Userpilot, a product-led growth platform for SaaS companies, raises $4.6M

Userpilot, a product-led growth platform for SaaS companies, has raised $4.6 million seed funding in a round led by Silicon Badia, with participation from ScOp Ventures and 500 Global. The startup’s new funding follows $1.2 million it secured in a pre-seed round last year.

Userpilot helps companies to “achieve higher user activation, engagement, and retention rates” by enabling them to personalize in-app onboarding experiences for users.

Userpilot CEO Yazan Sehwail told TechCrunch that they will use the latest funding to build new features that will help companies to further reduce customer support and engineering costs.

Sehwail’s entrepreneurial journey started after college in 2013, when he developed enterprise web software for the likes of BMW, a business that also inspired his Userpilot strategy.

“During that time, we worked on various projects with companies such as BMW and the idea for Userpilot actually came while working on one of our then clients. We would spend a lot of time and resources on building features, only to find later that they were rarely used and the client would have to deploy a lot of human resources to educate users about them,” said Sehwail, who co-founded the startup with Thabet Gharabah (CTO) in 2018.

“The idea behind Userpilot was to give the product team (non-technical) the ability to create no-code in-product experiences that would contextually introduce users to features based on their behavior.”

Userpilot helps companies to save on customer support and engineering costs. Sehwail added that the startup’s heightened capacity to customize experiences (through a no-code editor) helps product teams to tailor-make content that looks and feels native to their applications.

“With Userpilot [companies can also] segment users based on their attributes and behavior. This allows product teams to contextually target users when it makes the most sense to do so,” he said.

Sehwail said he has over 700 paying customers across the world including UiPath, Oracle, McGraw Hill, and Phocas. The list also includes GrowthMentor — which, in the past, claimed to have experienced an 83% reduction in support tickets after implementing Userpilot’s onboarding tools.

Silicon Badia founding managing partner, Namek Zu’bi, said, “At Silicon Badia, we have always been big believers in the product-led growth (PLG) movement where the product itself drives user acquisition, expansion, conversion, and retention. Having invested in earlier PLG success stories like Amplitude (NASDAQ: AMPL), we believe that Userpilot is ushering in the next generation of PLG tools.”

Userpilot, a product-led growth platform for SaaS companies, raises $4.6M by Annie Njanja originally published on TechCrunch

Egyptian B2B e-commerce platform Cartona raises $12M to scale and explore new verticals

Startups that solve the supply-chain and operational challenges of players in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry–by helping buyers access products from sellers on a single platform–keep attracting venture capital from investors.

Cartona, one of the major players digitizing the traditional trade market, including mom-and-pop stores, FMCG producers, wholesalers, and distributors in Egypt, has raised $12 million in Series A funding. Jordan and U.S.-based early-stage venture capital firm Silicon Badia led the round, which also welcomed participation from the SANAD Fund for MSME, an impact investment fund for the Middle East and North Africa, Arab Bank Accelerator and Sunny Side Ventures.

Investors such as Global Ventures and Kepple Ventures doubled down less than a year after participating in the company’s $4.5 million pre-Series A funding last September. At the time, Cartona was present in three Egyptian cities; it’s now in eleven. Per a statement, the investment will allow the startup, launched in 2020, to cover all of Egypt’s governorates, grow its product, technology, and services, and explore new verticals beyond FMCG.

“So we believe that with this money, we would reach profitability. We will use this money for sustainable growth and only sustainable growth. We won’t expand like crazy without having positive unit economics in every city,” CEO Mahmoud Talaat told TechCrunch in an interview. “We plan to cover all the cities in Egypt, focus a lot on technology and product.”

Cartona’s platform allows buyers to order inventory from a network of curated sellers via an app that provides a communication tool for promotions and a dashboard for market insights.

The company operates an asset-light marketplace where it does not own a single product or vehicle. This model has led to customer complaints on both sides of the platform. And as a result, Talaat said Cartona had to focus more on its technical integrations with big manufacturers and their warehouses, which has created more upside for the business. With these integrations, he said Cartona could simultaneously pursue capital efficiency and growth while scaling its embedded finance product.

Providing loans, working capital, or BNPL to micro and small businesses is the sweet spot of B2B e-commerce and retail marketplaces in Africa. But how they provide this service differs. CTO Mahmoud Abdel-Fattah claims that in Egypt, a market with other upstarts such as asset-heavy MaxAB or hybrid model Capiter, Cartona stands out by integrating BNPL services into its marketplace processes without the help of a third-party provider. So instead of getting small businesses to pay their loans each month with interest like other platforms, Cartona allows them to repay these loans every time there’s a product shipment.

“In a market like Egypt, retailers are not very okay with the concept of paying for BNPL with interest at the end of the month. You do not want to think you’re paying more interest with an external company giving you these working capital loans. They prefer it to be a part of the product prices and to feel it embedded through the order cycle, making us a bit different.” Talaat added.

Cartona lends out of its balance sheet for now. But the executives say the company expects to receive some credit lines and venture debt from local and international partners by January next year.


Image Credits: Cartona

There are over 400,000 shops and thousands of international and local brands across Egypt, with the sector growing annually by 8%. Reports also say the overall retail market size is $120 billion, with the food & beverages market worth $70 billion. The massive opportunity this presents to platforms such as Cartona has attracted investors like Silicon Badia into the B2B retail sector. According to the firm’s founding managing partner, “the market is hungry for these type[s] of solutions, and we believe Cartona’s asset-light approach will allow them to serve as many marketplace participants as possible in a highly efficient manner.”

In our interview with Cartona’s executives last year, the company had 30,000+ merchants and processed over 400,000 orders with an annualized gross merchandise value of EGP 1 billion (~$64 million). It has doubled some of its numbers since then. Talaat said the company now serves 60,000+ merchants and processed over 1 million transactions with an annualized gross merchandise value of EGP 2.3 billion (~$120 million). Cartona has more than 1,500 distributors and wholesalers on its platform and 200 FMCG companies, including big names like Unilever and Henkel. These numbers are up from last September’s numbers of 1,000 distributors, wholesalers, and 100 FMCG companies.

The founders say they want to build Cartona to become a better technology partner for these FMCG brands. Abdel-Fattah, the executive in charge of handling these technical integrations, said, “We started with very big FMCGs, but everyone, including multinationals, is interested because now they see our value. We are not competing with them or bringing down their prices. We’re not subsidizing their products as competition sometimes does. We’re just connecting them with the retailer, so it’s about making the process seamless.”

Bosta raises $6.7M to expand e-commerce delivery business across Africa and MENA

Per a recent report by Bain & Co., e-commerce is expected to grow to $28.5 billion in MENA by 2022 from a 2019 value of $8.3 billion. Egypt, one of the most active e-commerce countries in the region, is anticipated to grow 33% annually to reach $3 billion by 2022.

But for any e-commerce business to thrive, its last-mile delivery arm has to be well figured out. Bosta is one such company in Egypt helping small businesses with logistics and last-mile delivery. Today, the company is announcing it has closed a Series A investment of $6.7 million. U.S. and Middle East VC firm Silicon Badia led the round, with participation from 4DX Ventures, Plug and Play Ventures, Wealth Well VC, Khwarizmi VC, as well as other regional and global investors

This investment comes a year after the company raised a $2.5 million round, which takes its total investment raised to $9.2 million.

Bosta was launched in 2017 by Mohamed Ezzat and Ahmed Gaber. The company offers next-day delivery to customers and handles exchange shipments, customer returns and cash collection.

The idea for Bosta came during Ezzat’s time at Lynks, his previous consumer goods startup. Lynks, the first YC-backed company from Egypt, allows people in Egypt to buy brands from the U.S., China and the U.K.

As co-founder and COO at Lynks, Ezzat was responsible for logistics, international clearance and last-mile delivery. In 2016, Egypt experienced an economic downturn coupled with the Egyptian pound devaluation and government restriction on imports. For Lynks it meant slow growth, but Ezzat was concerned about fixing the last-mile delivery bit, which, according to him, was a huge pain point.

“My nightmare was always the last mile. And at that time, you know that e-commerce is still very, very small. So it’s only 1% of the whole retail value,” he told TechCrunch. “So I was always thinking, how come if we want the e-commerce to grow, and we don’t have any strong company when it comes to last-mile because, in the end, every transaction on an e-commerce platform is a transaction on a courier platform.”

E-commerce is a fragmented sector where 80% of transactions come from small businesses selling on Facebook, Instagram and social media in general. Most of these businesses lack a strong delivery experience, and Ezzat left Lynks the following year to start Bosta

Being in the parcel delivery industry, Bosta wants to help these companies to grow profitably. It also tries to simplify logistics and allow its customers to have full control over the delivery process.

“You can use Bosta to get anything to your doorstep. You buy in our local currency, and we buy everything, handle the shipping, customs, clearance and bring it to your doorstep,” the CEO added.

The company doesn’t own fleets of vehicles to carry out operations. Instead, it operates an Uber-like model where drivers sign up, are made contractors and make money when a delivery is completed.  

Since 2017, the company has delivered more than 4 million packages to businesses, more than half since the pandemic outbreak last year. Bosta completes more than 300,000 deliveries per month, which is a 3.5x increase from when it raised its previous round, Ezzat stated. He also claims that more than 2,200 businesses use its platform daily and achieve a 95% delivery success rate.

Asides from small businesses, Bosta works with major e-commerce platforms like Souq (an Amazon company) and Jumia. Depending on the volume of goods transported, Bosta charges small businesses about 35-40 Egyptian pounds, while the big players are charged less, at 20-25 Egyptian pounds.

Speaking on the investment, Fawaz H Zu’bi said in a statement: “E-commerce has always had amazing potential in our region but was always being held back by something whether payments, logistics, market fragmentation, or customer adoption. We are excited to finally see companies like Bosta emerge to tackle some of these issues and help e-commerce realize its full promise and potential in a region that has now ‘turned on’ digitally.”

In the next two years, Bosta plans to deliver more than 15 million parcels in Egypt and serve over 20,000 businesses. The funds will be used for those causes, as well as expanding operations across Africa, MENA and the GCC.

“The investment is to dominate Egypt,” said Ezzat. “We want to make sure that we deliver the next day across Egypt, not just in Cairo, where we currently do. And to be a market leader when it comes to e-commerce on the continent and be profitable. This is the main target for us now and also to start operations in Saudi Arabia.”