From freight to finance, welcome to the UAE’s tech start-up revolution

The UAE’s start-up ecosystem is thriving, with innovation at every turn.

11/01/2022

The UAE’s start-up ecosystem is thriving, with innovation at every turn. From finance to food, sustainability to space, it’s undoubtedly an exciting time to be an entrepreneur.

Perhaps one of the most interesting areas is space – and I’m excited to follow the recent launch of a start-up programme from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), ‘Space Ventures’, a launchpad for global space-related start-ups.

And while not every start-up looks to the skies, there is still a great deal of excitement on the ground. One start-up that has caught my eye is TruKKer. TruKKer is the first digital freight network in the region, and it’s taking the sector by storm.

Using AI and machine learning, TruKKer set out to simplify road freight and logistics back in 2016. And its rise has been nothing short of meteoric.

Described as the ‘Uber’ of trucks, the company began in 2016 by two friends, one who worked in construction, and the other in IT, Gaurav Biswas and Pradeep Mallavarapu, after discovering a friend was having trouble shifting some cargo having been let down by a trucking company.

They quickly created the digital app, testing it by initially offering TruKKer’s services for house moves in the UAE, while they looked to build up corporate clients.

TruKKer, like every start-up’s dream, achieved an incredible 11,000% growth in its first two years of business, and today handles the transportation for more than 500 businesses and thousands of retail clients needing cargo movements – including line haul, port movements, home relocations and last-mile operations.

In 2021, the company’s largest revenue share comes from long-haul, cross-border transportation in the GCC, which accounts for 70% of its revenue.

Most recently, the company has opened an office in Cairo and revealed exciting regional growth plans, bolstered by raising US$26 m in funding.

Such funding underlines the market perception of the value of the business – which analysts say was ripe for aggregation. Traditionally, the road haulage business has been run by solo operators, especially in the GCC. A fragmented supply side, was fraught with complications and reliability issues – which TruKKer has now helped the sector overcome.

The lesson from TruKKer is a classic business success story – discover a problem, create a solution, seek funding for expansion, and achieve those business goals.

And while we should all respect the hard work and great success of TruKKer, there are several other incredible technology-driven start-ups that I’m also keen to see develop.

Where technology and financial services meet is a great place to invest. In this space, I’m watching Marqueta and Chime.

Marqueta is a modern card issuer processor platform that enables businesses to build card processing solutions that meet their exact customer needs.

This fuss-free solution-driven company started in 2009, with a clear, simple vision – to simplify payments for businesses. The platform allows for swift development of bespoke card payment interfaces. With the rise and rise of card-based transactions as a result of the pandemic, I believe Marqueta will continue going from strength to strength.

Meanwhile, Chime, a US-centric disruptive financial technology company looks set to turn the banking sector on its head. This new era company operates on the basis that basic banking services should be helpful, easy and free. Chime doesn’t charge overdraft fees, monthly service fees, service fees or minimum balance requirements, for example.

Its approach means Chime partners with regional US banks to design member first financial products. The aim is to create a more competitive market for those Americans who aren’t being served well by traditional banks.

I think what becomes apparent when you start looking for regional innovators, is just how much there is going on, and how our region is a creative cooking pot for those who are bold and brave enough to pursue their business dreams.

The UAE is truly a perfect place to follow your entrepreneurial dreams.

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