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Business Partnerships: Finding Suppliers and Growth Opportunities (Episode 83)

Hany Fam is originally from Egypt, but when he moved to Australia and studied an MBA in Sydney, he never ended up leaving.

Currently, Hany lives in Newport, a fantastic beach on the Northern peninsula of Sydney, also known as the insular peninsula.

After finishing his studies, he started working for MasterCard. Hany was the president of enterprise business partnerships, and stayed with the company for nearly 25 years. After working for a few different businesses, he decided to strike out on his own and pour everything he had into a company called Markaaz.

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The Birth of Markaaz

Markaaz, according to Forbes, is the world’s first global platform to verify and connect every small business on the planet: around 119 million of them.

Some years earlier, when Hany was at MasterCard, they created a platform called Track, which was the world’s first global trading platform to connect suppliers and buyers on the web.

This platform was created to address two fundamental problems in the market:

  1. For Suppliers, Where’s my money? and;
  2. For Buyers, Where’s my stuff?

They learned that pre-populating a directory of all the players and having them claim their record was very different than asking people to come and sign up.

When they created Markaaz they were thinking about small businesses, well before COVID, and before all the challenges that small businesses have faced. They found that there were two fundamental problems that small businesses were facing.

#1. Drowning in “point to point solutions”

These are the individual little bits of software that are sold typically between $50- $200 a month. On average, small businesses subscribed to about 25 of these small software packages, using less than 10% of the feature functionality of each of these programs while costing them about 15% of their total expenses.

#2. Wasted time

In the world of small business,15 to 17 days a year is a lifetime – about $1.7 trillion a year in waste. Making sure records are being kept, and having to catch the small things falling through the cracks swallows up important time, energy, and resources. There are entire new businesses that have been created simply to meet this need alone.

Armed with the scars and souvenirs they had from building Track, Hany set off to build a single unified community for small businesses.

Getting them together in one place, and pre-populating a directory of small businesses, was a Herculean task. But Hany decided that this time, he wanted to go one step further, pre-verifying everyone in the directory using three steps: verify, monitor, and pay.

COVID and Small Businesses

When COVID hit, everyone was drowning. Hany and his team heard story after story, companies asking for money, desperately looking for ways to stay afloat and wait out the storm. The usual problems that small businesses were facing escalated to a new level.

COVID aside, small businesses are the number one global target for cyberattacks, phishing attempts, et cetera. On top of this, everything is expensive for them, and they have no leverage. That became Hany’s new calling.

They weren’t looking for a quick buck or exit: they funded all of this on their own, with the hopes of creating a game-changer in the market.

Verify

An interesting thing that’s happened in the last couple of years, particularly with COVID, is the decline of credit scores. Credit scores are broken. It’s not a good enough predictor, but lots of people’s credit got hurt: some voluntarily, some involuntarily.

Hany and his team set about to create a different set of insights for people, so that they weren’t hampered by just their credit score. They look at things like propensity to pay, failure, predictors, what business is likely to fail in the next six months. They verify that these businesses are still in business, so before you part with your money to pay for something upfront, you can verify their credibility.

Monitor

Once both parties are connected on the platform, the client can ask the team to monitor a bunch of stuff that might be non-public data: cash flow, usage of utilities, or insurance coverage.

This doesn’t happen anywhere on the planet today – it’s completely new. The process is permission-based, secure, and bilateral between business partnerships.

Business Partnerships and Payments

Last but not least, on paper, Hany is hoping to reduce the cost of payments to as close to zero as possible, and give people radically new tools that help them manage their cash flow in ways they never imagined possible.

Small businesses usually don’t have an efficient place to keep track of all of the non-conventional finance operations. In Markaaz, they have a place where they can pull all that together in one place to pay for whatever they need.

Hany and his team have also developed a streamlined way to consider the payment preferences of the people you’re interacting with. They can pay one person using Bitcoin, someone else using air miles, and another with a wire transfer. They will decouple these transactions and handle the translation while all the while reducing the cost to as near to zero as they can get it.

The 10 Year Plan

Hany and his team expect Markaaz to be a public company in the next two years, not because they are greedy pigs, but because they believe their service belongs to the public. Their principles, in the end, are what drive their goals for the future.

First of all, they are huge believers in data privacy.

Secondly, they’re big believers in data self sovereignty, which means your data is yours. If Markaaz wants to use it, they’re going to ask for permission, and if it becomes valuable, they’re going to let you share in the value of that data.

Inclusion is vital to their core beliefs – not just financial inclusion, but inclusion of businesses. They want to be the place where the smallest mom and pop in the middle of nowhere can play on the same business partnerships platform as the biggest companies in the world.

The fuel to that inclusion is data. Access to knowledge and information in an affordable, cost-effective manner is how Hany plans to pursue inclusion.

Learning Along the Way

Finally, here are a few things that Hany believes are vital to share with anyone reading:

#1. Small businesses aren’t limited to working with just small businesses

Lots of big banks who would normally write off smaller companies and startups are looking at Markaaz and reimagining what is possible. Don’t be afraid to approach those big players.

If you’ve really got a solution that you can credibly talk about, it will be a huge big market opportunity. You don’t need to sell your soul or your company to have them join you on this quest.

#2. Create a team of people you trust

Find people you trust and people who believe with you – people who are willing to come on the journey. You’re going to need every single one of them.

#3. Balance caution with appropriate risks

Many people who start businesses have such a large dose of fear that it governs everything they do. You’ve got to find a way to get past the fear, without becoming reckless.

To find out more about Hany and Markaaz, you can head over to their website and explore what they have to offer. For more content like this, make sure to follow The Jeff Bullas Show.