How AI-powered Quiqup is revolutionizing the q-commerce market in the UAE
Bassel El Koussa has come a long way from starting a business in a London salon to running one of the fastest growing fast-trade last mile delivery companies in the UAE.
It’s been a long journey, but a “resilience at all costs” mindset is what has helped him and his co-founders survive the pivot of their business model, the company’s shift from continent to continent and the turmoil of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, Mr. El Koussa says he is an entrepreneur “by chance”.
After earning a Masters in International Management from SOAS University of London in 2008, Mr. El Koussa then worked for a manufacturing company in Saudi Arabia. A few years later, he decided to pursue a degree in finance at Imperial College London and then joined the venture capital industry.
Mr. El Koussa started working for a private family office focused on tech investing in London and it was there that he met Quiqup co-founders Federico Ferraro, Tim Linssen and Danny Hawkins.
The idea of starting their own business germinated for a while before finally launching the business in 2014.
“What we launched initially in the UK was sort of a delivery of everything, like an on-demand business,” says Mr El Koussa.
“It was like InstaShop meeting Deliveroo and Careem all in one. That was where Quiqup started, and then we grew from there.
The business was launched with £50,000 and the partners, like most founders, struggled initially.
“We basically started from the living room of one of our co-founders. A few of us were manning the office while others were there doing deliveries,” Mr. El Koussa said.
“We were out there in the elements, experiencing what it was like to go out and run this operation ourselves and interact with customers.”
The AI-powered startup has provided on-demand same-day delivery services for retailers and restaurants of all sizes. She used a network of self-employed drivers called “Quiqees” and managed to build up a strong and loyal customer base in the UK.
However, the partners realized that the company had not grown enough to become “the dominant player in the food delivery category, which was the main business segment at the time.
They saw the opportunity to move into the e-commerce sector and the faster delivery segment, deploying the technology they had built over the years.
In 2015, the company raised an undisclosed amount for its Series A round, which was followed by a £20m Series B funding deal in 2017 to support growth.
The partners made the decision to expand internationally and in 2018 launched operations in the UAE. The following year, Quiqup announced strategic funding of £10 million to further expand its operations.
“We realized the real opportunity was there and we made the transition” to the United Arab Emirates, says Mr El Koussa.
When Quiqup launched in the UAE, it was a “logistics as a service” company, serving restaurants, retailers and e-commerce players.
The UAE market, however, was a “completely different beast,” but Quiqup had the “basic elements and it was just about prioritizing where it wanted to go,” he says.
Over the past year, the company has completely shifted its focus to quick commerce, or q-commerce as it is known, serving the e-commerce and retail sectors in the Arab world’s second-largest economy. .
The value of the Mena q-commerce market is expected to reach approximately $47 billion by 2030, according to research from Redseer. Adjacent sector opportunities could also help the region’s q-commerce market reach $100 billion by then, the consultancy said.
Mr El Koussa says the pivot was driven by demand trends that emerged in the post-Covid lockdown period.
Today, Quiqup serves as an e-commerce enabler for small and medium businesses as well as large enterprises. The platform provides last-mile logistics services, using AI and machine learning to power its operations.
This part of the market is “relatively underserved and the opportunity is much larger for us in this area,” says Mr. El Koussa.
Quiqup’s experience in the London market has helped the company rapidly expand its operations in the UAE and large conglomerates have realized that “our approach is very thorough”, he adds.
Since launching operations in the UAE, Quiqup has achieved an average compound annual growth rate of around 160%, says Mr. El Koussa.
In March, Quiqup received a guarantee for a 5 million dirham ($1.36 million) loan from the Mohammed bin Rashid Innovation Fund that will help the company access “affordable debt financing for permanent investment. in its research and development capabilities”.
In November 2020, the delivery tech startup raised over $5.5 million in a funding round led by Delivery Hero. Existing shareholders Cedar Mundi, JOBI Capital and Transmed also participated in the financing round.
Quiqup now plans to expand its geographic footprint into the wider Mena region. The company aims to establish a presence in Saudi Arabia next year, which will most likely be followed by Egypt at a later stage, El Koussa said.
“For us, Saudi Arabia is super important, and we have our eyes on it.”
The company currently has sufficient capital and will seek to raise more funds at the “right time” to fuel its growth, adds Mr. El Koussa.
Q&A with Bassel El Koussa, co-founder and CEO of Quiqup
Who is your role model?
There is more than one. Both my parents really inspired me, showing me both sides of the coin. The holistic thinking came from my mother. Professional depth, vision and understanding of how to manage businesses, organizations and people well come from my father.
What is your success mantra?
Resilience at all costs will always be that for me. This is embodied in our journey – an unusual story of a company that started in a salon in London and ended in Dubai. It’s just a testament to the fact that we let go of our biases and emotions. We always find the opportunity to move forward.
Are you a risk taker or a cautious entrepreneur?
It really depends on the situation, but I’d say I’m a calculated risk taker. There are times when you have to trust your instincts. And then there are times when you need to dig deeper before making decisions. I constantly maneuver between the two ends of the spectrum.
What successful start-ups do you wish you had started and why?
I love Tesla. Not necessarily for the bravado and the star [status] of Elon Musk, but more for the environmental impact that companies bring to the world, in an industry that is characterized as one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions. I think this revolutionary approach was necessary to shake up this whole industry, and that’s what I really love about this company.
Where do you see Quiqup in 10 years?
We see this company empowering hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs across the Mena region to transition to the digital world and build online stores. We want to help local businesses connect and be part of the e-commerce revolution.
Mena is our first big step, however, … we would look at emerging markets beyond the Mena region and could potentially look at the rest of Africa and South American markets [at a later stage].
What would you change if you had to do it over again?
I started this company when I was 27, and as a first-time founder, you have no benchmarks. So we tend to live in self-doubt. I think making decisions faster, believing in yourself and trusting instincts, is something that will be there in my next venture. I would go faster, I would just believe in myself a little more and I would make decisions faster.
What new skills did you learn starting Quiqup?
I learned to listen — I think that’s something a lot of entrepreneurs have learned. Slow down and listen to every point of view presented to you by your people because you are not everywhere, you do not know everything. You must be able to absorb [information] then activate [strategies]. The other thing is adaptability… [and] believing in knowing when to make a decision based on instinct and when to look deeper.
What are your tips for budding entrepreneurs?
Start fast, fail fast, and learn fast.
Founders: Bassel El Koussa, Federico Ferraro, Tim Linssen, Danny Hawkins
Industry: E-commerce logistics
Funding size: $50 million
Investors: Delivery Hero, JOBI Capital, Transmed, IFA Capital, Alchimia, B8 Ventures
Updated: August 22, 2022, 04:31