As the world is readapting to some sort of normalcy post COVID, some people are finding themselves struggling to get things done, are always in a rush, and trying to manage their work-life balance. The never ending to-do lists are proving to be time consuming and taking away from their personal and family times.
Enter Yanzo, the digital concierge that takes care of picking up and delivering, car services, document services, home repair services, and many more. Yanzo, the winner of the Startups Track of Startup Competition, is a text-based personal assistant available in both English and Arabic where you can get all your stuff done by only sending your request through SMS/Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, or Twitter.
We’ve had the pleasure to sit down with Magieda Abaza, the co-founder and head of operations at Yanzo, for an interview to get more insight on how it all started, their experience with the Competition, their challenges, internal culture, future business plans, and some key advice for the upcoming entrepreneurs.
- How did Yanzo come to life? Where did the idea come from?
Yanzo came to life in 2017. The team was already looking for unique ideas when they came across “Conversational commerce” and familiarized themselves with eCommerce. Everyone is already going through a lot with a million errands to run during the week which is distracting them from focusing on what really matters such as work, family, health… On the other hand, people are bombarded with lots of mobile applications where they have to search, get reviews, and keep following up after getting things done which is very time-consuming. After researching for solutions around the world, the team found that the virtual personal assistant had started to be introduced to the masses similar to the concierge services but with an affordable and a digital twist. There were some companies with this business model already operating at that time like GetMagic in the US and GoButler in Germany. However, we had nothing quite like it in the Middle East, so the team decided to establish one in the MENA region that would be easily accessible across all social media channels.
- Describe your journey with the MITEF Pan Arab Startup Competition
Honestly, the full experience was more than perfect. From the moment we knew that we were selected among the semifinalists, we received the greatest support from the MITEF team. The program agenda was communicated beforehand, all the promises were fulfilled on time and even better. It was definitely worth the 10-day stay where we got the chance to meet with investors and other founders from all over the MENA region. We were able to build some good connections and business partnerships and were able to exchange experiences and knowledge throughout the competition days; not to mention the great hospitality in Al Madinah Al Munawara.
Moreover, we were able to pitch Yanzo to an esteemed panel of judges that included H.R.H. Prince Saud Bin Khalid Alfaisal where we had the chance to discuss our solution and business model and how to introduce such a new concept as Yanzo to the market. To top it all, it was such a great honor for us to be chosen as the winners of the Startups Track of the competition. We couldn’t have wished for a better ending to this journey.
- What are some of the challenges that you faced with your startup and how did you overcome them?
One of the main problems we faced was the lack of resources. Yanzo was growing well organically; however, due to the pandemic, we lost all the promised investment opportunities since none of the investors were interested in investing in seed startups at the time. We had a growing list of clients who were waiting for our services; however, we were unable to deliver due to the lack of resources. That’s when we realized that we had to look for alternative solutions to grow our business despite the lack of cash. We on-boarded a tech partner who was able to build our technology which elevated Yanzo’s full proposition and market valuation. Our challenges were what built our stamina and made us grow even stronger to get us where we are now.
- What is your internal work culture? How do you lead your team?
The most important thing for us is real teamwork. No one can build a successful startup without being able to ensure the proper collaboration among the team members. We encourage sharing ideas, getting everyone involved and informed, and promoting the creative mindset Everyone must be willing to contribute to the business and be flexible enough to adapt to change. We also encourage transparency and mutual trust among the team members.
- What are Yanzo’s future plans?
We’re currently focusing mainly on growth and expansion. The cash prize and the investment opportunities that we received from the MITEF competition gave us a great push. Our plans are to grow our team, expand to the UAE market and do a soft launch in KSA by the end of 2022.
- What is the key advice you can give to other entrepreneurs?
Basically focus on the vision, be patient and get a trusted team. Teamwork is the key to success!
If you’re interested in applying for the 16th Edition of MITEF’s Arab Startup Competition, click here and register your interest to be the first to get notified.