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SWVL Technologies: Straightening the Chaos in Transport


Getting from point A to point B has been a challenge ever since the dawn of ages.

Today, we’re still challenged by our means of transportation, even though technology pierced through obstacles with lightning speed.

In certain countries like Egypt, with so many people living side by side, the streets can become overcrowded, and getting to where you’re headed might become a serious task.

SWVL Technologies, the brainchild of Ahmed Sabbah and Mostafa Kandil, launched in 2017 in the streets of Egypt to give people, businesses, and communities a leg up with transport.

Both Ahmed and Mostafa got the idea to create an app that allows consumers to book fixed-rate trips on their network's buses and vans, but not even in their wildest dreams did they think their idea would lead them to become billionaires.

Continue reading to unveil the success story of two young men that believed in their dream.

Idea-Filled Childhood

Ahmed and Mostafa both come from Cairo, Egypt, the city they grew up in.

Before Ahmed and Mostafa became co-founders, they were primary school classmates and immediately became very close friends. Ahmed had a typical childhood and upbringing and often engaged in activities such as playing football, reading books, and playing with his friends, and Mostafa was no different.

While in high school, they concluded that their school bus transportation was inconvenient. Both Mostafa and Ahmed brainstormed to see whether they can come up with an idea to better the means of transportation.

In their last year of high school, Ahmed and Mostafa attracted the attention of one particular professor that became interested in the young boys’ ideas and offered to help them develop their blueprints.

While participating in some school projects, both friends showed great ambition and leadership skills that the professor observed. However, their professional journey was yet to begin in the following years.

Getting Professional

At 21, Mostafa finished college at The American University in Cairo and got a Bachelor’s degree in Energy Engineering. After finishing college, he moved from Cairo to Dublin, where he worked as an intern at Google. While in Dublin, Mostafa participated in a team-based advertising challenge that required market and consumer study and the development of a creative advertising plan.

Prior to SWVL, Mostafa worked at two major companies called Rcked Internet and Careem - he was Head of Operations and Market Launcher, respectively.

On the other hand, Ahmed received a Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering at The German University of Cairo. Ahmed loved the time he spent at the university so he decided to stay for a while as part of the teaching staff and worked as a teaching assistant.

Testing the Enterpreneurship Waters

While working at the college for one year - creating interactive teaching materials for the students, Ahmed decided to explore other professional endeavors. He wanted to achieve his lifelong dream of establishing a company of his own.

In 2015, Ahmed launched his first firm called Goyastores, where he served as the CEO for one year. He gained vast knowledge and made many contacts with people who would later be a part of his other corporation.

Turning Ideas into Money

In 2017, after many years of not being in touch, Ahmed and his friend Mostafa reconnected once again and discussed establishing a joint company called SWVL.

The official launch of SWVL happened in April of 2017, with both co-founders investing $30K of their own money to start the company. Mostafa and Ahmed's team researched the transportation habits of people and what they look for in a vehicle, finding viable use cases and pricing points to address the combined challenge of high waiting times and unused bus capacity.

Four months after the platform's launch, a firm called Careem invested $500K in SWVL, which was the first serious financial stepping stone for the startup. Thanks to this significant investment, Mostafa and Ahmed’s platform started getting worldwide recognition and developed into a high-tech transportation company. Due to this breakthrough in the global market, more and more people began using SWVL’s smart app to book fixed-rate rides.

No More Waiting in Line

SWVL offers ride-hailing services with an emphasis on public transportation. Customers may use the app to reserve and pay for journeys on fixed-route private buses. The company's patented technology calculates the fastest route time based on the passenger's location and destination.

The company’s services offer dependable alternatives to public transportation without the costs associated with individual ridesharing possibilities. The technology-based company provides more efficiency than public transportation, resulting in lesser emissions. It also offers intercity transportation, automobile ride-sharing, and corporate services.

SWVL quickly discovered that Cairo was not the only city with public transportation issues, so they adopted a more global approach. Shortly after, Mostafa and Ahmed expanded their business in other places like Mexico City, Indonesia, and Karachi. The company entered Kenya in early 2019, partnering with BRCK in hopes of providing free wifi on its buses.

Money Makes the Wheels Go Round

SWVL Technologies has received a staggering amount of $132.5 million in investment across six rounds. Their most recent fundraising happened on May 7, 2020, in the form of a Venture-Series round. With the last funding, the company traded on the NASDAQ under the symbol SWVL.

SWVL is backed by a group of 21 investors, out of which 6 are lead investors. The most recent investors include household names like VNV Global and Blu Stone Management, and Careem was the first one that practically helped make the transportation platform globally known.

Getting enough financial confidence to expand its capital, SWVL attracted the attention of investors like Beco Capital, Vostok Ventures, and DiGame which became the leading investors that entrusted Mostafa and Ahmed’s company with $26M, $68M, and $30M respectively.

Turning the Tables

Besides getting funded, SWVL felt confident enough to acquire more capital, so it ended its last capital-seeking prowl by acquiring 4 more companies with Zeelo as the most recent purchase that happened on April 28, 2022, for which they paid $100 million.

After standing on solid financial grounds, SWVL purchased numerous companies across Europe and South America in the following years, like Shotl, Viapool, and Door2door, based in Brazil, Argentina, and Berlin, respectively.

A whopping 2+ million people have booked over 75 million trips with more than 20,000 drivers. Today, the company has increased gross revenue per client by four times and is retaining more than 100 percent of revenue.

Going Public, All-In

Gathering enough funds and knowledge in the business, the management at SWVL felt fairly confident to take the company public.

The SWVL was announced as the official ticker, plus, the company is basically the first egyptian startup that went public outside of Egypt, joining Fawry as the second one to go public at all.

SWVL Technologies, Today

As a global supplier of innovative technology-enabled mass transportation solutions, as we speak, SWVL is present in 115 cities throughout 18 countries in South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.

As of May 2022, the company has around 1225 employees in its current headquarters in Dubai.

The company has since developed and is offering improved safety, dependability, and convenience in some of the world's most difficult and complicated emerging markets.

The team of SWVL is made of hundreds of exceptional professionals of the staff and Board of Directors.

Sadly, Ahmed is not a part of the company anymore, since he left in 2021 after spending 4 years as a CEO and co-founder. Still, Mostafa continues to steer the company forward and operates as CEO, reaching more and more milestones.