Jonathan Lau And Armin Moradi Are Dreaming Big With Their Fintech Startup, Qashio
Dubai-based fintech startup Qashio aims to solve one of the biggest pain points for companies in the GCC region- the lack of visibility and control over company spending.
Together with co-founder Jonathan Lau, Armin Moradi decided to launch fintech startup Qashio in Dubai in November 2021 to solve one of the biggest pain points for companies in the GCC region- the lack of visibility and control over company spending. "Currently, companies do not have real-time insights into their actual spending, and therefore, have inaccurate estimates on their cash flow," Moradi says. "By removing time-consuming manual processes and moving to an automated spend management process, companies can free up employee time to focus on more impactful activities." In less than a year, Moradi and Lau have grown the Qashio team to 20 people who enable the provision of the startup's expense management software and programmatically issued corporate cards to more than 100 customers in the UAE- and Saudi Arabia is next on their list of markets to tap into.
"Qashio is the MENA's first multi-level spend management software, which allows companies of all sizes to instantly issue unlimited corporate cards for their employees," Moradi says. "We offer companies a comprehensive solution to take control of their company spending and offers real-time visibility on their day-to-day employee expenses." Their offering includes the Qashio Control Centre, which companies can use to disburse budgets, issue and manage their cards, generate reports, and collaborate on requests and approvals. "The biggest advantage of Qashio cards is that they are completely controlled by the company," Moradi adds. "Our software allows for a range of controls to be applied to the card including setting budgets by week or month, restricting vendor or category usage, restricting ATM withdrawals, setting a card suspension date, and controlling the active status of the card."
The startup raised a pre-seed funding round of US$2.5 million earlier this year, which was led by multi-stage global venture capital fund MSA Novo and supported by venture capital firms Rally Cap Ventures, Palm Drive Capital, Plug and Play Ventures, as well as strategic angel investors that include executives from companies like Grubtech, Danske Bank, Two Sigma, and Xiaomi, among others. When asked about how he will use the funds, Moradi explains that he will focus on developing cost-effective and usable solutions in the shortest possible timeline. "We have put a strong emphasis on product development, and have hired some top talent to allow us to build the product as efficiently as possible," he says. "In terms of marketing and business development, until now, we have been quite low-key in our activities, working on outreach within our existing network of contacts, and have been receiving a high volume of referrals from existing customers."
Keeping one's head down and remaining focused on the work seems to be a sound strategy for the currently volatile markets, which, according to Moradi, requires fintech entrepreneurs to develop more robust go-to market strategies and optimize the efficiency of their operations. "Given the recency of the majority of fintech solutions, entrepreneurs need to be prepared to educate and guide their customers through the transition to a digital solution, and I would advise any startups in the region to focus on providing the tools needed to help their customers to effectively and efficiently manage this change," Moradi says. Meanwhile, the Qashio team has also been building relationships with both the MENA region's nascent B2B fintech space as well as global fintech giants, and Moradi believes that this particular strategy has enabled his team to accurately execute its strategy locally, while also tapping into a global pool of experienced talent.
"Navigating around regulations is a challenge in the MENA region, so fintech entrepreneurs should keep in mind that licensing and legal fees will take up a considerable chunk of their monthly expenditures as well as your time so be prepared for that investment," Moradi adds. "And from our contacts globally, we have learned that being headquartered in Dubai really helps, as many skilled expat workers are motivated to relocate here." Having said that, Moradi's plans for the future include executing numerous geographical expansion plans for Qashio. "We plan to expand our footprint in the UAE, along with launching our Bill Pay product. We are also focusing our efforts on launching in KSA, a market where we see huge potential for our solution, and where we are currently undergoing the process of receiving the necessary licenses and approvals. After KSA launches, we will focus on launching the remainder of the GCC countries, and then take on the beast that is Egypt," he concludes.
'TREP TALK: Tips for entrepreneurs from Qashio co-founder and CEO Armin Moradi
1. Strategizing for perfection will never deliver results "Making decisions and executing them is more impactful. As soon as I recognized the power of making a decision, and then had the discipline to get it done, results began to manifest faster."
2. Instill a culture of ownership in your company "Allowing your employees to have a meaningful impact on how the business develops is important for early-stage startups. You hired these people for a reason, so take their inputs seriously."
3. Never lose track of your finances "As the saying goes, watch the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves. It's easy to be led astray by seven-figure bank balances and sleek office spaces, but prioritizing your spending, and channeling it into the areas that will bring you the best return on investment will allow for a more sustainable business model.
4. Engage with your peers "Don't consider other fintech leaders your enemies, but rather your allies. Engage, share insights, and learn from them. A fintech entrepreneur is a highly stressful and often lonely role, so it is good to have peers who you can relate to."
5. Be confident in yourself and your product "It's crucial to take feedback on board and learn from advisors and investors, but have the courage to push back when you believe in something. You will always know your product better than anyone else, so have confidence in yourself, when you believe you're on the right track. It's better to live with the risks you took than regret the ones you didn't."