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Fintech for a Future: Why Changelabs' Jordan Accelerator Has Come at the Right Time

As the first fintech accelerator if its kind in Jordan, Changelabs' latest programme is looking to provide a platform for a market of untapped innovators.

As we reflect on a most difficult year for all, entrepreneurs and investors alike will already be keen to see what 2021 might bring. Whether you’re an e-commerce platform from Cairo, or an agritech startup from Abu Dhabi, the coming 12 months will be critical in shaping how the regional ecosystem deals with the ‘new normal’ of a post-corona world.

So far, the word on everyone’s lips is ‘digitisation’, a process that started years ago, but one that has been accelerated amidst social distancing rules. The usual suspects have popped up, with the likes of UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt leading the way amongst spatterings from across the region.

But what of the rest? What of other ecosystems? What of somewhere like Jordan?

The Levantine nation might not be the first name on many experts’ lists, but a new accelerator by ChangeLabs is set to shine the light on what many consider to be MENA’s best kept entrepreneurial secret.

Though it’s the first of its kind in Jordan, the programme has been launched in partnership with SANAD and FMO, a varied, 15-strong cohort of startups are being put through their paces as we speak after being chosen from over 150 applicants. On their part, Changelabs have curated a 12-week virtual programme that will aim to equip the chosen 15 with all the tools they need.

Why Jordan, Why Now?

Today, more than ever, entrepreneurship is becoming one of the most sought out ways to turn MENA's challenges into profitable opportunities. Our first Cohort in Jordan is set to help the local startups do just that

Like much of the MENA region, Jordanian’s remain largely unbanked, despite the population being widely digitally connected. According to Changelabs, 89% of Jordanians are signed to an internet subscription and 90% of its households own smartphones. In fact, it's estimated that access to broadband internet in Jordan ranks among the cheapest in the region.

These numbers read great, indicating a land fit and fertile for digitisation. It’s the other numbers, however, that don’t read so well, with an estimated 75% of the population excluded from the banking sector, the majority of which are women and youth. Another niggling stat states that 67% of Jordanians above the age of 15 do not own an account that provides access to the formal financial system, while 38% of adults are excluded from that system altogether.

Remedying these issues will be no easy task, but with this accelerator, Jordan’s most innovative fintech startups are primed to bring forth change. In addition to SANAD and FMO, the accelerator has also found ready-and-willing partners in Orange, MadfooatCom and AMazon Web Services, bringing plenty of pedigree to the sweeping programme.

“One of the biggest challenges in Jordan is developing a consistent and robust pipeline of new startups to fuel the ecosystem’s growth and success,” Changelabs co-founder, Karim Samra, says of the new programmes. “Changelabs is working with local, regional and global partners to bring its award-winning programs to the country and help young entrepreneurs, in all areas and of all ages, bring their ideas to market.

Co-founder, Jamal Khayyat, echoed that sentiment, adding that entrepreneurship holds the key to many of Jordan’s issues. “Today, more than ever, entrepreneurship is becoming one of the most sought out ways to turn MENA's challenges into profitable opportunities. Our first Cohort in Jordan is set to help the local startups do just that.”

Who Are the Startups Ready to Usher Jordan into a Digitised Future?


For Changelabs, the time to move is now and for this trailblazing accelerator, they have sought startups addressing financial inclusion and literacy, accessible banking solutions, mobile payments and other adjacent fields.

The 12-week virtual programme hopes to fine-tune the strengths of the startups, while also equipping them with the everything they need to take their innovation to the next level.  not least with dedicated mentors, most of whom - quite refreshingly - are from MENA ecosystems.

Alpha
Alpha is an electronic platform specialised in matching existing loan programs to new projects, enabling users to evaluate and compare the most suitable ones given the project requirements, duration, and type.

Mentor: Amr Kamal Abou Elazm, Chairman & CEO of Tamweely Micro Finance

ArabiaClouds
ArabiaClouds provides a range of easy-to-use and affordable cloud business apps to form a complete suite of tools to satisfy the business needs of startups and SMEs that can’t afford traditional solutions. Their applications are comprehensive and include invoicing, inventory management, multi-branch support, CRM tracking and POS integration.

Mentor: Inji Borai, Senior Managing Consultant at Mastercard

Cashbee
Cashbee wants to become the Uber for cash delivery by turning taxis into ATM machines.

Mentor: Mohamed Abdelmottaleb, Founder & Managing Partner at XPay

Cayyesh
Cayyesh is a free cash back rewards mobile application, that gives consumers real cash for purchases made at partner merchants, earning cash back rewards. The company provides merchants with an end-to-end performance marketing solution that empowers them to better plan, execute and optimise their digital advertising campaigns leveraging data analysis and digital technology in one seamless, cloud-based platform.

Mentor: Zeid Husban, Founder & Chief Executive Astronaut of POSRocket

Changecom
Changecom is a personal finance management platform that helps users save as they spend and use their savings to access more value-added financial services while helping banks onboard new customers and increase their term deposit rates.

Mentor: Mostafa Elnahhas, CTO & Co-Founder of Fawry

DareebaTech
DareebaTech is a one-stop-shop tax processing system that offers simpler and smarter e-tax filing with instant tax advice that helps taxpayers optimise their tax situation. DareebaTech’s system also offers companies case management features and enables them to easily manage their employees’ tax requirements.

Mentor: Mohannad Ebwini, Founder & CEO of HyperPay

Frata
Frata is an innovative financial technology service that provides a saving solution for everyday small transactions, where users can save the extra coins directly to their in-app wallet and reuse them through Frata merchants and partners.

Mentor: Amr Kamal Abou Elazm, Chairman & CEO of Tamweely Micro Finance

GoCash
GoCash enables neighborhood shops to act as virtual ATMs using just a smartphone or the existing point of sale system. It democratises the process of cash distribution in order to reduce the cost of cash while increasing accessibility and convenience.

Mentor: Mohamed Abdelmottaleb, Founder & Managing Partner at XPay

IVVEST
IVVEST is revolutionising the financing of agricultural projects in Jordan by enabling large numbers of consumers to invest directly in the company’s automated IoT indoor hydroponic farming systems to generate a return and help supply the country with fresh, high quality, organic produce.

Mentor: Chijioke Dozie, Co-Founder of Carbon

Loose Change
Loose Change helps users generate savings and make purchases by rounding up credit card transactions to the nearest dollar, keeping the difference, and saving. Very much like a virtual piggy bank, users can then make payments online directly through the application.

Mentor: Ahmed Elsherif, Venture Producer at Rainmaking

Phinger
Phinger is a mobile payment and digital wallet service that allows users to make payments in person, in apps, and on the web.

Mentor: Mohannad Ebwini, Founder & CEO of HyperPay

QuiQ Claim
QuiQ Claim is a peer-to-peer settlement and investments platform, aiming at helping healthcare service providers to better manage their cash flows by accessing short term financing of unpaid receivables from the medical insurance industry

Mentor: Nasser Salah, CEO & Founder of MadfooatCom

Ship Cash
Ship Cash helps consumers who want to shop online pay in cash by offering instant payment services for E-commerce stores through cash on delivery.

Mentor: Abdulaziz Al Jouf, Foundr & CEO of PayTabs

Tanda
Tanda is a fully digital, mobile, financial solutions provider, which aims to promote financial inclusion in the MENA region whereby users can organise and join informal saving clubs and manage their finances.

Mentor: Nasser Salah, CEO & Founder of MadfooatCom

Wallet ERP
Wallet ERP is a cloud-based enterprise resource planning tool meant to support small and midsized organizations. It’s available on web, desktop and mobile, and can be used without access to the internet. Wallet ERP already has a customization control for many of the existing components and modules such as auditing, accounts tree and invoicing structure, with a continuous plan to give users more tools to control and to customize their workflow.

Mentor: Chijioke Dozie, Co-Founder of Carbon

In addition to these one-on-mentors, Changelabs have built what can only be described as an even wider network of industry heavyweights and experts for the programme. Subject matter experts have been drafted in to essentially be on call for questions that the competing entrepreneurs may have, each of which offers a particular area of expertise. For example, Fifth Tribe's Adam Motiwala is on hand to offer advice when it comes to digital marketing abd founder of Eversound, Jake Reisch, is the man to turn to for questions on fundraising. Elsewhere,  Daoud Law Firm's founder and CEO, Khaled Daoud, will offer legal advice and Mody Capital's Simon Tkachenko is sharing his expertise of financial modeling, while other areas covered include teaming, pitching, IT/tech and design.

There will also be a rotation of the proiigramme's 'Entrepreneurs in Residence, which will see the likes of Capiter's Mahmoud Nouh, Abdelrahman Elsharawy of Vapulus and founder and CEO of Flick, Ahmed Zalat, offer advice on day-to-day challenges.

What Happens Next? 


Well, the programme will come to a head on February 4th, when the startups will take one final step in pitching their startups to investors during a virtual demo day. Stay tuned and follow Changlabs on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, as well as their official website.




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