“We made it our mission to create a model of success that was genuinely, 100-percent Algerian, to develop local talent and show that it’s possible to create added value in Algeria,” said co-founder Noureddine Tayebi.
Patience has been key as they navigate the country’s archaic bureaucracy, the bugbear of investors and one that creates particularly tough terrain for new entrants.
“Bureaucracy is one obstacle that we have to overcome. I can’t say it’s easy, but you have to deal with it and move forward,” Tayebi told AFP.
It’s a sign of changing times in Algeria, which in 2020 passed a law on start-ups and created a ministry to promote them.
Since he launched Yassir five years ago with fellow engineer Mehdi Yettou, the company has rolled out across the Maghreb region and beyond.
Late last year they raised some $30 million from American investors, cash they plan to pump into an ambitious expansion plan.
The firm has indirectly created more than 40,000 driver and delivery jobs and its revenue is skyrocketing at up to 40 percent a month.
Tayebi studied in Algiers before earning his doctorate in electronic engineering at the United States’s prestigious Stanford University.
That led to a job with chip manufacturer Intel, but after eight years in Silicon Valley, he decided to return home and set up Yassir along with Yettou.
The name is a play on the words for “easy” and “drive” in Algerian Arabic.
The pair launched their taxi app in 2017 in Algiers, a capital with a population of four million and desperately lacking public transport.
The firm has since branched out into deliveries of fast food and groceries, with sister app Yassir Express.
Today Yassir has some 4 million subscribers in 25 cities across Algeria, neighboring Morocco and Tunisia, as well as Canada and France.
Tayebi says he now has his sights set on West Africa – the app already works in Senegal – and other major markets on the continent such as South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt.
While its growth has been explosive, the business faces tough competition from Uber, Heetch and others.