Pakistan Startup Abhi Raises Funds at $90 Million Valuation
Country’s startups raised a record over $350 million in 2021
VC Speedinvest funds a Pakistani startup for the first time
Pakistani financial platform Abhi Pvt. raised funds at a $90 million valuation within a year after introducing its business, the latest startup to benefit from investors’ increasing interest in the South Asian country.
The Karachi-based company’s $17 million Series A round was led by Speedinvest, marking the venture capital firm’s first bet in Pakistan, Abhi Chief Executive Officer Omair Ansari said in an interview. Global Ventures, VentureSouq, VEF, Sturgeon Capital, Rallycap, FJ Labs, Fatima Gobi, Sarmayacar and i2i Ventures also participated.
Pakistan is attracting investors eager to back startups in one of the last large untapped markets. Companies raised more than $350 million last year in the country, greater than the amount over the previous six years combined. Among the firms making their first-time investments in the country recently are Kleiner Perkins, Tiger Global Management and Dragoneer Investment Group.
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The lending startup offers an alternative to people asking their employer, family or friends for cash to make ends meet until their next salary. It also gives small- and medium-sized companies financing for working capital requirements. The company has now become cash-flow positive.
“This is the first time you’re able to get this access in the country,” Ansari said in an interview. “As people and smaller companies get this access then it becomes something they want to keep using.”
The app takes less than 30 seconds and two clicks for a registered user to access the funds, with a flat 2% transaction fee. The funds are automatically deducted from the next paycheck.
Co-founder Ansari previously oversaw two funds at Morgan Stanley, and was looking at investment opportunities in consumer companies and fintech in emerging and frontier markets. He helped with early-stage investments in fintech companies from China to Brazil. He was also an adviser to VEF, which focuses on fintech in frontier and emerging markets.
The company has increased users to 650,000 from about 200,000 since a previous round in November and also on-boarded over 150 companies. Individuals are accessing 15% to 20% of their monthly wage through the platform, Ansari said.
“Abhi has the potential to change millions of lives across MENA and South Asia,” said Stefan Klestil, general partner at Speedinvest. “It’s no wonder they have been able to establish themselves as one of the fastest-growing Pakistani startups.”