Building a digital future
Ali Kassab, CEO, Centurion and Co, an investment advisory firm based in Dubai discusses the company’s focus on investments in opportunities including Fintech and Blockchain. The company had at the beginning of the year announced its focus on Blockchain startup companies with the launch of 5 ICOs (initial coin offering) and plans to bring other Blockchain Innovative Startups to the UAE.
Please elaborate on the company’s investment advisory services focus?
Centurion & Co is a unique group of companies incorporating multiple disciplines. We provide a packages of services and solutions mainly for Fintech, Blockchain, Telecom and Digital. We provide Investment Advisory and structuring of debts, Seed Capital, Early Stage and Series A fundraising. We offer Blockchain use case consulting, design and implementation. We build Retail Payment Solutions for Kiosks, POS, Wallets and eCommerce. We also provide Digital Marketing and Influencer Marketing services.
What makes you stand out in your areas of focus?
We have developed a proactive and complimentary range of business services and entities which benefit our stakeholders, investor companies, strategic partners and the GCC industry as a whole.
This has evolved us from a consulting company into an investment incubator, growing our investments through active participation, marketing and adding value wherever the opportunities arise. We promote active involvement and skills transference between all companies within our portfolio, driving entrepreneurial development and thinking and looking for new opportunities throughout our sector.
The Centurion team and support bring an outstanding operational expertise to any startup and access to a large network of business and private investors to ensure successful starts.
Each of our process-driven, time-tested strategies are managed by our Investment Committee, comprised of a dedicated team of portfolio managers as well as fundamental and technical analysts and strategists. This experienced team seeks to employ a repeatable, research-driven process.
From the perspective of an investment advisory firm, what is your outlook of the SMB segment potential in the region and which are the verticals that most interest you?
Centurion has realized more than 10 investments in startups since 2016 with 4 exits across 5 countries. We invest mainly in Blockchain, Fintech and Digital Startups. We look mainly into high disruptive applications and operations aiming to bring a real solution to the day to day functioning.
Apart from advisory services, do you also do direct investments. In which case, what do you look for in companies that you would want to invest?
We invest or co-invest with Private Equities in the region. We are specialized In raising seed capital for fintech, blockchain and digital startups. In certain cases we can be also involved in the seed round to enable the first steps of the company.
Elaborate on the Fintech services portfolio with your focus on Blockchain based development as well as e-payments. Have there been multiple deployments completed and in progress?
Centurion has developed a suite of payment and e-commerce solutions that can be utilized by any company aiming to embrace the digital transformation and offer an enhanced digital and online experience to their customers. These include Retail payment and point of sales management solutions, Digital branches platform (kiosks, digital counters) and Middleware for API and Services integrations including reconciliation and settlement automation. The suite is empowered by a strong automation workflow and collaboration tools to fuel online and digital marketing (social media, chat tools, unified reports, etc)
Centurion has also invested in the Digital Marketing operations using Artificial Intelligence platform (WHYRAL.NETWORK) to target audiences of influencers by rewarding directly influencers on all social media channels.
How do you see the scope for blockchain deployments in SMB segment? what are the challenges?
Blockchain brings unlimited new horizons and solutions to corporate, government and banking institution : trust, acceleration of digitalization based on the smart contract. For SMB the benefits can be immediately done to reduce financial and accounting operations costs based on smart contract and payment processing. SMB companies can also empower their customer experience using smart contract of Blockchain and payment.
Would you call yourself as an SMB/mid-market company yourself?
We are boutique private equity capitalizing on partners and team members strong entrepreneurial experience. We are able to modelise, monetize and improve business plans, take the business of any digital/fintech startup to the next level very quickly thanks to our network of customers and institutions
Discuss how ICT solutions are key to your Business processes. Have there been any recent deployments, either cloud based on or premise to enhance your operations?
Our business operations are fully digitalized and all our softwares are integrated in the cloud on AWS, Microsoft including video conferencing, project management, lead generation, social chat, etc