We Got Funded: Kuwait-Born Proptech Startup Ajar Closes Pre-Series A Round
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This article is part of a series on pioneering entrepreneurs in Kuwait that Entrepreneur Middle East has built in collaboration with Kuwait Finance House. Kuwait Finance House is considered a pioneer in Islamic finance or Sharia’a compliant banking, with it being the first Islamic bank established in 1977 in the State of Kuwait, and is today one of the foremost Islamic financial institutions in the world.
Proptech startup Ajar has closed its pre-Series A round with the participation of investors SBX Capital, 500 Startups, and Seed Partner. Though the size of the latest capital infusion was undisclosed, the startup announced that its latest investment was a multi-million round, with it stating that it has raised a total of US$7.5 million to date. The platform had previously raised capital from BECO Capital and Sharq Ventures.
The startup, which was originally launched in Kuwait and is now headquartered in Dubai, was founded in 2016 by Shaheed Al Khudhari as an online payment solution and property management solution catered to help landlords and tenants digitize rent payments and collection in a flexible and seamless approach. It has grown to include a wide variety of automation solutions that can help real estate investors and companies manage their properties efficiently, with over 35,000 units across Kuwait and the UAE on the platform currently. Property owners can manage the leasing cycle of their properties, along with insights and reports, while users can use Find Ajar, the startup’s classified platform for consumers to rent and buy properties in Kuwait.
Amid the COVID-19 crisis, Ajar found itself becoming a useful resource for clients. The platform ensured business continuity with its cloud-based solution that offered safe and secure online collection and efficient property management while cities were under lockdown. “It quickly became very clear to landlords that going digital was the way forward,” says Al Khudhari. “Rent collection for those who depended on cash and cheque payments completely stopped, affecting the majority in the market. Landlords saw Ajar as an opportunity to not only go digital, but to also gain insights on how the industry was minimizing losses, what tactics worked, and what didn’t. We become our clients’ advisors.”
Ajar remote team
Amid the crisis, the startup also decided to focus on market education by releasing several studies and partnering with government entities to help them understand the state of the real estate market and guide their strategies. “The current economic climate has also forced many companies to rethink their costs, and [how] adopting a cloud-based solution is a great cost-cutting strategy,” Al Khudhari adds. He also notes that the pandemic has allowed for his startup some advantages when it came to fundraising: “Ditch the traditional pitches, and focus on the startup’s growth or resilience during the crisis. [Plus], showcase the acceleration in digital adoption you’ve seen across all industries, and how that’s reflected in your numbers and projections.”
Commenting on Ajar’s fundraising round, Sharif El-Badawi, Managing Partner MENA of 500 Startups notes that the work for the past few months has been “a testament to the startup’s resilience.” And with the newly raised capital, the startup is leveraging on the opportunity by improving its platform features, investing on its team to boost its growth, and gearing up for a regional digital expansion to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Bahrain. “Our strategy is to enable anyone -from a landlord with one unit, to a real estate company with 10,000 units- to create an account online, and immediately start automating their real estate management, wherever they may be,” Al Khudhari declares.