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UAE-Based Social P2P Payments Solution Ziina Raises US$850,000 In Pre-Seed Round Promised to be as easy as sending a text message, the social P2P payment solution allows UAE bank account holders can use to send and receive money with just a phone number- no IBAN or SWIFT code required.

By Pamella de Leon

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Faisal Toukan, CEO, Ziina

Ziina, a UAE-based licensed social peer-to-peer (P2P) payment solution, has successfully raised a pre-seed round of US$850,000, led by San Francisco-based Class 5 Global, with participation from Samih Toukan's Jabbar Internet Group and other prominent angel investors.

Promised to be as easy as sending a text message, the social P2P payment solution is available on the iOS App Store and Google Play Store for download, which allows UAE bank account holders can use to send and receive money with just a phone number- no IBAN or SWIFT code required. According to its release, the app offers bank-grade security and end-to-end encryption, providing a seamless way for users to split cost of the bill.

Co-founded by Faisal Toukan, CEO, Sarah Toukan, Chief Product Officer, and Andrew Gold, VP of Engineering, the startup is on a mission to to simplify payments for everyone. By leveraging the MENA region's adoption of fintech, Ziina aims to encourage the use of mobile payment solutions to fast-track the UAE's transition towards a cashless society. Fresh from launching their operations out of in5 Dubai's startup incubator, with a license issued by TECOM, the founding team seems to have a good support system too- their advisory board includes serial entrepreneur Samih Toukan, as well as Emre Tok, former VP of Growth at Careem, who lead a team of 80 people.

Using research on its core target demographic, the startup plans to introduce value-added services such as QR code integration, prepaid cards and utility payments, among others. They team is keen to democratize access to financial services by having one go-to platform, with plans of making it easy for anyone who wishes to invest by integrating third party robo-advisors to Ziina's platforms. In terms of plans for the future, the startup plans to launch operations in Saudi Arabia in 2023, and the team also plans to integrate different revenue streams in their platform. For POS solutions and prepaid cards, Ziina will take a small percentage fee on all transactions from vendors.

Toukan also points out that with the current COVID-19 crisis, they see an uptake in use as one, people have fewer opportunities to meet in person, so they will resort to sending remote payments when they need to pay someone pack, and two, people are wary to handle physical cash to avoid possible germ contamination. "Muslims in the UAE can use the Ziina app to send cash gifts to each other to preserve cultural and religious traditions," he also notes.

As a region with one of the highest rates of smartphone penetration in the world and a young population, Joel Ayala, co-founder and Managing Partner of Class 5 Global VC, noted his company's eagerness to join Ziina's funding round, saying, "The economy is still cash-based. It's tough for people to do simple things like paying their friends. Ziina is taking a Silicon Valley mindset to the region, and solving this problem with technology."

Related: Take The Lead: The Race Is On For The First Fintech Unicorn To Emerge Out Of The Middle East And Africa Region

"TREP TALK: Faisal Toukan, CEO, Ziina

As a startup which has successfully raised funds amid the COVID-19 crisis, what are your top three tips for fellow entrepreneurs looking for first/follow-on investments?

1. Have a short-term vs long-term plan. "Investors want to hear from a founder that can navigate both favorable and tough circumstances. Given the current climate, they want to understand how your startup is positioning itself in the short-term without sacrificing its long-term vision. Show them how you're navigating current circumstances to get to that light at the end of the tunnel."

2. Demonstrate what you're building. "This is the time for you and your team to focus on building. Show VCs that you're using this time effectively by demonstrating how you've iterated your product. How is your core product going to come out of this current situation better?"

3. Be optimistic. "It is natural for every entrepreneur to be optimistic; this isn't the time to lose that optimism. Investors can feel it. While current circumstances aren't favorable, bad times don't last. Uber, Airbnb, WhatsApp, Groupon were all founded in the last recession. To quote YC's Paul Graham: "Any startup that gets started during the next few months is disproportionally likely to succeed. Success depends most of all on determination, and imagine how determined you have to be to start a startup in a global pandemic."

Related: We Got Funded: Okadoc Closes The Largest Ever Series A Round For A MENA Healthtech Startup

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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