission has always been democratising access to opportunity,” says Mr Hossain, who is also the chief executive of Fasset.

“I was born in Bangladesh, Daniel's from Pakistan, but I moved to Los Angeles when I was one and Daniel grew up in London. So, we've been privileged and fortunate to see both sides of the aisle and how unequal access to opportunity is not necessarily just opportunity itself but accessing that opportunity.”

Mr Ahmed, the start-up's chief operating officer, agrees, saying: “We have roots in the East and kind of grew up in the West; we understand the plight of a lot of people in this part of the world, in emerging markets in particular.”

Fasset, which went live in the UAE last month, is a digital asset exchange that allows users to invest in digital and tokenised real-world assets (RWAs), take part in spot exchange transactions and remit funds globally in a blockchain environment.

Tokenised RWAs are virtual investments on the blockchain that are linked to tangible assets, such as real estate, gold, art and stocks and bonds that can be bought in fractions, according to CoinDesk.

The start-up was granted a Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) licence last November and a Full Market Product (FMP) licence in December by Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority.

The global acceleration of FinTech and digital payment solutions since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic has unlocked new financial opportunities for millions of people who previously did not have access to bank accounts or ways to invest, according to the World Bank’s Global Findex 2021 report, which is released every three years.

“The World Bank Group considers financial inclusion a key enabler to reduce extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity,” the Washington-based lender says on its website.

About 22 per cent of the GCC's population is unbanked, compared with 60 per cent in North Africa, research by consultancy Strategy& has found.

Meanwhile, 79 per cent of young adults in the Middle East and North Africa region are unbanked and 72 per cent of the poorest citizens can benefit from financial inclusion, according to the Arab Monetary Fund.

Fasset’s investment options include cryptocurrencies and stablecoins, as well as tokenised RWAs ranging from exchange-traded funds to non-fungible tokens, sukuks, theme-based investment bundles, global stocks and bonds.

It also offers lending, borrowing and remittance services, while potential investors can test the app and their investment skills in Fasset Play.

Mr Hossain and Mr Ahmed quickly recognised the equal opportunities that blockchain enables while working on artificial intelligence and blockchain initiatives as advisers in the UAE Prime Minister’s Office.

“Predominantly, that comes from the fact that when you put assets on blockchain, everyone, no matter what race, religion or creed, has equal access on a technology that doesn't differentiate between your passport or where you're from, or how much money you have in your bank,” Mr Hossain says.

“And that's when we thought: ‘Why not put a platform together that embraces one of the defining technologies of our time and enable access to financial opportunity to anyone and everyone?”

Fasset began with an initial investment of $2.45 million from three family offices. So far, it has raised a total of $26.7 million in funding and is now at the pre-Series B stage.

In April 2022, the digital financial platform closed a $22 million Series A funding round led by Investcorp, New York-based Liberty City Ventures and Pakistan’s Fatima Gobi Ventures. Other investors in the round included Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, myAsiaVC, Soma Capital, Kanoo Capital, Formus Capital, FHS Capital and local family offices.

At the time, the co-founders, who have backgrounds in FinTech and Islamic and ethical finance, said they would use the funding to expand its digital asset-driven remittance services in Asia.

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The UAE is Fasset’s second country of operations following its launch in Indonesia last August, in which it attracted more than 1 million customers on a waiting list within the first week.

Fasset has been issued a crypto asset trading license by Indonesia’s Commodity Futures Trading Regulatory Authority, known as Bappebti, as well as securing licences in Turkey and the European Union.

The start-up's partnership with Indonesia's Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison, marks the first time the company has embedded its digital asset exchange in a telco app.

Fasset’s “business-to-business-to consumer” focus also allows companies to offer the super app to their customers, Mr Ahmed says.

“In Indonesia, we work with the second-largest telco there, where we built a crypto or digital asset wallet for their customers,” he says.

“The customers can buy or sell packages, data, minutes – you can think of it like a desktop app – but they've got a kind of lifestyle application where these customers can also buy and sell digital assets,” Mr Ahmed adds.

“When it comes to the personal finance level, it is directly to the customer from Fasset, but also through enterprises that we're working on as well.”

The company has also partnered with MasterCard to offer a crypto card to users in the region, which customers will be able to start using in the next three months to buy and sell digital assets and use it for spending.

“That's a huge finance-use case,” Mr Ahmed says.

The start-up is currently working with two partners to launch its remittance services for UAE customers to “efficiently” send money home to countries such as the Philippines and to the Central Asia region.

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

“We're licensed in multiple emerging markets and there's a lot of corridors that the UAE enables, so the goal with Fasset is, very soon, you'll be able to send money to all the different places that originate from here,” Mr Ahmed says.

When Mr Hossain and Mr Ahmed started the company, one question they often asked themselves was, “Who is Fasset’s last user?”

They identified their last user as an individual who lives in a remote part of the world and has internet access, but is unable to live a financially inclusive life.

Today, Fasset’s target demographic is tech-savvy young people, aged between 24 and 40, who live in the Morocco to Malaysia belt and are looking for ways to invest, manage their assets and grow their wealth for generations to come.

“We get them to be educated on what a diverse portfolio means, what moving money across countries can do for you and then we work our way down and understand how we can then optimise the experience for the next batch of people,” Mr Hossain says.

“It's a journey … [and] it doesn't happen overnight.”

Q&A with Fasset co-founder Daniel Ahmed

What other successful start-up do you wish you had started?

Our passion is to equalise access to opportunity in emerging markets. We believe all people, with the right access and opportunity, can build a fulfilling life. If we hadn’t focused on solving the problem of financial opportunity, we probably would have started a company focused on solving access to health care or education.

Who is your role model?

We take a lot of inspiration from technology pioneers like Elon Musk who have an incredible vision, but really get into the details and first principles of solving a problem.

What new skills have you learnt since launching Fasset?

A lot. Running a start-up is like flying a plane while building it, and becoming a jack of all trades. We’ve learnt a lot about how products are built, to customer service all the way to how a finance department should function.

Where do you want to be in five years?

Running a successful business that is helping people across emerging markets with their everyday financial services needs.

If you could do it all differently, what would you change?

There are too many learnings to list! Speaking to customers to understand their pain points and build what they want would have been something I would do as early as possible.

Updated: May 07, 2024, 11:10 AM
Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices