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Sequoia Expands Mideast Foray With Debut Saudi Arabia Deal

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(Bloomberg) -- Sequoia Capital India has made its first investment in the Persian Gulf region by leading a funding round for Lean Technologies, a Saudi fintech firm whose founders include one-time roommates at Stanford University.

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Lean, which enables companies to access bank data and make payments, raised $33 million, according to a statement on Thursday. Besides Sequoia Capital India, existing investors and newcomers including General Electric Co.’s former chief Jeff Immelt participated in the Series A round.

Created in 2019, Lean says it’s amassed dozens of major clients and has offices in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Cairo and London. It intends to use the proceeds to grow its team and expand further across the region.

Sequoia Capital is deepening its presence in the Middle East after recently backing companies from Turkey to Egypt. The venture capital firm is among the global investors eager to seize on the spread of financial technology and e-commerce in the region as local economies emerge from the pandemic.

Sequoia Enters Mideast, Teams Up With Firm That Hired Mesut Ozil

The Saudi company is benefiting from what it sees as an open-banking transformation taking place in the Middle East. Businesses use its platform to connect to their customers’ bank accounts and carry out instant transfers.

Open-banking startups have also attracted the likes of Tiger Global Management, which led a fundraising round late last year for Tarabut Gateway as the fintech firm looks to expand into Saudi Arabia and North Africa.

With the Saudi central bank building a regulatory framework for open banking as part of a recent initiative, Lean said it “aims to be the first Saudi aggregator” within the kingdom.

Lean’s founders include Chief Executive Officer Hisham Al-Falih, whose father -- Khalid Al-Falih -- is the kingdom’s former oil minister and now its minister of investment.

Hisham Al-Falih created Lean along with Ashu Gupta and Aditya Sarkar, his then-roommate at Stanford.

(Updates with Saudi plans for open banking in seven)

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