Exclusive Q&A with Mohamed Hussein Abdou, CEO and Founder of Pravica

Pravica (previously known as Dmails), a WEB 3.0 Email Service Provider (ESP) using Blockchain technology recently announced that the company has closed its pre-seed round of US$500,000, led by reputed investors 500 Startups, with the participation of Modus Capital and DYRES Ventures.

Following the investment announcement, MAGNiTT took the opportunity to catch up with Founder and CEO of Pravica, Mohamed Hussein Abdou to find out more about this exciting startup.

Q1. Tell us briefly about Pravica. How does it work?

Pravica is mainly a decentralized communication set of tools for individuals and enterprises to secure both their internal and external communications using Blockchain technology. We started by providing an email service labeled as 'Dmails', and are now bringing real-time communication into the picture through texting, voice and video calls, as well as content management such as calendars and storage cloud spaces. All of these services will be fully encrypted with user-owned keys.

Q2. This is the first Blockchain Email Service Provider in the region. Why do you think it's taken so long to bring this model to the region? Do you think there was a lot of complacency with using standard emails?

The lay of the land in the MENA region provides Pravica with the reigns to pave the way for this technology’s introduction. While having overwhelming benefits that allude to it being the only rational option for protected electronic communication, it’s complicated and is still being adopted across nations, including first-world countries. Pravica has invested time and resources to develop a talented team to support the innovation we’re introducing. This coupled with the obstacle of understanding the customer mindset to reduce friction for the transition of one technology to another,  it was a mindset we needed to nail down before we proceeded. We are now in a unique position to lead Blockchain’s presence and success not only within the MENA region but worldwide, through the widely used application of emails and other communication channels. 

Q3. What were some of the challenges you faced when creating a platform based on Blockchain technology? And how did you overcome them?

1. Market Adoption (changing user culture and orientation)

Solution: Publicizing the criticality of customer data privacy and how there are evident gaps in competitors' platforms that breach the same. Pravica is proud and confident that its Blockchain technology application is precisely what customers need when it comes to their communication mediums security and privacy. 

2. Attaining Funding (unfamiliar innovations are not easily funded by VCs)

Solution: We have developed sustainable partnerships with relevant VCs that are familiar with Blockchain, and can serve as strategic partners to open new gates for the team on an ongoing basis. 

3. Challenge: Finding Talented Software Developers 

Solution: Through our network, we recruited highly talented software developers, educating them on Blockchain technology. Once we were able to land our first lead, we were able to utilize our network to grow the team and educate more developers.

 4. Challenge: Regulatory Requirements 

Solution: There was a learning curve of government bodies and lawmakers that we needed to overcome while the technology was introduced to them. There were very stringent rules that were imposed out of fear of the innovation, but with greater understanding today we’ve been enabled to proceed with the execution. 

Q4. What is your big-picture vision for the future of Pravica?

Pravica’s vision is two-fold. Initially and operationally, we want to start by entering the B2B market by introducing the application to enterprises within the fields of banking, education, and financial institutions to name a few. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we want to establish a strong name for innovation from the MENA region. By spearheading a simple-to-use application using Blockchain technology, as scarce as it is today, we can create a new norm for what is expected of communication privacy for all users. 

Q5. It is quite extraordinary that you managed to raise this round with the current COVID-19 crisis. Was this round in the works from much earlier? How did COVID-19 affect your fundraising efforts?

Generally speaking, fundraising is not easy under any economic circumstances. It really starts with establishing strong relationships with the VCs you’re targeting and attaining their alignment with your vision, mission, and future plans. When objectives are in sync, it makes the conversation smoother from both sides. Nonetheless, it was incrementally difficult to close the round given the limitations and effects of COVID-19. Fortunately, discussions had started earlier in the year and were not seeded during the crisis. 

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Q6. It’s safe to assume that after this round, you're going to have some exciting growth plans. Can you share some of Pravica’s short-term plans for expansion with us? 

It is surely going to be an exciting next 6 to 8 months. We will be heads-down focused on product development and funding the team along with recruiting additional talents to join us. This will set us up for success when we enter the next round of investment with a finalized product that is ready for market distribution. 

Q7. In your opinion, what are some of the most exciting things happening in the data security space (globally) right now?

How the global current epidemic situation has pushed decentralization into the picture of security and become not only an alternative to conventional security solutions and measures, it’s turning into the main domain in the conversation.

Blockchain as innovation has distributed the information security industry in terms of data availability and the WEB application architecture, the legacy of WEB 2.0, and the vulnerabilities in the client-server model have started to disappear in the WEB 3.0 era, even the attacks have been changed.   

Q8. What were you looking for from your investors, beyond capital?

It is definitely more than just the cash we’re seeking when we scope out potential investors. We’re looking for those individuals and companies who understand the value behind what we’re doing, and are aligned that there is a distinct need for our product in the market. Secondly, mentorship is key in order to continue positive success and growth not only from a business perspective but professionally. Lastly, we’re looking for investors who have a keen eye for the market that we’re entering, who can help with strategy, from marketing, pricing, expansion, and development - all critical to observe an upward trajectory for company growth. 

Q9. What do you foresee as the largest challenges to scaling Pravica in MENA / beyond?

As mentioned, the customer (in our case, business) adoption from the targeted enterprises will be tough. We are confident that we can convince them that technology comes with a value proposition not available within other platforms. The operational burden of transitioning a company’s information from one mechanism to another is time-consuming and inevitably costly. This will be the challenge we expect to be the most difficult to overcome, but I expect that the opportunistic upside of Pravica is more than worth the short-term burden of data migration. 

Q10. Finally, what advice would you give to yourself five years ago?

To trust my gut on what I really want to do, to never settle for what does not feel right for me for too long, and that luck is only an expression describing how many doors you knock. 

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COVID-19 further suppressed the number of deals in MENA-based startups in April but total funding increased by 202% as EMPG joined MENA’s unicorn list by raising $150M from existing shareholders. Learn more details in MAGNiTT’s April 2020 Dashboard.