Beyond the lira

Yellow Distributed Technologies — Lebanon’s Top 20

This company is part of Executive’s Top 20 in science and technology. Read more stories of our special report on entrepreneurship in Lebanon, as they’re published here.

 

Yellow Distributed Technologies

 

David El Achkar

David El Achkar

Industry: ICT, financial services

Project/product: Yellow Bitcoin payment processor

Year of incorporation: 2014

Product launch: 2014

Employees: One

Board of directors: Yes, four members

Founders: David El Achkar, Ola Doudin, James Piechota 

 

Bitcoin falls into the ranks of one of these new and emerging technologies that even those who have heard of it don’t know very much about, and only a niche clan of followers actually know how to use it. But David El Achkar, cofounder of Yellow Distributed Technologies, sees Bitcoin as “the future of financial transactions,” which he tells Executive could potentially become a replacement for the traditional financial foundation.

Such a future oriented project reflects an entrepreneurial vision and risk taking that Executive commends. Achkar expresses his ambition to grow not only the business, but also a greater awareness and adoption of Bitcoin in general, which of course go hand in hand.

The model in question is a company geared to providing Bitcoin payment solutions, with its first product a Bitcoin payment processor. Only recently launched, it gives online merchants the possibility of offering Bitcoin as a form of payment to their customers. The merchant just has to integrate the processor onto their platform and, voila, they have a new techie friendly and sophisticated payment option without having to deal with any of the technical complexities. Yellow is not currently charging for vendors to accept Bitcoin, but they are taking a 0.5 to 1 percent fee when the merchant wants to transfer the Bitcoins into more traditional forms of cash.

Achkar acknowledges that in the Middle East, their target market, Bitcoin technology is not being adopted at very high rates. But they hope that the products they build around it will make it more accessible to a mainstream audience. With no direct competitors in the region known to either Achkar or Executive, entering the market early could give them the first mover’s advantage if the industry takes off. Achkar concedes that it is a bet they are willing to take.

They currently have three customers, and are in talks with 10-15 potentials with a strong interest, according to Achkar, who adds that they vary across the board in terms of industries and maturities, though “what connects them all is forward-looking businesses.” They are currently gathering feedback, and Achkar says the push to get clients will be much more aggressive after this stage. They are currently focusing on Lebanon, Jordan and the UAE.

Their expansion plans are twofold. Geographically, they want to cover the entire MENA region, and after their three initial markets are looking to move on to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Product-wise, they are also planning to expand into more B2C offerings.

They have just raised $250,000, mostly from angel investors with a small portion of it from friends and family, according to Achkar. He believes this will last 6–12 months, at which point they should be closing a Series A round of investment pegged at somewhere around $1–2 million. The heavy upfront investments certainly make it a ‘cash-burning entity’ for now, but Achkar thinks they can break even in the next 2–3 years.

Livia Murray

Livia covers business, finance and economic policy for Executive.

Thomas Schellen

Thomas Schellen is Executive's editor-at-large. He has been reporting on Middle Eastern business and economy for over 20 years.

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