“We Got Funded!” Dubai-Based HR-Tech Platform Alfii Raises US$2.5 Million In A Pre-Seed Funding Round

“We Got Funded!” Dubai-Based HR-Tech Platform Alfii Raises US$2.5 Million In A Pre-Seed Funding Round

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UAE-based human resources (HR) tech platform Alfii has raised US$2.5 million in a pre-seed funding round led by US-based venture capital (VC) firm Preface Ventures. The round also saw the participation of UAE-based VC entities Aditum Ventures and Wayfinders, as well as global early stage tech venture fund Kayan Ventures.

Co-created by Dina Mohammad-Laity, Becky Jefferies and Yousef Albarqawi, Alfii was first launched in its beta phase in November 2022 across the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, as well as the United States and the United Kingdom. At its core, it is a platform that aims to reduce the mundanity and time-consuming nature of administrative HR processes -such as recruiting, onboarding, document collection and management, as well as payroll- for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and startups.

“During our beta phase, we uncovered many additional insights and learnings that have informed our product roadmap, the most noteworthy of which relates to payroll processing,” Jefferies says. “We came to learn that many HR teams -even some with a workforce of several thousand people- are still relying on manual, outdated systems to manage their payroll processing. Knowing that payroll is by far the most critical pain point for HR teams of all industries and sizes, and having also discovered extensive gaps and shortfalls in other payroll solutions, we’re going really narrow and deep on solving these challenges. Building a powerful, comprehensive payroll offering that is unlike any other solution in the market is now one of our top priorities as a company.”

Indeed, Alfii’s new capital is first and foremost expected to be allocated towards building a comprehensive payroll solution for the MENA region. “Our team is working diligently to expand salary payment options, and our clients will soon have access to direct deposits, a variety of exchange houses, and even virtual cards to disburse salaries,” Mohammad-Laity adds. “This flexibility will enable employee users to choose the payment method that best suits their needs. In addition to the just-launched paid time off management, our product roadmap also includes time and attendance tracking in the near-term.”

Becky Jefferies, co-founder and CMO, Alfii. Source: Alfii

But payroll won’t remain the startup’s sole area of focus. Speaking of inefficiencies within HR that persist till date in the MENA, Mohammad-Laity adds, “We’ve learned that many companies are using spreadsheets to track salaries and expenses, or they have to rely on multiple tools to complete the task, which often leads to confusion, frequent errors, and unnecessary costs,” she says. “Regulatory compliance also presents challenges, as meeting local requirements is usually a lengthy, complex process. Existing tools aren’t fully integrated, and they often fall short when it comes to user experience- especially when it comes to the setup/integration. Existing ways of working related to time and attendance are also wrought with inefficiencies. These range from using physical machines for clock-in/clock-out, which can be easily manipulated or forgotten by employees, sub-optimal processes for communicating schedules, and a disconnect between time-tracking and payroll.”

With a fresh influx of cash under their belt, the co-founding trio hope to tackle these issues head-on. “So, beyond payroll, we are still working concurrently to introduce new features like time and attendance tracking, benefits management, and more,” Jefferies says. “Our aim is to further automate and simplify the most tedious and overwhelming core HR processes, so that smaller and growing businesses can break free from HR burnout and focus on more strategic aspects of their work, like company culture and creating better, “people-first” employee experiences.”

But with plans to expand its product feature set and optimize user experience, comes the need to introduce employees that can help achieve said goals. According to co-founder Albarqawi, this will denote the next main area of allocation for Alfii’s new funds. “We’re looking to build the next generation of this product class, and we’re building it entirely in-house, which means we need to bring on world-class talent to grow our business and better serve our customers,” Albarqawi says.

Related: The Pros And Cons Of Starting A Business In The UAE

Yousef Albarqawi, co-founder and CEO, Alfii. Source: Alfii

Alfii’s approach towards addressing HR-related inefficiencies has clearly won the interest of regional investors already. “Data interoperability is an industry-wide challenge in the HR stack, but in developing regions like MENA, those challenges are further exacerbated by local and regulatory infrastructure,” Farooq Abbasi, General Partner of Preface Ventures, says. “With Alfii’s all-in-one software suite, companies will be able to better understand and manage their human capital resources while improving the user experience for employees with features like digital-to-cash remittances, benefits selection, and more.”

On his part, Kayan Ventures co-founder and Managing Partner Yousef Nassar shared his views on how Alfii’s services have launched during a time when the MENA region is at an inflection point in terms of digitizing and automating business processes. “To date, many HR pain points have yet to be solved by existing solutions,” Nassar observes. “Based on feedback from some of Alfii’s early customers, it’s clear that this platform is effectively addressing those pain points- and doing so with an easy-to-use interface in a wildly scalable format.”

Dina Mohammad-Laity, co-founder and CTO, Alfii. Source: Alfii

The confidence shown by investors has heightened the Alfii co-founders’ hopes to become “the most comprehensive fintech-powered people platform in the region.” And, if anything, the success of this pre-seed funding round has only built up their conviction to succeed, Albarqawi says. “You need this conviction because, by default, every single person that you pitch to will challenge you,” he adds. “It doesn’t matter how much they love or hate your product or idea; they will challenge you and they will ask all the hard questions. If you don’t come through the door with exceptionally strong conviction, that will show through, and investors will easily sniff out that you aren’t fully convinced by what you’re doing. And obviously, if you aren’t convinced, then why should they be? And so, the lesson here is that if you are going to be raising -or even just launching something- make sure you believe in it to your very core. That’s what will give you the motivation, discipline and ability to go out and face what is a very difficult funding market and give you the best ammunition to withstand all the questions and challenges!”

Related: “We Got Funded!” Bahrain-Founded Tarabut Gateway Raises US$32 Million In A Series A Round

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