$11M Series A round from the US for Dubai-based delivery service Fetchr

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Dubai-based delivery service Fetchr has successfully closed a Series A funding round worth $11 million.

The not-insignificant sum was part of a funding round led by US-based VC New Enterprise Associates and was according to Fetchr, the largest Series A round to come to MENA from an American firm.

Fetchr, which the founders Joy Ajlouny and Idriss Al Rifai started working on together over two years ago, looks to tackle the emerging market problem of “last-mile delivery”. A common area of hassle in the MENA region and elsewhere in the world, the lack of addresses cause big problems for ecommerce companies looking to get their products to the customers.

Joy Ajlouny and Idriss Al Rifai with some of their team. (Image via Fetchr)

New Enterprise Associates led the round, which included Delta Partners, Dhabi Holdings, Roland Berger and 500 Startups. According to news sources this is the first investment by the firm in the Middle East market. New Enterprise Associates have yet to be available for comment.

A global problem

Not just exclusive to the MENA region, a lack of postal addresses that can be utilized effectively by delivery companies is something Fetchr cofounders, Joy Ajlouny and Idriss Al Rifai, dealt with in their prior work. Ajlouny had a fashion ecommerce startup out of Silicon Valley that experienced problems in trying to deliver items in Russia, Brazil and the Middle East; while Al Rifai was head of operations at MarkaVIP before trying to tackle this issue himself with Fetchr’s former incarnation, Mena360.

Seen as an emerging market problem, the “last-mile delivery”, is a regular hassle for ecommerce companies trying to get their products to customers. What Fetchr does is use “proprietary technology”. When a customer needs to send something, they take a picture of it, and the GPS in their phone coordinates with the nearest delivery driver - basically like Uber for packages.

“We both found most problems to be with logistics,” Al Rifai told Wamda. “How to find them, how long it took, the customer experience….” Disappointed with the various delivery companies they were using, and noting how customers wanted not only a faster service but a transparent one (where they could track their items) they decided to try and aggregate the logistics companies.

“We want to be the same as Uber, want to provide the same standard, across the region, so that the customer knows when it’s coming and they can track it.”
 
“We want shipping to be as delightful as shopping!" said Ajlouny in a statement when they made their announcement. "Last-mile delivery is one of the greatest reasons why ecommerce has not reached its full potential in the Middle East. Our mission is to empower delivery through technology.”
 
With their new funding they will be looking to grow on their 100 strong team.
 
From Silicon Valley to Dubai
 
“When I was at Bonfaire part of my marketing strategy was to look outside of the US,” says Ajlouny. Calling ecommerce in the US at the time stagnant, the entrepreneur decided to look towards the Middle East. “I knew they were passionate about fashion,” she says. “ I reached out and got an incredible conversion rate, but I was sending packages, using all sorts of different companies, but the dent in the bottom line was becoming huge.

After her company was acquired Ajlouny was working as a mentor in the Valley and it was there that she heard Al Rifai talking about these very issues and how they might be addressed in emerging markets. “I went up to him and said: ‘I want to shake your hand. Your idea is so badly needed’, so we pair up and we decided to team together, and here we are.’

In comparison with Silicon Valley, the pair said that finding Series A funding was a “tremendous challenge”. With there being a lack of investment in the region by US firms, they see their success as a door being opened for others in MENA. “We feel that we have the opportunity now to open that door to Silicon Valley and say ‘hey, there is talent here’,” says Ajlouny.

Funding forward

“I’m thinking about shoes,” laughs Ajlouny when asked about what they will be doing with the $11 million. “No, we’re looking for expansion, customer acquisition rights, getting more people to download the app.” Looking to be as prevalent as Uber when it comes to people using their service with such ease, they will be growing all aspects of their currently 100-strong team. “After all, a company is only as good as its people,” added Ajlouny.

Of course many startups can make mistakes when they receive their funding. But that’s not something that Fetchr sees as an issue though. “I’ve already raised a Series A in Silicon Valley,” says Ajlouny, “and I have definitely made my share of mistakes and I learned my lessons. I bring a lot of that to the table.”

Having “survived a long time with not much funding” Al Rifai says that being wise with money is in their company DNA.

Keeping with Ajlouny and Al Rifai’s plan to tackle address problems around the world, the Fetchr app is available globally. But it is only being utilized in UAE for the time being.

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