Egypt’s Merq raises six-figure seed for Sally, its Facebook chatbot that lets users compare credit cards

Merq, an Egyptian startup that develops “cognitive chatbots” has raised seed funding from an individual investor, Ahmed Kamal Selim, the startup announced yesterday in a statement to MENAbytes, adding that the investment has come at a valuation of $800,000 (it’s not clear if that’s pre-money or post-money). The startup did not disclose the size of investment but confirmed to MENAbytes that it is a six-figure (USD) round.

Founded in 2018 by Waleed Ghalwash, Merq claims to be an AI startup that is specialized in developing cognitive chatbots in form of virtual assistant. One of the first virtual assistants they’ve developed is Sally, an Arabic-only Facebook Chatbot that allows people to compare credit cards in Egypt.

We gave Sally a try. It asked us some questions with options to choose our answers from, to learn what kind of credit card we’re looking for and eventually recommended three credit cards. And then we were given the option to learn more details about any of these three options. The details included pros and cons of these credit cards, and shopping offers they come with. There was also an option to apply for the cards online but that didn’t work.

“I can only offer you comparison results for now. The [credit card] application submissions are currently suspended,” answered Sally responding to our request to apply for a credit card. She was kind enough to share contact details of the bank though.

Launched just three months ago, Sally has already been used by over 17,000 people. The service currently offers a comparison of close to 150 credit cards from 30 banks.

Waleed Ghalwash, founder and CEO of Merq, commenting on the investment, said, “We are delighted to have been able to complete our first financing round shortly after the launch of our first product “Sally”. This financing will allow us to expand our service offerings within the financial services ecosystem and support our expansion plans in the country”.

The startup is currently in talks with some other investors as well to close another round of financing by Q3 this year to launch to new financial products, “They will support Egypt’s vision for financial inclusion and the use of technology to increase the penetration of financial and banking services among citizens,” added Waleed.

Ahmed Kamal Selim, who made the investment is a finance veteran with over two decades of experience in retail, investment banking, brokerage and restructuring services at differe local and multional companies in Egypt. Speaking about his decision to invest in Merq, Ahmed said, “The investment in Merq comes from my personal interest in artificial intelligence and financial inclusion that is state’s priorities to keep abreast of the global digital economy.”

The statement by Merq notes that the startup aims to cover different areas of financial literacy in banking and non-banking services to improve financial inclusion in the country and help users make better financial decisions.

Zubair Naeem Paracha
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