“There comes a time where the path of your career life has to change.”
Doaa Abdel Hameed was working in people and operations management in the food delivery industry when she and her co-founders saw a gap in the market for a single app to deliver multiple but closely related services to customers. Personally she also felt it was time to make the next step in her career, too.
Earlier this year, she cofounded Bonbell, which began as an app for food ordering and delivery with the intention to eventually branch out into those other services.
So far, Egypt-based Bonbell has worked with 400 merchants and aims to increase that number to 750 by the end of 2022. The company is also now creating a “super-app” to serve clients in different locations like sports clubs, universities, hotels, and corporate buildings. Merchants on the platform offering services such as food ordering, hotel booking, cinema booking, and more can either pay subscription fees or a commission to Bonbell according to their preference.
Bonbell has already raised $550,000, including a round this summer secured from a Canadian angel investor.
AFN spoke to Hameed (DH) about her vision for building a multi-service app to serve clients not just in North Africa, but the wider MENA region and Asian markets where the team is conducting research.
AFN: Why did you start Bonbell? What challenge did you want to solve?
DH: When we were back in 2020, it was the height of Covid-19, which wasn’t the best time to approach the hospitality industry. Our vision was being a multi-service, on-premise platform to help customers get different services according to their location, including food ordering services.
What we have today are food ordering services, reservation services and delivery. We’re serving more than 20,000 customers now but we aim to serve clients in clusters, hubs and closed communities like clubs and universities.
AFN: Did you start out with food delivery in order to acquire customers quickly?
DH: Actually, we didn’t start with food delivery but rather we focus[ed] on dine-in and takeaway food ordering.
We believe both areas need more innovation and service enhancement by deploying the latest technology trends. I believe the food delivery business is somehow moving towards saturation and high competition, and it is not smart to go and dance with the wolves while we are still at this early stage startup.
On the other hand, we have differentiated ourselves through our market expansion and product development strategies, which help us to acquire new customers at a very efficient cost compared to industry benchmark.
AFN: How did you pivot to a super-app in just months?
DH: Bonbell’s vision is to be a multi-vertical super-app operating globally through online subscription and self onboarding and we are on the road to do this.
We’re designing robotic stations which will be launched by 2023 that will provide 100% contactless food ordering and serving experience. These can be distributed or allocated in different spots and will be available all the time. Therefore we [will] be able to cover the unavailability of labor workers in some public spots like malls and clubs.
[These stations] will be responsible for preparing and serving coffee, soft greens, small sandwiches, pizza and food that doesn’t require complicated preparations.
We are also launching hotel services to penetrate new market segments and expand away from intense competition.
AFN: Which segment of your super-app makes the most money now?
DH: Despite the importance of food delivery to our service portfolio, most of our revenue is generated from takeaway, which covers the gaps in food delivery services.
Also, we are investing a lot to leverage the dine-in service and upskill restaurant labors to provide substantial service to our customers. Helping restaurants’ workers is a part of our mission indeed!
AFN: You’re also set to raise a 10 million seed round. How will the funds be used to advance Bonbell’s mission?
DH: Because we’re a tech-based company, a big portion of the money will target the product development. The other portion will target growth and expansion possibly in Egypt and across the MENA region, and infrastructure and systems development.
AFN: What are your sentiments about the push for gender lens investing?
DH: In my opinion, I don’t think we have equal opportunities when it comes to fundraising, but what we have are promising programs that routinely support female founders.
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