Startup Spotlight: UAE-Based InvoiceMate Seeks To Ease SME Access To Financial Support Through its e-invoicing option, InvoiceMate enables SMEs to send, receive, and manage invoices from mobile or desktop platforms, and it also offers a complete invoice management system with bookkeeping.
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This article is part of an ongoing series covering startups that have been a part of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) accelerator program.
A November 2023 report by the World Economic Forum has found that that MENA-based SMEs represent 96% of registered companies in the region. But the same report also notes that a lack of access to finance has proven to be a severe impediment to SME growth in the region. Addressing this issue is UAEbased startup InvoiceMate, which offers an invoicing platform powered by blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI), which can serve as a bridge between SMEs and financing institutions.
"InvoiceMate is an end-to-end digital invoicing wedge that empowers SMEs with digitization to access finance through a single platform," explains Muhammad Salman Anjum, founder and CEO of InvoiceMate. "We operate on a business model centered around providing invoice financing by acting as a digital intermediary between lenders and SMEs. This easy digital inclusion thus leads to even easier financial inclusion by enabling SMEs access to various forms of credit like invoice discounting, factoring, buy-nowpay-later (BNPL), and supply chain financing. Just like Uber is a platform connecting riders with drivers, InvoiceMate, as a platform, connects financing institutions with SMEs for efficient and safer lending."
Through its e-invoicing option, InvoiceMate enables SMEs to send, receive, and manage invoices from mobile or desktop platforms, and it also offers a complete invoice management system with bookkeeping. Furthermore, a blockchain-powered "Invoice Financing Enabler" tool sends out real-time invoices that are verified with an assigned credit score. Simultaneously, a real-time invoice verification and credit scoring service -a tool that can be integrated into any financing management system used by a given financial institution- is offered to the lenders. At the same time, InvoiceMate also seeks to be a trustworthy ally for financial institutions that seek to invest in SMEs.
"With an automated access to our Know Your Invoice (KYI) feature -a tool that offers verified and accurate invoice data- lenders can make more informed decisions and better evaluate creditworthiness of SMEs for loan applications," Anjum adds. The startup, which was launched in 2022 and also has operational offices in Pakistan, has already processed over 5,000 invoices. "So far, InvoiceMate has processed a total invoice amount of over US$114 million, as well as a financing value of over $500,000 in the two countries of operation," Anjum says. "Currently, we have partnerships with 11 financing institutions, with over $5 million locked for the purposes of lending allocation."
Now, according to Anjum, a big part of easing the SME-lender relationship lies in negating the distrust within the system. "I've been in the blockchain space for seven years now, and as a founder, one of my objectives is to prove to the world that blockchain can go for mass adoption," he says. "That will only happen once blockchain is used to solve the problem of the masses. InvoiceMate was thus founded to resolve the trust and efficiency issues between lenders and borrowers, and enable their growth. By design, the blockchain-based InvoiceMate enables trust in every entry via attributes not available in standard database models, thus boosting security for data and workflow integrity."
This revelation inadvertently raises the question of how blockchain and AI can incorporate the intangible element of trust into financial transactions. "Well, with blockchain, InvoiceMate allows banks and other financial institutions to check if credentials of all invoice- and transaction-relevant files and documents are genuine," Anjum explains. "InvoiceMate's blockchain also provides a full process trail of invoice journey from its generation, review, approval process, payment and financing. On the other hand, with AI/ machine learning, the platform is detecting and preventing frauds in invoice credentials for secure invoice financing. Human connection is still and will remain an important part of customer engagement with InvoiceMate. The use of technologies is simply to enable them to provide a trusted and efficient service."
Now, through the startup's participation in the MBRIF Innovation Accelerator, Anjum hopes to give his startup's UAE-based operations a further boost. "At the MBRIF program, InvoiceMate will be specifically aiming for three end results," Anjum declares. "The first is adding to our technological capability, by embracing advanced technologies that can enhance our platform's functionality, scalability, and security. The second is to continually upskill existing employees, and add new human capital. And finally, we hope to build a strong network of reliable and diverse lending partners for competitive financing options, and thereby ensure consistent flow of funding opportunities."
As for the road ahead, Anjum hopes he can continue to lead the startup with a resilient mindset. "I have been an entrepreneur for the last 22 years of my professional career, but InvoiceMate is my first startup in the UAE," he says. "I must admit it has been a lot more different from my previous experiences. One has to be very agile, adaptive, and capable of multitasking. With the focus on innovation these days, startup founders often have to enter uncharted waters. But I must admit, this is as fun as it is challenging!"