June 7, 2023

Empower the Individual; Empower the World

Entrepreneur success stories are exhilarating, but the financial struggle behind making a dream a reality, or even simply lifting a business that will fund a family, can be soul-crushing.

“Growing up in a financially excluded community, I witnessed the challenges faced by individuals who lacked access to basic financial services.” This personal experience motivated Moataz Alobaid to start Empowch.

Unbanked freelancers and marginalized individuals, especially rural and migrant women in the Middle East and Africa region, should not be excluded from financial services in the eyes of Moataz. “Accessible and inclusive financial services would enable their full participation in the digital economy.” He’s correct; moreover, increasing truly inspirational entrepreneur success cases will require the financial sector to reach more underserved sectors.

Gig goes big

Those that could operate in the gig economy – freelancers and independent workers – often face challenges accessing traditional banking services. Without that option, simply getting started can be impossible. The opportunity to make real change in the lives of individuals, unbanked or marginalized freelancers in the MENA region primarily, is much greater. 

“While we do cater to companies by providing solutions for the gig economy, our main focus is on empowering individuals,” says Moataz. Companies appreciate new and reliable solutions, but giving access to a market entrepreneurs had previously been excluded from – those people never forget that change.

Empowch suits the personality of gig economy workers. Its self-custody mobile wallet solution is sovereign and borderless. This makes it a secure and accessible platform, and all the user needs is a mobile device.

The solution offers access to fully compliant digital currencies, facilitating near-instant transactions at minimal cost for users, including seamless cash payments in local currency. This is catalyzing financial inclusion and equity. 

An entrepreneur's word is their bond

Trust is a crucial element in the banking industry and is playing a significant role in the startup’s success. “With the rise of mobile phone penetration, we are witnessing a leapfrog effect, similar to what happened in the telco industry with landlines being bypassed for mobile devices,” says Moataz.

That shift in consumer behavior has opened up opportunities for individuals to leapfrog the traditional banking system and go mobile with their money, but many are held back by distrust of technology and how their data might be used. A company’s word is not enough; trust needs to be built through transparency and a well-documented commitment to customer privacy and data protection.

Moataz and his co-founder Bethany Condo prioritize building trust through their secure and user-friendly platform, because as more entrepreneurs, gig economy workers, and rural underserved populations experience the convenience and reliability of mobile financial services, trust in the mobile banking industry as a whole will grow.

Blog_Empowch_Empower the Individual Empower the WorldThe social impact, whoever drives it, is Empowch’s mission: “We’re about empowering underserved communities and driving financial inclusion for the millions of unbanked individuals worldwide.” Financial well-being for all is the primary objective. 

Hurdles wrapped in red tape

One of the biggest hurdles Empowch faced was the challenge of compliance and forging strategic partnerships. “We had to carefully analyze and adapt to the evolving regulatory landscape to ensure that Empowch operates within the legal framework and maintains the highest standards of security and data privacy.”

Anyone in Finance or fintech-adjacent understands the significant amount of red tape involved in getting a company of this type up and running. It is an expensive industry in which to grow. “Securing sufficient funding to fuel our growth and expand our operations required strategic planning, effective communication with investors, and demonstrating the potential of Empowch to create a positive impact in the market,” explains the startup founder.

While the compliance and partnership journey presented challenges, the delays ultimately played a positive role in shaping Empowch into a trusted and innovative platform. The team chose to view these hurdles as opportunities for growth because they pushed them to build a product that adheres to the highest standards.

Today, Empowch is distinguished by offering users access to a range of digital currencies, including stablecoins that are pegged to the USD, Euro, and other fiat currencies. This promotes security and ease of cross-border transactions.

Personalizing the perfect product-market fit

The technology industry can feel cold, but any entrepreneur who has found success in the market has done so by building it for people, for its users. Empowch is therefore engaging users on a personal level. Through in-app messaging, customer support, and community engagement, they are gathering feedback, addressing concerns, and adjusting to their needs.

“We are getting testers and working with early adopters in order to achieve product-market fit.

The company’s user experience has been polished even more following investments and mentorship. Improvements within the business, specifically since joining Village Capital's Financial Solutions for Migrants program, include:

  • Fine-tuning target segment;
  • Strengthening the problem statement;
  • Improving financial projections and goal setting.

Through the program, startups are exposed to tools and networks that develop and refine their products and solutions to fit the needs of different migrant communities. Ultimately, they become investor ready.

"Village Capital's Financial Solutions for Migrants accelerator has been an absolute paradigm shift for me,” shares Frederik Goss, CMO Empowch. “The accelerator provided us with valuable tools and an opportunity to tap into the knowledge and experience of founders who have successfully raised investments. Learning directly from those industry insiders was a game-changer."

Next, the world

Looking to the next 5 or 10 years, Empowch has an ambitious roadmap. Geographical expansion is top of the list and necessary in order to reach more underserved regions globally. Empowch will start with the MENA region and expand to Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, then Latin America through strategic partnerships. “With team members spread across three continents, we tap into diverse perspectives and experiences to better serve our global user base,” says Moataz.

 

When talking roadmaps, the platform’s team is eager to enhance capabilities. Empowch will introduce new features such as microcredits, insurance, and investment options. This will be fast-tracked if the company can collaborate with financial institutions, NGOs, government agencies, and fintech companies to access a wider user base, as well as leverage emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning to enhance the security, efficiency, and user experience.

 

Most importantly, Moataz, Bethany, and their team are committed to financial literacy: “We will invest in educational resources, equipping our users with the knowledge to make informed financial decisions.” All of this will be transparently measured and reported, of course.

 

“Our resilient and resourceful team is driven by a commitment to make a meaningful impact in the lives of the unbanked and underserved."

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