baraka Unveils Commission-Free US Investment Platform for the Region Following USD 1 Million Pre-Seed Capital Raise

  • Mobile app will provide access to more than 4,000 US listed securities, including stocks, Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and fractional shares
  • Funding round led by Class 5 Global, with participation from FJ Labs, IMO Ventures, The Community Fund, VentureSouq and private investment from Dr. Abdulla Elyas, Co-founder of Careem
  • Other platform features include bite-sized daily market newsletter, in-app messenger and gamified investment quizzes

Dubai, UAE – 9 March 2021: baraka, a UAE-based fintech start-up on a mission to educate, enable and empower millennials, introduced its proprietary commission-free mobile trading platform by launching its waitlist and free stock giveaway1 today. The secure and user-friendly app is aiming to officially launch in the second quarter of 2021, subject to regulatory approval. Once available for download, the app will provide access to over 4,000 US listed securities, including stocks, Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and fractional shares. Users will gain free access to the mobile trading app, as well as the option of a paid tier offering stock analysis, with no minimum investment requirements.

Feras Jalbout, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of baraka, said: “The retail investor revolution is no longer on the horizon – it’s already begun. Young investors in the Middle East are becoming more conscious about the companies and causes they want to support. Whether it’s backing organisations that prioritise diversity and inclusion, seeking sustainable investment options, or just helping their favourite brands to grow, millennials want a say in where their money is going. So, we created a platform that would allow them to do that, while addressing their two biggest challenges – limited access to US listed stocks, and a lack of understanding around how they work.”

In July 2020, baraka first launched its finance-themed newsletter, ‘akhbaraka’ – a clever play on the company’s name and the Arabic word for ‘news’ – to increase investor knowledge. These bite-sized daily market newsletters are delivered straight to thousands of subscribers’ inboxes, combining engaging illustrations with digestible local and international stories, which will soon also be found in the baraka app. In addition, baraka users will be able to engage through an in-app messenger and test their knowledge through gamified investment quizzes.

Kunal Taneja, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at baraka said: “Building the baraka platform wasn’t just about opening a gateway to investment opportunities – that was a major part of it – but we wanted to make sure that we were offering a secure, social and enjoyable experience along the way. We’ve designed the app based on what young investors are actively seeking, and user feedback will play a huge role in the features we continue to add post-launch.”

The latest development comes following the company’s pre-seed capital raise of USD 1 million. The funding round was led by Class 5 Global, with participation from FJ Labs, IMO Ventures, The Community Fund, VentureSouq and private investment from Dr. Abdulla Elyas, Co-Founder of Careem.

Joel Ayala, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Class 5 Global, commented: “MENA has one of the youngest populations and highest rates of smartphone penetration and engagement in the world. However, consumers have limited options when it comes to investing, especially in their favorite US stocks, and the current offerings lack a truly customer-centric approach. baraka is solving this problem by being commission-free, customer obsessive, and a mobile-first platform. We are seeing retail and consumer investing behaviors change dramatically globally and believe baraka is best positioned to take advantage of these tailwinds in the region.”

Tammer Qaddumi, Partner at VentureSouq, said: “The past 12 months have laid bare both the excitement and the effects of the financial markets. Share price moves of the highest visibility brands seems to be front of mind for everyone. By removing friction for individuals to access stocks, ETFs or fractional shares, we see baraka as a core enabler within a broader trend of decentralisation that is happening across the global economy.”

Calanthia Mei and Lolita Taub, Partners at The Community Fund, commented: “Investing is an innately social experience. At the Community Fund, we are impressed by baraka’s community-driven approach in empowering retail investors in the Middle East. We believe that baraka will cultivate a community where the next generation of retail investors can learn and trade together.”

Early adopters who want to be among the first to experience the new platform and have the chance to earn free stock are invited to join the waitlist, which is now open on the baraka website:

About baraka

baraka is a UAE-based start-up on a mission to connect young, urban millennials to numerous investment opportunities through a vibrant and transparent ecosystem. baraka educates, enables and empowers first-time investors and those who want to take full control of their portfolio to choose which stocks and companies they want to put their money behind.

baraka has already successfully built a community of thousands of subscribers who are committed to proactively growing their wealth by mastering the markets using the many resources and tools available to them. baraka provides investors with everything they need, from daily MENA and global market news snapshots delivered directly to their inbox, to bite-sized explanations of complex industry terms, and a community forum that allows members to share perspectives on market movements.

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Building a Fintech Platform During a Global Pandemic

When we decided to create a new fintech platform in the middle of a pandemic, we knew we were throwing ourselves into something ‘challenging’ – to say the least. We weren’t able to get the whole team in a room together to hammer out strategies, celebrate good ideas and put bad ones to bed.

So, why did we do it during COVID-19? The rationale was overwhelming – in fact, especially so given the context. With limited job security and uncertainty around what the future would hold, ambitious young investors needed help diversifying their income streams and navigating the start of their investment journey now, more than ever.

baraka had to happen and it had to happen sooner, rather than later.

Our coders, developers, content providers, and management sat in different time zones, so we ramped up the remote working infrastructure and got to work building a business.

The time zone issue worked to our advantage – it meant we could achieve productivity for much longer than one working day, with an almost 24/7 operation, provided we had the right infrastructure in place. We wasted no time pivoting to cloud-based ‘desktop-as-a-service’ (DaaS) options, accessible from anywhere in the world, as well as virtualization tools and cloud computing services by using AWS as our trusted partners.

We also realized very early on that seamless communication was going to be the key to seamless operations – especially when the majority of our discussions were going to take place through a screen. We quickly adopted communications tools like Slack, Google Meet and Zoom, that have been essential in our day-to-day interaction as a team. It was important that we were able to communicate across multiple platforms because no matter how extensive our checks for efficiency, security and vulnerabilities were, you never know when servers might go down. Take the massive global Slack outage last week, for example – although we felt we were losing resource time, the team were able to quickly switch to other channels and minimize disruption.

Cybersecurity is another primary focus for CTOs right now, even those with CISOs in their organization. Data loss prevention is a priority topic in times like these – and one that we have all had to tackle urgently. Employees may be lulled into a false sense of security by using a firewall while working remotely – this does not, however, guarantee a network is safe. Since employees’ home networks are not corporate-managed, we can only assume these are as secure as a public internet. Therefore, extra measures have had to be put in place, such as ensuring all laptops used for work purposes have endpoint protection.

Finally, with a brand like baraka, it was really important that we created a positive company culture for our team. Feras and I don’t just believe in what we’re building, we really enjoy it – and we wanted to make sure everyone involved in baraka felt the same, even if they never met face to face. We hired proactive self-starters, because micromanagement isn’t part of our ethos, but we also let them know we were always accessible by introducing daily stand-up meetings and virtual town halls. The open two-way dialogue has meant that people don’t shy away from asking questions, which means we can resolve issues before they arise.

It has, by no means, been an easy ride but we’ve adapted quickly and shown flexibility and agility in the way we work. The way I see it, if we can do it in the middle of a global pandemic…imagine what we will be able to do when the world goes back to normal? Let’s hope 2021 gives us that opportunity.