SETsquared Surrey Alumni Zeal recently won both the Visa and Ingenico Awards for its fintech innovation.
On top of this, the company has signed agreements with some of the world’s top players in the POS industry, including Ingenico and Network International, after refocusing the business.
Zeal is a UK based start-up between the MENA region and the United Kingdom. Started by Omar Ebeid, who graduated from the University of Surrey with a BEng in Mechanical Engineering, the company is now based in the UCL centre of digital innovation and the Barclays accelerator in London. Zeal has been featured by CGAP World Bank as one of the most disruptive startups in the Middle East.
During his second year at the University of Surrey, Omar was the Vice-President of the Entrepreneur’s society. He invited some of the UK’s top entrepreneurs to share their experiences with other students at the University, including the founders of Crowdcube and Alex Hall, the founder of Halltech Energy. Their stories inspired him to start his own business and this is when he made contact with Student Enterprise. He saw this as an opportunity to progress his business idea.
The idea for Zeal first occurred to Omar when he was in Guildford buying coffee, and the cashier asked him for a loyalty card.
“I told the cashier that I hate loyalty cards because I always lose them,” explains Omar. “Then she showed me the Yoyo Wallet, which is basically a loyalty card on an app. I was intrigued to look into the company more, and evaluate if the business model could work in Egypt. I met the founder, who suggested I bring Yoyo Wallet to Egypt, but I was more interested in starting my own business. We parted ways but it was only the beginning of our journey together as he is now one of my mentors.”
Since leaving the incubator, Zeal has grown significantly and has had several pivots. Omar and his co-founder/CTO Bellal Mohamed launched Zeal in 2019 and have grown the start-up to a team of 35 full-time employees. After launching a product similar to Yoyo’s in the UK, Zeal found that there was a much bigger challenge to solve on a global level, resulting in a major evolution two years after launching the product. Zeal progressed to be a value-added service for POS terminals globally, becoming a plugin and enabling POS terminals to detect instore customers for retailers. This innovation won Zeal the Visa and Ingenico Awards, and the company was mentioned by CGAP WorldBank as one of the fintech start-ups with a unique offering to retailers.
While there are still challenges like with any start-up, Omar is proud of how far Zeal has come and is excited for what the future holds.
“Although three out of four transactions occur in store, unlike ecommerce, physical retailers do not know their customers,” he explains. “When we’re speaking to the likes of restaurant owners, coffee shop owners and retailers, they can’t differentiate between the new versus returning customers. They also can’t communicate with them when they leave the store, unless they get a loyalty app out to identify themselves separately. This is the problem that we are solving.
“This pivot has involved significant changes to our product offering and marketing strategy, but we believe it is the right move for the long-term success of the business. We have now signed agreements with some of the world’s top players in the POS industry including Ingenico, Network International, and Wiseasy.”
Omar has ambitious plans for Zeal. He says,
“Zeal is revolutionising the payment industry. There are 210 million POS terminals worldwide and we are looking to integrate our technology with every single terminal. The analytics we offer retailers and payment service providers enable them to increase their revenues and offer physical retailers the same benefits of e-commerce retailers.”
Omar found his time as a member of SETsquared extremely valuable when developing the business.
“The resources and support provided by SETsquared helped me to refine my business model, develop a strong pitch, and connect with investors and mentors,” he says. “The networking opportunities provided by SETsquared also allowed me to meet other entrepreneurs and learn from their experiences. Taking part in different events prepared me for key pitching opportunities in the future which would get me the investment Zeal needed.”
Zeal is looking to grow fast, and has already signed agreements in Europe, Middle East and APAC, which is proving how scalable our product is. The company is currently at seed stage and has EIS advanced assurance and are currently looking for investment to fuel their growth and expansion plans.
Omar says: “We are looking for investors who share our vision for the future of the point-of-sale industry and who can provide strategic support and guidance. We are currently fundraising $3m with commitments from some of the world’s top investors. We are looking for angels, family offices, and VCs to join this round.”