Launched in August 2011 in the UAE, compareit4me.com started as a finance comparison site for bank accounts and insurance, growing since then to include comparisons between personal loans, mortgages, car loans, and is further diversifying its product portfolio to letting users compare and buy car insurance. It has also grown its markets, with operations in nine countries today: UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, KSA, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Oman. With a steady growth over the years, the fintech startup has continued to garner investor interest.
While it was aiming to achieve US$1 million new funds, the startup managed to surpass its goal and received $2.4 million in its latest round of bridge funding from an array of investors. It’s certainly a testament to their track record, as previous investors continue to join in for future roundsmore than half of the investment has been contributed by existing investors Wamda Capital, STC Ventures and Dubai Silicon Oasis, and this comes after they joined the previous $3 million Series A funding round in 2015. Mulverhill Associates, one of its original angel investors in its first round of investment in April 2014 with a sum of $300,000, and later on in December the same year, invested another $200,000, continues to show its support. As for new investors, SANED, a VC fund focusing on MENA early-stage startups, has joined in the ring, as well as private investors who are executives at e-commerce and financial comparison businesses, and VC firms. This new round means that compareit4me.com has raised a total of $6 million in funds to date.
Mulverhill Associates Managing Director Jonathan Hall notes how the startup has grown since co-founders Jon Richards and Samer Chehab started working from coffee shops in early 2014, to how it has progressed in the past years. Hall says that one of the reasons his company continues to invest in the startup is after noting how finance comparison businesses in the UK have become profitable in the sector, and therefore, he feels similar businesses that can meet the market here would also be successful. This also echoes Wamda Capital’s attraction to the startup, with Managing Partner Khaled Talhouni saying how traction on the site exceeded initial expectations, which added to his good impressions on the team’s execution of compareit4me.com’s goals.
With an impressive line up of investors, Richards points out that when they were considering which investors to pursue, they weren’t just looking for financial clout, but rather, the CEO says what mattered was investors who could support, provide insights and further connect the startup to a network of investors. Another factor was having investors with backgrounds in e-commerce, who could steer them to upcoming challenges and opportunities, especially given the diversification of their product lineup. “Launching our insurance portal has meant a shift in business model, as it’s a transactional business with customers buying their insurance online,” Richards explains.
“Typically, raising money in the Middle East is a six-to-nine-month process,” says Richards. “Our insurance business has been killing it- it’s been growing by 30% to 80% per month, so we thought the time was right to add additional funds so that we can acquire more customers and continue that growth. We wanted to find the quickest way possible to raise money, and a convertible was the way to do it. Creating a convertible document is the quickest way to raise funds, as you reduce the legal work and streamline the documents. This meant the whole process took six to eight weeks from start to finish.”
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
The team is already considering Series B funding, as they’ve started talks with investors in Middle East, Europe and the US. Richards says they plan to raise an additional $10-15 million in the next round to strengthen its UAE market, and grow in KSA, Egypt and the rest of MENA. Richards also talks about expanding their insurance platform in MENA, saying, “Our users are saving up to AED1,000 per year on their insurance, and we want to bring those sorts of savings to as many people as possible.” While compareit4me.com currently lets users compare and buy car, home, travel and life insurance, the startup is also looking at expanding into other insurance verticals such as health insurance. “We see the opportunity and know we have the right mix of technology, experience and funding to make a difference. Our goal is to save users time and money, and I’m confident we can do that for those buying health insurance, just like we do for users buying car insurance.”
Regional investors explain why they decided to support compareit4me.com
Khaled Talhouni, Managing Partner, Wamda Capital
“We believe in investing in businesses that leverage technology to address inherent inefficiencies in the market place. With comparison, we are enabling individuals to actively compare financial services and then also (with the insurance offering) help them select and acquire the right product/service for them. The power of the insurance product is that it not only allows consumers to compare but also gives them the ability to acquire a policy directly through the site.”
Angus Paterson, Partner, STC Ventures
“Since investing, the team has continued to demonstrate their ability to execute well and deliver impressive growth, against a backdrop also of a tougher banking market and economy generally, and in a capital efficient manner. They have reinforced their leading market positioning in banking comparison, deepened the management team with the addition of strong new talent, and have developed and been first-to-market with a realtime transactional insurance comparison product, which offers huge regional potential. We’re delighted to be backing them a second time around.”