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Cairo-Based Concierge Service Elves Scores $2 Million Investment

The AI-powered app has raised its latest investments from Sawari Ventures, with participation from some of its other existing investors.

Raising its overall investments to $5 million, Egyptian startup, Elves, has gained a new $2 million investment for its in-app, AI-powered concierge service. The investment came from one of Egypt’s largest VCs, Sawari Ventures, alongside the Cairo-based startup’s existing investors.

Allowing users to do everything from book tickets, pay bills and purchase goods, to requesting customised services, Elves was launched in 2014 by Karim El Sahy and Abeer El Sisi. While offline services are only available to users in Egypt, Elves makes its online services available to users outside of it. 

Having started as a service on Facebook Messenger, Elves evolved into its own dedicated app, where users can chat to an ‘elf’. Though it can still be accessed via Messenger, a revamped version launched earlier this year has seen over 90% of Elves’ usage come through the app.

The last year hasn’t been all smooth-sailing for Elves, however. While the pandemic continues to push life into all things online and on-demand, there’s been a subplot to Elves’ maneuvering of the lockdown. Much of Elves revenue was coming through flight bookings, hotel reservations and event and cinema tickets - industries that were among the hardest hit during the pandemic. The startup responded by quickly pivoting to focus on essential services, with groceries being a particular hit. Elves managed to sign-up over 40 grocery partners and used exclusive deals to kick-start the new services.

“Intensely,” co-founder El Sahy told StartupScene when asked if the pandemic increased demand for the Elves. “We’ve grown 400/500% since February in terms of users and that’s pretty much the direct result of the pandemic.” El Sahy is quick to point out, however, that under the thumb of the pandemic, increased demand in the market didn’t immediately mean that investors were knocking at his door. “It made it a lot harder,” he says. “But as one of the few startups that was in the right space, we were able to do better than others.”

As for how the new investment - part of which was raised in February - will be used, El Sahy told StartupScene that it will be channelled into Elves’ AI technology, specifically to further develop the app’s natural language processing under the direction of recently hired CTO, Mohamed Beltagy.

Check out our interview with Elves COO partner, Con O'Donnell, for his take on the cost of Corona.

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