Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Having raised a ground-breaking USD18 million from its corporate shareholders in a landmark Series A round of funding, Aqeed.com, the first InsureTech Specialist in the region, is now live.
Designed to offer customers a new level of transparency, accessibility and simplicity in understanding the insurance options most suited to them, Aqeed.com aims to disrupt the way in which insurance is bought, managed and serviced by providing access to an unparalleled portfolio of insurance companies.
Q: Is this your 1st round of investment as a Company? How did you manage to convince the key investors to participate based on an idea?
A: Rachid responded “Yes this is the first round. We opted to go directly for Series A as we are in the stage where we want to get market share rather than validate an idea. We are fortunate enough to have great corporate investors who believe in the idea and support the vision.
As part of our journey to create Aqeed, which has been in stealth mode for more than a year, there was a tremendous effort that our team has done to create a business case before going to our investors. This included understanding the market, identifying customers’ pain points, analyzing the current solutions in the market, identifying the key success factors and finding the right technology solution. Once, we had that figured out, we looked for the right talent to execute on that. This made our business case strong enough for our corporate investors to put a large sum of money.”
Q: Why did you approach Corporate VCs as opposed to traditional VCs for this investment round?
A: Rachid commented “We were looking to raise smart capital when we had the idea of Aqeed. This meant that it is not about the sum that we could raise, but rather the contribution that our investors can bring. Aqeed was a natural extension of our current business model in the UAE. But in order to complete the puzzle, we wanted as well a media partner who could help us optimize our reach and brand. Hence, we opted to go with corporate investors because of their extensive know-how in the insurance and media industry."
Q: How many people are you in the founding team and does the team have start-up experience before?
A: Hadi responded “In total we have 20 team members, all of which have either worked at insurance, technology or marketing companies prior to joining Aqeed. Rachid and I were part of the original founding team, back in 2016 when Aqeed was just an idea. Before joining Aqeed, I was the Head of M&A at Risk Group, where I was responsible to source, analyze, and invest in insurance technology startups. I was fortunate enough to meet a lot of smart entrepreneurs who shared with me great insights on how to start and run a startup.”
Q: What kind of talent are you looking to acquire to grow your team?
A: Hadi commented “At Aqeed, we believe in a culture that fosters growth and entrepreneurialism. Our motto is “Happy People = Happy Customers = Happy Shareholders”. Everything starts with our people. We take it very serious when hiring our people, and focus not only on skills, but also on fit. However, we have a very high standards when recruiting talent. We expect people to be resourceful and high-performing, but to have fun when they are at work. We also like people who are creative and innovative. Everyone in our team is expected to contribute to the growth of our company. Everyone’s voice is heard, valued and respected. By creating such a cohesive culture, we believe we create a happy environment where people would stick around longer."
Q: Scalability is often a major challenge for startups across the region. How do you look to scale into the larger markets across MENA and potentially beyond?
A: Rachid responded “When we assessed the total addressable market in the region, we noticed that Lebanon, UAE, and KSA represent more than 70% of the insurance premiums, so we made sure to prepare a business case with a robust strategy to encapsulate all three markets. That is why we decided to raise a huge round from the beginning (more than $18 million) from our corporate shareholders. The funding will go to penetrating the UAE and KSA market first, hiring the right talent, and continue building the latest insurance technology. We will also provide our customers with the largest number of insurance providers and the most number of insurance products so that Aqeed becomes a one-stop shop for them.
The success of scaling hinges on three key factors:
1. Having a robust and scalable technology: We have created a plug-and-play technology that can be used in any country. This will allow us to adapt much quicker than others when deploying our products in new markets.
2. Having a strong customer acquisition and retention strategy: In a market so competitive, an expensive customer acquisition strategy is a recipe for disaster. Marketing spend is one of the largest expense bucket for any startup, especially when it wants to build an aggressive market presence. We are looking for smart ways to acquire and retain our customers, by providing them with unique solutions so they stick around for longer.
3. Having the right talent in place: You can’t create a successful and long-lasting company if you don’t have the right resources who share your vision and who are culturally fit. That is why we hire for fit before skills."