Ziina, the UAE-based social peer-to-peer (P2P) payment application, has raised $850,000 in a pre-seed funding round. The investment was led by San Francisco based Class 5 Global, with participation from Samih Toukan’s Jabbar Internet Group and other angel investors.
Launched November 2019 by co-founders Faisal Toukan, Sarah Toukan, and Andrew Gold, the financial technology (fintech) looks to encourage the adoption of mobile payment solutions. The application enables users to send and receive money with just a phone number with no requirement for an IBAN or a swift code.
“We are very excited to be out, and very proud of the team for everything they have done so far. It is time to build and make the app useful to everyone,” said Faisal Toukan, co-founder and CEO of Ziina, in an interview with Wamda. “We are here to end cash. We are not getting there from day one, but with mobile penetration in the region going through the roof combined with the youth being digital-savvy, we will be able to end cash and give [payment] accessibility to everyone.”
Ziina offers bank-grade security and end-to-end encryption so UAE bank account holders can use their smartphones to send and receive money as easily as sending a text message. The company graduated from Dubai’s In5 tech startup incubator and is youth-oriented in response to the average age of 27 years old in the Middle East, in a bid to fast track the UAE’s transition towards a cashless society.
“Financial services are pleasant to have in the US and Europe, but in our region of the world they are more of a necessity. Not everyone can have a bank, but everyone can have a digital wallet. When regulations opened up in Mena, that is when we saw the opportunity and started building the team,” he added.
The application is gradually introducing several value-added services such as QR Code Integration, Prepaid Cards and Utility Payments, amongst others. In the medium-term, Ziina will integrate different revenue streams. For POS solutions and prepaid cards, Ziina will take a small percentage fee on all transactions from vendors.
During 2021, Ziina plans to launch operations in Saudi Arabia to tap into the vast market potential of the GCC's largest market of 32 million people, with 58 per cent of those under the age of 30. Nearly 60 per cent of the Kingdom’s population use smartphones with roughly 23 million of the population being active on social media. In the UAE, 8.8 million individuals, making up 91.57 per cent of the population, access social media with their mobile devices. On average these users spend 2.56 hours on social media daily.
“The Middle East is a massive market, and the more players in the ecosystem, the better. There are so many services that need to be provided besides basic banking, from cashless payments, family accounts, business expense reports, budgeting solutions and others. There also different segments and demographics, and we haven’t seen a youth platform yet,” said Toukan.
“The Middle East has one of the highest rates of smartphone penetration in the world and a young population. However, the economy is still cash-based. Ziina is taking a Silicon Valley mindset to the region and solving this problem with technology,” said Joel Ayala, co-founder and managing partner of Class 5 Global VC.
Ziina’s cofounders are joined by a strong advisory board including serial entrepreneur Samih Toukan, and Emre Tok, who previously served as vice president of growth at Careem leading a team of 80 people. It is considered the UAE’s first licensed social peer-to-peer payment application.