After four years of mainly functioning as a logistics marketplace, the Egyptian Voo has been renamed SideUp and transformed its strategy to offer a full spectrum of e-commerce support services including payment gateways, API integration for shipping, warehousing, fulfillment and consulting.
The startup has also expanded to Saudi Arabia, where it will be headquartered from now on, after raising seed funding of $1.2 million. The latest round included Launch Africa VC, 500 Global, Riyadh Angels, Alex Angels, Al Tuwaijri Fund and Saudi angel investor Faisal AlAbdulsalam.
SideUp founder and CEO Waleed Rashid told australiabusinessblog.com he was inspired to pair small merchants with ecommerce support after realizing they were being ignored by major service providers.
“There is a lot of talk about how e-commerce is scaling, yet we are not empowering enough of those (micro, small and medium enterprises) who are selling online. Merchants need many services and a complete ecosystem to be successful,” said Rashed.
“That’s why I decided to strengthen small and medium-sized companies; SideUp is for the merchants in the village, or for those who sell products via Instagram, Facebook or WhatsApp. They will have access to all services from the courier company, warehousing and fulfillment to marketing services,” he said.
Rashed first ventured into entrepreneurship in 2012, after a career in banking, when he founded Ingez a grocery business which gave him first-hand experience in running an e-commerce business.
“During the four years I have understood many things about logistics, operations and e-commerce. I saw how small businesses, because they lacked volume, were not a priority for large logistics companies,” said Rashed, who founded SideUp after leaving Ingez to address the challenges of small businesses and help them scale.
SideUp’s partner service providers enable merchants to sell in 45 countries, which Rashed said has opened up new markets previously inaccessible to small businesses.
SideUp currently serves 2,000 e-commerce businesses, who also have access to the collections service and credit to expand their business. The portfolio has grown 30% monthly and reached over $500,000 gross trading volume per month.
Co-founder of Riyadh Angels, Dr. Khalid Al Tawil, said: “E-commerce remains fragmented across most of the region, posing a number of challenges for entrepreneurs. SideUp’s platform is a big step forward, giving them a single place to access partners and technology to grow their business exponentially. We are excited to see them come to Saudi Arabia and support companies in their next phase of growth.”
The startup now plans to expand its customer base by scaling up in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and expanding to at least two other countries before the end of 2023, to tap into the fast-growing e-commerce sector in several regions.
The e-commerce markets in the Middle East and Africa will grow at more than 11.5% over the next five years, supported by the penetration of the internet and smartphones, urbanization and mobile shopping, and as more companies embrace e-commerce, according to a Mordor Intelligence report.