Mohammed El-Feky was a successful corporate executive who felt he had reached the pinnacle of his career. As the CEO of an Egyptian fintech platform, he had built a company that generated millions of dollars in revenue. But El-Feky wanted a change.
“I thought it was the right time for a new challenge because I had already achieved the milestones I wanted to achieve. The rest was just managing the business that was coming to the company. This did not really fit my personality. I’m more passionate about structuring and building things,” El-Feky said.
“I felt this was my last chance to try something new. I wasn’t young anymore. It was either I remain in the corporate life or I take this chance to enter the start-up world.”
He thought of starting his own company. But as a 40-something corporate executive that had no experience of working for himself, the move seemed risky yet exciting. “I felt this was my last chance to try something new. I wasn’t young anymore. It was either I remain in the corporate life or I take this chance to enter the start-up world.”
El-Feky had launched a successful fintech platform for his previous employer. The platform allowed merchants to offer a "buy now, pay monthly" option to customers. El-Feky thought he could create a new variation of this with his own start-up.
Sympl, the new start-up, short for ‘save your money pay later’, would help customers budget and pay for high ticket expenses like medical expenses or fashion items with a simple payment plan. It would approach customers at checkout and give them a plan that allowed them to pay for the items with 3 to 5 simple payments. The company aims to eliminate pre-registration, vetting and underwriting by targeting Egypt’s 40 million bankcard holders with short-term, no-interest payment plans at the point of purchase.
The Startup Formula
But despite building a fintech company for his previous employer, El-Feky knew he needed critical things to be in place, especially funding. “I’ve always been a firm believer that there are three elements you need to build a start-up: funding, expertise, and connections. I felt that I had almost two out of the three, which were expertise and connections.”
El-Feky’s friend suggested that he talk to Karim Beshara, the General Partner of A15, and urged him to seize the opportunity.
The A15 team has a background in building, scaling, and selling companies. This gives A15 the advantage of understanding the operations of a start-up and the stages in its life cycle. For example, in addition to providing capital, the A15 team uses their knowledge of running companies to help start-ups with getting set up, hiring, business development, challenges of rapid scaling and raising capital.
A15’s Beshara told El-Feky he could go back to the corporate world if his idea didn’t work out but advised that he would regret not starting a company for himself. After several meetings with Beshara, El-Feky took the leap and made a move into entrepreneurship, leaving the corporate world behind. “We spoke several times in the beginning. Karim was the guy who encouraged me to go in this direction. He convinced me I had nothing to lose. The only regret I would have is never trying it out.” El-Feky was joined by Yasmine Henna, a veteran in the "Save Now, Pay Later" space and an integral team member of the first fintech platform El-Feky launched. Henna joined Sympl as a co-founder and is now Chief Commercial Officer.
Launching the Business
Sympl quickly gathered momentum after El-Feky started the company. A15 helped El-Feky establish the new company, including ideation and tech integration, and connected El-Feky to a new co-founder Karim Tawfik [Chief Technology Officer]. A15 also used its expertise to help El-Feky navigate the tech industry.
"They had a huge role in helping me start the company,” El-Feky said. “A15 brought the team together and gave us the right advice, especially when it came to legal frameworks. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to launch the company in two and a half months.”
"We were lucky to get A15. Find the right partners; I'm talking about the expertise, the connections, and the relevance to what you are doing. Find people that know the challenges and the pitfalls. They can guide you."
Marketing and Partnerships
Marketing was another area where A15 made a difference. A15 helped Sympl with brand awareness, brand exposure, and marketing strategy. With A15’s help, Sympl was able to associate itself with well-established brands, mainly across electronics, hyper markets, fashion, travel, and healthcare industries.
A major victory for Sympl was securing partnerships with merchants. “We were able to approach big fashion groups and most of them were multinationals. We managed to acquire 80 to 90 percent of the fashion multinationals in Egypt.”
A15 also assisted Sympl with the business development function. El-Feky got referrals and recommendations from A15 that allowed Sympl to recruit many new clients from the services industry, including medical clinics.
Establishing the Business
Today, Sympl has over 10,000 customers and is adding roughly 1,500 customers a month. It has processed 30,000 transactions since it launched in mid of October 2021. To date, the firm has 60 employees and more than 300 merchants on its platform and the company also raised $6 million in seed funding in December 2021 following its soft launch.
Sympl’s future looks bright and El-Feky has come a long way from his days as a corporate executive. He wants to expand Sympl’s operations to other countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.
El-Feky advises corporate executives that are thinking of making the move into entrepreneurship to choose partners that will provide the right support and guidance. "We were lucky to get A15. Find the right partners; I'm talking about the expertise, the connections, and the relevance to what you are doing. Find people that know the challenges and the pitfalls. They can guide you."