With the Covid-19 pandemic exposing the financial vulnerabilities of millions of people around the world through job losses, unpaid leave and reduced wages, responsible management of money has never been more crucial than ‘it is not today.
The pandemic has been a wake-up call to many people who do not have a financial safety net in place and are now beginning to understand the importance of the smart financial skills they should have learned from an early age.
This is where the co-founders of Verity, a Dubai-based FinTech start-up and an innovators license holder from the Dubai International Finance Center, hope to make a difference by launching their family banking and financial education app at. during the new year. .
âTeach your children early what you learned lateâ is the motto Omar Al Sharif, Dina Shoman and Kamal Al-Samarrai adopted when they started developing Verity earlier this year.
Aimed at children between the ages of eight and 18, the app will be available in Arabic and English, and provides users with hands-on experiences in learning financial literacy, as well as providing children and teens with the tools they need. need to earn, save, give and spend responsibly in a real environment.
Through subscription-based family plans, parents can create sub-accounts for their children on the app, which they can monitor and control as master account holders. Parents will be able to top up their accounts, set spending settings and limits, and establish a reward system that allows children to earn extra funds after completing specific chores and tasks, the co-founders said.
Children will then have a number of options to choose from, such as saving money, donating it, or spending it using a personalized prepaid debit card, which can be used both online and in stores. Parents are kept informed of all transactions, allowing them to monitor and adjust settings as needed.
The inspiration behind the name “Verity” is derived from the Latin word veritas, which means the truth – and this has been an important pillar for the trio on which to build the app, said Mr. Al Sharif, former member of the founding team of Oasis500, the pre-boot manager and seed fund and the accelerator that has helped catalyze the development of the Middle East start-up ecosystem.
âThe truth is transparencyâ¦ and we wanted to make sure everything is very transparent in terms of the process, the fees you pay, etc. He said.
âThis is one of the interesting things that we want to change in the banking experiences that people face, which is that everything is very transparent, that there is nothing hidden and that there is no hidden costs. “
Financial literacy has emerged as a key social priority in the UAE, which was identified by the Abu Dhabi Ministry of Community Development as part of its quality of life survey.
The UAE has launched a number of financial education programs over the past three years to tackle rising personal debt levels in the country. In 2019, the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates signed an agreement with the Emirates Foundation to launch a financial education program through the Esref Sah program.
And, in October, the Social Contribution Authority – Ma’an launched the third cohort of its Ghaya financial education program which aims to equip Emiratis with smart financial skills to help them contribute to long-term economic growth. from Abu Dhabi.
Meanwhile, a 2019 Visa financial literacy survey found that 43% of UAE respondents aged 16 to 24 thought they were not ready to manage their own money and 53% said schools were not preparing them enough to take care of their finances.
While there has been a lot of debate about who is responsible for teaching kids financial skills, Shoman says it should be based on a combination of factors.
âWhen you think of something that is taught, you think that it is something that should be taught in schools,â says Ms. Shoman, whose great-grandfather founded the Arab Bank in 1930.
âNot all schools teach it – and even if they do, they don’t do it as comprehensively. Fortunately, the subject is attracting more interest and more and more schools are looking at how to integrate it.
âThe other part is that this is another subject that should also be taught at home with parents. [But] parents don’t know how to approach itâ¦ or they feel they aren’t comfortable or confident enough in what they know to be able to translate it into lessons.
Verity is Ms. Shoman’s third financial literacy company, having previously founded inherQuests, a New York-based start-up that uses a program that gets young girls started on their financial journey, and Nahji, a Jordanian social enterprise. which teaches basic financial concepts through a range of resources.
The co-founders initially launched the company, but last month they closed their first $ 800,000 pre-seed round which was backed by regional venture capital firms such as VentureSouq, Wamda and Beyond Capital, as well as contributions from leading angel investors.
“Although it was difficult and time consuming for us, obviously on a pre-seed round you don’t have any product to show – it’s just an idea,” says Mr Al-Samarrai, a former banker. investment and human resources specialist.
âIt was a lot to talk to the right people, to explain the story, to explain our vision. And with any pre-seed funding round, you have to believe not only in the idea, but in the founders themselves. We managed to raise $ 800,000 on an ideaâ¦ and it was a great success for us; one of our greatest accomplishments today.
After the capital increase, the founders of Verity launched a waiting list for the first subscribers to the application. Their next steps are to introduce several other languages ââand games into the app, as well as launch it in the Mena region.
“There are so many potential clients aged eight to 18 in the Mena region and this is our long term goal for us: to be in every Mena country as the app of choice for children’s financial education. “said Mr. Al-Samarrai. .
Q&A with Verity co-founders
What other successful start-up would you have liked to launch?
Mr. Al-Samarrai: I think Shazam is a brilliant invention, mainly for the convenience factor, but also because it gives you instant access to discover new music.
Mr. Al Sharif: For me that would be Skillshare, because it encourages you to keep developing your skills and it’s a great way for people to help each other in the sharing economy.
Ms. Shoman: I love Kiva because it is the perfect example of how community-led microfinance can positively impact the lives of so many people around the world.
What new skills have you acquired since starting your business?
Mr. Al-Samarrai: Delegation has been significant – it is a core skill in any industry or business, but even more so in a start-up environment, where a core team is responsible for doing a lot of things.
Mr. Al Sharif: As a FinTech, we’ve also learned a lot about the regulatory landscape in the region, the benefits of various frameworks to the application process, and what we need to be aware of going forward.
Ms. Shoman: Really understanding the fundamentals of fundraising has been interesting for me, especially in terms of dialogue with VCs and individual investors in the region.
Where do you want to be in five years?
Our long-term ambition is for the Verity app to be on the phones of all of Mena’s children and teens and to be their primary source of financial education. So, in five years, we would have liked to make significant progress to make this goal a reality. However, if Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we should expect the unexpected (and prepare for it), which is why we are focusing today on building a business that is sustainable enough. flexible and agile to overcome any obstacles that may arise. path.
If you could do everything differently, what would you change?
We wouldn’t change a thing. We really think everything went as it should and have learned a lot from the ups and downs.
What’s your next big dream for Verity?
With the completion of our first round of funding, we now want to grow our dream team that will take Verity to the next level. Ultimately, we would like to be recognized as one of the Mena region’s greatest success stories and be the financial literacy partner of choice for key players in technology and finance.
Update: December 12, 2021, 5:30 a.m.