When Ahmed got on the plane, he didn’t think much of it. This flight was going to be a quick trip to the United States for Y Combinator Demo Day, after which he would be back in the UAE to continue what he started.
This “quick trip” began back in March of 2020, and Ahmed’s company, Dapi, had just moved cities from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. The office was still empty, with some boxes piled up in the corner and a pile of CVs of promising intern candidates. The small team was mostly scattered around the other emirates where they lived previously, waiting for company issued apartments near the new office. There was a lot to be done, but it could wait until Ahmed got back. Or so he thought.
As Ahmed sat on the plane, he got a call from his wife in the US. “Things are crazy here,” she told him, her voice filled with worry, “People are stocking up on supplies, and things might be shutting down.”
“It will be fine,” Ahmed told her, “I will be there soon.”
Both Ahmed and one of his cofounders, Hesham, only packed a carry on suitcase each. Surely, that would be enough for a two-week trip. But after this call, Ahmed began to worry that things might not turn out as planned.
A few days into their stay in the US, the world turned upside down. Countries across all continents began imposing lockdowns, citing the rising cases of a new virus, COVID-19. The new office back in Abu Dhabi, still not fully set up, was shut down with notices sent to employees that everyone would be working from home. Then, just as suddenly, planes stopped flying.
The carry on suitcases would have to last Ahmed and Hesham multiple months.
Trying to make use of this new situation, Ahmed decided to look into business opportunities in the US. Dapi was still a young startup, not quite sure of its value proposition. They just launched with the first client back in the UAE, with plans to expand across the Middle East and some other emerging countries. The United States wasn’t even on the table.
Nobody has ever expanded from the Middle East into the US, Ahmed thought. But what if we could do it?
The results of his research shocked him. The United States, the world’s largest economy and a modern superpower, turned out to have a completely dysfunctional payment system. Card payments charged exorbitant fees, and in many instances, there was simply no way to transfer money from a customer’s bank account to a business’s bank account without resorting to the use of a paper check.
Ahmed couldn’t believe it. Businesses had to choose between waiting for weeks to receive notice of payment or giving up their hard-earned margins to the likes of Visa and American Express. All this even though the United States provided native bank payment rails, ACH. The majority of banks prevented ACH use except to other bank accounts belonging to the same user.
After consulting with his cofounders, Hesham and Mohammed, and the engineering team, Ahmed realized that he had his hands on a golden ticket. Dapi’s system, built to initiate payments and access financial data, could solve the catch-22 scenario faced by American businesses, the ability to receive payments instantly that are at an affordable cost. The startup might just be the key to solving America’s payment problem.
It may be fate or a less poetic lucky coincidence, but when Ahmed got on the plane from the UAE to the US, he couldn’t have predicted any of this. Now, Dapi is dreaming of revolutionizing America’s payment industry and giving businesses back their hard-earned margins.
“The system has been abusing merchants,” Ahmed says, “We are going to make a new system that plays fair. With Dapi’s revolutionary system and zero-fee payments, businesses are getting their money back.”