YC-backed Zywa, a Teen-focused fintech raises $3M

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Zywa Co-Founders; Nuha Hashem and Alok Kumar (Photo: Supplied)

YC-backed Zywa, a teen-focused fintech startup aiming to re-imagine banking for Gen Z in the Middle East and North Africa, has announced a seed funding round of US$3 million. Investors who participated in the round include Goodwater Capital (the largest consumer tech VC globally), Dubai Future District Fund (venture capital fund of funds of Dubai, anchored by Dubai International Financial Centre and Dubai Future Foundation), Rebel Fund, Trampoline Venture Partners, Zemu VC, and some of the most prominent European family offices, as well as strategic angel investors. The funding shortly followed the company’s pre-seed round of US$1M raised in Feb 2022. The seed round also brings the YC-backed startup at a valuation that exceeds 110M AED, despite the current economic downturn.

Founded in 2021 by entrepreneurs Alok Kumar and Nuha Hashem, who were born and raised in Saudi Arabia, Zywa is bringing a unique solution to the region through offering a gamified community-based banking app and payment card to Gen Z between the age of 11-25 years old. In just 4 months of the pre-seed round, Zywa received 100,000+ signups. Gamification, community events, rewards and referrals contributed to the company’s rapid growth, in addition to integrating with more than 1,000+ brands tailored exclusively for Gen Z.

Alok Kumar, co-founder and CEO said, “Gen Zs in the UAE spend about AED 5B+ every year and still rely on cash or their parents’ cards despite having options like supplementary cards issued by their parents’ banks. While these options give access to digital payments, they are not fundamentally designed for Gen Z, and this is where we add value. We are Gen Z building for Gen Z, and aim to grow our product as they grow, to be the only financial services platform they will ever need. We are extremely proud to have global VCs such as Goodwater Capital, who is one among the early backers of Monzo, joining the round and investing for the first time in the region. The seed fund will help us focus on product, growth and strategic partnerships to accelerate our efforts in the UAE and Egypt markets, while prepping us to launch in Saudi Arabia by early 2023.”

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Nuha Hashem, co-founder and CTO added,  “With Gen Z, we need to hit the nail on the sweet spot between community, gamified learning and payment access. The Zywa app is already facilitating all the above and this can be seen in the 4.8+ star rating on the App Store, as well as 85%+ of our users being active on a weekly basis while 90% of our discord users interact with us on a daily basis. The seed round will help us create more product initiatives to give the best possible experience to our Gen Z users, while building their financial literacy. We want them to experience banking in a cool way that sets a high standard for them in the future. This funding will also help us tailor the product to a new audience in my home country (Egypt) and the country where I grew up (Saudi Arabia). We are proud to have a product that is localized to the MENA region and that Gen Z can resonate with.”

Samantha Ku (COO of Square Financial Services), and Min Park (ex-Executive Director at J.P. Morgan and General Partner at RNR Capital), who were among the investors who joined the round, also added, “We are excited to back Zywa as we believe financial education needs to be revolutionized for teens in this changing economy. Giving exposure to kids early on about saving and personal finance fundamentals and done in an engaging way sets up the next generation for success.”

Backed by Y Combinator, as well as prestigious governmental accelerators in UAE such as DIFC’s Fintech Hive and Mubadala’s Hub71, Zywa is creating a community of teens in the UAE who can connect and network with each other, while building their financial literacy. Zywa has launched a number of community programs such as internships, influencer partnerships, community events and more with key public and private sector entities in the UAE.

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