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.
Angaza, a Pay-As-You-Go solar tech platform and clean energy products manufacturer targeting off-grid consumers, has closed a $10.5 million in Series B financing led by Emerson Elemental, and included investments from Rethink Impact, Salesforce Ventures, Social Capital, and the Stanford StartX Fund.
The firm says it will use the funds to grow its global team and continue to expand the suite of technology tools and support services they offer their manufacturing and distribution partners. In doing so, they will enable these partners to efficiently scale their services to the 1.2 billion off-grid consumers that still lack access to modern energy services.
“This funding milestone is a testament to the power of partnerships which can collectively deliver affordable, clean energy to millions,” said Lesley Marincola, Chief Executive Officer at Angaza. “Angaza is excited to leverage this financing to further enhance the technology that enables our manufacturing and distribution partners to quickly and confidently scale their Pay-As-You-Go operations.”
Launched in early 2016, the B2B firm provides Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) technology solutions to solar device manufacturers and distributors worldwide and has rapidly expanded to work with distributors in over 30 countries spanning Latin America, India, and Sub-Saharan Africa and to date allows over 2 million people to transition to clean energy sources in their homes and small businesses.
By allowing off-grid consumers in emerging markets to purchase clean energy devices in small, affordable micropayments over time, manufacturers utilize Angaza’s proprietary embedded software and hardware to add metering and monitoring capabilities to their solar devices; the devices then remotely activate and deactivate according to payment from the end-user.
Distributors leverage Angaza’s comprehensive software platform to seamlessly manage their PAYG operations at scale. The Angaza software suite consists of the Energy Hub cloud-based web portal and the Activator mobile application, which are designed to address the specific complexities of credit sales in rural emerging markets. Angaza allows its distribution partners to accept mobile money payments from end-users in addition to traditional cash transactions.
Angaza’s manufacturing partners produce PAYG products such as solar water pumps, smartphones, and clean cookstoves, making a broad range of life-changing products affordable to end-users worldwide for individuals, SMEs and corporate clients.
Nairobi-based women-focused lifestyle & fashion site Zumi Magazine raised $250,000 to expand into Nigeria & Ghana.
Co-founded by Ex-Rocket Internet executives William McCarren and Sabrina Dorman, Zumi entertainment, lifestyle and love, fashion, beauty and style news to a smartphone enabled, female audience. The site targets 18-35 year old African women.
“We have just closed our second round of seed funding, having successfully raised $250,000 from equity and convertible debt.,” said McCarren in an email update. “We will be expanding into Nigeria and Ghana in the next few months to continue our journey to build the biggest women-focused digital media and e-commerce platform in Africa.”
The raise puts Zumi’s total equity funding to $370k after it raised $120 in August 2016. The raise will help it expand to the two new markets to bring latest news in fashion, beauty, dating, work, health and self-improvement to young women. Zumi is a sort of a Refinery29 on East and West Africa if it really catches up.
Kenya’s Ghafla has also started to shift towards lifestyle from entertainment and gossip but lacks content on women if even its now pan-African. Zumi will also need to be careful and be rooted not to be an all-out entertainment and gossip site.
According to Tom Wilson, Investment Manager at Seedcamp: “We’ve been really impressed with the Libryo team since our initial investment and are delighted to be following on in this round. We see a real demand in the market for their product as evidenced by their strong traction to date across a number of jurisdictions. We’re excited to see the team take the business forward and are confident in their ability to execute on their vision.”
Co-founded in 2016 by Peter Flynn, Garth Watson and Malcolm Gray as a platform for multinational companies to understand the legal regulations faced at each operation.
Libryo offers its users (who are often not legally trained), intuitive search, real-time updates and truly site and context specific regulatory information, anywhere, at any time. For Lawyers, the platform is helping to alleviate some of the legal research work, which their clients are often unwilling to pay for, so that they can focus on adding premium value to their clients in other areas.
“We’re already seeing a huge appetite for our service across Africa, particularly in the legal domains of environment and occupational health and safety,” said Flynn. “We’re at a key moment in our business as we look to expand our offering even further across the world and into other legal domains.”
Since inception, Libryo has expanded from a global reach of five to 50 countries (45 across Sub-Saharan Africa). The $1million seed round will enable further expansion across four continents; Africa, Europe, North America and Australia – in the next 18 to 24 months.
Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP) today announced the launch of its third MENA venture capital fund – the Middle East Venture Fund III (MEVFIII) – with a target size of USD 250 million. MEVFIII will invest in innovative early-stage and growth-stage tech companies in the MENA and Turkey region.
The launch of the new fund follows the announcement in May 2017 that Mohamed Alabbar and MEVP have entered a strategic partnership to create one of the leading venture capital investment platforms in the region.
Mohamed Alabbar said, “A new generation of tech-savvy young digital entrepreneurs is driving the growth of this region’s digital ecosystem. Their innovative ideas can bring transformational changes to the local economies. MEVP’s new fund will support emerging local tech companies with dedicated capital, specialised expertise, and operational support enabling them to reach their next level of growth.”
According to reports, venture capital investments in MENA was less than 0.03% of the GDP in 2016, significantly lower than 0.20% in India and 0.40% in the US. This lack in venture capital funding is in stark contrast to the tech savviness of consumers and businesses in MENA and Turkey and their growing demand for advanced and competitive technology products and services.
The target fund size of US$250 million makes it one of the few independent regional venture capital funds capable of committing large investments to meet the growth requirements of tech companies in MENA and Turkey. The fund will offer long-term investors looking for tech exposure in the MENA and Turkey a diversified investment vehicle led by MEVP’s strong management team that has a proven track record.
Walid Hanna, MEVP Founder and CEO, said: “MEVP is a pioneer in the venture capital investment industry in this region. Since 2010, we have been committed to supporting regional tech entrepreneurs to grow their businesses into market leaders. We have a current investment portfolio in over 40 ventures, which has created more than 1,100 quality tech jobs for the region’s youth.”
He added: “Despite the market evolution in recent years, there remains a significant lag in the amount of capital available for growth stage venture capital funding. MEVFIII aims to address this gap: It is one of the largest venture capital funds dedicated to this region, and will help accelerate the growth of the venture capital ecosystem in meeting the growing demand for technology products and services.”
As a driving force behind the growth of the Middle East’s tech ecosystem, MEVP will seek passionate tech entrepreneurs who have the potential to build the next-generation of tech ventures and transform their ventures into market leaders, creating lasting value for all stakeholders.
In 2015, the Motorcycle Assemblers Association of Kenya estimated that on average 8 million Kenyans used a boda boda daily, generating USD.3.9Million (Kes400.00Million) in revenue.
Mombasa-based rent-to-own boda boda (motorcycle taxi) lender Watu Credit, has received US$1.5Million (Kes.156.Million) in debt finance via lending marketplace Lendable Inc., who secured the off-balance sheet programme for the Mombasa-based lender. Los Angeles-based Shinnecock Partners are the sole investors.
The financing was secured using future repayments on loans advanced by Watu Credit to its boda boda clients. Watu Credit will be use the capital to grow its capacity to finance the sale of boda boda motorcycles on credit, by a magnitude of 10x and extend its geographical coverage across Kenya, moving into Central, Rift and Western Kenya by the end of 2018.
According to Andris Kaneps, CEO of Watu Credit, “We’ve benefited from time and cost savings in using Lendable’s digital deal platform. This form of financing means Watu Credit can access working capital to grow its loan book, without having to tie up its balance sheet.”
This is Shinnecock Partners first such investment in debt secured by receivables originating in Africa which the firm said was made possible due to Lendable’s on the ground due diligence and the predictive capabilities of their Maestro Risk Engine.
Maestro digests and analyses individual monthly repayment data and alternative lender financials. It produces credit data and loan repayment forecasts that can meet the needs of global commercial lenders. Lendable provides a range of essential deal services: deal origination, due diligence, standardized documentation, customizable online pricing models, payments administration and post-deal reporting. Investors on Lendable’s platform can login and monitor the performance of their investments in real-time.
This is the first receivables financing deal done by Lendable in Kenya that uses three-wheelers and motorcycles to secure the loan. It follows Lendable’s successful transaction with Uganda-based Tugende, who offer a lease-to-own model for Ugandan boda-boda drivers.