Based in Amman, Liwwa is a crowdfunding and investment platform that was founded by Palestinian entrepreneurs Ahmed Moor and Samer Atiani, during Harvard University’s Innovation Lab in 2013. The platform connects small businesses in need of capital with fififixed-income investors, and addresses the problem of extremely low financing rates in the region, which make it very hard for SMES to get a loan. The company’s mission is to deliver job and income growth by helping to close the $240B SME funding gap in the MENA region. The company’s first year of operating saw it lend $1.8M to 81 small businesses and has current applications for over $50M from qualified companies.
The peer-to-peer lending startup focuses mainly on providing loans to small businesses, operating almost entirely online and sourcing capital from retail and institutional lenders, rather than depositors. The platform allows borrowers such as SMES to access capital and apply for small business loans while investors earn regular monthly returns on their investments and grow/ diversify their investment portfolios. Liwwa conducts in-house reviews of the small businesses’ credibility and has two revenue streams, first they collect 2% of every payment that a borrower makes into the network, and they also lend their own money to borrowers.
In March 2015, Liwwa raised $500,000 in a seed round led by DASH Ventures, with Bank Al Etihad and MENA Venture Investments, and in April 2016, it raised $2.3M in a Series A round led by Silicon Badia’s Badia Impact Fund, with DASH Ventures and Samih Toukan, Chairman of Jabbar Internet Group, participating in equity financing, thus raising $2.8M in total. Liwwa plan to use the funding to develop their ability to assess applicants using technology rather than traditional credit ratings as well as grow their underwriting capacity in Jordan and the MENA region while opening the company’s New York software development and data center.