Pastel, formerly Sabi Cash, which is on a mission to build digital tools to unlock the potential of small businesses in Nigeria and other developing countries across the world has raised $5.5 million led by TLcom Capital to build tools that allow micro, small, and medium businesses to increase sales, process payments, access financial solutions, and immerse themselves in the digital economy.
Global Founders Capital (GFC), Golden Palm Investments, DFS Labs, Ulu Ventures, Plug and Play and Soma Cap participated in the seed round.
Founded by Stanford graduates Abuzar Royesh, Olamide Oladeji and Izunna Okonkwo, Pastel last year raised a $620,000 pre-seed to launch Sabi, its flagship product to allow SMEs to monitor their transactions, manage their customers and get insights into their cashflows then issue receipts or invoices.
The startup says its bookkeeping and customer relationship management platform has seen more than 100,000 merchants sign up for the last nine months and currently serves more than 45,000 active merchants. Pastel also has Quick Receipt and Pastel Financing. Quick Receipt provides merchants quick invoicing and receipts tools and is being used by over 60,000 merchants while the Swift Money empowers members of local saving groups called ajo to get financing for their businesses by allowing them to contribute money in varying intervals to a leader who stores the cash on their behalf. They can have different purposes for engaging in this activity, such as saving toward a particular goal or accessing a large pool of credit.
The Swift Money app is designed to work with already established ajo leaders and their groups and according to the team they have no plans of replacing ajo leaders but rather providing them with tools to better track their groups and increase their access to financing. The platform allows users to set up user accounts for loans and savings and as well store their saving history for further loans.
Speaking to TechCrunch the team says that small businesses in Nigeria have stayed offline for years, storing information and essential data offhand, on paper or ledgers. All these inefficiencies, asides from being time-consuming, lead to errors and affects cash flow and finance, which is why nine out of 10 small businesses in the country fizzle out in the first five years. Bookkeeping solutions such as Pastel’s help these businesses streamline processes digitally and save money.
“Our thought process was to get traction quickly by solving a merchant’s pain point with a free and easy solution. The next step was to capture value. So we added value capture features to the Sabi app that our customers love. Now we are building a lot more,” Okonkwo told TechCrunch. “The way we’ve thought about it is, as opposed to creating a super app that a lot of other fintechs have or are in pursuit of, we are taking a more platform approach, meaning that any Pastel user can create an account with any of our apps. With the same login they can access all the other solutions that we’re providing.”