Saudi FinTech start-up Lean raises $33m to expand its operations

The capital will be used to grow its team and expand in the region, the company said

From left to right, Ashu Gupta, chief technology officer and co-Founder of Lean, Hisham Al-Falih, chief executive and co-founder of the company, and Aditya Sarkar, chief product officer and co-founder of the firm. Image: Lean

Saudi Arabian FinTech Lean Technologies has raised $33 million in its latest funding round that will allow the company to expand its operations to new markets.

The funding round was led by venture capital firm Sequoia Capital India, with participation from existing investors Raed Ventures, Outliers, Shorooq and Jimco.

New investors Liberty City Ventures and Human Capital, and notable angels including Henrique Dubugras, founder of San Francisco-based financial services and technology company Brex; Jeff Immelt, former chief executive of GE; and American investor Michael Ovitz also took part in the round.

Quote
We started Lean with the aim of enabling the next generation of financial innovation in the Middle East, a mission deep-rooted in the hearts of our entire team
Hisham Al-Falih, Lean’s co-founder and chief executive

“We started Lean with the aim of enabling the next generation of financial innovation in the Middle East, a mission deep-rooted in the hearts of our entire team … [Lean is] unleashing a new wave of cutting-edge financial solutions that will catalyse the lives of everyday people and businesses,” Hisham Al-Falih, Lean’s co-founder and chief executive, said.

“We are thrilled to be going on this journey with them [investors] and cannot wait to see what the future has in store.”

Lean, which has offices in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Cairo and London, intends to use the new capital to “grow its team and further expand across the region”.

Founded in September 2019 by former Stanford University roommates Mr Al-Falih and Aditya Sarkar, and ex-Silicon Valley technologist Ashu Gupta, Lean’s platform allows its clients to integrate with their customers’ bank accounts to retrieve pertinent account information or initiate instant bank transfers.

Start-ups in Saudi Arabia attracted a record $168m worth of venture capital funding through 54 transactions in the first half of 2021, according to data platform Magnitt. This is about 94 per cent of the money secured by the kingdom’s start-ups in 2020.

The FinTech sector, in particular, has witnessed a significant growth in the kingdom over the past few years.

Between January and August 2021, the kingdom had 16 venture investments in FinTech with a total deal value of $157.2 million, according to a report by Fintech Saudi. This is a significant increase from 2020 (seven venture investments worth $7.8m) and 2019 (six venture investments worth $18m).

Lean launched its flagship data and payments application programming interface (API) in February. Since then, the company has gained dozens of the region’s leading financial players as clients, connected to tens of thousands of customer accounts and processed hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions, it said without disclosing the exact numbers.

Quote
Lean is leading a financial revolution with their open banking platform, and helping redefine financial services and products across the region
Amit Jain, managing director of Sequoia Capital India

API is a software intermediary that allows two different applications to connect or communicate with each other. For example, each time users use a mobile app like LinkedIn to send an instant message to others or check the market updates on their smartphone, they are using an API.

“Lean is leading a financial revolution with their open banking platform, and helping redefine financial services and products across the region. They are a visionary team, in the early innings of a very aspirational journey, and we look forward to the road ahead,” Amit Jain, managing director of Sequoia Capital India, said.

“In a very short span of time, they [Lean] have built a very robust tech platform, hired an exceptional team and have a growing list of some of the best customers.”

The Lean APIs have unlocked many new use cases and are being used by some of the region’s major financial institutions in various verticals, including those in remittances, cryptocurrency and investment, the company said.

Updated: January 20, 2022, 11:49 AM