The former head of Careem Pay launched SimpliFi, a card as a service platform for MENA and Pakistan

SimpliFi has announced the launch of a card as a service platform for the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan. This startup, which is headquartered in Dubai, has been operating in stealth mode until now. It also closed a seed round led by Saudi Raed Ventures with participation from Riyadh-based Rally Cap Ventures and Sukna Ventures. The deal closed earlier this year also included participation from angel investors. Chris Edelsbach, Idris Bello, Osama Al-Rai, Abdullah Mohammad Al-Dossari and current and former directors of Facebook, Karim, Plaid and Remitli.

Founded in 2020 by Ali Sattar, formerly head of Careem Pay, SimpliFi wants to democratize card issuance in the region through its easy-to-use APIs and portal. It enables any business – including fintech, gig platform, an SME or even an enterprise – to issue virtual or physical cards for various use cases almost instantly and manage the entire application from SimpliFi’s online portal.

Tech businesses with engineering teams can use its APIs to build and launch products (for example, enabling customers to receive cards through their mobile app) with little coding. But those who do not have a technical team, e.g. An SME can use its own portal to issue cards. Anyone can use it to access the same functionality without any technological background or payment.

Fintech takes care of the entire end-to-end process – from managing partners like banks, card schemes, processors, identity verification to card completion and delivery. Day card operations and compliance functions, so businesses can focus on their core strengths while leveraging SimpliFi’s capabilities and scale, the startup noted in a statement.

Ali came up with the SimpliFi idea when he was at Careem and they were looking to issue cards (apparently their captains were providing them with fast payments). He quickly realized that even for a tech company like Careem (which has a lot of resources) to launch such a program is relatively difficult. It was very challenging to launch the cards in even one market, so given how fragmented the payment ecosystem is in the region, these cards couldn’t be scaled across multiple markets.

With SimpliFi, he set out to revolutionize card issuance in the region, “Prepaid cards have a wide variety of uses that allow businesses to streamline operations, create new revenue streams and increase loyalty. Until now, banks have had a monopoly in issuing cards. We’re changing that by enabling any business to become a payments company and share in the benefits of financial ownership, without the major complexities and hassles. “The huge impact this could have on the financial services ecosystem in the region encourages us to wake up every day,” Ali said in a statement.

He is also a limited partner at Rally Cap Ventures, through which he has invested in fintechs in emerging markets.

Wael Nafi, who led Raed Ventures’ investment in SimpliFi, previously worked with Ali at Careem. He was the company’s vice president of product at that time. “Investing in SimpliFi was an easy decision given the problem it was solving, the vision and experience of the team, and their initial traction,” he said of the investment. “We see that card issuance is a common need and a major pain point for a number of businesses we speak to, and we’re excited to support SimpliFi as they build the payments infrastructure to enable companies in the region to build and grow.”

SimpliFi currently has a team of 15 employees who have previously worked at companies such as Grab, Gojek, Uber, Careem, PayPal, Marqeta, Facebook and Network International.

Abu Dhabi-based NymCard is another player active in this space. Mareqeta, the leading global card issuing platform, recently went public and currently has a market capitalization of over $14 billion.

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