For Moroccan e-billing platform Greendizer, sustainable development is simply business as usual. The startup pushes invoicing into the 21st century, luring users to go green with paperless services, an open source approach, and a sleek interface. Founded by Mohamed Attahri, Hamza Bernoussi, and Mohamed Amine Azariz in 2009, the Casablanca-based company has risen quickly, receiving €500,000 from Moroccan VC firm MITC Capital in November 2010, and officially launching at LeWeb’s Startup Competition 2010 in December. While the site faces stiff competition in Mint, Freshbooks, Blinksale, and The Invoice Machine, it has carved out a niche by offering completely free services (it may eventually charge for premium options), ample customization support, excellent data security, and an upcoming French interface.
Photo above: Greendizer co-founders Mohamed Attahri and Hamza Bernoussi, and MITC Capital investor Ali Bassit
For more on Greendizer, watch their video on how to build an ICT company in Morocco.
We asked Hamza Bernoussi The Wamda 10 Questions.
1) How did you decide to create this business?
The idea for the company came to us at the end of 2008. We firmly believed at that time that it was absurd to keep wasting so much paper to issue invoices when technology was available for a 100% paperless invoicing process.
2) Do you see your market as local, regional, or global?
We are now present on both markets, in Morocco and France through a subsidiary. However, this does not mean that we are geographically limiting our business to both countries; on the contrary, our first priority is to become key actors in the dematerialization field worldwide.
3) What are your ambitions? What are your growth strategies?
Our ambition is very simple: to bring a new invoice payment revolution through the Internet.
Since it was created, the standard billing process has only been through minor changes with a few improvements. Now, to get completely rid of paper we need to redesign the billing process and forget all existing models.
We have placed innovation and quality at the core of our strategy, and we have built our service as an open platform that developers can access through an API. By promoting our openness and innovation, we hope to convince companies to adopt our model and to convince bloggers and other influential media on the web to create buzz for our service.
4) What were the most important decisions that you made in your business? Or what was a key turning point in your approach?
The most important decision we have made concerns financing- we decided to work with a Moroccan investment fund and set up our headquarters in Morocco (we were previously based in Paris) because we wanted to take advantage of the incentive climate for entrepreneurship in new technology initiated by the Moroccan Digital Program 2013.
While we sell our products mostly in developed countries, we are proud to be part of Morocco's economic network and developing a 100% Moroccan technology.
5) What was the biggest problem that you faced (or are facing) in your business, or what were the biggest mistakes you made as an entrepreneur?
The biggest problem we've faced is finding investors bold enough to bet on us. We were forced to find funding quickly because all three of us decided to quit the jobs we had in order to devote ourselves 100% to Greendizer.
We also made a few mistakes early on in casting our recruits and in choosing our initial advisers. But we quickly reacted to make the necessary changes.
6) What is your role in the company? If you have partners, how do you manage your partnership?
I am in charge of administration, finances and marketing, and also am part of a team that focuses on making Greendizer a sustainable business. My partner Mohamed Amine Azariz manages the technical team, which ensures that we remain at the forefront of technology, and our other co-founder, Mohamed Attahri develops our user interface systems and directs business strategy. Our investors also advise us on strategic decisions.
7) Has owning a company made you financially more secure, or not?
Starting a business has certainly had an impact on our personal finances, as we have no job security. Yet we enjoy taking our chances and trying to make a success of this project.
8) How does technology enable your business? What is a technical tool that you cannot live without?
Our company is fully based on new technologies and innovation. Internet is also a key technology for our business because our platforms are 100% based on the web.
9) What does your family and/or friends think of your company? Would you advise other people to become entrepreneurs?
My family and my close friends have supported me in my approach and told me to believe in my dreams. My parents would have certainly been more comfortable and reassured if I had been a trader in a bank or consultant in a large firm, but they have confidence in my ability to succeed.
My first piece of advice to any aspiring entrepreneur is to be 100% certain about the quality of your product and to be ready to give everything to it in the coming years.
The second piece of advice I would give is to never lose sight of your target market.
Finally, choose your partners and employees carefully- the success of your project depends on it.
10) Have the recent revolutions in the region influenced your approach?
Our strategy has remained the same after the recent revolutions. Yet we believe that this new wave of modernity and democracy may lead to a more favorable climate for business and entrepreneurship in the region.