Funds to aid augment its infrastructure expand its team and regional footprint to MENA countries
Tunisian-based peer-to-peer fashion marketplace Dabchy, today announced that it has closed a seed round of US$300,000. The funding was led by 500 Startups with participation from Flat6labs Tunis, Saudi Venture Capital, Vision Venture Capital, Daal Venture Capital and a group of leading angel investors. Dabchy is an online platform that facilitates its users to sell both pre-used and new clothes online at low cost.
Dabchy, a Tunis-based peer-to-peer (P2P) fashion marketplace has raised $300,000 in a seed round led by 500 Startups and joined by Flat6Labs, Saudi Venture Capital Company (SVC), Khobar-based Vision Ventures and Daal, and a group of angel investors.
Dabchy, was launched in January 2016 in Tunisia, by Amani Mansouri, Ghazi Ketata and Oussama Mahjoub. Today, the platform has built a large community of more than 400,000 users. Over the past six months, the catalog of items listed on the website has doubled to 420,000. This makes Dabchy the largest online stores in Tunisia, with more than 2,000 items being listed per day and is expanding its operations to the Mena region.
“With this investment, Dabchy will accelerate its investment in product development, expand its team and regional footprint, and scale our platform to continue to make it easier for our users to buy and sell, “ said Amani Mansouri, CEO of Dabchy, who has been lately featured by Forbes Middle East’s 30 under 30 list in 2019. “ At Dabchy, we operate as a trusted third between buyers and sellers and have facilitated more than 100,000 transactions to-date. Our ambition is to become the number one fashion marketplace in the region and to empower a new generation of women to become microentrepreneurs by creating their own businesses online and to take a lead role in sustainability. “
Commenting on the announcement, Hasan Haider, Partner, 500 Startups said: “We’re pleased to back the team behind Dabchy and make this our first investment into the Tunisian market. What the team have managed to achieve so far has been amazing, and we look forward to Dabchy continuing to lead the way for used fashion online in North Africa. There is a significant market need and demand for the product, and that has already been demonstrated by their traction so far.”
Dabchy has already begun celebrating its achievements as a leading product. In 2019, Dabchy was the first Tunisian and African startup to join the European Fashion Tech Incubator,Look forward by Showroomprivé in Paris. The company also participated in the second cohort of Womentum, a women in tech accelerator by Womena in partnership with Standard Chartered.
In 2018, Dabchy.com was listed among the first 100 top African and Arab promising startups by IFC- International Finance Corporation and the World Economic Forum. In 2017, Dabchy joined the first acceleration cycle of Flat6labs, Tunis. Following the program, the company also launched Dabchy Kids that year.
For the three venture capitalist firms, 500 Startups, Vision VC and Daal VC, Dabchy is their first investment in a Tunisian startup.
Kais Al-Essa, Founding Partner and CEO of Vision Venture said : “ We’ve been eyeing the North African market beyond Egypt specifically Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. This market is starting to boom and the community is your and tech savvy. Dabchy’s business model proved to be needed in the market with a limited investment, we expect it will dominate soon with further investment especially in the leadership of the talented Amani Mansouri”,
In the past few years, several nations and even regional forces have been working towards achieving environmental sustainability, with the EU standing at the helm of recognising the achievement of environmental sustainability as one of its main objectives by 2030 — joined by the UN and several other factions. While progress has been made, the planet still suffers, and most of the MENA countries stand accountable for some of the biggest ecological footprints in relation to their biocapacity as reported in EcoMENA.
In layman terms, the environmental harm instigated by MENA countries towards nature and wildlife exceeds the earth’s capacity to recover. Policy makers, movements, institutions, and other bodies of different countries in MENA are trying to address the issue as the impact on the environment can extend to affect the economic strength of countries. With such a challenge facing MENA countries, innovative entrepreneurs are weaving environmentally-friendly startups to play an integral role in the fight towards sustainability, and many of them are from the Flat6Labs regional programs.
With a history of pushing startups to regional and international exposure after their graduation from the programs, Flat6Labs stands as a leading force in the startup ecosystem; contributing massively to the growth of the startup ecosystem in the MENA region. Flat6Labs plays a seemingly strong role in the development of startups and their social impact, which can be clearly seen through their selection of startups and how their startups affect their communities.
Thus, Flat6Labs have proven to be essential catalysts in the fight towards environmental sustainability. However, those who are standing on the front lines are the startups with their innovative ideas of a better earth. And, in order to understand what our startups are fighting, we should lay ground for the challenges that stand in the way towards environmental sustainability. A research by Mathis Wackernagel, Susan Sakmar, Alessandro Galli, and David Moore, identified six major challenges that stand in the way, with water scarcity and quality topping the list. Following suit were land degradation and desertification; urban and industrial pollution; inadequate waste management; coastal and marine environment degradation; and air pollution and climate change.
Here is how the startups are facing the challenges head on.
Reform Studio (Flat6Labs Cairo — Spring 2014 Cycle)
Co-founded by Mariam Hazem and Hend Riad, and accelerated during Flat6Labs Cairo Spring 2014’s cycle, the Egyptian-born startup weaved a new fabric, Plastex, out of used plastic handbags. They are currently using what they call a “more durable and eco-friendly solution” to weave out beautiful products that could be integrated into different production processes, like chairs and bags. They have stated on their website that plastic handbags, on average, are thrown away after 12 mins of use, whereas plastic material takes years to degrade. Hence, was their creation. Their solution could play largely in waste management and protecting wildlife from plastic waste, and it also reduces urban and industrial pollution.
Lifelab BioDesigns (Flat6Labs Beirut — Spring 2019 Cycle)
Founded by Ali Makhzoum and accelerated during Flat6Labs Beirut Spring 2019 Cycle, the hydroponic-automated farming builds that Lifelab BioDesigns creates, uses water and minerals for nutrition instead of soil to grow plants. This process uses less resources and helps in the natural resources management. On one part, it reduces soil erosion because water is being used instead of soil; and since the process is automated, water is used in specific amounts over extended periods of time. It also limits or even stops the use of pesticides, which is one of the causes of soil erosion and water streams contamination.
Agrona (Flat6Labs Cairo – Spring 2019 Cycle)
While most wood scraps/un-utilised vegetable crop residues are thrown away after cutting down trees, the co-founders of Agrona thought different. Coming out of the Flat6Labs Cairo’s Spring 2019 cycle, Agrona founders saw the waste management problem and lack of efficient use of natural resources, and they had to address it through their bright solution: particleboards made out of recycled wood. They believe that if the plan goes through, their startup will indefinitely reduce the need to cut down forests, and it will help provide job opportunities for a large number of people, including farmers and people in rural communities.
Tagaddod (Flat6labs Cairo — Summer 2013 Cycle)
After the technological advancements that has been made in different industries, energy in its different forms has become the source of life nowadays However, this advancement came with an unbearable cost to nature: the burning of fossil fuel, gases, more has punched a hole through the ozone and through our lungs as well. Air pollution, climate change, and industrial and urban pollution have been pushed to the bearable limit. With the Flat6labs Cairo graduate, Tagaddod, from Summer 2013 Cycle, their eco-friendly bio-diesel solution will pave the way towards lessening the harm on the ozone and the air we all breathe. Also, they have another initiative called Green Pan through which they collect used cooking oil to help in the disposal of used cooking oil and to recycle it.
On the topic of waste management, Bekia, a graduate from Flat6Labs Cairo’s Fall 2018 cycle, is an online platform that exchanges recyclable material like cooking oil, plastic, and papers with goods and services. The role Bekia plays, takes part in resolving the waste management problem that the MENA region faces. Although their services are currently offered in Egypt, but, hopefully, we will see them expanding to the rest of the MENA region soon.
Wattnow (Flat6Labs Tunis — Winter 2018 Cycle)
Coming out of the Flat6Labs Tunis seed program’s Winter 2018 cycle, Wattnow was created to operate in the home of the average consumers to reduce energy consumption by monitoring electricity usage. This solution allows users to reduce their consumption by 30%, and this reduction also decreases the weight of the carbon footprint. Most countries, especially in the MENA, depend on fossil fuel to generate electricity, which leaves a strong carbon footprint; it, negatively, affects the air we breathe, it catalyses climate change, and contributes to the industrial and urban pollution. With this solution, the harm will be effectively lessened.
Spectre (Formerly known as IOTree, Flat6Labs Beirut — Summer 2019 Cycle)
Spectre is a solution able to capture, detect, and warn the farmers about the med fly that is the most dangerous pest targeting the agricultural market in the MENA nowadays. While the threat of the fly is real, the extensive use of pesticides against it poses a great harm to the environment. Such chemicals have greatly contributed to soil erosion and water pollution, rendering most lands unfarmable and water streams unusable. This is exactly where Spectre comes in, with their device monitoring farms, they can easily detect when exactly to spray the pesticide and how much of it would be needed. With the process becoming both effective and efficient, land and water are prone to a much lower degree of contamination. This solution is but one step towards greener farming and agritech. This startup is a Flat6Labs Beirut graduate of 2019’s Summer cycle.
Flat6Labs Bahrain hosted its Third Demo Day at The Ritz Carlton Bahrain, where 6 startups from its third cycle showcased their businesses in front of an audience consisting of VIPs, investors, high-net worth individuals, ecosystem partners and other prominent officials.
The third cycle received over 250 applications from more than 45 countries which was then narrowed down to a final selection of 6 Startups that consisted of teams both local and international, with businesses offering products and services from a wide range of industries such as HealthTech, Artificial Intelligence, FoodTech, E-Services, EdTech and Online Recruitment.
Throughout the four-month intensive developmental program, they were given access to world-class trainers, mentors and coaches as well as a host of perks, office space, investor clinics, legal support and company registration in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
“We are very proud of our achievements in the Kingdom of Bahrain and that of our startups, with every cycle we continue to address the gaps in the Bahraini market and accelerate startups that provide solutions to these. Our 3rd cycle has progressed greatly through our well-rounded programme and we look forward to supporting future businesses that will join our upcoming cohorts,” said Ryaan Sharif, Managing Director of Flat6Labs Bahrain.
“We are very grateful to our partners Tamkeen and EDB for not only supporting our programme but their efforts as well in creating a dynamic startup ecosystem in Bahrain,” he added.
Tamkeen’s Chief Executive Dr. Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi hailed Flat6Labs accelerator program as an important opportunity for startups to further build up their expertise and teach them how to navigate the business world efficiently.
“This program is one of the best programs for startups to grow. It offers a comprehensive set of mentoring activities and hand-on experience to qualify them with required professional skills for their presentations to investors,” Dr Janahi added.
Pakiza Abdulrahman, Business Development Manager, Startups at the Bahrain Economic Development Board said:
“Organisations like Flat6Labs are what provide the infrastructure that has been so crucial in rapidly developing Bahrain into the world-class startup hub that it is today. It’s fantastic to see yet another diverse batch of innovative startups graduating from their programme to join and contribute further to the ecosystem. I can’t wait to watch them grow and scale across the region and beyond.”
Flat6Labs is a regional startup accelerator program and seed investment company that fosters growth and invests in bright and passionate entrepreneurs with cutting-edge ideas. It provides seed funding, strategic mentorship, a creative workspace along with a multitude of perks and entrepreneurship focused business training. In addition, it directly supports startups through an expansive network of partner entities, mentors and investors.
The program accepts startups with innovative solutions from all sectors. Over the next three years, Flat6Labs Bahrain is braced to support and invest in over 40 local and international startups, with two cycles of the program per year. The fourth cycle will commence in December 2019 and the deadline for applications is September 22nd 2019.
Flat6Labs Bahrain accepts applications from all countries and nationalities; applications can be made through the website.
Flat6Labs has created an environment where entrepreneurs can advance their company in an incredible pace and a short period of time. Flat6Labs currently has accelerator programs and seed funds in Cairo, Jeddah, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Tunis and most recently in Bahrain.
After the successful launch of StartEgypt initiative in Cairo two years ago to push forward the most innovative cairene entrepreneurs, then in Assiut to be a hub for aspiring innovators from Upper Egypt, StartEgypt, proudly, launched in Alexandria to, yet again, help in the nourishment of the young minds who are seeking social impact through their ideas. The StartEgypt initiative is funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID); supported by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) a member of the World Bank Group; and powered by Flat6Labs.
With the launch of StartEgypt Alexandria and the eight new startups joining its first incubation cycle, we’ll see those new startups thrive to inspire, build, accelerate and have indefinite social impact in the environmental, healthcare, renewable energy, and educational industries.
The launch event of StartEgypt saw those startups pitching their ideas to a number of entrepreneurs, representatives from the British Embassy, and investors who are looking for the next big idea.
While the aforementioned startups target four important industries, StartEgypt Alex’s scope of industries is bigger, as it also includes marginalised communities, financial inclusion, agriculture, and transportation sectors whom are represented thoroughly through StartEgypt’s existence in different cities across Egypt.
Over the course of upcoming 15 weeks, the startups from StartEgypt Alex’s cycle one will be mentored, coached, and given different types of resources to develop their products/services and compete to earn two spots on the StartEgypt Forum day.
The forum will also host several other startups from StartEgypt Assiut (2 startups) and Cairo (10 startups). The winner on the Annual StartEgypt Forum day will get a chance at getting scouted and accelerated by the Flat6Labs Cairo team and a chance at receiving funding of up to $25k.
Choosing the right team is essential to your business’ success. You could be a brilliant entrepreneur with an awesome business idea destined for success, but if you don’t have the right people on your team, you won’t go far. Based on CB Insights report on the top reasons startups fail, which was conducted on 311 flamed out startups, 23% of startups fail due to not having the right team — it’s also the third most common reason for startup failure.
During the Flat6Labs Cairo 4 month acceleration program, we help our startups find the right candidates for their business by co-hosting a talent match-making event with one of the biggest online recruiting companies, Wuzzuf; and by offering them sessions on how to acquire the best talents and how to build a strong team delivered by top industry experts. Our applications are open all year long — you can apply on our website.
We strongly believe that creating a company from the ground up and growing it to a full-scale enterprise takes a well-rounded team that can overcome the many obstacles that come their way. To make sure that your company moves in the right direction, never loses focus, and grows to its full potential, there are certain personality types that you always need to have on your team — from the get-go!
1- The Visionary
Because of the magnitude of their thinking, they’re often entrepreneurs themselves. They are the masterminds that can come up with the most world-changing products and services. They’re always ahead of the curve in terms of, identifying potential problems and coming up with solutions that can change the course of humanity.
Even if you already have a big vision for your company, you still need to have a visionary on your team. They will help you create the right strategies to achieve, finalise, and realise your vision.
One of the best examples of this type of personality is the co-founder of Apple; Steve Jobs. Before Jobs came back to Apple and during the final quarter of 1996, Apple’s sales plummeted by 30 percent. The brilliant entrepreneur was able to save Apple from being on the brink of bankruptcy by decreasing the number of products by 70% and focusing only on four main products. He saw that focusing on quality and innovation rather than quantity will radically change the company’s future. One year later, Jobs’ vision did pay off, and the company turned a $309 million profit.
Good Habits 1: Train yourself to innovate every day. Grab a notebook and write down three ideas on how to develop your product.
2- The Social Butterfly
They are socially dynamic, networking, charismatic, and personally gregarious. A social butterfly is an extreme extrovert brimming with energy and confidence, who truly believe in your vision for the company and want to play an active part in helping you achieve it. They are exceptional marketers who know your solution well enough and understand its business needs.
A great example of this type of personality is the youngest self-made billionaire; Kylie Jenner. The famous Kardashian was able to build a one billion dollar cosmetic brand without manufacturing anything! Kylie Cosmetics is only responsible for marketing through social media, and other companies manufacture, package and distribute the products. In its first 18 months, the company made 420 million dollars in sales. All that success came mainly from Jenner’s social media followers. She has 145M followers on Instagram and a massive audience on Snapchat. The estimated value of a single post is $1 M.
Good Habit 2: Find a hobby or an activity that’s social. It’ll be easier to expand your social circle with people who share your passion.
3- The Ultimate Optimist
Running a business comes with its pressures and challenges. When things are not going your way, it’s easy to lose hope and look for the easy way out. That is why you need an ultimate optimist on your team.
As the name suggests, these are extremely positive people who stay calm under pressure and see the brighter side of things even in the darkest of moments. They have belief and conviction in the abilities of your team, and know that every obstacle is only a stepping stone for greater success.
Gary Vaynerchuk (or Gary Vee) is the perfect example whenever we talk about optimistic entrepreneurs. Vaynerchuk and his family immigrated to the US from Belarus in 1978, and he lived with 8 family members in a studio apartment in Queens, New York. Today, the 43-year-old runs a multimillion-dollar digital marketing company that he founded. The company’s clients include Fortune 500 companies like General Electric, Budweiser, Toyota, Revlon, and Unilever.
The brilliant entrepreneur succeeded despite his humble beginnings and despite the fact that he was a D- and F-student in school. He attributes that success to his unshakable self-confidence and optimism. “I do believe that blind optimism, naïveté, and self-confidence are enormously delicious traits that allow you to win more often than you lose.” Says Vaynerchuk on one of the episodes of DailyVee, a full-blown vlog documenting his life as a CEO.
Good Habit 3: Notice Negative Thoughts. Becoming aware of your negative thoughts and how often they occur will help you realize when and why you are negative. Maybe you’re more negative during stressful situations or when you’re feeling emotional. Being mindful of your pessimistic thoughts will help you pinpoint what’s causing you to feel negative.
4- The Hacker
They are your go-to people whenever you want to find an innovative solution. They know shortcuts to do things more effectively, and they understand your business from A to Z. They’re not necessarily technical or functional experts. But they have a tendency to question everything and explore it their own way. As a result, they grasp concepts quickly, and find out ways to use them for business benefit.
When you have hackers on your team, you always have a great chance to outmaneuver your competitors, and reverse-engineer successful products to build something more useful. When you get into trouble, they are your risk management experts who can turn the seemingly inescapable horrors to greater opportunities for growth and success.
Serial entrepreneur Elon Musk is the definition of “the hacker”. In December 2016, The forward-thinking co-founder and CEO of both Tesla and SpaceX became frustrated while stuck in heavy Los Angeles traffic. He tweeted “Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging…” Why sit in traffic above ground when you could speed ahead below it? Most people complain about traffic, but Musk took action. Two years later, he made a brief public appearance to unveil the completed tunnel.
Good Habit 4: Fix it for yourself: Whenever you face a problem in your business, take some time and try to fix it first before you call for help.
5- The Expert
They are the heart and soul of the company — they know the ins and outs of your core product or service. They are functional experts who understand the importance of what you have built, how it helps your customers, and what improvements you can bring to make it more useful.
If you’re not an expert yourself, there’s no shame in hiring a know-it-all experts to help you understand every aspect of your business, stand out from your competitors, and create a product that exceeds the expectations of your customers. “If you don’t understand the details of your business you are going to fail.” Said Jeff Bezos, the CEO & Founder of the well-known e-commerce company, Amazon.
These experts, along with the other 4 types discussed above, will be the backbone of your business model, and will provide you with a strong foundation on which you can build a vibrant organization.
Good Habit 5: Track one major business metric daily: In order to truly understand the core of your business, you need to focus on at least one business metric per day, and try to learn something new about it.
On the 4th of September, we bore witness to the official press conference of the acquisition of the matchmaking app Harmonica by the tech giant, Match Group; as well as, Flat6Labs full exit from the marriage app. Harmonica’s CEO, Sameh Saleh; Match Group’s CEO of EMEA & APAC, Alexandre Lubot; Flat6Labs’ Co-founder, Ahmed El Alfi; and Hona Al Shabab Presenter, Lamees El Hadidy, along with a number of other renowned investors, journalists, and supporters of the application were there to celebrate the occasion and talk about the future plans of Harmonica.
During the press conference, Sameh Saleh, CEO & Cofounder of Harmonica, highlighted that their belief “that every culture is unique on its own, is why we created the Harmonica App.” He also added that he is delighted to be part of the Match Group, which will eventually enable Harmonica’s team to further develop the application and expand beyond the bounds of Egypt, and even the MENA region. On another note, the matchmaking guru, said,
“I want to thank Flat6Labs because they believed in us and supported us since the very beginning.” — Sameh Saleh, CEO & Co-founder of Harmonica
Shortly afterwards, Alexandre Lubot, Match Group’s CEO of EMEA & APAC, said that “there is nothing more important to us than helping people find love,” and that through the acquisition of the conservative marriage app they are planning on expanding their reach to more MENA and South-East Asian countries.
The plans of expansion and this acquisition deal pay testament to the capabilities of the young Egyptian entrepreneurs, whom Lamees El Hadidy, Presenter of Hona Al Shabab thoroughly supports through her TV program.
“We should always talk about the future. We should always talk about our startups and the young founders we have,” Hadidy said.
Being one of the early supporters of Harmonica, especially after they ranked 2nd in Hona Al Shabab competition, Hadidy had few words to say about the progress they have made in only 18 months after the Flat6Labs Cairo acceleration period. She also highlighted the role that accelerators play in supporting this ecosystem, and stressed that
“Ahmed El Alfi, Flat6Labs’ Co-founder, role is very important in this ecosystem, and I commend him on continuing to provide space and support for entrepreneurs to innovate and scale.”
By the end of the press conference, El Alfi had a closing word to celebrate this milestone, and to congratulate the Flat6Labs, Harmonica, and Match Groups’ teams on coming this far. El Alfi’s belief in Egyptian startups is what got him and other Co-founders to kick off Sawari Ventures, then Flat6Labs Cairo. This belief is also restated in
“Ideas are open source, execution is proprietary,”
where he emphasised that Harmonica’s efforts, diligence and hard-work is what got them to the point where a $20bn company acquired them.
After El Alfi’s last words, the day concluded with a party that hosted all those who have taken part in this success and key players in the local and international startup ecosystem.
The Story Behind Amounting Millions of Investments From Laundry
Leaders are catalysts of change, they innovate after years of wear and tear to civilisations-old manuals. After graduating from Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi’s Spring 2015 cycle, the laundry startup, Washmen, was already on a path to becoming one of the leading laundry shops in the UAE. We sat with its CEO & Co-founder, Rami Shaar, to talk about how they are revolutionising the laundry industry, the backstory to their success, their plans for the future in regards to their services, and how they plan on allocating the most recent investments towards scaling and development.
Why did you decide to localise your service in a plant of your own instead of outsourcing to local laundry shops?
There isn’t a lot of good quality, or big players in the market who’d give us a price that makes sense for the business and the quality. Hence, we thought that it’d be a good idea for us to build our own facility, which would eventually give us a 5x scaling opportunity. It helped us — significantly — improve the quality. Also, we had gotten into a stage in the business where running a very large facility is equal to the cost of outsourcing. It just didn’t make sense to outsource anymore. Especially given that if we start scaling further past it, it will give us more gross profits; since we will have the ability to acquire new customers with more items for laundry. So the reasons are mainly financial and operational.
Do you think owning a plant brings with it more operational complexities?
There is a certain limit to how much we can force our suppliers to use our tech, and to integrate them deep into their operations because they are not willing to accept certain ways on how to do business.
We can say that the way we do things is more operationally efficient, and we collectively have decided that the best way to move forward and to manage our supply chain was by owning the facility. In addition, owning our own facility allows us to build tech that was very deep into the supply chain, and to be consistent with out quality.
Hence, with our dependence on our own factory, our services can be more customisable, especially given that we can build more tech within the operations to be able to follow up on specific instructions of our customers.
We are also working on developing a camera monitoring technology that will allow us to monitor, pinpoint and know where to put accountability when it comes to damages and lost goods. It goes towards monitoring employees and processes to see how efficiency can be improved.
What differentiates your services from similar ones in the market?
If something gets damaged or lost, in this industry, consumer rights dictate that companies are to pay 10 times the price of the service. For us, we are more confident that we won’t damage or lose any goods, so we offer 20 times the price of the service. Sometimes we even go above and beyond if we know that there is negligence on our part. That’s really the overall quality, the overall operations, and how it translates to lower risk towards the customer.
Moreover, in our app, we have a call centre and a live chat function; and we also have founders who are very involved with our customers. Having a direct channel of communication with our customers allows us to also improve our services through feedback, and to understand what is it exactly that our customers want in order for us to have a better product-market fit.
Logistically speaking, using the app is much easier than calling somebody. This can be attributed to having a pickup and drop off service, so the customer doesn’t really need to drive anywhere. We also have online payments, and not a lot of players in the market offer that, and we have a much higher quality that is non existent in the market at the moment.
Something that really stands out now at washmen, is that we have introduced commercial hand washing, and commercial hand drying. Basically, it is a process that mimics hand-wash, and hand dry, but we do it industrially in the facility. This is mainly done through very special machines. Also, we have plans for a shoe cleaning service because a lot of our customers have been asking for it, so that’s next in line.
Do you think that your service can be integrated into AIs like Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, etc…?
That’s actually coming out in the next two weeks. We’re working on being able to have a conversation with Siri to order your laundry. It is actually part of the iOS 13 launch; and we’ve partnered with Apple to become a part of their Siri Conversations. Later, we will be moving to Google Assistant and Alexa and all that. The idea here is not just to be cool, but the idea here is how we can make the process even more efficient to our customer through the use of AI. There are also a couple of interesting things out there like IBM Watson, and we could integrate it alongside our service agents, where IBM Watson learns from how our service agents work and he can take part in managing our customer complaints, feedback, and give them support, all using AI.
What is the biggest challenge that comes with over $6m worth of investments?
We were pretty confident after we have done our R&D that we will be capable of putting any amount of investment into good use. However, I think the biggest challenge is always growth and scaling demand. It is great to have a “kickass” facility, but at the same time you are building for scalability, so if you don’t achieve that growth and scalability then the story ends. It is very important to be operationally excellent and have scalability in hand. The major challenge going forward, is continuing to scale the demand side of the business, not just the operational. Regardless, we’re very data driven, and we have a lot of tech tools that aid our quest in scaling and growing.
What is your biggest achievement so far?
Besides the +$6m of investments and getting amazing partners like Henkel, I think that would be building the strongest know-how of laundry in the whole world, whether it is offline or online.
Laundry has always existed since the beginning of civilisation, we were always washing clothes and after all those decades, we as a company have done things better than all civilisations have ever done. We’ve innovated in four years, much more than any other civilisation has done.
If you look at the dry cleaning and laundry services in the last few years, they haven’t changed. They use the same machines, the same chemicals, and the same processes. We’re a global leader in our know-how of how to do laundry. Research and interviews have been conducted in everything related to laundry, and they concluded that what we’ve developed here is miles away from a lot of players out there.
So yes, we are a company based out of Dubai, but we are a global company in the know-how that we have.
How do you think this industry in the MENA will change in the upcoming years?
It is similar to how the food online delivery business were back in the day, it wasn’t that easy to order food from your phone. You needed to call someone, pay cash, etc.. People were cooking at home and bringing their lunches to work, but now as we become more consumed with work, having access to such apps saves us time and effort that we’d rather spend on work. That kind of convenience can be replicated in laundry, where in the future people might actually stop using and depending on home appliances or even buying them to wash their stuff, and instead outsource them to a company like us.
Do you have any plans of expansion inside the MENA or Dubai?
Currently, no. We’re actually looking for bigger markets outside Dubai and MENA, since most of our investors, are invested in laundry operations located inside: London, New York, and South Korea. These places have huge competition and opportunities for high growth, but none of them have the technologically efficient and standardised quality that we have.
In a further step to stay ahead of the curve and to keep finding new and better opportunities to support our thriving startups, Flat6Labs Bahrain and Bahrain Fintech Bay have officially signed an MoU to partner on joining their efforts in further engaging the country’s startup ecosystem. They will be cross-collaborating on supporting one another’s startup portfolios as well as working on organising pitch events at Fintech Bay.
This MoU will be integral to supporting the Bahraini startup ecosystem, and it will help the GCC’s international hub for business, flourish and take entrepreneurship to the next level.
The Bahrain Fintech Bay is known for holding a position as a leading fintech hub in the MENA, and with this MoU, Flat6Labs Bahrain’s startups become part of the network of Bahrain Fintech Bay that can easily help our startups hire, find investors, connect to new clients. Plus, having access to state-of-the-art equipment and co-working spaces at the hub.