Industry: Financial services and ICT
Project/Product: Simba mobile payment solution
Year of incorporation: 2010
Product launch: 2013
Employees at time of interview: Six and hiring
Board of directors: Yes, six members
Founders/shareholders: Karim El Khoury; Paris based partners, Creova; Berytech; and financial institutions
The business model is facilitation of mobile commerce. Karim El Khoury, chairman and chief executive of Via Mobile, wants to transform the mobile phone into a one stop interface for the Lebanese user’s every bill payment and recurrent payment. Via Mobile’s core competencies are not in software development (this is done by shareholder and sister company Creova) but in building services and the network. Having entered partnering agreements with two banks in Lebanon, El Khoury says Via Mobile aims to grow horizontally by reaching agreements with additional banks and vertically by adding more services and integrating “on top of other payment networks.”
After one year of operations, Via Mobile’s customer base is now “in the five digits,” Khoury adds. The earnings proposition is based on transaction fees for either users or merchants (comparable in price vis-à-vis credit cards) and the business plan entails a revenue sharing formula for participating banks. The company’s assumption of scalability is based on plans to develop the local operation as a model and expand from there into foreign markets.
Across markets, Via Mobile aspires to operate independently rather than as a codependent business extension provider of either banks or mobile network operators. Investment to date has been around $450,000 and, projecting first year turnover at $400,000, the company is seeking to raise debt and equity.
We like that Via Mobile wants to go big in financial markets. It aims to become a service provider, licensed and operating as a financial institution that can serve banked and non-banked populations for their payment and commercial needs, with a time saving edge. This company wants to dance with the banks and step on their toes at the same time. Moreover, El Khoury wants to turn the challenges of the Lebanese market to his advantage, “because there isn’t a market that is as complex and as egocentric as Lebanon’s.”