Sarwa – Business Idea, Value Proposition, and Everything else about the company

According to stats shared by Allied Market Research, the global Robo-advisory market size is projected to grow by 31.8 percent to $41.07 billion by 2027, up from $4.41bn in 2019.

Retail investors are increasingly seeking direct access to markets with the help of technology, leading to a surge in the popularity of zero-commission trading apps such as Robinhood, eToro, and Interactive Brokers.

Demand for trading apps has also risen during the pandemic due to monetary easing by the US Federal Reserve and other central banks worldwide, giving novice day traders more money to invest during pandemic lockdowns.

This has launched many startups in this domain, given the increasing need for a one-stop shop for self-directed trading and auto-investing. One such startup, making use of this opportunity is Sarwa.

What is Sarwa?

Founded in 2017, the UAE-based Sarwa is an investment and personal finance platform connecting the GCC market to international stock exchanges and cryptocurrencies. Additionally, it was the first fintech company to be licensed as a digital financial advisor for young professionals in the MENA region and was awarded the first-ever Innovation Testing License by the Dubai Financial Services Authority.

The startup is set to revolutionize the way in which young professionals grow their wealth by introducing smart, simple, and affordable digital investing to the region through its flagship product, Sarwa Invest. To date, the company has raised around $25 million from regional and international investors, as well as government funds.

Since its launch, Sarwa claims to have accumulated 40,000 users engaging with the platform to invest in stocks and build their own portfolios. In 2020, the FinTech startup experienced a surge of new investors in light of the turbulent financial landscape, yet investors were able to realize more than 33% average year-on-year returns for a balanced portfolio.

Background of Founders

Left to Right: Mark Chahwan, Nadine Mezher and Jad Sayegh

Mark Chahwan

Mark completed his Bachelor’s at McGill University in Commerce, with a major in Finance. He started his early career at BLOMINVEST Bank, as an Investment Banking Analyst.

Over the course of the next few years, he served at multiple organizations in different capacities. Then in 2017, he co-founded Sarwa, alongside the rest of his colleagues.

Nadine Mezher

Nadine completed her Bachelor’s in Business Administration at the American University of Beirut.

In 2005, she founded a high-end fashion house, under the label, Nadine Mezher LLC. She also served as the Brand Strategy Consultant for various companies. In 2013, Nadine joined Dubai Tourism as a Senior Manager. Then in 2017, she co-founded Sarwa and joined as the company’s Chief Marketing Officer.

Jad Sayegh

Jad completed his Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering at McGill University. He started his career as a Field Engineer, at the Canada-based company, GBS Group. In 2013, he joined Ericsson as a Software Developer.

Then in 2017, he co-founded Sarwa and joined as its Chief Technology Officer.

Why Sarwa?

The platform’s objective is to make powerful money management tools available for all by building a brand that makes it easier for the masses to get a head start on building their personal wealth. Sarwa is built on the combination of innovative tech and a customer-centric brand.

In a statement, Ibrahim Ajami, head of ventures and growth at Mubadala Investment Company said:

Sarwa is revolutionizing the financial services landscape in the Middle East by offering a range of investment solutions to a large market that has had little access to such services in the past.

The platform suggests to users a portfolio and investment plan based on their risk appetite and financial goals. And further enables them to invest their savings with as little as $5 across different stocks using Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) through its web and mobile apps. In an attempt to cater to the modern financial needs of its users, the company has recently introduced Sarwa Crypto, a portfolio with 5 percent exposure to Bitcoin (through Grayscale Bitcoin Trust GBTC, the world’s first and largest publicly quoted Bitcoin investment vehicle).

The platform allows its users to run their investments on autopilot based on their investment plan by automating deposits. The platform also offers access to human advisors who can assist users with their investment decisions.

Funding Raised

Seed Round: Raised $1.5 million

In November 2017, the startup raised $200K in a seed round led by Shorooq Partners.

Later, in September 2018, the startup raised an additional $1.3 million as part of another seed round, yet again led by the same investor, i.e., Shorooq Partners.

Series A Round: Raised $8.4 million

In January 2020, the investment advisory platform raised $8.4 million in a Series A round.

The round was led by Kuwait Projects Company (aka KIPCO), one of the leading investment holding companies of the region, and joined by a number of other investors including:

  • Dubai International Financial Center
  • Abu Dhabi Investment Office, Saudi-based Vision Ventures
  • UK’s Hambro Perks

Series B Round: Raised $15 million

In August 2020, Sarwa closed a $15 million Series B round led by Mubadala (Investment Company). The round took Sarwa’s total financing to date to over $25 million and was also joined by 500 Startups, including:

  • Kuwait Projects Company
  • Shorooq Partners
  • Middle East Venture Partners
  • DIFC
  • Hambro Perks Oryx Fund
  • Hala Ventures
  • Vision Ventures

Future Prospects

Sarwa plans to use the raised funds to expand its market position, grow the team, and launch new products that will address all aspects of personal finance. Sarwa Crypto, Sarwa Invest and Sarwa Trade are among the products that Sarwa is looking to improve and launch going forward.

Some other notable players in the space include New York-headquartered Wahed, Dubai-based Baraka which recently raised $4 million in a seed round and launched its investment app, and Cairo-based Thndr.

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