Revolutionizing Small Business Banking: An Exclusive Interview with the Founders of axis

By: The GrEEK Campus Team (The GrEEK Campus)

On: 24 May 2023 10:05 AM

axis, a digital banking platform for small businesses, launched last Wednesday in partnership with Visa. We had the chance to chat to the founders, Jacques Marco (CEO), Nada Abdelnour (Chief Growth Officer), and Ahmed Ragab (CTO) to hear about what drove them to start axis, how axis serves small businesses, what this means for the Egyptian ecosystem, what makes the axis tech stack unique, and why they chose to work from The GrEEK Campus in Downtown Cairo! 

What was the catalyst behind axis and your coming together as co-founders to start Axis? (Jacques Marco, CEO) 

We started axis because we believe that a majority of Egyptians are excluded from the financial system, and we wanted to change that. Over half of Egyptians are unbanked, leaving them with no way to borrow at reasonable rates, no way to save for retirement, and no way to participate in the growing digital economy. 

When we dug further into the problem, we found that over 50% of small businesses in Egypt still don’t have access to banking services, and are therefore heavily cash based, paying their employees, contractors, and suppliers in cash. We figured this would be the best place to start if we wanted to have the greatest impact. Small businesses are the backbone of the Egyptian economy, contributing to 80% of GDP and employing approximately 20 million Egyptians. We started axis to provide these under-served small businesses & their employees with a digital banking alternative. 

We all have previous fintech experience, with Jacques Marco & Ahmed Ragab having founded Raseedy in 2019, the first non-telco & non-bank mobile wallet (acquired by MNT-Halan), and Nada having led product marketing at a Swedish FinTech startup called Zettle that was acquired by PayPal. We came together to leverage our FinTech experience to level the playing field for small businesses. We were encouraged by the strong government & Central Bank of Egypt push for digitisation and financial inclusion.


How does Axis serve small businesses and their employees? (Nada Abdelnour, Chief Growth Officer) 

axis is a digital banking platform for small businesses. Small businesses are heavily cash based, with over 50% still paying salaries in cash and over 90% still paying suppliers in cash or by cheque. We empower small business founders to seamlessly manage employee payroll, salary advances, employee expenses, and payments to suppliers - all from one place, the axis Business Platform. Small businesses can now send salaries instantly onto the axisPay mobile wallet of their employees or contractors, instead of paying them in cash or opening them a bank account.  They can also reimburse employees for any out of pocket expenses, and give employees access to earned wage advances. 

For employees who receive their salaries on an axisPay mobile wallet we have turned their monthly salary into a daily salary so that they can get access to ‘earned wage advances,’ meaning if they have worked 10 days in a month, they can ask for 10 days worth of salary and receive it instantly onto their axisPay mobile wallet once approved by their company.  Employees can also get reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses onto the axisPay mobile wallet.

The axisPay mobile wallet, which is licensed by the Central Bank of Egypt, is a fully interoperable mobile wallet, meaning users/employees can use it to send and receive money from any mobile wallet in Egypt. They can also pay their bills, buy anything online with a virtual Visa card, or scan any QR code to pay for anything in-person, and get points & cashback every time they spend with axis

axis is also simplifying business payments for the 90% of small businesses who still pay their suppliers in cash or by cheque.  Small businesses can now use axis to send money to their suppliers on any mobile wallet or bank account. 

With axis, small businesses can start and get onboarded on the same day with axisPay mobile wallets for all their employees, and it is an affordable pay-as-you-go subscription model with no admin or hidden fees. axis is also great for startups that don’t have the funds for bank payroll or have gig workers such as drivers who are unbanked and want to pay them instantly onto a mobile wallet. 

axis aims to become a one-stop digital banking platform for all small business needs including payments, acceptance, and lending. 


 What does this mean for the Egyptian entrepreneurship ecosystem? (Jacques Marco, CEO) 

We are all experienced Fintech operators and we feel we can add a lot to the nascent Egyptian entrepreneurship ecosystem. We have experience from established international companies including IBM, PayPal, and Yahoo, and have gone through two exits (Raseedy to MNT Halan; and iZettle to PayPal). 

This is reflected in our ambitions to be a leading Fintech platform not only in Egypt, but also in Africa. It is also reflected in the way we have built all our tech in-house, and the importance we place on our company culture and employees. We hope to contribute to building a talent pool that can go on to build digital solutions to solve other important problems in Egypt and the region. 


What is unique about axis’ tech? (Question asked to Ahmed Ragab, CTO)

What is unique about axis’ tech stack is that it is entirely built in-house by the axis tech team, which now numbers 40 people. We have built a fully compliant mobile money solution following the Central Bank of Egypt’s rule-book. This is important because it allows us to be extremely flexible in our partnerships, integrations, product, and unit economics. We have also built and continue to manage all our infrastructure in-house. We have applied extremely high security measures to our solution, having undergone 3 penetration & vulnerability tests by external parties. 


Why did you choose to be based at The GrEEK Campus? How has the decision been helpful toward meeting your business’ needs? (Nada Abdelnour, Chief Growth Officer) 

We chose the GrEEK Campus because of the vibrant tech community they have built and the central location. We love being located in the old AUC library. It is inspiring on a daily basis and it’s always sunny! We host tech meet-ups regularly in our office and feel like the Greek campus attracts top tech talent we can work closely with to forge partnerships & build products that can have a real impact.

The establishment of axis is a significant step towards empowering small businesses in the Egyptian ecosystem. The founders have shared their insights on how axis serves small businesses, its unique tech stack, and why they chose to work from the GrEEK campus in downtown Cairo. The launch of axis represents a positive development for the Egyptian ecosystem, as it provides small businesses with more accessible and efficient financial services. With its innovative approach and experienced leadership team, axis is poised to disrupt the digital banking landscape by providing a valuable solution for small business owners in Egypt and beyond.