Craig Moore’s ambition to revolutionise SME finance saw him win ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ at MEED’s Gulf Capital SME Awards 2016

Since its launch in 2014, UAE-based peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platform Beehive has successfully facilitated more than AED800m to around 800 business funding requests and registered over 15,000 investors.

In recognition of his achievement in establishing Beehive, business founder Craig Moore was named ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ at the Gulf Capital SME Awards 2016, held in partnership with MEED.

“Beehive’s innovative technology, which directly connects businesses seeking fast, affordable finance with investors who can help fund their growth, is playing a vital role in plugging the SME finance gap,” says Dr Karim El Solh, co-founder and CEO of UAE-based alternative asset management firm Gulf Capital.

Ahead of the crowd

The SME sector is a key segment of the regional economy, representing more than 94 per cent of the companies operating in the UAE, and employing more than 86 per cent of the private sector's workforce, according to the Ministry of Economy.

But despite the importance of SMEs, entrepreneurs have traditionally struggled to secure loans from banks, finding the process slow, complex and expensive.

Funds have not always been available. In 2017, Saudi-based financial services firm Derayah identified a $300bn credit gap in the SME lending market in the Middle East.

After identifying this shortage of affordable finance solutions, Moore launched Beehive. His decision to start his business in Dubai has worked out well.

“The UAE is seen as a huge hub for the MENA region, not just logistically, but for talent – and particularly if you’re building a tech business or bringing new concepts to the market,” says the entrepreneur. “It gives you an excellent springboard for the region, whether it be GCC or MENA. There is a real focus on innovation in the UAE.”

 

The digitally-based finance company became the first Dubai Financial Services Authority regulated P2P platform in the Mena region, offering Sharia-compliant finance to businesses and investment opportunities to Islamic investors.

But getting Beehive to this position was not easy. Moore says that when the company was launched in 2014, P2P lending did not exist in the region, so raising general awareness and understanding was a challenge.

“We have focused a lot on education about the peer-to-peer lending concept,” says Moore, “and driving awareness not only of our brand but of the industry as a whole.”

Beyond P2P

In recognition of the importance of SME’s to the region’s economy, many UAE financial institutions are exploring mechanisms to extend support to the sector.

Beehive recently adapted its business model to include institutional investors, in addition to individual investors. In June 2021 Emirates Development Bank (EDB) assigned an initial AED30 million funding to be distributed via the Beehive platform to qualifying SMEs.

Expanding operations beyond the UAE, in 2020, in partnership with Gulf International Bank – Saudi Arabia (GIB) and Social Development Bank (SDB), Beehive launched a new digital financing platform for micro and small enterprises in Saudi Arabia. This partnership between a fintech and a bank is the first of its kind in the region.

Winning visibility

While gaining recognition in the form of an award is good for company morale, there are also commercial benefits.

Moore says that winning the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2016 gave instant credibility not only to him but also to Beehive.

“It opened doors to new business and contacts and made Beehive more visible,” he says. “Investors were more confident to invest and help reduce the SME funding gap while getting better returns, and SMEs had access to a faster finance option and used the funds to drive innovation and growth.”

 

On 24 November 2021, the Gulf Capital SME AWARDS 2021 in partnership with MEED will recognise and celebrate the best small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UAE. The programme has attracted 1,922 total entries from 1,209 participating companies​, and has recognised 553 finalists​ and 350 winners​ across 17 categories​ with one unifying purpose – to accelerate and enable innovation in the economy’s most vital sector.