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Amira Yahyaoui was walking home alone through the winding streets of downtown Tunis, the Mediterranean Sea glittering to the east. To an outsider, the scene would have appeared wholly unremarkable, placid even: a young woman, no more than high school age, enjoying the first days of summer. 

In reality, for Yahyaoui, this moment was a small miracle. She had spent the last four years with a target on her back—the police on her tail, tracking her every move. To be able to move so freely was a welcome surprise. She closed her eyes and let herself listen to the hum of her city: the shouts of vendors, the horns blaring in traffic.

The relief was short-lived. As Yahyaoui opened her eyes, she noticed a truck speeding around the corner ahead of her, veering in her direction. As the car sped closer, now unmistakably aiming for her, Yahyaoui only had a few seconds to consider that, after all she’d been through, this time, she might not escape relatively unscathed. 

For the first time in a long time, she regretted her lack of police tail. “The next thing I know, they just put me in the back of a truck, in the dark. It was like in the movies,” says Yahyaoui. “And then I was thrown out at the Algerian border.”

*** 

In some ways, Yahyaoui would say that she was destined for this fate. “I was born in a dictatorship, and I was raised with this little bit of rage, being considered like a second-class person because of where we came from,” says Yahyaoui. Her parents—both members of the Amazigh tribe, part of the Berbers, the indigenous peoples of North Africa—raised her and her brother to understand unequal power structures from a young age: “My father always stressed the importance of freedom, of being willing to die for freedom and for your dignity.”  

Both of her parents were the first in their families to attend school, where Yahyaoui’s mother, Fatma, fell in love with computer science, and her father, Mokhtar, took to history and law, eventually becoming a CS teacher and Sorbonne-trained judge, respectively. They made sure to practice what they preached to their children: When Yahyaoui was 14, her father ruled against President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s nephew in court—the first judge to show any kind of major public dissent against the dictator. “I felt insane pride,” she remembers. 

They would be punished for it. The day after the ruling, her father became a target, her mother was demoted, and police started following Yahyaoui to school every day. That’s when she realized that if she’d already been labeled a dissident, she might as well earn her epithet. 

It was the early 2000s and the internet was becoming a trusted alternative source of information to print media—so, tech-savvy teenager that she was, Yahyaoui turned her efforts online. She started blogging about Ben Ali’s regime, decrying government corruption, economic disenfranchisement, lack of freedom of the press and gender parity and human rights abuses. 

Eventually, she decided it wasn’t enough. Months after her father lost his job, Yahyaoui organized her first protest. The event description online was straightforward: Yahyaoui would show up at the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior at 10 am, carrying a sign so that she’d be easy to spot. She made the event public, and was pleased when dozens of anonymous attendees began to RSVP. 

She showed up on the morning of the protest with a hand-painted sign that read “Fuck the Dictatorship.” When she spotted the hundreds of policemen forming a wall in front of the ministry building, she was convinced her rallying cry had been a success. As she approached, however, she noticed that the other telltale signs of protest were missing. There were no roars of crowds, no TV cameras, not one other outraged sign in sight. 

Nearly in front of the ministry now, the line of policemen parted like the Red Sea, allowing Yahyaoui to take her position, sign in hand, the only protester in the center of the throng. “That’s when almost every bone in my body was broken,” Yahyaoui says.

Six months later, Yahyaoui organized a second protest, again finding herself alone, and again receiving a brutal and near-fatal response from the police. But by the time she organized her third protest months after that, something had changed. Word of Yahyaoui’s public beatings had made their way to the French press, and the Ben Ali administration, fearing international outcry, ordered the police to stand down. 

This time, Yahyaoui entered the circle of police, untouched, with her same bloody sign, shouted until her lungs were sore, and returned home. That’s when, in her words, “it became fun.”

From then on until graduation, Yahyaoui kept highlighting government corruption online during nights and weekends, attending school with a police tail by day. She eventually assumed the digital moniker Mira404, inspired by the 404 error message readers would encounter whenever another one of her blogs was censored by the government. 

She kept at it, believing that whatever fate befell her was worth it to speak truth to power. Then one afternoon, the summer after her senior year, a truck overtook her while she was taking a walk, and she met that fate.

“The next thing I know, they just put me in the back of a truck, in the dark. It was like in the movies,” says Yahyaoui. “And then I was thrown out at the Algerian border.”

AMIRA YAHYAOUI

***

After hustling her way through Algeria and across the Mediterranean, Yahyaoui entered France by way of Italy on her 18th birthday. After a childhood spent reading French revolutionary texts, Voltaire and the Declaration of Human Rights, she believed her new home would welcome  somebody like her: a self-fashioned revolutionary, speaking out against tyranny. But instead, she found more of the same. “The French government was so close to the Tunisian dictatorship that they didn’t even give me asylum,” she says. 

When Yahyaoui was exiled from Tunisia, the government deleted all records of her citizenship, making obtaining any sort of legal status in France impossible, leaving her stateless and forcing her to exist on the fringes. “I was not allowed to work because I was an illegal immigrant,” she says. “I couldn’t have a bank account, couldn’t have a phone number … I couldn’t have any, any, anything.”

Yahyaoui’s first two years in France were lived alternately on the streets, in shelters and, for three months, in a mostly-abandoned public restroom of a university where she took classes using a fake ID. (A computer whiz like her mom, she’d designed the ID herself.) The restrooms were warmer than the streets, and gave her access to both hot and cold water, “which [was] very hard to find.” 

Then, one night, as she neared her two-year mark in Paris, Yahyaoui received a direct message on her blog from a man claiming to live in Paris. He was a supporter of her work, he said. Since making her way into France, Yahyaoui had mostly avoided any serious connections, romantic or otherwise, never wanting to expose her true identity or struggle to the small handful of people she did befriend. But here was a man who already knew who she was—so she decided to take the chance.

They met at a bar near her university. Over drinks, he told her about a Parisian couple, friends of his, “bourgeois, but super hippies.” And they had something to offer her, he said, something she’d been without for the past two years: “They had this super fancy house in the suburbs of Paris with a small house in the backyard,” says Yahyaoui. “They would find people in complicated situations because of their activism, and they would give them the house for free.” 

For the next two years, Yahyaoui lived in their guesthouse, tending to their gardens, earning money under the table on the side (mostly cleaning houses, occasionally pet- or plant-sitting). She continued attending the university, never taking her final exams, because they required proof of legal residency. And whenever word got back to her from Tunisia, she would turn to her computer, blogging, tweeting and posting about the arrests, torture and corruption still happening at home. 

At times, her digital crusade seemed to be working. A tweet about a family friend who lost their business at the hand of government extortion would get hundreds of retweets. A post about journalists jailed and tortured for daring to speak against Ben Ali would get picked up by the French media. But despite mounting international attention and increasing hostility toward the Ben Ali regime, when the revolution actually arrived, Yahyaoui was caught off guard. 

***

On December 17, 2010, a 26-year old fruit vendor, fed up with the police extorting him, stealing his wares and shaming him publicly, set himself aflame, sparking outrage across the country. But for Yahyaoui, this wasn’t the match that burned Ben Ali’s dictatorship down; it was the government’s response to the protests that followed. Rather than arresting protestors, the government had started killing them. “I remember calling my father,” says Yahyaoui. “He said, ‘He’s done. Ben Ali is done. If he shot people, it’s done.’”

As the revolution heated up, Yahyaoui took to the web, eager to counter Ben Ali’s campaign of misinformation with her own arsenal of facts. “He was saying that the protestors were all terrorists and that this was a fight against terrorism,” says Yahyaoui. But over and over again, she logged into her blog only to discover the all-too-familiar 404 error message of censorship. Her Twitter, however, remained untouched, so she tweeted every morsel of information she learned about the revolution, quickly attracting followers as international media started to understand the gravity of the situation, and sought out trusted information from the ground. 

Then, the TV requests came in. One in particular caught her attention, the opportunity to debate a Tunisian UNESCO ambassador, an emissary from the Ben Ali government. Yahyaoui understood that exposing her face on national TV was dangerous—and for anyone else, would mean risking her family’s safety as dissidents by association. Luckily, hers had already put that target on their own backs. So she accepted. 

She would later learn that nearly everyone in Tunisia with a TV watched her interview. They witnessed her talk about her family, openly refer to the Ben Ali regime as a dictatorship and denounce the government. An entire country was transfixed; from that moment on, Yahyaoui’s face became synonymous with the revolution. 

Not content to resist from behind her computer screen alone, Yahyaoui started organizing protests in France, and was arrested after a particularly heated one following a visit from Tunisia’s minister of foreign affairs. When the police threatened to send her back to Tunisia, she called their bluff. “‘Fucking send me back. That’s what I want,’’’ says Yahyaoui. “But they couldn’t, because Tunisia was refusing to recognize me as a Tunisian citizen.” 

Finally, after 27 days of near-constant protests and turmoil throughout Tunisia, Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, ending his 23 years in power and bringing the revolution to a close. “The most efficient revolution in history,” Yahyaoui says. “I went back to Tunisia the day we won.” With Ben Ali gone, she could, at last, reclaim her citizenship: Someone in the embassy had seen her interview and offered to issue her a new passport that day. 

When Yahyaoui arrived home, she found a country reckoning with a tentative new beginning, rid of the old ways, but unsure of what to replace it with. She saw people who wanted to steer the country in a new, positive direction, but she also saw people being elected to the new parliament who had zero experience in political arenas, and others making obvious power grabs in the void that was left. So she reached out to Nadia Boulifa, a Tunisian expat with international diplomatic experience, and established Al Bawsala (compass, in Arabic), a political watchdog NGO. “My job was to make sure that politicians in Tunisia never confuse service with power,” says Yahyaoui. 

Boulifa had started following Yahyaoui during the revolution. “I really liked her way of being very pushy and saying what everyone thought out loud. She was not hidden behind her screen. She was in the streets in Paris, and she had a lot of friends and family members in the streets in Tunisia,” says Boulifa. Together, they recruited two others and reached out to Boulifa’s contacts for guidance on how to begin. “We were inspired by other watchdogs around the world, some of whom gave us all the tricks and all the traps that we could fall in, and so that helped a lot,” says Boulifa. “We had our support from the international crowd, but then we had to build it locally. And that was the real fight.”

One day shortly after the election of the new parliament, Yahyaoui showed up to a constitution-writing session to discover that the doors had been locked to the public. She called Boulifa and told her to meet her at the house of parliament. When Boulifa arrived, Yahyaoui announced, “They closed the door, so we go in through the windows.” Boulifa assumed this was an expression. “It was not. She told me, ‘Carry me. I’m going to go through the window,’” says Boulifa. When a security officer discovered Yahyaoui swinging her leg over the window grate, he insisted she had to leave. “I’m allowed to be here as much as you,” Yahyaoui responded. “This is the house of the people. By the constitution, I’m allowed to witness what is going on and to report it,” she said. The women filed a complaint, and won in front of the administrative court.

From then on, whenever parliament was in session, Al Bawsala was there, crowdsourcing ideas and hopes for Tunisia’s new democracy from people around the country. They pushed for gender parity and human rights, freedom of entrepreneurship, independence and constitutional courts. They organized public debates between members of parliament and the public. “We got our power from the people,” says Yahyaoui. “If we published that we got blocked from entering the parliament, thousands of people would show us support. If Al Bawsala was not in the room, that means they’re hiding something.” 

Ultimately, they became some of the nation’s chief de facto accountability holders. They attended session after session, providing input and feedback. They created a website where the public could submit their own edits to drafts of the constitution. Finally, when the day came and the constitution was signed, their fingerprints in the final document were unmistakable. “When the constitution was voted on, it was a crazy day. I will never forget that feeling,” says Yahyaoui. “72% of what’s written in that constitution has been also drafted by us, by the NGO.” 

So where did Yahyahoui go from there, after years of statelessness, revolution and rebuilding? “I remember [after the vote] things sort of calmed down a little bit,” she says. “I was in the [Al Bawsala] office one day, and the team was debating something, and I looked up, and thought, I’m done. I felt like, now I can hand it off to somebody else. I resigned as CEO. And then I bought 14 chickens.”

Yahyaoui’s first two years in France were lived alternately on the streets, in shelters and, for three months, in a mostly-abandoned public restroom of a university where she took classes using a fake ID.

***

For the next eight months, Yahyaoui stayed home, mostly in her pajamas, tending to her brood. In the wake of Al Bawsala’s country-shaping success, she was offered leadership positions at multinational NGOs and at major tech companies, hoping to re-envision democracy in digital spaces. She turned them all down, until she got a call from the World Economic Forum informing her that she’d been named chair for the next summit at Davos (Satya Nadella from Microsoft would be her co-chair). Since it wasn’t a full-time gig, she decided to accept. 

After Davos, Yahyaoui says, “I think there was no job in the world that was not offered to me.” She kept turning them down—jobs with larger salaries in a year than her parents had made in their lifetime, jobs with teams of hundreds to manage and budgets the size of small countries’—never fully understanding why. Then one day it hit her. “I love building from scratch. It’s just who I am, and I couldn’t accept a job,” says Yahyaoui.  

She also realized that the medium through which she knew she wanted to effect change was technology. “It’s the only democratic space in the world. The only place where we’re equal is online,” she says. So she began meditating on how she wanted that new world to take shape, and the answer seemed obvious. 

“I knew that I had to build a company around this idea of financial opportunity, sort of Robin Hood-esque,” she recalls. “So I was like, that’s what I’m going to do. Financial access.”

In late 2017 she settled on the name Mos for her new venture, named for the settlement Mos Espa on the desert planet of Tatooine from “Star Wars,” which had been filmed in her hometown, Ksar Hadada. After witnessing the extreme poverty in the Berber community, months of homelessness in France and the outrage from entrepreneurial extortion in the lead-up to the revolution, Yahyaoui knew intimately how limiting lack of financial opportunity could be. “Money is the ultimate segregation wall. It’s what defines you if you can’t figure it out, and it’s the reason why most people don’t reach their full potential. A lot of people will say that the Tunisian revolution was people seeking democracy. It was not,” she says. “It’s called by Tunisians the dignity revolution. It’s all about financial access.” 

Fresh on the heels of one revolution, Yahyaoui was ready to kickstart a new kind of transformation—one, she believed, with the potential to shake up existing systems of power all around the world. 

***

Yahyaoui decided that if she really wanted to make a splash, she needed advice from someone with a track record of success in building technology companies. So she reached out to Khaled Heloui, a Tunisian tech investor and operator, who became her first investor and  offered to introduce her to a friend of his who might be able to help her bring Mos to life. But first she’d need to fly to New York to meet him.

She’d never heard of his friend Garrett before (Camp, co-founder of Uber), but their mutual excitement was instant. Her first night in the SoHo offices of EXPA, Camp’s startup accelerator, she, Camp and the EXPA team stayed up until late at night discussing why Mos mattered, and how she could give it shape and bring it to life. “We should build it,” he told her at the end of the conversation. “And we should build it out of San Francisco.” 

After months of waiting in Tunisia for her work visa, Yahyaoui moved to the Bay Area in 2018. She had no friends, and no contacts outside of the EXPA offices—so she started taking Ubers, figuring that would be the best way to meet “regular” people outside of the tech bubble she’d somehow found herself inside of. “I would ask my drivers, if I had to fix one thing that could really radically change your financial life, what would it be?” she says. “Their passion was about fixing their kids’ future rather than theirs. Very quickly, financial aid for college came super high up. So that’s where we decided to dig right in.”

She and her teammates, David Zhang, her CTO, and Alex Djerassi, her chief policy officer, set out to learn more about American higher education and how people pay for it. They discovered a financial aid system in disrepair, bewilderingly obfuscated and impossibly fractured. Yahyaoui decided they would be the ones to fix it. “What we’re going to do is to make every single financial aid dollar accessible to people in a matter of minutes. We’re going to make sure that college becomes affordable to everybody and they don’t need to take loans,” she says. “I’m sure that a lot of people talked to me and thought I sounded like Miss Universe.”

In reality, fixing the system was an even more monumental task than they imagined. “We discovered programs where people never applied because the website wasn’t updated with a link to apply,” she says. “We found another that linked to a porn website. We found applications where a 17-year-old needed to call their state senator on the phone and ask for the money.” There were hundreds of these programs, and untangling the mess was just step one—but that’s where they would start. Mos would be the nation’s first comprehensive financial aid finder, a tool that would unlock the entirety of government-funded financial aid programs for prospective students by filling out a single form.  

Luckily, they would soon get some backup. Early on, as their tool was taking shape, Yahyaoui met Ryan Panchadsaram, Barack Obama’s former deputy chief of technology, and entrepreneur-in-residence at Kleiner Perkins. “I knew that this guy would basically define if what I was doing was crazy, and if I am bullshitting myself or not,” Yahyaoui remembers thinking. 

During their meeting, Yahyaoui shared her vision for Mos and the progress they’d already made. Panchadsaram was impressed by the ways they had started to “debug” the relationship between people in government and people in financial services. “Governments need to see how they can help. But in the meantime, if governments aren’t stepping up in that way, it’s a role for and a place for companies and nonprofits to do some good there, too,” says Panchadasaram. “And so enter Yahyaoui and Mos. I was sold within five minutes.” 

At the time, Panchadsaram was working on updating the federal government’s FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Talking to Yahyaoui made him realize how much work was left to do. “I walked in thinking, ‘Well, the problem was solved,’ but it really wasn’t when you zoomed out,” says Panchadsaram. “I was very humbled by the experience.”   

Panchadsaram, for his part, felt Yahyaoui was equipped to fix the system precisely because she wasn’t from the United States. “Her growing up in different countries, seeing how things are done, it lets you compare,” says Panchadsaram. In retrospect, Yahyaoui agrees. “My lack of knowledge kept me going.” 

Months after receiving Panchadsaram’s endorsement and seed funding from John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins, Yahyaoui and her team officially launched Mos publicly in late 2018, offering prospective students access to $165 billion of financial aid a year. To reach their Gen Z demographic, they started advertising on Instagram and TikTok, creating videos detailing everything from how to navigate the financial aid process as an immigrant, to how to fill out the FAFSA form if your parents don’t have taxable income or don’t speak the language. They offered their tool for $149: $1 up front, and $148 after successfully collecting your financial aid. Before long, thousands of students started signing up, receiving an average of $16,000 dollars in aid that first year. 

Around this time, Yahyaoui was introduced to Jess Lee at Sequoia Capital. She, like Camp and Panchadsaram before her, was bewitched by Mos and Yahyaoui. “It was supposed to be like a 45-minute conversation, but it turned into a 3-hour meeting,” says Lee. “She told me her backstory and we just kept talking. It was clear that she was trying to change the world. She didn’t ask herself, ‘What’s a cool company I could create?’ She had asked herself, ‘What is the most important social problem in the world that I can fix?’”

She also appreciated Yahyaoui’s transparency: Here was a leader who wasn’t afraid to ask for help and expose her knowledge gaps if it meant improving, getting smarter, and making more of an impact. “She shared her entire deck in editable form with me, which is very unusual, so that we could work on it together, and get a sense of each other’s style,” says Lee.

With Jess and Sequoia’s support, Yahyaoui dialed in her business plan and increased her outreach, and in early 2020, Sequoia led Mos’s Series A. Then, COVID hit. “Come April of 2020, one month after the pandemic started, everyone was losing their jobs and worried about the economy, so 70% of our users defaulted and did not pay us the other $149,” says Lee. But even before COVID, it had started to become apparent to Jess that Mos might need to switch gears to achieve its full potential. “The concern that I and certainly all our partners had when we made this investment was that $149 multiplied by every single student needing financial aid—it’s still not a big enough market,” says Lee. 

Faced with the choice of whether or not to raise her price point, Yahyaoui realized that she needed to do the opposite. “I want to serve these students,” Lee remembers Yahyaoui telling her. “My mission is to tear down financial barriers to opportunity. If we raised the price, Mos would become [another] barrier.” Lee was struck by Yahyaoui’s willingness to rethink her project, separating ego from potential impact. “She started investigating on her own,” says Lee. “I didn’t have to push her on it. She saw the writing on the wall and realized they needed to change.” A few weeks later, Yahyaoui presented her new vision for Mos to the board: She wanted to turn Mos into a bank. 

Yahyaoui set her date; eight months down the road, she and her team would launch Mos’s next iteration, “a financial super-app that you would have on your phone.” To fine-tune the product, she returned to her roots, surveying the people whose lives she hoped to improve. “She brought the students on the journey,” says Lee. “She asked them, ‘Financial services are failing you right now—what do you want out of a bank?’”

Her students wanted a bank with zero sign-up and overdraft fees, but they also wanted help navigating early financial hurdles, like managing their savings and investments, taking out mortgages, comparing options on auto and other loans, building credit and searching for jobs. Yahyaoui added all of these to the product roadmap, keeping Mos’s core tool, the financial aid finder, at no additional cost for all customers. 

Working nights and weekends, Yahyaoui and her team met their deadline, launching Mos’s latest iteration on September 1, 2021. “Just watching her over the last year through COVID, shipping a bank while growing a baby—she’s a superwoman,” says Lee.

***

Mos’s growth was steady, if a bit unremarkable for their first two months in the App Store—ideal as far as Yahyaoui was concerned; the incremental progress gave her team the time to fine-tune their product. Then the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Yahyaoui woke up to discover that her team’s just-launched promotion—a $5 sign-up credit and another $5 for every referral—had gone viral. Overnight, Mos had jumped from Apple App Store obscurity to #103 overall, and was still climbing. She took a moment to celebrate the victory before the panic set in. 

To start, there was the risk of technology failure. Not just their own, but all the systems that supported their fledgling bank. The first to go was Slack, which had been set up to notify Yahyaoui’s team every time a new account was created. When the pings slowed but momentum had not, she noticed the error message alerting her that Slack’s system couldn’t keep up with the pace of account creation. Soon after, Amplitude, which they used to track app analytics, crashed, leaving her team in the dark about traffic and sign-ups.  

Next, there was the issue of physical cards. Due to a global shortage of microchips, banks around the world were experiencing delays in card production. Mos had secured enough to meet their initial new sign-ups target—an aggressive 50,000 by April 2022—but any more, they’d been told, would take six months to print and ship.   

Yahyoui called her data scientist, Camille de Thé, to get a sense for how they were tracking on sign-ups. “At this rate, we’re going to have 100,000 new accounts in two weeks,” de Thé told her. Yahyauoi realized that even if she could secure cards for that many accounts, 100,000 new users, each getting $5 instantly upon opening their account, meant that Mos would empty their entire series A bank account by Christmas. That’s when, as she had with so many crises in her past, Yahoui jumped into action. 

She reached out to team members at home with their families for the holidays, only to find that all of them were already putting out fires. As Mos’s numbers continued to rise, Yahyoui fired off emails to competitors and posted an open call on Twitter to any neobank founders, offering to buy their stock of cards. She called Helioui, asking for guidance. A handful of employees DM’d her, unsolicited, offering to forego salary for a month or two to help Mos honor their commitment to their new sign-ups and create runway for more to come. By midnight, as her partner bank told Yahayoui that they would front Mos the short-term cash they needed, Mos was sandwiched between YouTube and Instagram as the #3 overall app in the Apple store.

For the next 24 hours, Yahyaoui and her team barely slept. They learned that 70% of sign-ups were in fact their target audience, age 24 and under—a number that supported their theory of virality: that students living in clusters on campus found a product that could actually help them, and that good news travels fast. They watched, ecstatic and overwhelmed, as the majority of new student sign-ups filled out the financial aid finder and engaged with their financial advisor via chat within their first hours of creating an account. By the time a representative from Apple called to inform Yahyaoui that Mos was the only fintech app, and she was the only female founder, to ever crack their top three, Yahyaoui had decided to wind down their promotion. 

Despite the mountain of support they’d received from friends and competitors, which Yahyaoui attributes to the “Robin Hood-esque” nature of their services, and a herculean effort from her entire team, Yahyaoui knew Mos had reached their limit, at least for the moment. She was still short on funds, and wanted to give her team the time to recover from this viral spike, provide the best experience possible for their new users, and prepare for those to come.  

As of January 2022, fewer than 1% of new accounts from their Thanksgiving surge have been closed, an unheard-of statistic for a money-based sign-up promotion where a block of users typically cash in and close out almost immediately. In total since 2018, Mos has helped more than 400,000 students collect an annual average of $16,430, or roughly $6.6 billion in college financial aid, and Mos remains the largest scholarship pool in America.

And yet for Yahyaoui, the company still has a long way to go before it’s making the impact she believes it’s capable of: working outside of existing systems of power in order to create a more equitable future on a global scale. “This isn’t something you can fake,” she says. “We want to be the number-one financial app for the 99%, and to do that there are things that need to happen that are in the order of magic.” She sees their viral surge as a first hopeful glimpse of this magic at play, the kind of change that comes from immense effort at the right moment offering the right solutions with the right spark—the sort of once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon that Yahyaoui’s been a part of more than once in hers. 

“Our mission is to tear down all financial barriers to opportunity—what we’re doing now is one huge, gigantic, super-complex one, but it’s only one.” she says. “For now, we’re doing banking, but we’re going to do way, way, way more. That’s what we want with Mos, and I think it’s about time this exists.”

She settled on the name Mos for her new venture, named for the settlement Mos Espa on the desert planet of Tatooine from “Star Wars,” which had been filmed in her hometown, Ksar Hadada.

“I love building from scratch. It’s just who I am, and I couldn’t accept a job.”

AMIRA YAHYAOUI