Bloom, a Sudan-based fintech that offers a high-yield savings account and adjacent digital banking services, has raised a $6.5 million seed round. The investment comes after the startup’s undisclosed pre-seed round last year.
The funding welcomed participation from fintech giant Visa, Y Combinator, US-based VCs Global Founders Capital (GFC) and Goodwater Capital, and UAE-based early-stage firm VentureSook. Other investors include angel Arash Ferdowsi, co-founder of Dropbox; Nicholas Cope, former US CEO of N26; footballers Blaise Matuidi and Kieran Gibbs; and early employees at Revolut and Tide.
The investment from Visa comes as an incentive for Bloom to participate in the Global Card Scheme’s FinTech Fast Track program. A partnership was forged, and as a result, Bloom – the first Sudanese startup admitted to the program – switched its cards from MasterCard to Visa.
“Visa investment is important for a company like ours for a few reasons. One, aligning with Visa as a partner gives you many benefits, including faster product launches, marketing support and product support; And two, apart from investment, Visa FinTech Fast Track enables you to access these incentives in a streamlined way,” CEO Ahmed Ismail told TechCrunch in an interview.
In March, the company announced that it was a part of Y Combinator’s winter batch this year after launching from stealth the same month. Also, Bloom’s waiting list was made public in March, and at the time, more than 15,000 people had signed up with the company; That number has surpassed 100,000, the founders told TechCrunch. They say the platform has been launched in Sudan but declined to give a specific number of customers actively using the product.
Highlighted this March and reiterated in interviews, Bloom’s founders said the seed round will help the Sudanese- and Dubai-based startup execute its expansion plans across Anglo-East African regions such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia. Some competitors in the region include YC-backed Fingo, Koa and Finclusion.
“Our product is live in Sudan. The plan is to scale up in the country and then expand to other markets,” said Ismail. “We expect to be in at least one market before the end of the year and a few more early next year.”
Bloom’s seed round is the largest in Sudan, a country whose tech ecosystem can be said to be passive and has recently welcomed foreign investment while Faury Supported fintech and e-commerce player Alsoog 30 years after the international ban on the country.
East Africa, as a region, is home to 500 million people, with an average age of 18 and a rapidly growing middle class. But the region’s currencies, including the Sudanese pound, are volatile and depreciate by an average of 15% to 20% per year. This instability is the biggest obstacle to wealth protection and creation for this middle class, which is why Ismail and other co-founders Youssef Odzidane, Khalid Kenan And Abdigani Dirye FinTech launched: To help Sudanese individuals hedge against this growing devaluation.
Bloom offers fee-free accounts for users to save in dollars and buy and spend in Sudanese pounds. It also offers local and dollar cards and a feature where they can receive free remittances from countries around the world, mainly where most of the Sudanese diaspora resides. The fintech works with the Export Development Bank, a partner bank that manages deposits. Bloom earns interest on these deposits, exchanges and other ancillary flows.
Bloom and Visa executives say the investment and partnership could accelerate Visa card adoption in Sudan and East Africa. In addition, Visa’s suite of products and services will provide customers with a secure and fast way to make online payments, according to Ahmed Mohei, Visa Country General Manager for Sudan and Libya.
“Visa is leading the way in digital payments in Sudan. We are committed to being part of Sudan’s economic transformation by bringing our global expertise and capabilities to its public and private-sector partners. Together with Bloom, we will continue to drive digital payment acceptance while looking for opportunities to introduce new products and services to consumers and merchants in Sudan,” Mohe added.
Roel Jansen, a partner at Global Founders Capital, shared similar sentiments about the team: “We are very excited about our investment. Bloom. Its experienced and talented founding team has the drive and expertise to create a product universally valued by consumers, partners and regulators in Sudan and the wider East Africa region.”