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Sequoia enters Pakistan with Dbank investment

  • Pakistan-based fintech announces raising $17.6mn in seed round, the largest in country's history
Published July 30, 2022
Courtesy: Dbank/ Facebook
Courtesy: Dbank/ Facebook

Backed by US-based Sequoia Capital, Pakistan's fintech Dbank announced on Thursday that it has raised $17.6 million, the largest seed-round in the country’s history.

The round was co-led by Sequoia Capital Southeast Asia, the recently-unveiled $1-billion fund of the world’s most influential venture capital company, that has now made its first investment in Pakistan, and Kleiner Perkins, reported TechCrunch.

Strategic investors/partners include one of the world’s largest digital banking platforms Nubank, local player Askari Bank and Rayn. The round also included participation from RTP Global and angel investors who have worked at companies such as Google, Goldman Sachs and Stripe, said Dbank on its social media platforms.

Dbank was founded in 2021 by Tania Aidrus, who previously served as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Digital Pakistan before resigning in 2020, and Khurram Jamali, former head of partnerships for payments across the Next Billion User (NBU) markets for Google.

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The fintech startup aims to expand the reach of financial services in a “transparent and friendly” manner in Pakistan, taking on the informal credit system prevalent in the country, Tania Aidrus was quoted as saying in an interview with TechCrunch.

Aidrus added that nearly half of the population of Pakistan currently does not have bank accounts. “We want our users to be in control of their money and to make informed choices,” she said.

While the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) looks to quickly explore options that would speed up digitisation of the banking sector in the country, Dbank too, has applied to become a digital retail bank.

“The reason it is the perfect time to launch a venture like Dbank is that the key building blocks are now in place,” said Jamali in a statement, citing the example of Raast, the central bank’s real-time payment system.

“We have seen the multiplier effect that digital public infrastructure can have on the private sector's ability to help move economies from cash to digital,” added Jamali.

The startup aims to eventually build a customer-centric digital bank in the Pan-Islamic world beginning with Pakistan.

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“Pakistan, the world’s fifth most populous nation, has a fast-growing middle class with increasingly sophisticated banking needs,” Johan Surani, VP at Sequoia Southeast Asia, said in the statement.

“This signals a unique opportunity to build a large, customer-centric bank for millions of people. Dbank is addressing this by taking a digital-native approach to democratize banking and make a broad set of financial services friendly, transparent and thus, accessible for the entire nation,” he added.

The funding comes as Pakistan’s startup sector attracted a record amount of investment in 2021. While momentum was carried over to the current year, many have announced closing shop as well.

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