NOW Money has secured a place in Bahrain’s Fintech regulatory sandbox confirming what co-founder Ian Dillon told IFN Fintech last month: that the Dubai-based mobile banking and remittance fintech provider will be expanding its geographical footprint to wider Middle East. Above that, the start-up has also secured fresh funds to realize its growth plans.
It’s been an eventful month for NOW Money. Not only has the start-up, which targets the unbanked low-income migrant worker population, been accepted as one of the two entities to benefit from Bahrain’s new sandbox set-up, but it also successfully concluded a seed round raising US$700,000 from two US investors.
The investment from venture capital firms Accion Venture Lab and Newid Capital, which comes a year after NOW Money’s initial seed funding, will be channeled toward launching its services across the UAE and its foray into other GCC countries. Dillon previously told IFN Fintech that Saudi Arabia and Bahrain – respectively the largest and third-largest remittance markets in the region – were key priorities (See IFN Fintech August issue).
The idea of leveraging mobile banking technology to provide accounts, financial inclusion and a range of low-cost remittance options to low-income migrant workers in the Gulf region is an appealing one – for both those with a strong moral compass as well as those with acute business acumen. And investors from the west are recognizing the commercial opportunities in the business of financial inclusion the Middle East has to offer.
“Having what’s understood to be the first early stage investment from US venture capital into the Middle East is testament to the opportunities available here and how far the GCC has come in making itself a destination for investment. We hope this will be the first of many US venture capital investments in the region, and will help to grow the ecosystem further,” Dillon said.
“Our partnership with NOW Money marks a number of firsts for Accion Venture Lab – our first investment in the Middle East region, our first investment into a wholly-digital neobank and our first opportunity to focus on reaching low-income migrant workers,” added Amee Parbhoo, the director of investments at Accion Venture Lab. “As we reach this new group of financially underserved individuals, we’ll look to apply our learnings to Venture Lab’s work around the world.”
NOW Money, which holds a payment service provider license, facilitates Shariah compliant banking services through its partner Islamic bank.