Chari, Moroccan startup digitizing mom and pop stores, raises 5M at 70M valuation


If there’s a sector that has seen the biggest uptick in the number of startups and venture capital in emerging markets since the start of last year, it has to be the digitization of mom and pop stores.

Today, a new activity takes us to Morocco, where YC-backed company Chari just raised a $5 million seed round at a valuation of $70million.

Founded by Sophia Alj and Ismael Belkhayat last year, Chari took part in the recent Y Combinator’s Summer batch that concluded two months ago.

The U.S seed-stage accelerator invested in this seed round, along with Plug and Play, Village Capital/MetLife Foundation, Orange Ventures, Airbnb executives, SPE Capital, Pincus Private Equity, The Chandaria family, Michael Lahyani and the management company of an American Ivy League university.

Rocket Internet, Global Founders Capital and P1 Ventures co-led the round, which is the largest of its kind in Morocco at the moment.

Chari wants to digitize informal retail stores in Morocco and provide credit to them. Belkhayat, ex-strategy consultant at Boston Consulting Group, and Alj, an ex-strategy consultant from McKinsey, first got alerted to the shifts in Africa’s e-commerce landscape last year. On a mandatory trip from her former employer, Alj was tasked to understand how FMCGs operated in sub-Saharan Africa.

With Belkhayat tagging along, the couple discovered the pain points small shops faced in the region when they had to get their products. They never noticed such in Morocco before that, but it became evident after going back to the North African country that local mom and pop stores needed such service.

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