A year after having managed to raise more than 67 million dollars in venture capital funds, Noureddine Tayebi returned the cover. In early November, the co-founder of Yassir, a mobile application that provides transport and home delivery services, closed a new funding round, allowing him to raise around 150 million euros to finance the development of the platform and its expansion in Africa.
The 45-year-old Algerian businessman, who launched the app in 2017 with an initial capital of US$10,000, is thus at the forefront of “North Africa’s Most Valuable Startup”, according to the statement released by his company on Nov. A meteoric rise for this engineer who discovered the entrepreneurial spirit towards the end of his life.
In the 1990s, Noureddine Tayebi, the son of doctors born in Algiers, was encouraged by his family to apply for a scholarship at American universities, while his colleagues at the Polytechnic School of Algiers were preparing to join French engineering schools. He landed on the benches of Stanford, a prestigious university on the west coast.
With his doctorate in hand, the statistics enthusiast joined Intel’s research and development laboratory in 2006, then the world’s largest manufacturer of processors. There, he develops DNA sequencing technology with the aim of creating solutions in precision medicine. “The department was structured as a startup accelerator. I acquired skills in research and development, product management, marketing and commercialization »remembers Nureddine Tayebi.
Create a “virtuous circle”
After eight years at Intel, he resigned and at the age of 37 launched InSense, a company specializing in motion nanosensors, which he sold in 2018 for Mojo Vision, a Silicon Valley company known for making connected lenses. The value of the sale was not disclosed.
From his offices in California, the Algerian businessman, who follows the young sprouts of the Maghreb at the same time, decides to invest more in the high-tech sphere in North Africa, which is still in its infancy. Purpose: “Become the local champion and snowball” copying the model that has proven itself in emerging countries:
“Entrepreneurial ecosystems in Asia and South America have matured thanks to local champions like Baidu and Tencent in China, Grab and Gojek in Southeast Asia or Nubank in Brazil, who have created more value and can help other players succeed in their turn.. A virtuous circle is thus established. Mutual help between entrepreneurs has an impact on the environment in which they operate. »
Inspired by the journey of Reed Hastingss, co-founder of Netflix, Noureddine Tayebi also wants to disrupt uses by attacking a hitherto virgin market: the on-demand transport service, to address the lack of public transport in the main Algerian cities. Yassir is born. Like other VTC (car with driver) applications, the platform, dubbed the “Algerian Uber”, is paid for when it is launched by charging a commission for each trip. The percentage charged depends “driver performance and experience”.
“They thought I was crazy. They tried to dissuade me. I was told it would never work,” says former engineer
Success is almost immediate. Its co-founder is expanding its range of products and opening up to e-commerce by launching Yassir Express at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, a meal delivery and home shopping service. “They thought I was crazy. They tried to dissuade me. I was told it would never work”confides the former engineer, who laments the lack of risk-taking among aspiring North African entrepreneurs:
“It is often said that the problem is bureaucracy. But that is not true. The real problem is that they are not ambitious enough. They don’t dare to challenge the boundaries of what’s possible enough. »
More than 5 million users
Punchword, a social network that allows users to share quotes and words “inspiring” with his friends, is the latest start-up to enter his investment portfolio. “He advised me to think from the beginning of the project with an international vision and not limit myself to local markets”says Mohamed Skander, co-founder of the app, whose beta version already has nearly 300,000 downloads: “For him, one should not be afraid to compete with the heavyweights in the sector, nothing is set in stone. And its success proves it. »
With this new fundraising, Yassir, which employs 300 engineers in charge of development, continues to grow despite the entry into the market of several competitors such as the French Heetch or the Algerian TemTem. Today, the application is present in eight countries (Algeria, Germany, Canada, Ivory Coast, France, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia) and 45 cities, where it has more than 5 million users. Yassir, whose turnover is not disclosed, has 80% of the on-demand transport market in the Maghreb. In his itinerary are the main English-speaking markets of the continent, such as South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt.
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Unlike Uber, Yassir intends to develop its own e-payment platform, a kind of Algerian PayPal, to combine three activities in the medium term: transport on demand, home delivery and an electronic payment service. Because behind the attractive products already on the market there is another challenge: the digitization of payment methods in North Africa, in order to create an environment conducive to the birth of new local applications.