DIFC invests in four FinTech start-ups through $100m fund

Pre-series A and series A funding was provided to Sarwa, FlexxPay, Now Money and Go Rise

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, October 24, 2017:    Padmini Gupta co-founder of Rise at her office in the Jumeirah Lake Tower area of Dubai October 24, 2017. Christopher Pike / The National

Reporter: Suzanne Locke
Section: Business
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Dubai International Financial Centre said it invested in four "innovative" FinTech start-ups on Monday, as the business hub scales up growth-stage entities in the financial technology sector looking to tap the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region.

The pre-series A to series A funding of four companies that aim to improve the personal finances of residents across the region were made from the financial free zone’s $100 million FinTech Fund, which it first unveiled in 2017 and rolled out last year.

The companies receiving funding are: Sarwa, a roboadvisory wealth management firm; FlexxPay, a cloud-based B2B employee benefits platform and two financial services platforms for migrant workers, Now Money and Go Rise.

Arif Amiri, chief executive of DIFC Authority, said the investments strengthened the free zone’s position as one of the world’s top 10 FinTech hubs.

“The DIFC FinTech Fund accelerates the development of impactful FinTech firms, taking them a step further toward capitalising on the strong growth opportunities available in the region. Through investing and providing the region’s most comprehensive platform, we can drive innovation across MEASA’s financial services sector,” he added.

Regional FinTech companies, which focus on lowering fees, reducing transfer times and making finance accessible to all, are set to attract $2.5bn in investment by 2022, according to a study by Mena Research Partners.

DIFC said more applications will be evaluated by its FinTech Fund and further investments made "shortly" as part of its “commitment to developing the sector”.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, 18 JUNE 2017. Ian Dillion, Co-Founder, of Now Money an app based start up that usese mobile technology to improve the lives of low income migrant workers in the UAE. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Alice Haine. Section: Business.
Ian Dillon, co-founder of Now Money, says the investment will fund the company’s growth and expansion in the UAE and wider GCC. Antonie Robertson / The National

Ian Dillon, co-founder of Now Money, which provides payroll services to Gulf-based companies and app-based accounts with physical debit card and remittance options for low-income workers, said the DIFC investment would fund the company’s growth and expansion in the UAE and wider GCC.

"This investment is significant because it supports the region's nascent FinTech industry, providing platforms and opportunities to grow in the region using Dubai and the UAE as a launchpad," he told The National.

Padmini Gupta, chief executive of Go Rise, which set up in 2017 and offers migrant workers affordable insurance options, retirement planning and the ability to pay for products in instalments, said the investment would strengthen the company's team and accelerate its delivery of new products for migrant workers.

"We're reimagining migrant financial services, helping 250 million-plus migrants who send home more than half a trillion dollars a year be more in control of their money and build a better future. The DIFC is a great partner in building a global business which builds on one of the region's biggest strengths – migrants," she told The National.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 28 NOVEMBER 2018. A Practical Guide to Financial Independence event, Zach Holz. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Alice Haine. Section: Business.
The funding will help Mark Chahwan of Sarwa reach a bigger audience and develop the company's product offering. Antonie Robertson/The National

Mark Chahwan, chief executive of Sarwa, the first company to incorporate out of DIFC's accelerator FinTech Hive's and the first to be granted an Innovation Testing Licence, said the funding will help the company reach a bigger audience, develop its product offering and expand to other regional markets.

"It will also be used towards growing the team – specifically the tech team – to continue providing a unique onboarding customer experience as well as developing the platform ... and adding more financial advisers ... especially in light of the exponential growth we are seeing," he told The National.

DIFC has rolled out a number of changes in recent months to attract top financial firms and strengthen its credentials. On February 1, its new Employee Workplace Savings (Dews) plan, which replaces the UAE's end-of-service gratuity, went live, and earlier this month the free zone rolled out a new group health insurance policy to help registered firms offer cost-effective cover for their employees.