CAIRO: Saudi Arabia is establishing itself as a regional business hub, drawing startups from various sectors and enhancing its commercial stature.
The Kingdom’s development has captivated technology entrepreneurs, aiming to streamline the experiences of professionals and trade.
One of the startups recently drawn to Saudi Arabia is the UAE-based CheckRewards, which has initiated an aggressive expansion plan aimed at enhancing the shopping sector in the Kingdom.
Founded in 2023 by Artem Ostapenko, CheckRewards leverages machine learning to offer a cash-back service, supported by a $1.2 million investment from the global holding firm, Mitgo Group.
The inception of the company came about when Ostapenko identified a market gap in the UAE – the absence of cash-back services. This realization led him to develop and launch a minimum viable product, which quickly garnered attention, attracting over 100,000 users within its first month.
In an interview with Arab News, Ostapenko discussed the company’s ambition to popularize the cash-back concept in the Kingdom and to establish CheckRewards as a smart shopping partner.
Multiplying the benefits
“We’re planning to launch in the Saudi market by the second quarter of this year, run tests, get initial results and draw conclusions. We are expecting even a bigger cash-back boom in Saudi Arabia than in the UAE, as the market is almost four times bigger and hungry for new technology,” Ostapenko said.
He further expressed optimism about the potential growth of the Saudi market, stating that the company is currently aligning its goals and strategies to cater to the unique characteristics of the market.
“In terms of client reach, our projections for CheckRewards’ growth and market share within the Saudi market over the next few years are ambitious. We anticipate a substantial expansion in our user base within the Saudi market, aiming for a two to threefold increase compared to the UAE market,” Ostapenko added.
The company has already started talks and negotiations with two players in the global fintech space, aiming to close strategic partnerships soon.
Since its product launch in November, CheckRewards has made a significant presence on both the App Store and Google Play, Ostapenko stated.
Now, the company is strategically focused on expanding its user base, with a goal to attract a broad and diverse audience.
We’re planning to launch in the Saudi market by the second quarter of this year, run tests, get initial results and draw conclusions. We are expecting even a bigger cash-back boom in Saudi Arabia than in the UAE.
Artem Ostapenko, CheckRewards
Concurrently, CheckRewards is actively engaged in establishing partnerships with retailers, brands, and restaurants to offer users compelling incentives and promotions. The key pillars of the company’s strategy revolve around three essential metrics, user acquisition, partnership development, and market expansion.
“To achieve these objectives, the company is preparing for an extensive marketing campaign that includes influencer marketing, precision-targeted advertising, and strategic public relations efforts. Particular attention is being given to attracting Gen Z, women, and expatriates as target demographics, ensuring a comprehensive approach to serving a diverse user base,” Ostapenko explained.
A grander vision
Currently, CheckRewards aims to establish a robust cash-back category that serves as an additional marketing channel.
The company views the emergence of new competitors positively, seeing them as contributors to their primary mission of expanding the market within the Middle East and North Africa region, Ostapenko said.
“Ultimately, CheckRewards aspires to lead the cash-back market in MENA, drawing inspiration from the model’s success as a major traffic source in affiliate marketing in markets such as the US, UK, and some European countries, where it has been implemented for over two decades,” he added.
However, introducing the cash-back model in a new market presents its own set of challenges, primarily involving the education of both customers and retailers about its value and how to effectively utilize it, he further explained.
Ostapenko elaborates that that initial skepticism is common, stating: “Customers often doubt the authenticity of receiving money back into their banking account after each purchase, while advertisers unfamiliar with the cash-back model may not immediately grasp its benefits and the potential profit it could bring.”
Once the market understands and accepts the cash-back concept, Ostapneko explains, CheckRewards plans to innovate further by developing different modifications and new mechanics of the cash-back model, based on ideas the team currently envisions for the future.
“I believe we stand as one of the pioneers of cash-back in the region, with one of our primary goals being to raise awareness of the model. We aim to educate people about what cash-back is and highlight its potential benefits for them,” he added.
“Speaking of the MENA market, I think cash-back is a great fit here, there are a lot of expats, who came from other countries where the cash-back mechanic is already popular and people in the region who would like the idea of getting some of their money back from purchases both offline and online,” he said.
“We aim to be the go-to platform where they can find the best deals every day. The main challenge lies in the fact that the category, along with the term ‘cash-back’ itself, is not as widely recognized in the MENA region compared to other markets,” he added.
CheckRewards leverages machine learning to streamline the cash-back process, using algorithms to verify receipts, ensuring accuracy and preventing duplicates.
This approach simplifies the user experience and enriches advertiser engagement by offering immediate cash-back and valuable customer interactions.
“Advertisers benefit from quick onboarding without technical integration and a cost-per-sale payment model, paying only for verified purchases. CheckRewards also provides detailed reports and audience insights, aiding partners in targeting the right customers, boosting sales, and effectively promoting their products,” Ostapenko explained.
The majority of the company’s revenue stems from its cost-per-sale model, where partners or advertisers incur charges only when users complete purchases via the app. Additionally, CheckRewards enhances its revenue streams through media advertising and lead generation services.
Ostapenko indicated that the company is well on its way to achieving profitability by next year, with expectations of substantial returns.