Final September, Egyptian startup Capiter raised $33 million in Series A funding to compete within the nation’s rising B2B e-commerce and retail house. Quick-forward a 12 months later, the startup has laid off a number of staff and now its CEO and COO have been relieved from their duties after allegedly mismanaging funds.
Right here’s what we all know up to now. Between June to July, a number of ex-employees of Egyptian startups, together with Capiter, wrote posts about layoffs at their respective firms regardless that the employers by no means addressed them publicly. Different firms embrace OPay Egypt, elmenus, ExpandCart and Brimore.
Some sources advised TechCrunch that Capiter had laid off no less than 100 workers in these two months. Others described a office with poor administration and no construction and an organization discovering it laborious to onboard retailers to its platform whereas working out of cash concurrently. The corporate had solely a month runway as of August, they stated. TechCrunch reached out to Capiter on the time however acquired no response.
Consequently, Capiter traders have been trying to find potential patrons to soak up the struggling firm within the type of an acquisition or merger. This data was additional corroborated in an e-mail obtained by TechCrunch, the place Capiter’s Board — citing that Mahmoud Nouh and Ahmed Nouh had left Egypt with their present location unknown — stated the executives didn’t fulfill their obligations and duties by showing earlier than representatives of the Board and traders to finish due diligence for a attainable merger this week. An excerpt of that e-mail learn as follows:
Right this moment the Board of administrators of the father or mother holding firm of Capiter Egypt LLC, a Cairo-based B2B e-commerce startup, authorised a movement to take away Mahmoud and Ahmed Nouh from their positions as CEO and COO, efficient instantly. Additional, the Board has commenced an investigation in opposition to Mahmoud Nouh and Ahmed Nouh, alleging that the 2 have embezzled funds from the corporate, breached fiduiciary duties, and probably dedicated fraud. Mahmoud and Ahmed Nouh have left Egypt, and their present location is unknown. This motion follows every week during which representatives of the Board and shareholders conducting on-site due diligence for a possible merger found misappropriated funds whereas conducting interviews with group members in Cairo.
Earlier than Capiter, Mahmoud was the co-founder and COO of Egypt-born and Dubai-based ride-hailing firm SWVL (the corporate, which went public via a SPAC deal final 12 months, laid off 32% of its workers this Could). Along with his brother Ahmed, he launched Capiter in 2020 as an FMCG platform that enables small and medium-sized retailers to order stock, prepare supply and entry financing to pay for items. A few of its opponents embrace MaxAB and Cartona in Egypt, and in Africa, Wasoko, TradeDepot and Chari.
Capiter had 50,000 retailers and 1,000 sellers with greater than 6,000 SKUs on its platform when the founders spoke to TechCrunch final September. Within the interview, they stated Capiter was on its strategy to reaching an annualized income of $1 billion this 12 months. And like many startups in Africa and globally, Capiter employed aggressively final 12 months to satisfy its targets.
Nevertheless, 2022 has taken an sudden flip for a lot of tech startups as they cope with uncertainty arising from rising rates of interest and different components which have a trickle-down impact on enterprise capital. Information of layoffs, flat rounds and cutbacks from startups in varied sectors — particularly those who raised some huge cash throughout the previous 18-24 months, comparable to 54gene, Kuda, and Marketforce — have been extra widespread regardless of the continent boasting a greater VC complete by the top of Q2 2022 than Q2 2021.
B2B e-commerce platforms function both asset-light or inventory-heavy fashions. The latter requires extra capital and for Capiter, which employs a hybrid mannequin, it’s unclear how the corporate is already trying to promote after elevating tens of millions from Quona Capital, MSA Capital, Shorooq Companions, Savola and others final 12 months. Capiter’s traders declined to touch upon the matter however as a substitute issued an e-mail assertion. “The Board and shareholders have initiated an inner investigation and due to this fact are usually not at liberty to touch upon the information or allegations circulating the social media in the meanwhile. The Board and shareholders are additionally working carefully with related stakeholders, authorized and HR groups in addition to the authorized authorities for an exterior investigation on this matter.”
In the meantime, the preliminary leaked board’s assertion stated Capiter’s administration group — “a few of whom had lately resigned in protest of what they felt was mismanagement by the Nouhs” — try to regular the corporate’s ship. The corporate’s chief monetary officer Majid El Ghazouli will act as interim CEO “as remaining management works to stabilize the state of affairs and proceed conversations with potential acquirers, who stay within the Capiter asset.” Mahmoud didn’t reply to remark.