We sat down with Belal El-Megharbel, MaxAB’s founder and CEO, to talk about raising MENA’s largest seed round to date ($6.2m), talent, and building the platform that could revolutionise Egypt’s $45bn food retail market.
The company’s long-term vision is to organise the food and grocery ecosystem using technology, by putting the right amount of food at the right place and time.
MAGNiTT: So, what is MaxAB? Can you tell us how it works?
Belal: MaxAB is a Cairo-based B2B ecommerce marketplace that enables food and grocery retailers to place orders directly from manufacturers through an app. We’re trying to reduce the challenges faced by traditional retailers in Egypt (400,000 retailers representing 90% of the market) when doing business with FMCGs and wholesalers - saving them time and money and offering them better quality goods at better prices.
MAGNiTT: At $6.2m, this is the largest seed round in MENA’s history. Why did you raise all this capital?
Belal: We are an experience-based company, and to be able to offer a superior experience to our retailers we have to build our entire supply chain in-house. Naturally, this requires a huge amount of capital to start with. Also, we are investing heavily in creating innovative tech solutions to run and optimize in our supply chain.
MAGNiTT: Beyond capital, what were you looking for from your investors?
Belal: Our investors particularly have great expertise in the region. They have seen the ins and outs of how business scale. This can come in super handy in guiding us as we scale as they can anticipate the challenges we will face. Our investors are also great door-openers and partnership-builders which helps accelerate our growth even further.
MAGNiTT: What is your biggest challenge to scale?
Belal: Talent. Definitely talent. This isn’t just a MaxAB problem - it’s a problem that faces many Egyptian startups. You need to get a lot of really smart people on board - both on the commercial and the technical sides.
MAGNiTT: What's something or someone that really helped you fundraising for this round?
Belal: Our people. It was the MaxAB team. We were very lucky to have such a team at a very early stage. I can not stress enough on how important the people are in any startup, good investors understands and appreciates this very much.
MAGNiTT: What are your plans for expansion?
Belal: The food retail market in Egypt is $45bn. This year, we’re focusing on a deep penetration of that market. We want to do this before we look to scale elsewhere.
MAGNiTT: What piece of advice would you give yourself 5 years go?
Belal: Take care of your health - it really takes a toll on you. Scaling a business aggressively can help you lose sight of the fact that you need to be healthy to grow a business. You health takes a toll on you and your organisation.
MAGNiTT: What piece of advice would you give other fundraising entrepreneurs in MENA?
Belal: Be extremely focused on execution. Focus on bringing talent on board - this is what makes or breaks the business.