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Startup Spotlight: Community-Based Platform Hayi Raises US$325,000 As It Looks To Expand Its Services Beyond The UAE's Neighborhoods As a community-based platform that works on a freemium model, Hayi aims to bring together communities in a safe and exclusive environment, both online and offline.

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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

Chris Darnell and Rene Morgan, co-founders, Hayi

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.

It is to address the issue of reduced social interactions between neighbors in the UAE that Chris Darnell and Rene Morgan launched Hayi, a free-to-use hyperlocal social network for neighborhoods, in 2020. "Residents are looking to connect with each other now more than ever," says Darnell, who is also the startup's CEO. "A stronger and more connected neighborhood can introduce a wealth of benefits to an individual's day-to-day life, as well as tackling an array of issues which have become inflated these past two years with the pandemic."

As a community-based platform that works on a freemium model, Hayi aims to bring together communities in a safe and exclusive environment, both online and offline. Hayi's main feed offers a neighborhood noticeboard for people of a particular neighborhood to get recommendations and share relevant information.

Other notable features include private messaging, as well as searching for neighbors based on shared interests. The safety of those on the app is guaranteed through a process that uses geo-fencing -a location-based service through which an app or software program can create a virtual, geography-based boundary- to verify that only residents of a particular neighborhood are on the platform. "Hayi aims to go a step further by also connecting residents with their respective community management," Darnell adds. "Community managers across the region can register for free access to the social network to manage the digital communities that they own. They can then share relevant updates and notices that will be received by the community in real-time."

Related: Startup Spotlight: UAE-Headquartered SpiderSilk Wants To Simplify Cybersecurity In An Increasingly Digital World

Darnell adds here that the startup has recently witnessed a surge in interest from community managers and property developers across the nation looking to create more connected communities. Having already connected 6,000 verified neighbors across 20 test neighborhoods in Dubai, Darnell believes that Hayi is going to be an integral part of the city's future.

Such results can explain Hayi's latest milestone- a US$325,000 funding round led by Sarya Holdings and Falak Startups, which also saw the participation of other angel investors. The latest inflow of capital is intended to accelerate Hayi's growth in the UAE, while also opening doors to other geographical markets. Darnell and Morgan have a very clear goal in mind: to become the largest hyperlocal social network in the MENA region. "The fundraising round will really help us develop the product further for all end-users, and create an exclusive space for them to connect, without irrelevant noise from outside their communities," says Morgan, COO of Hayi.

At this point, Darnell is quick to point out how being a part of the MBRIF accelerator program has impacted Hayi's growth over the past year, particularly during the aforementioned funding round. "The MBRIF team has been instrumental in supporting us through the final stages of our seed round, as well as opening numerous doors to mentors, advisors, and partners," he explains. "The program itself has provided us with a wealth of knowledge in successfully navigating through the early phases of the startup journey, and has helped in preparing us for the road ahead."

Related: Startup Spotlight: Seoul-Based Medtech Startup DC Medical Is Bringing Innovative Patented Medical Technologies To The Middle East

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Features Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed is the Features Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East.

She is an MBA (Finance) graduate with past experience in the corporate sector, and was also co-founder of CyberSWIFTT- an anti-cyberbullying campaign that ran from 2017-2018 as part of the e7: Daughters of the Emirates program.

Ahmed is particularly keen on writing stories involving people-centric leadership, female-owned startups, and entrepreneurs who've beaten significant odds to realize their goals.

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