UAE fintech Pemo unveils new SME payments platform post $12m funding round

Company plans to expand to Saudi Arabia by end of this year

Pemo co-founders Ayham Gorani, Valerie Konde and Alessandro Duri. The company's new platform will address transparency in business spending. Photo: Pemo
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Pemo, a UAE financial technology start-up, raised $12 million in a seed funding round after which it unveiled an all-in-one spending platform to support small and medium enterprises in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan region.

The financing was co-led by Abu Dhabi venture capital company Shorooq Partners and Cherry Ventures in Berlin, with participation from New York-based FinTech Collective, Vienna-based Speedinvest, Beirut-based BY Venture Partners and Singapore-based Antler, plus private investment from angel investors, Pemo said on Wednesday.

Pemo's new platform, which will address transparency in business spending, features digitised invoices, automated approval flows, one-click invoice payments and real-time cash flow monitoring. It also plans to offer physical and virtual prepaid cards that can be topped up and distributed to employees, the company said.

“We’re operating in a region where more than 90 per cent of businesses are SMEs, many of which rely heavily on multiple platforms, processes and entities to manage their corporate spending, creating a number of challenges, such as irregular expense reports and high costs," said Ayham Gorani, co-founder and chief executive of Pemo.

"This is exactly the day-to-day friction we are removing by combining all spend management functions in one hub. Ultimately, this helps businesses to save money and time, while empowering team members to make purchasing decisions quickly and responsibly.”

Start-up activity continues to grow in the region, and these companies have been able to attract funding to help scale their businesses and support economies.

Fintech was the most prominent industry in the first quarter of 2021, accounting for 20 per cent of total transactions and 29 per cent of all capital deployed in the region, according to start-up data platform Magnitt.

In Mena, the UAE is the leading fintech hub both in number of deals and venture capital investment, Magnitt said. Bahrain joined the top ranks with cryptocurrency start-up Rain's $110m funding round in January.

Mena start-ups registered record VC funding worth $2.6 billion in 2021 through 590 transactions, according to Magnitt. About 35 start-ups announced exits in 2021, indicating a maturity in the region’s start-up landscape. The UAE accounted for 26 per cent of all deals closed across the region and 45 per cent of all funding raised in 2021.

Mena start-ups more than doubled their funding from a year earlier to about $864m in the first quarter of 2021 alone.

Pakistan, meanwhile, has more than 3,500 start-ups, according to tracking site Tracxn. Total funding surged 132 per cent annually in 2021, with the total number of deals rising 63 per cent to 78, Magnitt data shows.

After its launch in the UAE, Pemo plans to establish operations in Saudi Arabia by the end of 2022. The expansion will support the kingdom’s financial sector development programme, an initiative that aims to build a cashless economy as part of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia's economic diversification agenda.

The company is also planning to expand to Egypt and Pakistan.

Pemo was co-founded in April by Mr Gorani, Valerie Konde, Alessandro Duri and Saed Ghorani, who have collectively launched or scaled more than eight ventures, including online shopping portal Zalora and business spending platform Pleo, over the past 15 years.

Updated: May 18, 2022, 11:06 AM