baraka, the Middle East platform for commission-free investing, has announced it has closed a $20 million Series A round, led by Valar Ventures. baraka marks the first regional investment for Valar, a venture capital firm backed by globally renowned entrepreneur Peter Thiel. Closing out the round was global investment firm Knollwood.
Launched in 2021, baraka is empowering investors across the region with access to commission-free investing and access to over 6,000 US stocks and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). Starting from $1, investors on baraka can build diversified portfolios and long-term wealth by benefiting from global equity markets to achieve financial independence. Investment platforms continue to be a preferred choice for regional investors, as they consider a shift away from traditional savings options such as bank deposits and real estate.
With this new investment, baraka will double down on its presence across the GCC and Egypt, and drive customer acquisition. The company will continue to evolve its app with new services anticipated to launch over the next 12 months including access to features like dividend reinvestment plans, extended hours trading and much more.
As part of its growth plans, baraka intends to create further access to regional economies where it aims to secure licensing at some point in the future. The company has committed the majority of this fundraise to new markets and creating more access to local stock exchanges for regional investors.
Feras Jalbout, Founder & CEO of baraka said, “In just one year since our launch, tens of thousands of users have signed up to baraka. By empowering the next generation of investors in our region with low-cost and comprehensive investment choices, we remain committed to enabling financial inclusion for millions of investors across MENA. We are excited to have Valar Ventures and Knollwood join us in transforming how users here save, invest and grow their money for the future.”
In a move to democratise access to burgeoning regional equity markets such as Tadawul, and attract global investors to the Middle East, baraka is working with local stock exchanges and regulators to enable access to local market trading on its app. As the region’s leading stock exchange, Tadawul raised $4.7bn through 27 new listings in H1 2022 with a healthy pipeline of companies looking to list over the coming months. baraka will also introduce its highly successful Arabic content to newly licensed markets to drive financial inclusion in line with the ambitions of initiatives like KSA’s Vision 2030 for the financial sector.
Middle East Exchanges have had a nearly 300% increase in IPOs in 2022 with retail investors leading a 16% increase in the Middle East’s total Assets Under Management to $1.2 trillion, empowered by technology platforms like baraka.
With its mobile-only experience, users of baraka’s app are provided with daily financial news in English and Arabic, to help them make informed and independent investment decisions. baraka’s focus on driving financial inclusion is underpinned by a commitment to raise financial literacy standards across the region.
Andrew McCormack, General Partner at Valar Ventures, commented: “We’re proud to back the world-class team that’s shaping up at baraka, with our first investment into the Middle East. The region’s emerging fintech ecosystem has immense potential and we’re encouraged by the early signs of traction that baraka has been able to showcase. We’re really looking forward to working closely with the company as they enter this exciting new phase of growth across the region.”
baraka will continue to attract global fintech talent to the region while hiring locally for key positions across departments. With $25 million raised so far, the company will also explore new markets for expansion in MENA.
baraka is a Y Combinator-backed company and is also a part of Abu Dhabi’s global tech ecosystem, Hub 71. baraka’s investors include leading regional and global VCs such as Class 5 Global, Global Founders Capital, and VentureSouq. Valar Ventures has previously backed global fintech unicorns Wise, N26 and BitPanda amongst others.
baraka users benefit from having their shares and ETFs registered in their names through their affiliation with an SEC Registered broker, dividends paid directly to their brokerage accounts, and protection by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) with a limit of up to $500,000.