Bloom, Sudan’s first YC-backed startup has secured a $6.5 million seed to expand across the Anglo-East African region.
Bloom, Sudan’s first YC-backed startup has secured a $6.5 million seed to execute its expansion plan across the Anglo-East African region such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.
“The plan is to scale in the country and then expand to other markets,” Bloom’s CEO Ahmed Ismail stated. “We anticipate being in at least one market before the end of the year and a couple more early next year.” Bloom will meet competitors like YC-backed Fingo, Koa and Finclusion who are currently in the region.
The round had the participation of Visa, Y Combinator, U.S.-based VCs Global Founders Capital (GFC) and Goodwater Capital and UAE-based early-stage firm VentureSouq. Other investors include angels; Arash Ferdowsi, Dropbox co-founder; Nicolas Kopp, former U.S. CEO of N26; footballers Blaise Matuidi and Kieran Gibbs; and early employees at Revolut and Tide.
Visa’s investment in the round is an incentive for Bloom’s participation in the global card scheme’s Fintech Fast Track Program. A partnership was formed, and as a result, Bloom — the first Sudanese startup to get admitted into the program — switched its cards from Mastercard to Visa.
Ahmed Ismail, Bloom’s CEO said that “the Visa investment is critical for companies like us for a couple of reasons. One, aligning with Visa as a partner gives you a bunch of benefits, launching products faster, marketing support and product support; and two, in addition to the investment, Visa Fintech Fast Track enables you to access these incentives in a streamlined way.”
Accelerating Visa cards adoption in Sudan and East Africa
This investment and partnership between Bloom and Visa have the possibility to drive the adoption of Visa cards in Sudan and East Africa, TechCrunch reported. In addition, Visa’s suite of products and services will provide customers with a secure and fast way to make online payments.
“Visa is taking the lead as a first mover in digital payments in Sudan. We are committed to being a part of Sudan’s economic transformation by bringing our global expertise and capabilities to its government and private-sector partners,” Ahmed Mohey, Visa country general manager for Sudan and Libya said. “Together with Bloom, we will continue to drive acceptance of digital payments while finding opportunities to launch new products and services to Sudanese customers and merchants.”
Bloom’s latest funding is arguably the largest seed round in Sudan. East Africa has a population of over 500 million people, with a median age of 18 and a fast-growing middle class. But the region’s currencies, including the Sudanese pound, are volatile and depreciate 15% to 20% per annum on average.
The company wants to help Sudanese individuals hedge against this rising devaluation. It offers a “high-yield” savings account, free FX and adjacent digital banking services so customers can save in a stable currency, the dollar, and spend as they go in local currencies. Bloom was founded by Ahmed Ismail, Youcef Oudjidane, Khalid Keenan and Abdigani Diriye in late 2021.
With a history of anti-authoritarian protests, internet shutdowns, and military coups, Sudan has worn a negative perception for a while, leveraging consumer demand, Bloom wants to write a positive narrative for the country and the continent.
Sudan’s first Y Combinator startup
Bloom was part of the Y Combinator’s Winter 2022 startup batch. After launching from stealth in March 2021, the company raised a pre-seed in September 2021 from Global Founders Capital, Goodwater Capital and some football players, including Blaise Matuidi.