Generation start-up: how UAE's Ziina is working to boost financial literacy in Middle East
The famous quote by American author Orrin Woodward fits well in the case of entrepreneur Faisal Toukan, who founded FinTech start-up Ziina — the UAE peer-to-peer (P2P) payment application — with co-founders Sarah Toukan and Andrew Gold.
Founded in January 2020, the Dubai-based start-up is on a mission to bring financial literacy and economic freedom to every person in the Middle East and eventually transform their lives.
“Money is a very tough topic to navigate, both personally and in social circles … we aim to clarify both,” says Jordanian-American Mr Toukan, 28, chief executive of Ziina.
“This is done by painstakingly paying attention to users, understanding their relationship to money as individuals and the people around them.
“Over the past months, we have proudly built products that are viewed as world class and have even been patented. We don’t intend to imitate existing solutions in other countries but are currently pioneering solutions in Dubai on a global scale.”
“There are 208,000 micro businesses and 113,000 small businesses in the UAE. These businesses are overlooked and underserved. We are addressing their pain points in financial transactions and carefully dedicating our products to them.”
Ziina’s products are also tailored to large businesses. It offers solutions like quick response (QR) codes and customisable links that can be disseminated on a mass scale.
These solutions are “perfect for legacy businesses looking to make a quick transition into accepting online payments”, Mr Toukan says.
The company also launched its digital wallet for both consumers and businesses in February this year. Since then, Ziina has released new products and feature enhancements every two weeks, it says.
Ziina’s first investors were the founders’ friends and family members, who contributed $200,000 to start the company. Since its inception, the start-up has raised nearly $9.4 million but it also has its own share of ups and downs
For example, for the first year, two of the co-founders did not take their salaries and one of the co-founders took a huge pay cut. But gradually things picked up as they attracted the attention of many investors.
“We are super privileged to have a wide base of strategic investors,” Mr Toukan says. “Each one brings different value to Ziina and have helped immensely in getting us to where we are today.