MrUsta goes from zero investments to $351,000

MrUsta, a Dubai-based website that provides contact information for and ratings of home service providers, recently finalized its first round of fundraising with a surprise $351,000 investment.

When Ibrahim Colak and his wife Dunia Othman headed to the In5 SME Business builder event, they expected to go home with advice on how to grow their website MrUsta and a few new contacts. They encountered a woman with her own small business, and the three pitched ideas to each other. The woman immediately took an interest in MrUSta.

“Service providers need this website and customers need this website,” Colak, CEO and founder of MrUsta, recently told Gulf News Journal. “And we see this is as a place where they can meet. It’s like online dating.”

The woman they were speaking to was the wife of Amjad Ahmad, former NBK Capital Partners CEO. He had a similar idea, and she suggested they meet with him.

For a month, the team discussed the possibilities the idea posed with Ahmed.

Colak and Othman had spent the past year searching for investors. The site showed promise. It was launched in January 2014, and six months later they had more than 4,000 listed service providers in 200 categories. The site’s 10,000 monthly unique visitors search for cleaning service providers or someone to do seasonal repairs such as fix broken air conditioning units. 

Colak and Othman pitched to investor groups such as Womena, but couldn’t find the funding and support they needed, and a crowdfunding campaign on Eureeca only raised a third of the required amount. Their discussions with Ahmad were very different, though.

“It was the easiest I’ve done,” Colak said. “Mr. Ahmad already knew about the technology... . He had the same idea in his head he wanted to execute, so he knew the details. He knew that we were very parallel.”

Colak had found an investor who not only wanted to make money, but also shared in his vision of creating a Yelp-like site in the region. Rather than pitch the concept as a whole, he was able to focus on the plan for MrUsta and the strengths of his team. It also was important that his investor understood that the return on investment would not be immediate, as Colak and his team have put revenue streams aside for the moment.

“Right now we want to build the community and put the best service providers at the top so customers like you can easily reach them,” Colak said. “We also want to have the service providers enjoy the benefit and get more customers.”

Colak and his team plan to use the recent investment to release a new version of the website, and new iOS and Android applications. They also will create a field sales team to connect directly to service providers and create personal relationships with them.