Mobisol, one of Africa’s leading providers of off-grid solar home systems, has secured a total of $25m in the last six months for growth in Africa after Investec Asset Management’s latest follow-on growth equity investment alongside its consortium partners.
The Investec consortium’s follow-on growth equity investment, combined with recently concluded debt-financing deals, means that Mobisol has secured over US$25 million funding in the last 6 months and ensures that Mobisol will have sufficient capital to electrify tens of thousands of additional households in East Africa.
According to Thomas Gottschalk, Founder and CEO of Mobisol, “Mobisol’s partnership with the Investec consortium allows us to further grow and to set the stage for providing reliable and affordable solar energy solutions to 20 million people by 2023.”
Mobisol, headquartered in Berlin, provides low-income African households with solar home systems able to power lighting, radios, stereo, mobile phone charger, a TV, and, depending on system size, other appliances such as irons, refrigerators and other productive use equipment.
A significant proportion of Mobisol customers generate income from their SHS, providing services such as mobile-phone charging or hair cutting, or running some other small business (e.g. a small shop with LED lighting and refrigeration or a village cinema with projector).
Since inception Mobisol has installed over 100,000 solar home systems in Tanzania, Rwanda, and Kenya, enabling some 500,000 people to enjoy clean, affordable and reliable solar energy. reaching a capacity of 10 MW.
Mobisol’s off-grid solar systems offer an attractive and highly scalable solution to addressing the energy needs of Africa where more than 600 million people across Africa still do not have access to electricity.
Investec made an initial equity investment into Mobisol in late 2016 with participation from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Financierings Maatschappij Ontwikkelingslanden (FMO), the Dutch development-finance institution among others.
Over the past year this consortium has supported Mobisol’s continued growth in its existing markets of Tanzania and Rwanda and its expansion into Kenya.
“Since our initial investment Mobisol has continued to successfully expand its operating footprint, most notably with entry into Kenya, whilst also strengthening and innovating around its product offering and its business model,” said Mark Jennings, an Investment Principal in Investec Asset Management’s private equity team. “This, combined with a disciplined approach to on-the-ground execution and a strong commitment to quality and reliability, positions Mobisol for further strong growth and impact.”
In July this year, Mobisol raised 10m Euros from Finnfund (Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation Ltd.) to bolster its operations in Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya.
mPharma, a venture-backed startup with a simple mission to make prescription drugs in emerging markets easily accessible, and easily affordable has raised a $6.6 million Series A round to provide doctors, patients and pharmacists access to a network of high quality chronic disease medicines at sustainable prices.
The round was led by India’s Shravin Bharti Mittal, Social Capital, Golden Palm Investments and 4DX Ventures. Several investors from Senegal, Kenya, and Turkey also participated in the round. Jim Breyer, an early Facebook investor also invested and joined the board.
This is the firm’s second biggest raise after it raised $5 million led by Social Capital in 2015.
Founded by Greg Rockson, mPharma is based in Ghana and has partnered with major pharmaceutical manufacturers, insurance companies, financial institutions and governments to deliver medicines directly into the hands of consumers in these underserved markets.
The firm will use the new funding to reach more users across Africa with its proprietary software. At the moment the firm operates in four countries and services over 15,000 pharmacies. Its software helps pharmacies to accurately forecast prescription drugs demand to help them source for more in time and at affordable prices.
The firm also provides inventory financing to clients across Africa. mPharma has operations in Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, and Kenya.
“As we enter 2018, we intend to focus on scaling our operations across Africa as we work towards building economies of scale in partnership with providers,” said Rockson. “Our proprietary supply chain software enables us to implement vendor managed inventory for independent healthcare providers in Africa. This model enables mPharma to create a tightly coupled pharmacy monolith — on a continent that has a highly fragmented pharmacy retail market — with leverage over pricing, distribution and reimbursements.”
mPharma’s tools include Thea, a CRM tool that gives facilities the ability to perform claim submission and management; SyncDB, an onsite integration that allows for a facility to automatically sync select parts of their database to mPharma’s integration layer; its REST API that allows integration with mPharma and an excel spreadsheets tool that allows pharmacies to keep track of their dispensations.
Eventtus, a MENA events platform recently raised $2m led by Algebra Ventures and 500 Startups to allow Eventtus to accelerate its expansion in the Middle East and introduce new products to also compete on a global scale.
“This round comes at a time when we believe that the Eventtus platform is ready to fulfill that role in the events market. This round has the strategic value of enhancing our capacity to work with global companies organizing major events in the MENA region as well as making Eventtus the main platform and event app provider for regional event organizers.“ said Mai Medhat, CEO of Eventtus.
The latest raise brings the total capital raised by the company to $2.65m in less than 2 years. Previous investors include Raed Ventures and MEVP. The investment is among the top 10 investments that have been in the MENA region in the past 6 months.
Eventtus aims to develop new platform features for optimizing the outcomes of all event stakeholders. New features range from making the lead generation process more efficient for exhibitors to diversifying the revenue generation options for organizers.
The firm is also on course to launch its’ new AI module that will enable participants to identify the best people to connect to at each event based on a machine learning algorithm that understands their business goals better and better with each interaction.
“Our investment in Eventtus is premised on the technological disruption that is happening globally in the world of events,” said Ziad Mokhtar, Managing Partner of Algebra Ventures. He added, “it is also premised on the great product that Eventtus has built and the customers they have managed to attract. The region’s events and conferences industry has grown significantly over the past years with revenues today exceeding $5 billion. With its deep understanding of the needs of event organizers and event goers, Eventtus is well positioned to play a leading role in transforming this industry.”
Eventtus has been working on technologies such as social media integration, personalization or real-time intelligence, and has seen an impact in the engagement rates of attendees and an increase in the longevity of event series. In this context, features such as the customized event agenda, the event sharing feed or the real-time polls that Eventtus launched in the past 18 months have proven to be an anticipation of the attendees’ and organizers’ newly-discovered expectations.
Thus, events served by Eventtus have seen an increase in the engagement rate of attendees of up to 91%.
This is the fourth investment made this year by Algebra Ventures – a VC fund backed by CISCO, EBRD, and IFC.
“500 Startups is proud to invest in such a great team, led by Mai Medhat and Nihal Fares. We look forward to supporting them as they aim to disrupt the events-related technology space and improve overall conference experience in the region and beyond. With the MENA region becoming a major hub for global launches and events, the opportunity in this space is significant. We look forward to welcoming Eventtus to the global 500 Startups family”, said Hassan Haider, Partner at 500 Startups.
M-Shule has won the Kenyan round of Seedstars Nairobi earning the opportunity to represent the country at the major Seedstars summits in Mozambique and Switzerland. The startup will battle with other promising startups for up to USD 1 million in equity investment and other prizes.
Seedstars World, the global seed stage competition of vibrant startups for emerging markets and other scenes where startups are rising up steadily brought the Kenyan round on Friday last week at Nailab, as 11 selected startups were invited to present their ideas in front of a group of local judges.
M-Shule is a startup that developed its idea around improving learning for every primary school student across Kenya using Artificial Intelligence and SMS to deliver personalized and accessible education. The startup will have the opportunity to participate at the Seedstars Summit that will take place in Switzerland in April 2018 meeting up with other 75 winners and investors from around the globe. The winner thereafter will have a prize worth USD 1 million equity investment.
M-Shule also won a whole six month free membership to the Nairobi Garage as part of the prize while the runners up won a three month free membership and the finalists were awarded a two month free membership to continue developing their idea in a great environment around other freelancers.
The runners up was BuuPass a digital marketplace for train and bus tickets that makes simple transportation solutions to help people commute easily whereas Sinbad Technologies a platform to democratize and simplify the process of obtaining marine cargo insurance grabbed the last spot in the top three.
The other startups invited to pitch at the summit were ConnectMed, Jobsikaz, PortableVoices Creatives, Sokompare, The Konnector, TozzaPlus, WazInsure and BrillantPay.
The next stop of the Seedstars World will be in Maputo, Mozambique where all local winners and startup delegates are invited for a three day conference and also get the opportunity to pitch in front of an audience from 20 African countries.
Jumo, a big data analytics firm which allows cost-efficient provision of loans has raised $6m from Finnfund in form of a debt instrument to support its expansion in Africa and Asia and the development of its platform in order to provide new services for SMEs, small and medium-sized enterprises.
The $6m is part of an overall 24 million USD-loan facility, which was arranged by Gemcorp Capital, an independent emerging markets investment management firm based in London and an early investor in Jumo.
According to Jaakko Kangasniemi, Managing Director of Finnfund, “We are keen to provide funding for Jumo’s expansion and further development. Financial inclusion is very important for development; people need to be able to access quality financial services. It gives them security, enables them to plan their lives more effectively and often gives them an opportunity to start or grow their own business and improve their livelihoods.”
JUMO is a multi-sided platform for Mobile Network Operators and Financial Service Providers and has served over 5 million people in Africa and Asia using behavioural data from mobile usage. Users are able to create a financial identity and gain access to affordable, real-time, financial services fitted to their specific needs. The services are benefitting broad segments of customers including people with low incomes and those who own micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) who have previously been excluded from traditional banking services.
“As an investor, Finnfund brings a sharp focus to achieving meaningful social impact with sustainable profit. That aligns well with our mission,” says Andrew Watkins-Ball, founder and CEO of Jumo. “Having proven our model, we are now expanding our footprint to reach millions more people who are excluded from the formal financial system. With Finnfund we have an investor who supports our view that inequality is unacceptable.”
Jumo has granted more than 20 million loans. Currently, the company employs over 300 people, who are mostly based in South Africa. The main markets include Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana and Pakistan.
Naked, an insuretech startup set to launch in South Africa in the first quarter of 2018 has received funding through a R20 million investment from Hollard and Yellowwoods, a private investment group with interests in insurance ventures around the world, including Hollard.
Naked aims to transform the insurance business model to give customers a faster, fairer and more flexible insurance experience. It’s a new generation insuretech business, on a mission to build insurance that is effortless, fair and transparent.
Naked was founded by respected actuaries Alex Thomson and Sumarié Greybe, formerly partners in EY’s insurance advisory business, spent the last decade advising many of South Africa’s largest insurance groups.
“Our work revealed the many very real reasons a typical insurer can’t deliver insurance that’s appropriate for the times we’re in. The only way to do things differently was to get out of the system, start from scratch, and build a business model and technology to deliver a new generation of insurance,” says Thomson. “It is time for insurance to adapt to current times, technology, and social standards, and offer the kind of transparency and trust that consumers expect from a financial services provider.”
Naked Insurance will have absolute customer empowerment and control at the centre of everything it does. The only thing it will retain from the existing insurance model is that its customers are covered. Everything else will be different.
“The insurance industry is one of the business sectors that is undoubtedly facing digital disruption. Hollard was built on the belief that there’s always a better way, so we not only embrace the change, but fully support Naked’s intention to bring unprecedented levels of transparency to the insurance environment,” says Heidi Brauer, CMO at Hollard Insurance.
Naked also revealed that it has appointed outgoing Hollard group CEO Nic Kohler to its board of directors.
Knife Capital, a Cape Town-based venture capital firm has made its first global investment since opening the London office in a Stockholm-based IoT specialist.
The Cape Town-based firm has participated in a R22m funding round by Stockholm-based Mobile and Sensory Technology (MOST). Knife Capital invested alongside some of Europe’s most successful new age entrepreneurs – the founders of the British and Swedish games studio: King Digital Entertainment.
According to Bob Skinstad who heads up the business development function for Knife Capital in London and responsible for securing the deal: “We are excited to partner with an accomplished team and credible co-investors in this technology-rich IoT startup that already has a proven product. Knife Capital will assist MOST in expanding into key markets where we already have strong networks.”
The investment was facilitated through Knife’s new London office by director Bob Skinstad, the former SA rugby hero, who will join MOST’s board alongside King Digital co-founder Lars Markgren.
MOST will invest the fresh capital into further global expansion, including penetrating the South African market.
A large quantity of the world’s food is destroyed during transport, mostly caused by temperature fluctuations, increased humidity or the freight load shaking too much.
It is usually difficult to identify the party responsible for compensation when there are damages as the law requires parties to prove where in the transport chain the breach occurred.
MOST’s sensor is connected via the cloud so customers can track their consignments in real time. This increases transparency, intelligence and proactivity in the supply chain at a low once-off cost. Industries being prioritised are fruit and perishables, electronics and pharmaceuticals.
Its breakthrough product is a sensor which monitors and transmits real time information on humidity, light, positioning, shock and temperature within containers used to transport sensitive products.
“Our product is already market leading in functionality as well as in performance. Through our services, we offer our clients the opportunity to act proactively instead of reactively. The market has shown great interest in our product and we currently serve clients in five different continents,” said MOST CEO Jon Hjertenstein.
The MOST sensor has helped its clients with various issues, such as decreasing food waste and preventing damage to sensitive equipment. MOST is also enabled for implementation of blockchain technology, which gives all stakeholders in the supply chain full transparency.
”Our latest investment round enables us to expand more rapidly to our prioritized markets like EMEA and the US,” added Hjertenstein.
King Digital is the creator of global sensation Candy Crush. Its founders were early investors in MOST. They have strengthened their positions by investing in the latest round.
King Digital Entertainment co-founder Lars Markgren explains: “We invested in MOST in 2015. The company keeps impressing us with its agile development. Strengthening our ownership was the obvious choice when the opportunity arose. MOST has demonstrated an impressive development capacity so far and we will engage ourselves to ensure continuous improvements.”
Off-grid Solar firm PEG Africa has raised US$13.5 million in a debt and equity financing to expand its operations in Ghana and Ivory Coast with a target to reach 500,000 people through micro-loans for solar home systems.
According to Hugh Whalan, CEO of PEG Africa: “With this funding, PEG Africa will be able to reach a major milestone of extending energy and financing to half a million people. We are excited that we can now accelerate our growth plans in key West African markets. It is testament to the quality of the opportunity that all previous investors have participated in the Series B equity financing.”
PEG Africa issues micro-loans to off-grid customers in rural areas and considered risky by banks and microfinance institutions as they earn $5-$10 per day. The firm uses IoT technology to control the solar systems remotely as they pay for the devices over time in small increments.
PEG Africa raised the funds from SunFunder, ResponsAbility, Oikocredit, Global Partnerships and Palladium Impact Investments. The Series B financing brings the total funding raised by PEG Africa to over $21M USD from investors such as Blue Haven Initiative, with participation from EAV, Investisseurs & Partenaires (via IPAE 1 fund), ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies, Acumen and PCG Investments.
Audrey Desiderato, COO of SunFunder, said, “We have seen PEG Africa achieve major milestones in the last few years. By structuring and arranging this syndication on PEG’s behalf, we have provided scalable financing so they can focus on their core business.”
South Africa’s Digital Cabinet has received R5m led by HAVAÍC and a consortium of individuals including its own team, and Growth Grid Venture Capital Partners.
The firm will use the capital raise to increase its staff capacity, undertake a concerted marketing exercise with the objective of creating product and brand awareness and implementing further product development.
The firm believes the move to increase staff capacity will drive additional product development which promises to result in Digital Cabinet establishing itself as a leader in document and workflow management.
According to Daniel Kritzas, CEO of Digital Cabinet, “Increased focus on marketing and brand awareness will draw increased attention to the company and its existing range of product solutions. Heightened awareness,” he believes, “will lead to increased enquiries from companies wishing to take advantage of Digital Cabinet’s innovations and so improve their internal processes.”
Digital Cabinet offers companies cloud-based paperless document and workflow management solutions, and is on the brink of a period of rapid growth as a result of increased focus on sales and marketing as opposed to product development on which it has focused to date distribution agreements with partners abroad; and a partnership with Computershare for its digital post offering.
Grant Rock, Executive Director of HAVAÍC, comments that: “The scale of the capital raise validates the faith that HAVAÍC showed in Digital Cabinet when HAVAÍC led the first investment in the company, a convertible loan extended in 2016.” The convertible loan was converted into equity as part of the capital raise, resulting in strong returns for the initial group of investors. “We believe that the calibre of Digital Cabinet’s leadership and the nature of the business alliances it is forming will result in good returns for the new investors as well,” says Rock.
Rob Ferguson, Founding Investor and Executive Director of Growth Grid believes: “This joint investment by HAVAÍC and Growth Grid marks the beginning of a collaborative relationship between the two companies united by their interest in identifying innovative companies and the desire to provide the entrepreneurs with the financial resources and guidance to enable them to realise their powerful visions”.
Sun Exchange has raised $1.6 million in seed financing from Network Society Ventures, Kalon Venture Partners and three of the world’s leading technology accelerators, BoostVC, Techstars and Powerhouse.
The firm says it will use the funds to boost its capacity to meet the demand for commercial-scale solar power projects, located in the sunniest regions of the planet. Founded in 2014, Sun Exchange has now expanded globally with United States headquarters and a regional operating office in Dubai.
According to Abraham Cambridge Founder and CEO, “We are the first marketplace of our kind, combining sharing economy principles with blockchain technology to democratize solar power.”
Sun Exchange allows individual investors to buy solar cells in solar projects in emerging markets in power-poor regions in move to make solar panel ownership accessible to retail and institutional investors worldwide, while giving businesses and communities in emerging markets access to fully-funded solar power plants to reduce running costs and drive sustainable development.
Using its blockchain-based platform, Sun Exchange is giving retail customers around the world the chance to lease solar cells bought on their platform for as low as $10 to achieve a zero-carbon future. The firm also breaks down the solar panel ownership to a single cell thereby reducing the cost by three.
“We’re utilizing empty roof space in some of the sunniest cities on the planet, such as Dubai and Johannesburg. To super-charge the process we’ve combined our solar leases with another breakthrough technology – blockchain, namely Bitcoin. Putting the two together empowers anyone to go solar and be part of the global solar energy transformation with just a few taps on a screen,” he said.
Sun Exchange says blockchain and Bitcoin will increase transparency and reduce the costs of the cross-border transactions, both problems that inhibit the majority of commercial solar projects from accessing traditional funding options.
As a promising startup, you may be asking yourself “What exactly do Venture Capitalists have interest in pitches?” Well, the answer is quite simple huh. They are only looking for an opportunity for a great investment in your pitch. A startup can have the best presenters who have an eloquent presentation language capable of convincing investors but if the pitch does not promise to be a good investment, it is more likely your pitch will be rejected.
In the first place, Venture Capitalists fund promising businesses therefore you don’t have to put a lot of focus on the design of your PowerPoint slides. Founders preparing their pitch should go with the due that a great investment opportunity is all they need to offer.
One Big Consideration
Startups need to understand that money coming from VC’s is mainly raised from pension funds and many other financial institutions. Therefore, entrepreneurs seeking funding of their businesses must recognize that every Venture Capitalists putting money on risk – Oh yes, an investment is a risk – are reliable and required to justify every single portion of investment to their respective Investors (LPs)
Venture Capitalists are also interested in startups making valuable returns that are worth risking. A startup may have a plan on how it will generate enough revenues to cater for the initial investment but if the returns will not be reasonable over a given period of time, many investors will shun away from such Investments. Startups must therefore be in a position to raise revenues in accordance to the time factor for them to be labeled as “great investments”
VC’s need to make five to ten times in returns on their investment to keep their job. This actually means for them to put money on a startup, it should be in line to exit or go public in a span of 5 – 10 years from the initial year of investing.
VC’s don’t have all the time to listen to you
It is widely known that investors only spend about 15% of their time listening to startups that are pitching. They in turn put a lot of time in ensuring that what they have already put money on moves forward to be successful. This means that a startup really has to put across all the reasons investors should believe in their business and why they should find adding it up into their portfolio of investments something worthwhile.
Startups should put themselves in the shoe of the investors they are approaching and view themselves from an investor’s standpoint. If you have any doubts about it being a great investment then actually there is no point of going forward and perfecting your pitch because no one will bet their money on you. By learning what Investors are interested in, you are boosting your chance of getting your business funded. Research on the previous deals they have invested in and learn a couple of things that come out clearly as major factors they are interested in. Creating a startup that is investable is what really convinces a venture capitalist not that colourful deck full of slides.
Ghana’s Bloom Impact, a machine learning loans marketplace accessible from smartphones has raised undisclosed funding from Engineers Without Borders Canada, EWB Ventures, an early-stage investor in innovative Africa-based social enterprises.
According to Elena Haba, Legal and Investment Officer with EWB’s Strategy and Investment team, “For us, the unique approach and scalability of Bloom’s potential impact was most compelling. By working on closing the financial gap faced by MSME’s, Bloom is helping these small businesses grow and generate much-needed employment opportunities for underserved individuals.”
EWB believes that by supporting MSMEs to thrive, the jobs generated through them and the wealth created by them can ultimately help alleviate poverty. EWB also thinks Bloom will be particularly useful for women, who face many barriers in accessing traditional banking and financial services.
In addition to the tremendous convenience and cost savings Bloom Impact provides for MSMEs, creating financially educated business owners is also a critical component.
Bloom Impact also partners with banks and microfinance institutions and it disrupts their customer acquisition approach by cutting costs and providing digital, eligible, validated, scored and financially-educated customers.
The investment will help Bloom Impact to grow its product adoption, referral and incentive programs, as well as advance product development.
“EWB understands the barriers that prevent scale and growth in emerging markets and how social enterprises can have an impact,” says Bloom Impact Co-Founder and CEO, Carol Caruso. “We are delighted to partner with EWB due to this experience on the ground, our shared mission to drive inclusive finance and EWB’s wealth of talent management support, which is critical to our success.”
Big Pot, 1 Million Teachers & TruuScore have been declared winners of Co-creation Hub (CcHUB)‘s first Diaspora Challenge and will each receive a $15,000 investment, and will be enrolled into a 9 month long CcHUB Acceleration Programme.
The three beat over 250 entries from scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs across the diaspora community in the UK.
According to ‘Bosun Tijani, CEO and Co-founder, CcHUB, ‘Nigeria is experiencing an unprecedented growth and with this comes developmental gaps and issues. We believe that the restructuring of Nigeria is one that requires collective efforts needing all hands on deck. The Diaspora Challenge is one of the vehicles through which we want to drive innovation for a better society by tapping into the innovative wealth of Nigerians in the diaspora eager to proffer solutions.’
The CcHUB Diaspora Challenge, launched in May 2017, solicited innovative workable ideas with a focus to address challenges in the energy, finance and education sectors. The objective was to tap the diverse wealth of resources that Nigerians living abroad could contribute to national development.
Founded by Oluyemi Jegede Big Pot is a power utility startup that provides solar energy to small and medium sized residences and businesses through smart community microgrids distributed via a blockchain network formed by geographically dispersed solar photovoltaic panel installations and lithium ion battery storage.
1 Million Teachers is an education based startup on a mission to fix education in Africa by empowering teachers with skills and knowledge using gamified and incentives based learning. This startup founded by Hakeem Subair aims to develop a subscription-based online learning platform for teachers.
And finally, TruuScore founded by Dr. Freda Owusu is a credit reference service which uses a person-centered algorithm to enable credit scoring for the financially excluded populace. TruuScore is developing a person-centred system that enables credit scoring, using multiple data sources.
DFS Lab, a fintech accelerator funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is accepting applications for their third fintech bootcamp, which will be held Dec. 3-9, 2017 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
DFS will give up to USD 50K in funding to top fintech businesses and six months in DFS Lab’s proven approach accelerator.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to invest in breakthrough technologies that can help reach the billions of people in South Asia and Africa who lack financial services,” said DFS Lab Director Dr. Jake Kendall. “Our goal is to identify, invest, and work with early-stage companies who are building transformative technologies that will help improve the lives of unbanked citizens.”
Since launching in 2015, DFS Lab has invested more than in 18 startups. The Lab is currently interested in entrepreneurs that are creating solutions for customers that function on non-smartphones, as well as new approaches for closing the financial services gender gap. But they encourage applications from any great team with a breakthrough idea.
Over the past year, finalists in previous cohorts representing companies headquartered in Africa and South Asia went through intensive 1-week boot camp programs in Tanzania and Sri Lanka. In addition to financing, the companies selected receive six months of intense mentorship and integration into a global network of top experts who have agreed to advise them.
Entrepreneurs who wish to be considered should apply to DFS Lab Bootcamp Three by Nov. 3, 2017, at dfslab.net/apply.
Kenya’s Pezesha and Pula, an insurance intermediary for small-scale farmers in Africa and Ghana’s Inclusive, an API that verifies financial identities across Africa and US-based Teller are set to raise $250,000 in funding from DFS Lab.
FabWoman has raised an undisclosed amount in pre-seed funding from Iconway Ventures to solve the problem of product and brand discovery for women.
According to FabWoman co-founders, Anu Odubanjo and Dayo Odubanjo, Fabwoman content and commerce platform aim at serving millennial women in Africa between ages 20 and 40.
With topics ranging from buying human hair to Friday office wears, they promise to help their audience find great products at great prices and help advertisers and brands find those people looking for them.
“We are trying to fill a present gap with local content and discovery for millennial women,” said the sisters, just weeks after Zumi Magazine raised funding to launch in the market.
The sisters have had considerable success and experience in the online media space with celebrity-focused website StarGist.com which they started in 2013. Dayo also founded fashion website, FashionPheeva.com, for which she won the 2017 ‘Fashion Blogger of The Year’.
“We want to help millennial women be fabulous everyday with original mobile-first and social media driven content covering food, relationships, news, living and style,” said Anu, the site’s creative director adding that the site will inspire millions of women to live better and more beautiful lives.
Johannesburg-based online ideas collaboration platform Nectir, has raised $2m in seed funding to lead the next wave of business innovation management systems.
Using strategy alignment and social gamification elements, the Australian-owned company — with presence in Sydney, Perth & Canberra, as well as Johannesburg in South Africa has recently launched globally and signed up more than twenty-five corporates, representing approximately 68,000 users, already signed-up and in trial.
According to Nectir’s Executive Director Brad Dessington: “We have created a platform that offers business an almost infinite source of ideas and solutions to their business growth, from their own staff — within an interface that first and foremost understands how to get employees to participate in innovation.”
The platform equips employees with solutions to issues in their immediate workflow, or to be part of groups that solve a challenge issued by the executive. Managers can select ideas and solutions to promote to sprints — fast paced selected teams, who are tasked with providing a viable business solution — for executive approval and implementation.
Nectir was built to provide a way for people to co- create and be rewarded for both their performance and collaboration.
Nectir uses intuitive interfaces that are familiar to anyone with a social media account and creates an environment where agile teamwork and continuous improvement are not only encouraged, but are actively fostered and rewarded. The platform assigns successes and behaviours with ‘points’, social recognition and custom incentives set by the business, staff are motivated to excel and achieve recognition among colleagues and management.
Andela has secured $40M in Series C funding to launch offices in two additional African countries over the next year, doubling its developer base from 500 to 1,000 to meet growing demand.
Andela is present in Nigeria, Kenya and recently launched in Uganda. We don’t want to speculate but the two additional countries are likely to be Rwanda and Ghana.
The funding round was led by pan-African venture firm CRE Venture Capital with participation from DBL Partners, Amplo, Salesforce Ventures, and Africa-focused TLcom Capital. Existing investors including Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, GV, and Spark Capital also participated in the round bringing Andela’s total venture funding to just over $80M.
Pule Taukobong of CRE, Julia Gillard, former Australian Prime Minister and Amplo Board Partner, and Omobola Johnson, Senior Partner at TLcom and former Minister of Communication Technology in Nigeria, will be joining Andela’s board.
According to Pule Taukobong, Founding Partner of CRE Venture Capital: “At present, there is more capital to fund ideas globally than there are people to build them. Andela is providing a solution to this global talent dilemma while building a business case for one of Africa’s greatest assets: our people.”
Launched in 2014, Andela aims to combat the global technical talent shortage by investing in Africa’s most talented software developers. The firm has hired 500 developers to date — the top 0.7% of more than 70,000 applicants from across the continent.
Selected developers spend six months in a rigorous onboarding program before being matched with one of Andela’s partner companies as full-time engineering team members. Beyond recruiting elite development talent, Andela is catalyzing the growth of tech ecosystems across the continent by open-sourcing its content and partnering with organizations including Google, Pluralsight and Udacity to provide resources and mentorship to developers.
Some of the partner companies working with Andela to build distributed engineering teams include Viacom and Mastercard Labs, Gusto and GitHub.
Nairobi-based pay-as-you-go energy provider to off-grid homes M-KOPA Solar has secured US$80 million to provide finance for pay-as-you-go solar installations in one million homes in East Africa.
The facility will be utilised over the next three years on top of the 500,000 already connected.
According to Jesse Moore, CEO and Co-Founder, M-KOPA Solar,“ This facility offers lenders the chance to connect low-income homes to power and information – while delivering sustainable returns. It’s part of an emerging trend for development partners and investors to look at more cost effective ways to fund last mile connectivity.”
The debt facility is backed by customer receivables, paid over mobile money payment plans. Stanbic Bank is leading a US$55 million local currency equivalent debt facility and has committed US$9 million. CDC (US$ 20 million), FMO (US$ 13 million) and Norfund (US$ 13 million). M-KOPA has also secured US$25 million in US$ debt from responsAbility, Symbiotics, and Triodos Investment Management.
To date M-KOPA has connected well over 500,000 homes in East Africa to affordable, safe and clean energy. Its predominantly low-income customer base is accessing lighting, phone charging, radio and TV on daily mobile money payment plans that are less than the typical cost of kerosene.
M-KOPA customers now enjoy over 62.5 million hours of kerosene-free lighting per month and they will save over 600,000 tonnes of CO2 over four years. Customers who complete their payment plans are upgrading with M-KOPA for more lights, TVs, energy-efficient cooking stoves, smart phones and water tanks. The company has sold well over 160,000 upgrade units to date – including 90,000 Solar TVs.
Hint: Are you a (potential) Startup founder, you might want to read this to the end and share with others.
It isn’t alien to the ecosystem that one of the very obvious problems most early stage start-ups face is funding. In fact, it is a major cause of the death of these start-ups. According to this article, Africa has experienced a rampant rise of inventions and startups that have gone a long way from the minds of inventors to disrupting the Sub Saharan ecosystem solving very many problems that have been a setback to the growth of the continent for ages.
Well, with such growth rate, it is only normal for investors to up their games too but I would say they haven’t done that much. Though, some like Jack MA, CEO Alibaba have come up, Outlierz, iHub and Jason Njoku’s Spark are investment vehicles in the African tech startup scene.
Today, our focus is on a new one (well, not so new). Microtraction is a company founded and currently managed by Yele Bademosi. They invest in early stage start-ups with technical founders. The impact of this on beneficial start-ups cannot be overemphasized.
In a chat with TechMoran, Yele reveals a lot into what Microtraction has been doing so far, how much work they have done, how impressed they have been with the applications received, what they look out for before investing in a startup and more. But wait…
Microtraction launched to invest in early stage start-ups. Why is there a special bias towards “early stage”?
I’m not sure we have a “bias” towards early stage, it’s just where we have chosen to place our initial focus because that’s where we feel the greatest need is. It’s still not easy for founders to raise angel funding, there are obvious caveats but a quick AngelList search of Angels based in the U.S will show 12,000+ angels compared to 112 in Africa.
There’s been a lot of improvement in this area in the last couple of years but we are trying to figure out how to direct more risk capital into the earliest stage of venture investing on the continent and get 1,000 companies funded a year.
We spend a lot of time thinking about how to make it super easy for two or three individuals to raise funds needed to further validate their business and hopefully raise a venture round later.
Still on special bias, why are technical founders more favoured than others?
From my personal experience I know the importance of having someone technical on your team. I’ve started companies in the past, as a non-technical single founder and later as technical founder whilst also having a technical co-founder. The biggest lesson here is the first version of your product will almost always not have the adoption you think it will have when you finally launch, so it’s super important to be able to make changes to your product as quickly, cheaply and efficiently as possible when you start getting feedback from your customers. Having to outsource your technology really slows you down and is a lot more costly.
Since launch, how much of applications have been pouring in? Have you been impressed so far?
We have multiple strategies to create deal flow not just via applications, till date we’ve reviewed over 400 companies and shortlisted about 40 of them, just slightly over 10%. For most companies it’s a “not yet”, so we look for ways to help them, often it’s via office hours or strategic intros and with the view to invest in those companies at a later date. We hold our next investment committee every 8 weeks so there’s always another opportunity to invest in a company even if we say no this time.
Overall I’ve been impressed by some of the companies we’ve seen, we initially set out to do 3-4 companies this month but we’ll end up with about 9 companies subject to due diligence, that says something about the quality of companies we’ve seen so far.
Do you have a sector that you focus on more than others? Which is that?
We are sector agnostic, however we are excited about really big and fast growing markets with hard valuable problems that can be solved with technology.
How do you determine if a startup is worth funding? What exactly do you look out for?
We look for a combination of things, at this stage it’s more art than science.
We are looking at the size of the market the company is operating in, ideally it should be bigger than $1Bn and the company should have the potential to generate $100m+ in annual revenue at scale. We are also looking at the problem significance i.e. how much of a pain is this problem to the customer, is the product a painkiller or vitamin.
We love remarkable founders who show a combination of determination, persistence and adaptability, it’s a plus if the founders have personally experienced the problem before or have domain expertise in the area.
We don’t care about traction at this stage but we want the product to be in market and for the founders to have some users with proof that they are making something people want i.e. users are paying them money for said product.
Finally we love it if the founders care about design — unfortunately great design hasn’t proliferated yet in the ecosystem so a startup that has great design almost always stands out from the rest.
What are your short and long term goals? How many start-ups target have you set?
Short term goals over the next 12 months is to invest in startups and successfully get them to the point where they are able to raise follow on funding. A key metric for us is the percentage of startups that raise follow on funding after us.
My long term goal is for Microtraction to become the best platform for African technology entrepreneurs to operate and scale fast.
What do you think African startup founders are getting all wrong?
Not all startups are venture backable, it’s not enough to build a website and call it a startup, Venture Capitalists are looking to back high potential businesses. The first thing is to have an understanding of what makes business venture backable — find HARD, VALUABLE problems in MASSIVE GROWING markets and build solutions that customers in those markets want.
Tell us about the team behind Microtraction.
Microtraction is backed and advised by top local and global investors including Pave Investments (investors in Flutterwave, Paystack, Tizeti amongst others), Chris Schultz (Founder, Launch Pad), Michael Seibel (CEO/Partner Y Combinator), Monique Woodard (Venture Partner, 500 Startups), Lexi Novitske, CFA (Principal Investment Office, Singularity Investments), Dotun Olowoporoku (Managing Partner, Starta) and Dan Marom (Managing Partner, Irrational Innovations).
Asides funding, which Microtraction is tackling, what do you think is the greatest challenge African startup founders face?
I think Talent & Advice; but there are lots of people working on the talent gap and I believe their results will be compounding & exponential over the next 3-5 years. With Advice we need a combination of more founders / operators working in venture backed startups across the continent and them sharing their insights/lessons from building those startups, we are working on this with something called Opentraction, which we should hopefully be launching soon.
Do share a piece of advice for young and upcoming startup founders in Africa.
Don’t start a startup just because it’s the cool thing to do and everyone is doing it. Definitely don’t start one because it’s going to make you rich.
Start a startup because…
1. You can’t imagine doing anything else
2. You are deeply passionate about solving a problem
3. You believe you can create the best solution for it
The most important thing when starting out in technology in my humble opinion are the people you start a company with, so find people who compliment your skill set, start projects with them just for fun and build real, strong, authentic relations with those people because that’s how you find awesome co-founders. You can’t build a remarkable and enduring company with mediocre people.
Africa has experienced a rampant rise of inventions and startups that have gone a long way from the minds of inventors to disrupting the Sub Saharan ecosystem solving very many problems that have been a setback to the growth of the continent for ages. From the rise of startups in fintech helping in payment related challenges, innovations in media and advertising mechanisms, health sector, eCommerce and so many others. It is evident that through technology Africa will unleash its potential as a continent on the rise with new opportunities coming up thus entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas have the chance to bring them to life.
Starting a startup and scaling it up has not been a walk in the park to many African change makers due to so many prevailing factors and conditions. One of the biggest factor is the struggle to have a sustaining financial muscle that makes it possible for startups to develop their products and services and growing their customer base. The ability of a startup to attract a pool of investors is one of the ways of ensuring a startup survives its initial stages. Investors who believe in an idea have the power to determine the success of a startup but the big question remains on where to find the suitable investors who will pump in finances and advice. Here are several primary strategies startups can use to meet investors.
Cold Call Submissions
There are countless lists of Angel Investor groups online over the internet where you can research and find out what firms do deals in what industries and then send them a proposal to them for review. Be sure that your chances of even getting an answer is at best one percent and your chance of that answer being a yes is about the same as that of getting hit by a car crossing the street while reading this article. The main point is that you really need to have your idea pitched at its best since you are using email to reach out to investors.
Using a Deal Broker
Way back before the internet when dinosaurs roamed the earth, If you wanted to get the attention of an Angel Investor, Venture Capital firms or Private equity firms you had to go to a broker pay a good sum of money to have them develop a plan for you and then use their connections as a broker to introduce you to deal makers. Most of these ‘plan sharks’ as I would call them, are just looking to take money and have no more chance of getting your startup funded than one percent and above.
There are so many online communities such as Gust, SeenInvest and Crunchbase which are a den of high profile investors that out lay what each of the investors are looking to invest in. It is therefore hard to go wrong with a strategy like that and often has a good chance of hearing from the investors
Local Angel Investor Network
Some investors prefer to invest locally. Local investors have access to inside data on local business startups and can plug in you into a good number of opportunities. Most of these networks have a range of the amount of funds they are wiling to put in startups but they offer a good chance for entrepreneurs. A good example is Kenya’s KCB Lions Den.
Retain a Business or Patent Legislator
The best way to get introduced to ‘people who know people’ is to hire the best lawyer or attorney that money can buy, pay the retainer, take them to lunch once in a while then have them introduce you to other clients of theirs that are in a similar industries that can help you move your deal forward. This has a high chance of success and lunch is always good.
This happens to be one of the widely used means of funding startups where many small amounts of money are raised from a large number of people over the internet. It involves three parties: The project initiator who proposes the project, individuals or groups who support the project as see it being viable and a moderating organization which brings the parties together Kickstarter being an example
The best chance of getting funded are private investors who are actively seeking and building opportunities. This is a much better odds if you have your act together. If you have something that is ready then it is the best chance of moving forward you will find.