Swvl’s co-founder and former CTO Ahmed Sabbah launches Telda, a Venmo-like app for Gen Z in Egypt

Ahmed Sabbah, the co-founder and former Chief Technology Officer who left the Egyptian transportation startup last month is back with his new gig: Telda, a fintech that wants to change how Gen Z in the Middle East spends their money. Launched earlier this week in Egypt, Telda allows users to sign up for a digital account that comes with a free Mastercard-powered card. The card can be used for online payments, in-store purchases, and cash withdrawals.

The startup offers a complete online onboarding experience through its app where users can signup using their phone number and national ID (without any paperwork) to create an account and receive the debit card at their doorstep, “Through Telda, sending money to family and friends is as easy as sending a WhatsApp message. By syncing their contact list, users will be able to send & request money instantly,” said the startup in a statement.

It told MENAbytes that the transfers are only supported between the users on Telda. What this means is the app cannot be used to transfer money to other bank accounts. The users can however receive money from anyone in Egypt (and beyond) using the IBAN they receive as part of getting an account on Telda. In addition to using the IBAN, the users can also add money to their Telda account using a debit/credit card (in the app), and cash deposits through supported ATMs (they can see a list in the app) or at cash outlets of Fawry, Aman, and Masary.

Telda’s mobile app (that’s available for iOS and Android) also comes with money management features, making it easier for users to track and manage their expenses. The app automatically organizes the expenses by category and merchant, allowing users to control their spending. In addition to this, the app can be used to block or activate online purchases and cash withdrawals.

Telda's mobile app

Telda’s mobile app

“We’re calling it the money app. What we want to offer is a world-class experience for sending, receiving, and managing money. We’ve designed the app keeping Gen Z in mind who are digital natives. If you look at the banking products available in the market today, there’s nothing that addresses them. We want to change that with Telda by building the first Gen Z-focused digital banking experience app for the Middle East,” stated Ahmed, the co-founder and CEO of Telda, in a conversation with MENAbytes.

Ahmed co-founded the startup with a former Uber engineer Youssef Sholqamy, and a few other team members who’ve previously worked at companies like Facebook, Uber, Amazon, and Noon.

The financial regulators in Egypt don’t offer an e-money license (which is what fintechs that want to launch digital-only banks use). What this means is that it’s not possible for anyone to build a neobank in Egypt yet. Telda has been able to launch its app by partnering with a local bank. The startup didn’t share the specifics of its agreement with the sponsor bank but told MENAbytes that it is 100 percent independent from the said bank, “We share some details of our userbase with our banking partner for compliance and that’s about it. They have neither any say nor any control in the experience we offer to our customers.”

The Egyptian fintech also plans to use a similar model to launch in Saudi within the next few months, its CEO Ahmed Sabbah told MENAbytes, adding that it is already speaking with a few potential banking partners and the regulatory there.

Telda currently does not have an offering for merchants but it could still be used by business owners (who have a Telda account) to receive money from any user on the app, “We expect many of users to have that use-case and eventually we plan to offer a dedicated offering to help them receive payments from their customers,” added Ahmed.

Zubair Naeem Paracha
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