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Driving Growth: Careem's Zach Finkelstein On His Company's Market Potential

Driving Growth: Careem's Zach Finkelstein On His Company's Market Potential
Image credit: Careem

With the Dubai-headquartered Careem moving into its next chapter of growth as an enterprise, "the region's favorite car-booking app" has appointed the co-founder of Silicon Valley-based investment firm Lumia Capital, Zach Finkelstein, as its Vice President of Corporate Development to help drive this stage of the business' trajectory.

Finkelstein is no stranger to Careem though- during his time at Lumia Capital, he had participated in the "unicamel's" US$60 million Series C investment round, which was when he got to interact with its co-founders Mudassir Sheikha, Magnus Olsson and Abdullah Elyas, whom he deems "some of the most impressive operators" he has ever met. "Because of them, Careem has the potential to become the dominant technology company for the entire region," he says.

Zach Finkelstein, Vice President of Corporate Development, Careem. Image credit: Careem.

In his new role, Finkelstein will be leading Careem's investment agenda across the MENA region, which will see him focus on investor relations, as well as consider potential acquisitions to fuel up Careem's market leadership. Entrepreneur Middle East talked to Finkelstein to learn more about his agenda for the company- excerpts from the interview below:

Given your background as an investor in Silicon Valley, what about Careem makes you feel that it has what it takes to continue seeing exceptional growth? When compared to its competition in this region, what do you think will push Careem ahead in this race?

Careem is the fastest growing technology company in the region with a presence in more than 80 cities and 13 countries across the broader Middle East and North Africa, including Turkey and Pakistan. Yet, it's only scratching the surface when it comes to market potential, and there is still plenty of room to continue growing and expanding the business.

Careem will continue to expand into markets where we do not yet have a presence, but we're also going to deepen our reach in markets where we already operate. Ride-hailing is currently at 1% penetration in the broader Middle East, and our business strategy is firmly committed to capturing the other 99%. In markets like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, there are many more cities and towns in need of safe, reliable, affordable transportation to get from A to B.

When it comes to competition, we're more focused on serving our users. That said, we strongly believe we stand apart from other car booking services for two reasons: firstly, we are homegrown -by the region, for the region- and secondly, our mission revolves around making a difference in people's lives, focusing first and foremost on local communities.

Related: The MENA Startup Ecosystem: Problems And (Potential) Solutions

Can you detail more aspects about Careem's investment strategy in other startups from this region? Where does this strategy stem from in terms of Careem's mission and vision, and how do you hope this scheme will result in--what's the ultimate goal, so to speak?

Investments in local startups, including our first and most recent investment in bus transportation network Swvl, fulfills a tenant of our mission to promote entrepreneurship in our region.

At the same time, we're always looking for opportunities to grow our business and strengthen our customer base. In the four years since our inception, we've already made several strategic acquisitions, including Saudi-based address coding service Enwani, Morocco-based car booking service TAXIII, and Pakistan-based startup Savaree, which have proved instrumental in accelerating our growth, profitability and market expansion. While driving organic growth remains the primary focus for Careem, we always keep an eye out for potential acquisition opportunities that align with our strategic priorities.

At Careem, we want to make it easy and affordable for people to get around in our cities. Unfortunately, reliable transportation continues to be a challenge in most of our cities, and our aspiration is to solve this pain-point for people of all income levels. Over time, Careem will evolve into an integrated transportation utility that will offer multiple transport options through a variety of online and offline means, and in the process, significantly improve the lives of people in our region. We'll accomplish this through our own internal developments, in addition to investments and acquisitions.

Related: Business Takeaways From Four UAE Startups That Raised Serious Venture Capital