Insurtech Platform Aqeed.com Launches In The UAE With US$18 Million Investment
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Having the “DNA of a startup, and the strength and stability of a corporation,” sure sounds like something every fledgling venture out there would envy, and Aqeed.com, a new UAE-based insurtech platform, claims to be blessed with such a structure. Aqeed, a technology company focused on helping consumers understand, manage, and buy insurance on their platform, is founded by the shareholders behind international reinsurance corporation Barents Re, and Equitrust, a group company of MENA’s media and advertising enterprise Choueiri Group.
Launched in April 2018, with an investment of US$18 million in funding from their founders, Aqeed’s management is led by experienced industry hands including CEO Rachid Abi Nader (previously a Lead Consulting Director, Insurance, Middle East at PwC), and Chief Product Officer Hadi Radwan, formerly head of M&A with a leading insurance group in Dubai. “Insurance is one of those industries being disrupted globally,” Radwan says. “It is being revolutionized thanks to new technologies allowing the reinvention and digitization of the business. However, insurance in the Middle East is still lagging behind.” Referring to the current perception of the industry as being “complex,” he says Aqeed was built to accelerate the digital transformation of the conventional sector in the region, and align it with global trends.
Being focused on consolidating their presence in the UAE, as well as entering Saudi Arabia and other Middle East markets, CEO Abi Nader says, “We are also in the process of hiring the right talents, and investing in the latest insurance technology… Our objective is to go beyond the traditional and online distribution model, and invest heavily in bringing the latest insurtech innovation- from artificial intelligence, machine learning, internet of things (IoT), telematics, as well as business process enhancement and automation.”
With regard to the monetary boost for the startup, Radwan and Abi Nader say they are fortunate to have two tier-one corporate shareholders who are bringing much more than just funds to Aqeed. “Insurance companies and customers would like to work with companies that potentially will still exist in the coming few months,” Abi Nader says. “The same applies to our teams- they want to work in a startup environment full of new challenges, however, they want sustainability and security at the same time.”
Sharing a few key takeaways from their experience in launching Aqeed, Radwan says that raising money “can be an intimidating process” that needs to be managed well. “It is critical that you articulate to investors what pain point you are solving, how you are solving it differently than what already exists in the market. More importantly, investors have to be convinced that the return on their investment is a substantial multiple to compensate for their opportunity cost,” he says. “Our shareholders were very conscious about having the business case nailed to perfection. That is why we had to build a fully working platform before committing any money to the project.”
From the investor’s point of view, Patrick Thiriet, Chief Strategy Officer, Choueiri Group says the company is “delighted” to partner with Aqeed in their endeavor to ease the life of MENA consumers. “Our capacity to reach out to those consumers in the region is certain to be an asset, as they gain traction with their unique offering,” he adds.
Having kicked off with motor insurance, Aqeed allows customers to buy and compare car insurance in a matter of minutes on their platform, and at the time of writing, a mobile app is also in the works to facilitate the process further. Customers can make use of a dashboard that’ll allow them to access documents and policies in force, contact insurance companies, view how much they are paying, and get notified of their upcoming renewal dates. The team is also planning to add home and travel insurance products to the portfolio soon.
“The typical MENA customer expects to be well informed about the options available to them, pay the right price, and be properly taken care of when they have a claim,” says Radwan. And with Aqeed’s emphasis on showcasing its “key pillars of simplicity, transparency, and accessibility” in the region’s insurance space, addressing these needs figures high on the startup’s agenda. Good times ahead!
Hadi Radwan, Chief Product Officer, Aqeed.com
What are your three top tips for the region’s startups to secure investments for their ventures?
1. Validate your business. “Make sure you have nailed the product-market fit before asking for money. I have seen a lot of entrepreneurs pitch for funding before proving that their idea solves a real problem. More importantly, validate your idea before seeking investment. A cool technology alone will not cut it.”
2. Be transparent with your prospective backers. “Tell your investors how you will be using their money and what is your expected cash runaway. It is crucial that you are very transparent and candid with the investors. They hate being taken by surprise.”
3. Nail your demo. “While fancy graphics on a pitch deck is nice, there is nothing more powerful than a product in action. Investors have seen plenty of pitches with a lot of standardized presentations. Be different!”