While the fintech sector has been producing plenty of innovative new solutions to solve every existing problem under the sun, little do we often hear about finance tools catering to a specific age group: teenagers.
Cashee, a UAE-based fintech founded in 2020 by Smeetha Ghosh, Brad Whittfield and Gups Jutla, offers a Visa prepaid card and digital platform to teens aged 13 and above in the UAE and those aged between 6 and 18 in Saudi Arabia, that gives parents the ability to deposit money, manage gifts, pay allowances, manage chores and set flexible controls on how much kids can spend. The platform also provides learning tools for teens to find out more about the importance of managing money, from a young age.
Financial literacy, the ability to understand and effectively use various financial skills, including personal financial management, budgeting, and investing, is still in short supply worldwide, and even more so in the MENA region. According to a recent study, only one-third of adults globally are considered financially literate, due to a historic lack of proper financial education within the education system, among other factors. In terms of curriculums and the tools available online, this has somewhat improved as of late, with children and teens having more awareness and knowledge about the importance of managing money.
For Cashee, this is the market segment that the company has set out to support, especially as the MENA region is undergoing a cashless revolution.
To power its platform and ambitions, the company has partnered with regional banks in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, such as the Kingdom’s Arab National Bank (anb). It has also been part of Visa's Fintech Fast Track Program, a programme that partners the global finance company with promising early-stage payment startups and provides them with support. Cashee also received financial support from the Ma’an Grants Programme, an initiative by Abu Dhabi’s Authority of Social Contribution - Ma’an, that supports companies and organisations that are creating a social impact in the emirate.
With $4.3 million raised so far, primarily from anb, Cashee is planning to launch in the UAE and Saudi Arabia later this year. Hoping to learn more about the company, the Abu Dhabi SME Hub spoke with co-founder Smeetha Ghosh, who also serves as CEO.
Smeetha Ghosh, Co-Founder and CEO of Cashee
Can you tell us a bit about your professional background, and why you decided to create Cashee?
I’ve held senior leadership positions in Marketing and Product, having worked in consumer electronics for global brands for 15 +years in Europe and in the Middle East.
My co-founder Brad and I decided to create Cashee (meaning my money in Arabic!) in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, when we were hearing stories of thousands of people around the world going through economic hardships with job losses and not having enough saved to tide them through tough times. A lot of adults expressed the need to better manage their money and that they wish they were taught better when they were younger. This insight sparked the desire in us to teach the youth better money habits through a simple and engaging platform like Cashee. Fast forward two years and we are already working on Cashee 2.0 which is going to be unlike anything that exists out there in the space of youth banking!
How does the Cashee business model work?
Cashee currently earns revenue mainly via interchange i.e. the fee the merchant pays the bank- we take a clip of that.
Can you tell us more about your partnerships with major organizations like FAB, Visa, and Microsoft, and how they are contributing to your offerings?
Cashee is not a bank. So, to do what we do in different markets, we need to partner up with a bank or FI (financial institution) in the back end, who will be the ultimate custodian of our customer’s funds and also comply with local regulations. This is where our partnerships with banks come into the picture. Partnerships with schemes like Visa help us expand in various markets by giving us the ability to use their help and resources, to network with banks and even raise awareness of our offerings through joint marketing activations.
Late last year, you raised a $3 million Series A, announcing plans to expand to Saudi Arabia. Can you tell us about how the conversation began with Arab National Bank/ANB Capital and why they had an interest in funding your expansion into Saudi?
As part of KSA’s Vision 2030, the Financial Sector Development Program aims to develop a diversified and effective financial sector to support the development of Saudi Arabia's economy, diversify its sources of income, and stimulate savings, finances and investments. Arab National Bank is committed to this program and to do their part in helping the youth understand about better money management and encourage them to save better.
With this vision in mind, anb considered various tech companies in this space in the region to partner with and selected Cashee after a rigorous due diligence that lasted many months.
The understanding was that to be successful in the youth banking space, a bank needs to partner up with a specialist like Cashee, whose sole focus is the youth audience. When youth banking becomes a part of a bank’s portfolio, that focus gets diffused. Gen Z’ers don’t necessarily want to talk to banks but they are very receptive to fintechs who speak their language.
It’s a win-win situation for both Cashee and anb as with this partnership we both get to achieve the ultimate goal—to teach the youth about better financial habits now so they grow to become more responsible with their money.
As an entrepreneur, what are some notable challenges you've faced and key lessons you've learned so far?
One of the biggest lessons for me personally has been to acknowledge that there’s a very high likelihood of things not going according to plan, especially in the fintech sector where you are at the mercy of slow processes, local regulations, lots of approvals, etc. As an entrepreneur, one then must learn the art of patience, perseverance and staying agile.
What's next for Cashee?
Cashee is due to launch in UAE and KSA this year. We’re firing on all cylinders at the moment to make this happen!