Dubai-Headquartered E-Commerce Platform Eyewa Raises US$1.1 Million From UAE And KSA Investors Noticing that the online market for curated eyewear was inexistent, with the experience in optical stores viewed more as a medical transaction, and less as part of an individual's visual identity, the duo decided to launch eyewa.

By Pamella de Leon

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UAE-based e-commerce startup eyewa has raised US$1.1 million in a seed round led by Equitrust, the investment arm of Choueiri Group, and with the participation of other UAE and KSA-based investors. Launched in 2017, the startup was the brainchild of Anass Boumediene and Mehdi Oudghiri, who were both formerly co-Managing Directors of foodpanda Middle East, up until it was acquired by Delivery Hero. The duo felt that the online market for curated eyewear was inexistent, with the experience in optical stores viewed more as a medical transaction, and less as part of an individual's visual identity. Oudghiri comments on the opportunity in the eyewear e-commerce space: "It is a proven business model with many success stories in different regions, yet until now, we didn't have a proper solution in the GCC. Consumers are hungry for better value propositions beyond the traditional brick-and-mortar experience."

Seeing as how the region's e-commerce market can be considered as saturated, when asked how they plan to stand out, Boumediene explains their decision to be a niche player focusing solely on eyewear enables (and pushes) them to be expert specialist in their field and provide customers with the ideal experience. Their competitive advantage? According to the duo, besides their core team, they assert it's also their wider product offerings compared to physical optical stores, plus the convenience of online shopping, competitive prices and free shipping. Since their launch, the startup has received steady early traction and has expanded to a team of 10. And with the newly-gained capital, the startup plans to scale their marketing and expand their operations across GCC, and beyond its UAE home market. "We plan to make eyewa the reference in people's mind when it comes to buying contact lenses, sunglasses and eyeglasses online."


Anass Boumediene and Mehdi Oudghiri, co-founders, eyewa

As an eyewear-centric e-commerce platform, what approach did you take to pitch to investors?

"On one hand, selling eyewear online is not a new concept. There are several businesses that have been very successful in this space across the world, from Warby Parker in the US to Lenskart in India or MisterSpex in Germany. This is a proven business model, and the Middle East is a big enough market for a product focused e-commerce. For investors, this means that the online eyewear opportunity is here. On the other hand, we have a great team. We have worked together for years and have a successful track record in entrepreneurship in the region, and in previous work experiences with global companies (both were strategy consultants at Bain and Company Middle East). For investors, this means that execution risk is low. When we met with investors, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive and we ended being over-subscribed. The conversations were much more focused on the product/market fit and how we can adapt better our positioning and offering, including tech features, to offer a more tailored value proposition to the Middle East customers. We found that speaking to investors, even to those that didn't invest, was always fruitful, as their feedback allowed us to challenge our assumptions and market understanding, which ultimately helped us fine tune our approach and business plan."

What are your top three tips to e-commerce startups seeking funding?

1. Share your idea with as many people as you can, especially people from different background than yours and people form the industry you are targeting if you are not from that industry. This will help you refine your business model and get you ready for your pitch.

2. Invest time in building your pitch. We spent weeks building our deck, interviewing people, doing market research, reshuffling the presentation and then doing the pitch to any friend that was willing to hear it to get additional feedback. Your story has to be concise yet convincing.

3. Start early. Raising funds takes time and it's never too early to start. Investors are busy and the legal paperwork is lengthy.

Related: UAE Car Rental Startup eZhire Raises Seed Funding From Jabbar Internet Group

Pamella de Leon

Startup Section Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Pamella de Leon is the Startup Section Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East. She is keen on the MENA region’s entrepreneurship potential, with a specific interest to support enterprises and individuals creating an impact.

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