$5.5m has been raised in a seed round by Tribal Credit, a fintech start-up based in San Francisco in the US that was co-founded by Egyptian entrepreneurs Mohamed Elkasstawi and Amr Shady, the firm announced last week.

Chief executive officer and Endeavor entrepreneur Shady was previously responsible for the founding of Cairo-based mobile software and tech company TA Telecom, which builds analytic tools and mobile content platforms.

Tribal Credit investors BECO Capital – which is based in Dubai – and Global Ventures led the round, with other investors including the likes of Endure Capital, Valve VC, Off The Grid Ventures, RiseUp, Tribe Capital, 500 Startups, AR Ventures and Rising Tide Fund.

Tribal Credit is attempting to build a business credit card aimed at start-up companies situated in emerging markets that will give them control over spending in addition to instantaneous access to credit.

The start-up firm, which has not yet been launched, will ensure that the venture happens by making use of blockchain technology and an approval process driven by artificial intelligence, according to a statement.

Shady says that Tribal Credit will enable start-up companies to get closer to the capital and payment channels required for them to grow and scale.

They will also be able to access banking services via the new credit card, which would previously have been open only to large corporate businesses.

Tribal Credit’s statement also makes it clear that close to 200m SMEs within emerging economies are unable to access credit and formal savings, which results in slow growth.

Obtaining credit cards, making payments across borders and even opening business bank accounts can also be limited or made more difficult by strict banking regulations.

This is one of the largest problems being faced by Africa and the Middle East.

Entrepreneurs in bigger markets such as the United Arab Emirates also find it difficult to get business bank accounts opened – it often takes more than six months to complete the legal requirements and paperwork demanded by authorities and banks.

With Tribal Credit being founded by and invested in by people from the Middle East, MENA seems like a likely potential market for the new credit card company.

Blockchain is vital for business financial inclusion to be achieved in emerging markets, according to Elkasstawi, who is the chief strategy officer and co-founder of Tribal Credit.

Elkasstawi was previously the founding partner of zk Capital, the blockchain investment firm, and is building the new company’s blockchain infrastructure.

The executive team at Tribal Credit also includes former HSBC executive vice president Duane Good; Mark Graves of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Silicon Valley Bank and Marqeta Inc.; and former IBM alumni Bill Crawley.

Tribal Credit has therefore been founded not just by serial entrepreneurs but also by fintech executives and data scientists who have built and led other start-up companies in Silicon Valley as well as other emerging markets.

Tribal Credit is hoping to be able to close the business financial inclusion gap that exists between the two extremes.  

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