While running Ingez, his courier business, in the MENA region, Waleed Rashed realised that small ecommerce business owners wanted affordable access to courier services. The gap in the market led him to start SIDEUP, a platform to empower ecommerce businesses with access to courier marketplaces.
“During COVID-19, we realised that ecommerce business owners face many more problems than we could imagine. For example, they are charged high commissions and fees by big platforms. If they are to build alone, they need access to logistics, warehousing, payments, etc. However, they have no way to get access to all these services,” says Waleed in a conversation with YourStory Gulf Edition.
That’s when they decided to launch SIDEUP, a one-stop solution for ecommerce business owners “who can choose their service providers and build a successful business”.
The platform helps clients to ensure last-mile delivery success, grow revenue, and achieve scale. The business was launched in 2019 in Egypt; in December 2022, the team shifted headquarters to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
SIDEUP was previously known as VOO, which has become one of the leading logistics marketplaces in the region. Logistics in the region remain complicated and by having one place to choose courier services from, business owners can compare, select, and ship with the best partners.
The startup raised SAR 4.51 million ($1.2 million) in a seed funding round in 2022. Riyadh Angels, Al Tuwaijri Fund, Saudi angel investor Faisal AlAbdulsalam, Alex Angels, 500 Global, and Launch Africa participated in the round.
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Challenges along the way
Waleed, 39, started his career in banking. “My first startup was in the courier space, where I ran a business called Ingez. The logistics space has a lot of challenges and as we grew and the ecommerce economy emerged, I realised that businesses don’t have a single place to access multiple courier service providers,” he says.
For businesses that need more services, SIDEUP offers access to payment gateways, API integration for shipping, warehousing, fulfillment, and business advisory.
It has partnered with industry leaders such as ecommerce platforms Zid, Zammit, and Wuilt; payments service Paytab; and logistics providers Aramex, J&T, and iMile.
“Most of our challenges were from when we operated as a courier marketplace. In Egypt, for example, we have ‘addressing’ challenges and it’s still a cash economy. We ensured that every customer had access to a dedicated account manager to resolve delivery issues because of inconsistent address details.
“We also accepted cash on delivery from end consumers. This cash was paid to our clients within 24 hours to ensure that these small businesses always had a strong cash flow,” he explains.
As a non-tech founder, it was important for Waleed to find the best talent to build an easy to use, scalable product. He hired people with experience in the ecommerce sector. His team has more 40 people across Egypt, including new hires in Saudi Arabia.
SIDEUP Egypt Team
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Workings of the platform
Using SIDEUP – available in English and Arabic – is simple. Ecommerce business owners simply need to login, choose the courier they require, and evaluate the pricing options that work best for them. They have access to a dashboard, from where they can track the status of their requests and make changes.
SIDEUP provides all customers with an account manager to streamlines processes and ensure customer support.
As per a recent RedSeer report, the MENA ecommerce market will be worth $100 billion by 2023. The resurgent oil market internationally is bolstering the region’s retail sector. The report added that unlike western counterparts, MENA retailers can anticipate a boost in retail spending in the next 12 months.
While there are startups like Freterium and TrukKER, they aren’t direct competition to SIDEUP, which focuses on access to courier marketplaces.
“Various marketplace models are available today, but we have aimed to build the most comprehensive services platform. Because we are built to scale, we are able to easily onboard providers and add new service categories rapidly,” Waleed says.
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Revenue and the future
The founder says the company’s clients come from different sectors and include homegrown brands and global names.
“Our partners who pay us a fee based on transaction size. SIDEUP is a cash-flow positive business, with over $500K GMV per month and growing at 30% monthly,” he says.
The team refused to share exact charges and revenue details.
SIDEUP works with 2,000 ecommerce businesses across Egypt and Saudi Arabia. All customers have the option of accepting cash on delivery, which is paid to merchants every 24 hours.
“We are presently focused on building our presence in Saudi Arabia, a new market for us. We are excited about the opportunities and see this as a gateway to the rest of the GCC. We are also going to double down on our presence in Egypt where we are market leaders,” says Waleed, adding that the ecommerce sector has immense potential and “we are only getting started”.