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UAE-Based Online Services Marketplace ServiceMarket Raises US$4 Million In Fourth Funding Round Founded in 2013, the ServiceMarket portal helps residents compare quotes and book over 35 different home services online.

By Sindhu Hariharan

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ServiceMarket co-founders Bana Shomali and Wim Torfs.

UAE-based online home services marketplace ServiceMarket.com has closed a US$4 million funding round from existing investor and global VC firm AddVenture, and new investors Emaar Industries & Investments (EII), an associate entity of Emaar Properties. This is the tech platform's fourth funding round following their seed and angel rounds in 2013 and 2015 respectively, and a $3 million Series A round secured in 2016, bringing the total amount invested in the company since inception to $8 million.

Founded in 2013, the ServiceMarket portal helps residents compare quotes and book over 35 different home services online. The startup reports having helped "over a hundred thousand people" find and book quality service professionals in the last year alone, and has grown to eight cities in the Middle East, with plans to expand across MENA, and beyond. "ServiceMarket's ambition is to deliver home services online to consumers in the region. Our platform does so by making the pricing and the quality of these services much more transparent to consumers, through our quote comparison and user-rating engine," says Bana Shomali, founder and CEO, ServiceMarket.com.

The ServiceMarket app. Image credit: ServiceMarket.
No stranger to fundraising herself, the entrepreneur notes that within each of ServiceMarket's financing rounds, the process has been quite similar. "We reached out to local, regional and international investors who had an interest in marketplaces like ours, and showcased our company to them," she explains. "This meant holding several presentations and meetings where we took the investors through our numbers and financials in quite a bit of detail, which allowed them to make a decision on whether to invest or not." And to entrepreneurs who are itching to just get done with their fundraising efforts, Shomali says that their last round took six to eight months from start to finish, which she considers pretty much the typical time it takes to close a round in the region.

As for how the company intends to make use of the funds, they plan to invest in what they consider their four main drivers of growth- the brand, customer service, technology, and people. "For our brand, we will be investing a significant part of the funds in building a recognizable brand in the UAE by marketing our company both online and offline. We will also focus on our customer service, and build out the process, tools, and systems that can make sure every single one of our customers have a stellar experience," says Shomali, who draws attention to the fact that "thousands of customers" have given them a 5-star rating in the last year. "Third, we will continue to develop our technology this year to make sure that we can connect customers to service providers even more seamlessly than we do today. We want to make it easier for customers to find the service they need, and just buy it online within a couple of clicks. Finally, our people are fundamental to our success, and we will be actively growing our team in Dubai and abroad to help drive our growth."

ServiceMarket co-founders Bana Shomali and Wim Torfs. Image credit: ServiceMarket.
While any monetary boost is a reason to celebrate for startups, the ServiceMarket team considers the current round to be exceptional in more ways than one. "First, it's our largest to date with $4 million raised. Second, this round included one of our original investors in our Series A round, Addventure, which is a very reputable international venture capital firm focused on online marketplaces," says Shomali, who considers the continued backing as a great testament for the performance of ServiceMarket. "Finally, in this round, we were joined by a strategic investor, Emaar Industries & Investments, and we represent their first venture in the e-commerce space. We are very excited about EII coming on board as an investor, as it unlocks many opportunities for us to serve over 35,000 Emaar units," she notes.

With estimates suggesting the size of the home services market in the GCC region alone to be around $20-30 billion annually, Shomali notes that less than 1% of these services are found and booked online, and this is also a reason that digital marketplace business models are growing in popularity. "They [online marketplaces] make it much easier," she says. "Within a couple of clicks, customers on ServiceMarket can get a home service done by a licensed and vetted company, instead of spending days researching and negotiating rates with several providers."

With regard to the heating competition in the space, and ServiceMarket's own differentiation to sustain themselves, the entrepreneur says that while there are quite a few companies that have entered the space, they are by far the largest, and "that's directly related to how hard we've worked and how well we've done in the last few years. We truly believe in focusing on customer experience, as we believe it can be our only true long-term advantage that will be very difficult to replicate."


Bana Shomali, founder and CEO, ServiceMarket.com

What are your three top tips for the region's entrepreneurs to pitch and clinch funding?

"What I've learned from my fundraising experience is that it's never too early to start talking to investors. It's important for a founding team to carve out time to meet investors, even if they are not fundraising, to introduce them to their companies. Let the investors follow you and see your traction over time. Second, be patient; manage your ego, while remaining confident in your business. Pitching to many investors is hard. You're putting up your company and yourself to critique again and again - and it can take a toll on you. Which brings me to my final point. Hang in there -the process takes time- it only takes one investor to believe you in you, and say "yes' to funding your business, and it will all be worth it!"


Waleed Dhaduk, Acting CEO & CIO, Emaar Industries & Investments

"We have been following ServiceMarket's traction within Dubai and they have received positive feedback from users on its ease of use, speed and convenience. This investment makes strategic sense for EII under our technology platform, since ServiceMarket offers services that complement our ecosystem."

Related: On-Demand UAE Startups And SMEs Are In The Right Place At The Right Time

Sindhu Hariharan

Former Features Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Sindhu Hariharan is the Features Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East.  She is a financial consultant turned business journalist with a FOMO when it comes to everything technology.

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