Egypt’s Elves raises $2m to take pre-Series A round to $5m mark

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Egyptian virtual assistant startup Elves has raised US$2 million in funding this year, taking the size of its pre-Series A round to the US$5 million mark.

Founded in 2017, Elves is a tech-driven virtual assistant platform using a “human in the loop” methodology to drive machine learning and build “Alexa Skills”. The chat-based platform allows users to talk to a “superhuman assistant” to do anything, anywhere in the world, for free.

The startup secured a US$2 million seed round in 2017, and has seen strong growth since, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the interim it has turned its attention to a pre-Series A round, which now stands at US$5 million after Elves took on US$2 million in funding in 2020.

The round sees Sawari Ventures, a leading Egypt-based VC firm, join a slew of top tier investors from MENA and the United States in investing in Elves. The initial round was completed back in February 2020, with additional follow-on in July reflecting confidence in Elves, which expanded its user base by 500 per cent since the start of the pandemic.

“We had to make some hard and fast decisions about where we would focus the business in a COVID or post-COVID world since large parts of our existing revenues were coming from flight bookings, hotel reservations, concerts, and cinema tickets, and those industries were basically shut down,” said Elves founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Karim Elsahy. 

“We shifted rapidly to a focus on what people would need most while they were confined to their homes, and drilled down on that. Groceries has become very big for us so we’ve automated it, signed up more than 40 grocery partners, and jam-packed it with exclusive deals, and we’re going in in a big way.”

Wael Amin, partner at Sawari Ventures, said what initially attracted the company to Elves was its unique combination of AI and human concierge capabilities, which he said gives it superior versatility and scalability over its competitors. 

“The onset of COVID, and the company’s ability to quickly adapt to changing consumer behaviour and scale to meet the surge in demand further reaffirmed our belief in the model, and led us to double down on our initial investment,” he said.

“They’ve successfully demonstrated how previous user requests can be reused to serve similar live requests thus raising the number of live concurrent users each human operator can handle.They are, in essence, generating “Alexa Skills” at a pace of tens of thousands a month through millions of live human conversations.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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