Quantcast

Startups

Lidya raises $6.9m in a Series A round led by Omidyar Network to enter new markets in Africa

0

Lidya, the digital financial services platform focused on improving access to credit for micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Africa has raised $6.9 million in a Series A investment round led by Omidyar Network.

New investors, Alitheia Capital (via the Umunthu Fund), Bamboo Capital Partners, and Tekton Ventures, also joined the round, which included existing investors Accion Venture Lab and Newid Capital.

“Lidya was founded on a simple, yet fundamental idea: technology can unleash and empower a generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs throughout Africa by revolutionizing how risk is assessed, credit is underwritten, and customers are banked,” said Tunde Kehinde, cofounder of Lidya.

“We are excited by the overwhelming support from the investor community, which signals a great confidence in our business model and team,” added Ercin Eksin, cofounder of Lidya.

Lidya will use the funds raised in the Series A round to expand its loan book, scale in Nigeria, enter new markets in Africa, and bring in more skilled professionals, particularly data scientists and engineers.

Globally, MSMEs are one of the strongest drivers of economic development, innovation, and employment, and yet access to finance is frequently identified as a critical barrier to growth for these businesses. 40 percent of MSMEs in emerging markets are underserved when it comes to access to credit-representing an estimated $5.2 trillion credit gap. In Nigeria, where Lidya is based, the IFC estimates that there is an MSME credit gap of at least $25 billion.

“Access to flexible, affordable credit is at the crux of unlocking growth in the MSME sector. Lidya is addressing that by using smart algorithms to analyze transaction data from small businesses to assess their creditworthiness,” said Ameya Upadhyay, investment principal at Omidyar Network and Lidya’s newest board member. “This data-driven approach allows the company to offer loans without the need of hard collateral-a requirement that has scuttled MSME financing in Africa. In the process, Lidya gathers insights that help expand its product portfolio to become a holistic partner to small businesses.”

In less than 15 minutes, an MSME can create a free account online or download the Lidya app on to their connected devices. The MSME can then share or load bank account or transaction information to the platform. Following this, the MSME can manage cash flows, customer data, and create and send invoices digitally.

Requesting a loan against a pending invoice is easy and decisions are made within 48 hours. Once approved, funds are disbursed on the same day. To assess credit risk, Lidya uses nearly 100 data points to evaluate each applicant and builds a unique credit score. Businesses can apply for loans ranging from $500 to $50,000, without the need to go to a physical location, present audited financials and projections, or provide collateral. Repayment schedules and fees are agreed upfront and with total transparency.

Since inception in 2016, Lidya has made over 1,500 business loans to help MSMEs in farming, hospitality, logistics, retail, real estate, technology, and health to get the capital they need to grow their operations.

Lidya has also been recently accepted into the MasterCard Start Path Program, a global effort to support innovative startups developing the next generation of commerce solutions.

 

Mobile agriculture platform Selina Wamucii receives a $100,000 grant to amplify its impact in Kenya

0

Selina Wamucii, a mobile platform that shortens the agricultural supply chain in Kenya, reducing food wastage and boosting farmers’ incomes has received $100,000 from  global social impact programme Expo Live, run by organisers of the next World Expo, Expo 2020 Dubai.

The firm will use the grant to further develop its mobile platform and to acquire best practice and organic certifications to open up new markets and achieve even better prices for farmers. The grant will also be used to recruit an additional 2,000 farmers to the platform to help the platform double its acceptance rate for buyers’ requests from the current 2.4 per cent to at least 5 per cent.

Founded in June 2015 by John Oroko and Gaita Kariuki, and named after the co-founders’ mothers. Selina Wamucii shortens the supply chain of farmers and passes efficiency savings on to both smallholder farmers and buyers, while ensuring a greater proportion of fresh produce reaches the market.

According to Oroko, “Both Gaita and I saw the challenges faced by our parents so we studied to become engineers and decided to use our knowledge to help farmers. By enabling users to buy seedlings and better equipment, our platform is helping farmers to become self-sufficient.

“Some of our mango farmers have increased their incomes by 60 per cent, allowing them to pay for medical bills and their children’s school fees. We also see smallholders investing their money back into the farm to increase yields.”

The solution digitises the entire supply chain without requiring farmers to have access to smart phones or the internet. Smallholder farmers can register on the platform by dialling a code from their mobile phones. Selina Wamucii then collects data relating to location, produce type, volume and projections to match farmers with the right buyers.

When large-scale exporters place orders, Selina Wamucii sources produce from farmers according to their location. The company contracts agents to collect and deliver the harvests, as well as to train and monitor registered farmers.

More than 3,000 smallholder farmers are registered with Selina Wamucii. The company said mango farmers who were previously earning USD 100 per year are now making an average of USD 160 per year.

Launched in January 2017, Expo Live has several programmes. The flagship global Innovation Impact Grant Programme provides up to USD 100,000 per successful initiative, to be made available incrementally as the project meets ongoing conditions. Projects are also supported with business guidance and promotion, and may have the chance to showcase their work to many millions of visitors at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Selina Wamucii is the latest Kenyan project to benefit from Expo Live, after Eco Fuels Kenya, a start-up that is using oil from the nuts of croton trees to produce energy, received a grant during the programme’s first cycle.

Expo 2020 Dubai will take place from 20 October, 2020 to 10 April, 2021 and will be the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.

Some 60 per cent of food produced by smallholder farmers in Africa never reaches the market due to supply chain inefficiencies. Selina Wamucii’s mobile platform aims to improve the agricultural supply chain by enabling buyers and exporters to source fresh produce directly from smallholder farmers, even without access to the internet.

Yousuf Caires, Vice President – Expo Live at Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “Selina Wamucii addresses all of Expo 2020 Dubai’s subthemes – Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability – by enhancing opportunities for farmers, reducing food waste by improving access to fresh produce, and contributing to a more sustainable agricultural industry.”

 

 

 

Ask Assure Shift for Hiring Best Moving Company in India

0

We, “Assure Shift” are an online directory of the best Packers and Movers. “Assure Shift”is the best solution for those who are looking for the relocation service providers to move city, nationally or internationally because of any reason. We can understand looking for a professional and experienced Packers and Movers is not an easy task for a successful relocation. As we can’t trust any Movers and Packers blindly after all, you have to hand over your valuable goods to them. Now the question arises how you can search experienced and Professional Packers and Movers.

If you don’t know then you are at a perfect place, here we’ll let you know the entire process. We want to make your whole process easy, safe and secure as much as we can. As everybody’s needs are different and so the associated service providers we will also provide the customized services at economical prices.

Reach Your Destination 100% Sure and Safe

Here at “Assure Shift” you will find every type of relocation or shifting services whether you want to shift locally or need an intercity relocation service, Domestic Packing and Moving service, Household shifting service, Office relocation service, Vehicle/car transportation service, International Relocation service, and so on. At the time of looking for a best match packers and movers as per your needs, we will keep your budget in our mind so we can provide you the best quotes for the service you want. Hiring professional packers and movers as per the requirements & in the budget is not an easy task but with “Assure Shift”  we will assure your each and every shifting requirement just by sitting at your home within few minutes you can hire a reliable packing and moving company anywhere in India.

Now Question arises how we can make all this possible?

So simple, we are associated with the top-ranked Packers and movers companies which only onboard after a relevant background check and also we verify their genuinity by checking their relevant documents such as PAN Card, Aadhar Card, GST and other registration certificates. So you don’t have to worry at all about the genuinity of the companies associated with us. From hiring to execution, we have a set of process for every type of relocation process.

“Assure Shift” Relocation Process for anywhere in India:

Packers and Movers are the safe options to relocate from one place to another. To hire a Packing and Moving company you have to follow the procedure which is separated as per the relocation service type:

 

  • Explain Your Shifting Requirements:

 

Fill up a simple form about the date of relocation, current location, destination location and goods quantity required to be moved to start receiving quotes from best packers and movers or calls us and tells your requirements directly. It’s easy & fast.

 

  • Get Connected with Verified Relocating Companies:

 

After filling the form, you can get connected with the best packers and movers from your locality. All relocating companies associated with us having an excellent reputation and will always provide the service as per the client’s requirements. To ensure we have also have listed their ratings and reviews along with the company’s profile.

 

  • Check Professional Packers and Movers List on our Website:

 

We are providing you the best local packers and movers at our dashboard where you can verify the details of the Packers and movers you are going to deal with; we ensure you that all the Professionals movers and packers are checked on our hand.

 

  • Get the Quotes Within Few Minutes and Hire The One You Like The Most:

 

Now you can compare the rates, and make estimates from 3 best logistics companies in and choose the best Packers and Movers which fulfill your all the requirements. Now you can feel relief that you are dealing with the top movers and packers, within your pocket price. Don’t always go with that relocation firm who is providing cheap services but compare them and analyze who is offering you the best service in minimum charges because you don’t want to lose your precious stuff in place of money.

Like this, it will become so easy for us to provide our valuable customer an excellent and experienced Packers and Movers as per their requirements without making a hole in their pockets.  Not only this we will assist all the packers and movers or check them at the time they will provide you the services. Also after service completion, we will take the reviews and ratings from service you received.

Our Vision and Mission

Currently, we are serving Packers and Movers in Pune, Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and Noida & very soon we will start serving Ahmedabad, Cochin, Mumbai, Lucknow, Jaipur, and Patna. In spite of this or vision is to help the entire country with the mission of fulfilling all the Packing and Moving requirements of our beloved clients within time. We want to grow nationally and globally, and for such a dynamic expansion we need a strong mission along with an efficient working family and Partners.

How Our Partner Packers and Movers can help?

Packing and moving to your new home or office can be a rather bothersome and stressful process unless you hire the expert moving services of the top packer and mover. No matter if you are shifting within the city or thinking about a outside city relocation, the relocation experts of a shifting company can immensely help your process.

  • Proper disassembly and packing of furniture, appliances, and other households
  • Careful loading of goods from home into transportation vehicle
  • Transport of your belongings from origin to destination place
  • Full unloading and doorstep on-time delivery
  • Unpacking and Assembly for furniture and Appliances
  • Unpacking and Assembly may not be available for outside Pune shifting

Before Shifting all your expensive furniture, home appliances, television, and other electronic equipment needs to be properly reassembled and packed before you haul them to the truck to be shifted to your new destination. Careless handling or packing of your household items can lead to its damage while in transit. The experienced crew of the moving company knows how to properly pack all your goods by using the right packing materials to eliminate even the slightest possibility of damage.

The Ultimate Relocation Guide – ASSURE SHIFT

At Assure Shift website page you can also select a preferable Shifting company on your own. We have listed almost all the packers and movers on our website according to the cities we are serving.

  • Select the city area in which you want to move, and provide few of your moving details.
  • There you will find the city localities select that and you will find many Packers and Movers company along with the company profile, rates & reviews listed their as per your requirements select any company and ask for the quotes.
  • Compare the quotes choose one moving company, and there you go.  

Now you must be thinking how we this ratings and reviews are updated, so let we tell you that all these reviews and ratings are updated of each service execution of every relocation firm. After completion of the service asks is valuable customer’s review on the service and ratings as per the service executed. If we get negative reviews about any firm, then we will take a strict action & in some cases, we even off-board them from our portal.

Safety is our first priority!

Cellulant Raises $47.5 Million Series C From The Rise Fund to Expand its Digital Payments Across Africa

0

Cellulant, a digital payments provider that reaches 40 million people across 11 African countries has sold a $47.5m stake to the Rise Fund, an impact investing fund managed by growth equity platform TPG Growth, to broaden its reach and extend its payments ecosystem across the continent.

According to Bill McGlashan, CEO and co-founder of The Rise Fund, “Across Africa, expanding easy-to-use and low cost mobile banking offers immense potential for impact, and Cellulant is at the leading edge of that work. We’re excited to invest in African entrepreneurs like Ken and Bolaji to help them grow their businesses and expand their impact on society. Cellulant is a perfect partner for The Rise Fund’s first investment in Africa.”

The Rise Fund is investing alongside Endeavor Catalyst and Satya Capital. First launched in Kenya and Nigeria in 2004, Cellulant has since expanded its services across 11 African markets, including: Zambia, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi, and Liberia.

Cellulant’s digital payments platform delivers connected, flexible payment options for consumers and businesses, and works with financial institutions, governments and mobile network operators to increase transparency and expand their reach in Africa.

“Cellulant occupies a unique position in the fintech ecosystem in Africa, with the potential to offer increased access, savings, and income to tens of millions of users across the continent,” said Yemi Lalude, Managing Partner for TPG in Africa. “As more and more smartphones come online across Africa, Cellulant makes it easy for customers to increase their incomes.”

Cellulant’s easy-to-access digital payment solutions, interoperable financial services, and mobile banking solutions can help the unbanked open accounts, cut fees, and save for the future, as well as helping farmers and small and medium sized business owners expand their reach through improved financial services. More than 94% of Cellulant’s customer base was previously unbanked before they signed up.

“Payments in Africa are not a novelty. With two thirds of Africans unable to access a bank account, we believe that building a connected payments infrastructure is the foundation of solving real challenges and accelerating Africa’s growth and development. This investment from TPG Growth’s The Rise Fund will enable us to build a world class payments team that can unlock our next phase of growth. This involves not only entering new geographies across the continent, but also consolidating our presence in existing markets,” said Ken Njoroge, Cellulant co-founder and Group CEO.

The Rise Fund, Satya Capital and Endeavor Catalyst join Cellulant’s existing shareholders Velocity Capital Private Equity, Progression Capital Africa Limited and TBL Mirror Fund. Representatives from The Rise Fund will also join Cellulant’s Board of Directors, leveraging the firm’s experience, deep sector knowledge, operational resources, and global experience to drive increased value creation for the business and its mission.

The $47.5m investment will also help scale existing Cellulant products, like Agrikore. Agrikore is a mobile blockchain-based platform that has served more than 7 million farmers across the continent, better connecting them to the market and helping them sell their goods to a diverse range of buyers more easily. It also expands access to government subsidy programs to help reduce costs for farmers, increase their yields, and raise incomes.

 Bolaji Akinboro, Cellulant co-founder and CEO of Cellulant Nigeria said the new capital will help the firm scale up its existing payments products in the agriculture sector, digital banking and internet payments; as well as introducing consumer-focused products to complement the enterprise products it already has.

“This will allow us to increase access to payments for the millions of Africans who are still unbanked, despite the financial inclusion revolution,”  he said.

“We’re thrilled to have Endeavor Catalyst joining this round for Cellulant,” said Linda Rottenberg, CEO of Endeavor. “With Cellulant, Ken, Bolaji and team are building a great example of something we hope to see much more of in the years ahead: true ‘scale-ups’ in Africa!”

African agri-tech ecosystem grew 110% in last two years

0

The African agri-tech space is booming, with the number of startups operating in the market growing 110 per cent over the past two years, and over US$19 million invested into the sector in that period.

The Agrinnovating for Africa: Exploring the African Agri-Tech Startup Ecosystem Report 2018, released today by Disrupt Africa, records 82 agri-tech startups in operation across Africa by the start of 2018, with 52 per cent of these ventures launched in the past two years.

The report tracks annual startup activity in the agri-tech space as early as 2010, but finds this activity remained limited until the end of 2015. The current boom began in 2016, and over the following two years 43 new ventures launched across Africa.

The research shows that while Kenya was the early pioneer of the African agri-tech sector, accelerating interest in West Africa over the past two years means this region now dominates the market; and is home to two of the top three agri-tech ecosystems on the continent.

Currently, Kenya and Nigeria tie in first place as the top two agri-tech markets on the continent; while Ghana places third. Together, these three countries account for over 60 per cent of agri-tech startups active in Africa.

Over the course of this period, over US$19 million has been invested into African agri-tech startups; with annual fundraising figures growing rapidly. The amount of funding raised in 2017 grew by over 121 per cent on the total for 2016.

“The scope for innovation in the agricultural sphere is vast – a refreshed take on the sector could unlock huge value for the whole of Africa. That’s why this report is so exciting – it shines a light on the extent to which the continent’s entrepreneurs are already disrupting the agricultural industry. Behind the scenes, there has been formidable acceleration in the agri-tech market recently, and it is one of the most interesting spaces to watch in Africa today,” said Gabriella Mulligan, co-founder of Disrupt Africa.

“Everyone knows how important the agricultural sector is across Africa, but until very recently it remained relatively untouched by tech innovators. That is suddenly changing as entrepreneurs and investors realise the scale of the challenges facing farmers, and spot opportunities to reach huge addressable markets. Our latest report tells you all you need to know if you want to get involved in this still very nascent space,” said Tom Jackson, Disrupt Africa co-founder.

Startups are particularly involved in applying e-commerce to the agriculture industry, with this type of agri-focused e-commerce platform accounting for 32.9 per cent of startups. Information and knowledge sharing platforms are also popular; while a substantial number of entrepreneurs are focused on delivering fintech solutions for farmers.  A total of six sub-sectors are examined in the report.

Ghafla’s pan-African move paying off as it turns revenue positive in Ghana, Nigeria & South Africa

0

Ghafla, Kenya’s entertainment site has successfully expanded nto Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria in a pan-African expansion move to become Africa’s TMZ, after a botched acquisition by Ringier Africa Digital Publishing.

 According to Samuel Majani, Ghafla founder and CEO, Ghafla expanded into this markets due to the fact that they are the largest English speaking economies in Sub-Saharan Africa and the populations have a strong and growing purchasing power too.

Though he didn’t mention numbers, Majani told us that Ghafla is already revenue positive in all these countries.

“It was good because I realized the potential of the business and got out of my comfort zone after the deal crumbled,” he told TechMoran adding that Ghafla has not lost its mojo as some people in new media entrepreneurship think. “I would say this is not true. Perhaps it’s because we are now putting most of our efforts outside Kenya that you feel this way, but if you were to look at our international expansion efforts you can see the growth.”

Majani says Ghafla’s pan-African strategy has separated them from the rest of the pack as there are very few people pursuing such a bold pan-African expansion. Though Ghafla is making money in these new markets already, he says there are no plans for Ghafla Radio or Ghafla TV? or Ghafla TV or radio shows. At the moment, his target is one-having a presence in every African country possible. Ghafla is also not raising any money for expansion.

“I think for now we should discard the thinking of raising money from VCs to build a startup and eventually sell to some other tech giant out there. Instead African tech entrepreneurs focusing on building companies that grow independently to become the giants of their sector,” he told TechMoran.

Back home, Majani says he’s amazed by the way fintech is growing in leaps and bounds. Kenya’s mobile money ecosystem is a wonder of the world of technology. However, on blockchain he thinks it will go the way of torrents where it is an interesting technology, but complexity and legal issues limit it.

 

Sam Majani

Majani is also a bit disappointed by some Kenyan startup entrepreneurs for not taking on terrifyingly ambitious startup ideas.

“It saddens me that the biggest startups in the African ecosystem are mostly run by expatriates who don’t even set up the company to be a local entity,” he said. “This shows that 1. local entrepreneurs are not thinking big 2. investors are not trusting of local entrepreneurs to handle big projects. I hope stories like mine show that indeed Kenyan entrepreneurs are capable of doing the heavy lifting.”

To him the new markets have a lot of similarities and differences in each, the only way to find out is to dive in and see how the market responds. Ghafla has no exit plan for now but to be the largest entertainment news website in Africa.

Ringier is also expanding across the region, launching to every country Ghafla has but the entertainment market is huge. Using its Pulse brand, Ringier will miss out on the entertainment pie because of its mix with business, politics and other kinds of news. Ghafla’s focus is just celebrity gossip and entertainment news-loved mostly by university students and youthful executives in their first or second jobs.

Codeasy.net aims to teach beginners programming in a visual and interactive way

0

Codeasy.net, an online educational startup has launched in Nigeria to teach beginners programming mainly C# in a story-telling and interactive way.

Designed for absolute beginners without any prior knowledge to start, Codeeasy is actually the first FREE C# online interactive tutorial for beginners and is now focused on helping people to write their first, second and third program without even realizing it.

“Codeasy is not about immediately getting a job, it is not about going into complex details of every subject, it is all about helping people to get into coding in the easiest possible way,” says the firm’s founders.

“This is a fun way to learn programming for complete beginners! Codeasy.net is a C# tutorial for people who know nothing at all about programming. All you need is to be willing to learn C# from the ground up. The course will also be useful for those who already have a little experience in programming,” the team added.

It’s underlying magic is the use of adventure stories mixed with the explanation of programming principles closer to CodeAcademy approach, but still having the storytelling or gaming part.

The startup says it is more attractive to learn programming by saving the world, than if someone tells you to write a “for” loop, right? In their adventure story for example, the main character Teo is fighting against robots in the future and tries to save the humanity. Each chapter covers some information on programming, mostly in dialogues.

Registration at Codeasy allows the user to solve tasks by writing a code (practical part) in the browser. The startup also offers users support via its Slack group and a Leader Board to encourage the students to complete the course.

 

 

Frontier Car Group Raises $58M to Accelerate Growth of Used-Car Marketplaces in Emerging Markets

0

Frontier Car Group which runs Cars45 in Nigeria, has closed  $41M Series B funding from Balderton, TPG Growth, automotive funds Fraser McCombs Capital, and AutoTech Ventures. to expand its used-car marketplaces within emerging markets.

The company additionally raised $17M in debt financing from leading institutions and banks bring the total to $58m.

According to Sujay Tyle, co-founder & CEO of FCG: “FCG is bringing safety, transparency, and convenience to the used car ecosystems of various emerging markets. This round, which was vastly oversubscribed, is a testament to the sheer size and nascency of the industry — and our team’s ability to disrupt it. We will be expanding quickly in our current markets and regions as we gain more and more market share where we are today. The six local companies that we have built so far all have the potential to become billion dollar entities in itself.”

Based in Berlin, and led by 24-year-old CEO Sujay Tyle, FCG will use the new funding to become the dominant used-car trading house in emerging markets across the world. It plans to apply a particular growth-focus on Africa and Latin America, while also making investments in Asia.

FCG runs Vendetuauto.com in Mexico, and Chile’s Vendenostuauto.comCarfirst.com, in Pakistan and Indonesia’s Belimobilgue.co.id.

Daniel Waterhouse, who has led all Balderton’s investments in Frontier Car Group, said “Balderton first invested in FCG a little under 2 years ago and it is staggering what the team have achieved in such a short time, getting to significant scale and building a platform that is capable of being leveraged in many different operating environments. We are excited to further support the company and look forward to the next chapter of this extraordinary story.”

Connecticut Innovations Launches VentureClash, a $5 Million Global Challenge for Lagos Startups

0

Connecticut Innovations, a U.S. investor in early-stage technology companies has launched VentureClash, its global venture challenge in Nigeria targeting disruptive startups in digital health, fintech, IoT and insurtech.

The $5 million contest kicked off in March with the first round of applications and will conclude with a finalist live pitch event on the Yale University campus in New Haven, Connecticut in October.

The first-place winner will receive an investment award of $1.5 million, and the remaining $3.5 million will be awarded to other finalists based on judges’ input. Winners will also receive mentoring and other assistance.

The Lagos event was inspired by Oni Chukwu a Nigerian native who, after emigrating to the U.S. 25 years ago to pursue advanced education, went on to achieve great success in several entrepreneurial ventures including his current role as CEO of etouches, a Connecticut Innovations portfolio company that was recently acquired at a highly attractive premium. He has played a pivotal role in three companies that each achieved exits of $150 million or more and has been part of six software company exits in total. Chukwu is a technology investor, via his investment company, Frontiers Acquisitions. Among his vast professional accomplishments, Chukwu also established the AfricaPlan Foundation, which assists aspiring entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Chinedu Echeruo, another success story of a Nigerian who emigrated to the U.S., will co-host the event and serve as one of the judges at the competition in Lagos. Echeruo has been referred to as a serial entrepreneur who dares to invent the future. He founded HopStop, which was acquired by Apple and Tripology, which was acquired by Rand McNally. Currently he serves as co-founder of Love & Magic Company, a start-up studio that incubates companies that enlighten and uplift.

The two-day tech fair, to be held on May 22–23, 2018 at the Radisson Blu in Lagos, will bring together the most promising companies from Africa to compete for one of three semifinalist spots in VentureClash, a $150,000 investment from Connecticut Innovations for the first-place winner, and $5,000 grant awards each for the three top winners to visit and explore Connecticut as a place to live and grow a business.

To be considered, companies must have been in business for at least one year, have paying customers or customers who are actively testing their product, and agree to the terms and conditions, which include maintaining a presence in Connecticut. Those who meet the contest criteria must complete an application prior to May 14, 2018, by visiting: www.ventureclash.com/apply.

The top 10 or 20 companies among those applicants will be invited to pitch at the event in Lagos. They will each be given eight minutes to present their companies to a live audience followed by a brief Q&A by a panel of judges. After deliberation by the judges, the three winners will be selected to move on to the semifinals round of VentureClash.

Alosfarm is modernizing and transforming agricultural supply chain in Nigeria

0

Nigeria’s Alosfarm tackles some of the main market inefficiencies and challenges to growth for smallholder farmers within the agriculture value chain in Nigeria.

Stephen Oloh, the CEO & Co-founder of Alosfarm told TechMoran that Nigeria’s agriculture is facing serious challenges such as low yield, enormous wastage of produce across the value chain and lack of easy access for smallholders farmers in rural communities to sell their farm produce to larger market on time. His company aims to solve that.

“Alosfarm attempts to address these challenges by fundamentally transforming and modernizing critical stages of the entire agricultural supply chain,” Oloh told TechMoran.

The platform works to improve smallholder farmers’ limited access to market information, reduce the exploitative behavior of local buyers and middlemen and to improve the transportation and logistics linkages between small rural sellers of agri-production and the larger urban markets while using smart mechanism in optimizing the huge wastage of farm produce.

“My vision is that we transform the way farm produce is grown and distributed in Nigeria by introducing global best practices,” he told TechMoran. “In parallel, we empower the smallholder farmers by providing knowledge & extension services such agriculture training, crop insurance and warehousing. We ensure regular and secured income for the farmers with long-term off-take agreements.”

Alosfarm focus is to develop Nigeria’s underserved regions to improve the quality and quantity of their farmers farm produce. Alosfarm intends to reduce agri wastage, by streamlining the value chain, to less than 5 percent in comparison to the country’s average of about 30 percent. Majority of this saving translates into increased farmers’ earnings.

Currently, Alosfarm has already on-boarded over 50 farmers and help them sell their produce directly from the farm to its primary markets in Imo State, Akwa Ibom, Abia and Rivers State where it has off-take agreements with large multi-national and retail franchises.

 

I/O Spaces and AfriLabs Partner to Provide African Startups With US Based Offices & Funding

0
I/O Spaces and AfriLabs have partnered to provide AfriLabs Hub Startups access to I/O’s Creator Community, Events, Classes and Office Space at I/O Spaces US Workspaces in the Washington DC Metropolitan region.
According to Leslie Tita, Cofounder of I/O SPACES,“This partnership will enable I/O Spaces become a premiere destination for African Companies looking to expand into United States and by offering our membership services to the AfriLabs network, we grow our member base across 27 African countries, and give these startups the ability to grow their global market reach, an HQ to work from when they travel to the US and finally a platform to hire both US and African Diaspora talent looking to work for African Based Startups .”
The companies will collaborate to deliver a unique cross-continental membership focused on expanding the market reach of its AfriLabs hub startups, cross-collaboration between with the US counterparts and providing African Based Startups with a US-based Headquarters. These will facilitate the African startups plans for US expansion, Hiring or Funding raising.
I/O Spaces will offer startups in AfriLabs Hub Network access to its US Based Startup Community, Select Events, Online Classes & Workspace. Office Space & Conference Booking credits to each company and an official US Based Physical Address for US company offshore incorporation, mailing address, bank account creation, legal & online payments.
“AfriLabs is very happy about the partnership with I/O Spaces. This partnership presents amazing opportunities for startups from our hub communities to collaborate with US entrepreneurs, scale and benefit from the I/O Spaces community. We look forward to strategic relationships being built from this partnership that would also promote inter-continental trade and partnerships in the technology and innovation space ” Anna Ekeledo, Executive Director, AfriLabs.

Naira Manager aims to boost financial management for MSMEs

0

Naira Manager, a financial management web based application for SME’s is designed to boost financial inclusion and probity among the millions of MSMEs operating in Nigeria and later elsewhere across the globe.

According to Mebele Ify, the founder and CEO, the web application features agent banking, business planning and management tools such as financial intelligence, business modeling, forecasting, real time financial analysis, business information, business networking and loan/grant application.  

“We believe that for us to reap the fruits of growth in Africa technological innovation must not only be inclusive but must drive equality across the continent. We have started the journey to ensure a financially Inclusive Africa by launching the first solution in Africa’s largest market, Nigeria,” he said.

The financial sector is undergoing changes globally, mainly driven by technological innovations, business models and new customer behaviors and changes in regulations after the 2008 financial crisis. In Africa, Ify believes that these changes are creating unprecedented opportunity to achieve universal access to finance and financial inclusion. Models like agent banking, branchless distribution, mobile banking are reducing costs and risk also enabling reach to the previously unbanked population, including in poor and low-density areas on the continent.

The Continent’s growth has relied on resource extraction and export, however this has been revealed as an unsustainable growth agenda. The new driver of the African economy is the current boom in small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). Today, small and growing businesses create around 80% of the Africa’s employment, establishing a new middle class and fuelling demand for new goods and services.

But inadequate regulation, low income levels and lack of understanding of financial principles for SMEs and business owners are limiting finance penetration. One of the greatest challenges however is access to credit, which remains a hurdle for SMEs in Africa. Addressing the issue has been a priority for the private sector, governments and regional organizations for several years.  

According to The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, 73.24% of the topmost priority of assistance needed by MSMEs’ operators is finance. In addition, only 4.2% of 17.2 million MSMEs have been able to access loans or overdrafts from financial institutions while new entrants or start-ups find it practically impossible to access funds from banks. The reason being that most MSMEs cash flow isn’t stable; it cannot be traced thereafter making it difficult for them to get grants or loans.

With about 350 million adults excluded from the formal financial ecosystem as of 2014, sub-Saharan Africa offers considerable opportunities to expand access to and usage of formal financial services. (“GSMA Intelligence” 2014)

Over the next five years, an additional 168 million people will be connected by mobile services across Africa, reaching 725 million unique subscribers by 2020. The number of Africans joining the working age population will exceed that of the rest of the world combined by 2035, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

 

 

Shoppote is raising funds to bridge the gap between digital consumers & offline retailers in Cameroon

0

Founded by Etang EGBE Founder, Shoppote, a shopping platform based in Cameroon aims to bridge the gap between digital consumers and offline retailers.

The product discovery platform helps consumers have a virtual access to on-shelf products and offers in real-time and has now registered 200+ offline retail partner stores across the cities of Douala and Yaounde and have close to 15000 consumers in its network with over 20% month-on-month growth.

With a team of 8 people spread across functions, the platform has consumer electronics, Home Appliances, Kitchen Appliances and home decor with plans to add apparels category in the next phase of its growth.

“I have always thought Africa can only be built by Africans,” Egbe, the platforms founder and CEO. “The experience of living and working in Asia between 2010 to 2016 was life changing for me, where I last worked as Product/OSE Engineer at a Telecom BSS company in Bangalore, India.”

With his last employer he had the chance to journey between India and several African countries, where he learned that building Africa needs to start from tackling issues such as unemployment and the only way this can be done is by empowering SMEs with the right tools to help them grow and employ more youths hence boosting the economy.

“At that point it became clear to me that the mission was to build a tool that can empower SMEs to drive their growth and at the same time keep them relevant as we fast moving into the digital era, he said.

With the fast adoption of mobile internet and availability of cheap android smartphones in the market, consumers are changing their purchasing habits and want to have the same access and convenience provided by eCommerce sites. Egbe says its therefore important  to build a solution that not only brings this convenience but it also has to keep the traditional shopping approach.

His first attempt was to build a business listing portal for offline retailers (brick-and-mortar) called Dial237.com. But this brought no difference beyond providing the business location and contact information, if offline retailers are to compete with online retailers there was a need to build a feature that will provide information about the in-store activities of an offline store. Consumers today want to know more than just business location. They want to know about the product, the prices and any running offers at a nearby store.

“It wasn’t easy to estimate how much capital we required to kickstart the project. We bootstrapped the project and later raised $10,000 from our team of advisors. We are looking for next round of funding to fuel our growth. We are targeting to on-board over 2000 partner stores by March’18 with more than 40% paid partners,” Egbe told TechMoran.

Being the first 02o business in Cameroon, Shoppote help users to find contacts of nearby offline stores. The platform aims to lower its clients marketing costs and provide them with a whole new exquisite audience.

“We want to be a pocket app, a day-to-day friend for all our user’s needs,” Egbe concluded.

 

 

 

 

RedViolet wants to be Nigeria’s top online store with quality furniture & furnishing accessories

0

Nigeria’s RedViolet has launched its online store to be the go-to platform providing everyday Nigerians with quality furniture and furnishing accessories crafted to accentuate the beauty of their homes and offices as well as guarantee their comfort.

Established in 2010 as a traditional interior design company, offering various customized services ranging from home makeovers, furniture procurement, styling and arrangement and  soft furnishing amongst others.

According to Mofoluke Ayoola, the founder, the growing need for shopping convenience and simple design solutions for our customers necessitated the firm to launch an online store primarily focused  at providing access to furniture, furnishing accessories and design solutions to Nigerians.

“Our goal is simple. To help you achieve decent living and work environments,” said Ayoola. “To deliver on our promise of comfort and customer satisfaction and nurture our vision of becoming the leading e-commerce store specialising in interior design products and services in Nigeria and West Africa, RedViolet now leverages innovative online tools to deliver on its promise.”

During the 2016 Nigeria’s economic crisis, the company had struggled with high running costs, therefore creating the necessity of  relocating the company from the traditional design showroom to an online virtual showroom. During this period Ayoola said the firm was able to make tremendous amount of savings in its running cost which enabled it to keep the company afloat till date.

By the end of 2016, the firm launched a new product called Shop the Look by RedViolet to enable its customers access styled spaces in the shortest time possible. RedViolet is not the only online furniture store though, there are several such platforms in Nigeria such as Hogfurniture, Furnish, Homewox, and Domestico among others.

SA based classifieds platform Sirtch launches to take on OLX and Gumtree

0

 

Sirtch is a classified ads platform aiming to connect people to products. The platform is cuurrently focusing on five categories (Electronics, Cars, Real Estate, Homeware, Jobs) which are some of the most frequently traded items. Techmoran spoke to Sirtch founder Sibusiso Khoza about his company and his vision for the company in this incredibly competitive space.

Briefly tell us about yourself, your educational background, your team and how you came together to form Sirtch?
My name is Sibusiso Khoza. I was born in Swaziland from South African parents who moved to Swaziland during Apartheid time to get education there. I moved back to South Africa to do my high school in 2001, acquired my South African citizenship 2008 and furthered my tertiary studies at Tshwane University of Technology, studying Computer Systems Engineering.
In 2012 I started a software development company with my business partner from DRC (Kelly Kuyunsa – We met at university where we were doing the same course) called Noborox where we focused on B2B solutions. I continue to hold 51% stake in the company.
Sirtch is owned 50% by Industrial African Resources (a company I fully own) and 50% by Noborox. Through IAR, I was able to develop Sirtch from concept to beta version. By bringing Noborox to the table after, we are able to bring to our users useful features that utilize spatial data like the upcoming feature called “Plan A Meet” which aims at improving safety for users at meeting locations. We are able to provide users with Point of Interest (ATMs, Police Stations, Restaurants and filling stations) through the data access we have through Noborox.

What does the word Sirtch mean?
Sirtch is pronounced as “Search” and is short for “Search Innovation Research Technologies”. The undotted “i” in our logo represents the spirit of challenging the status quo, the continuous need for innovating and looking for better ways to simplify connecting people with products and services.
Small casing in our logo represent the understanding that we do all of this in service to our users. At no moment in time in our growth and success to come, will we consider ourselves bigger than our users. Everything we do is for and to their benefit. Users will remain our employers and we will always be in service to them.

How would you describe your company; how does it work and make money?
Sirtch is an innovation driven technology business. Our core mission is to simplify connecting people with products and services. This allows us to focus our energy on building products and solutions that help people make better decisions when interacting with products and services from an online environment. We strive to provide a safe environment to trade goods and services.
B2C technology companies’ success comes from mass adoption of their products. This allows for different revenue models to be pursued; Advertisements, premium subscriptions and in-app purchases are some of the revenue models mass adoption affords these types of companies.
At this moment with Sirtch, monetizing the platform is not a priority. Growing our user base is the core focus. All Sirtch operations are currently personally funded. Working on a shoe-string budget allows us to stretch our creativity on how we spend each rand we have to get maximum impact and exposure.
I envision that this approach of watching every rand and spending wisely what we have to get maximum impact and exposure will continue even when we have attracted big rounds of funding at a later stage.
To post a Free Ad on Sirtch you need to have signed up and to have verified the email address you used to register by clicking the verification link sent to your email address.
– Once verified and have signed in on the platform,
– You can simply click on “Post Free Ads” button located on the main menu and will take you to a form that allows you to enter your ad details.
– Advert Detailed Information
– Uploading Photos of your advert to the platform
– Once completed, you can review your advert.

Sirtch founder and CEO Sbu Khosa

What market gap did you spot that motivated you to start the company?
Entrepreneurs are generally problem solvers, their businesses at their core try to solve a problem that has directly or indirectly affected them. For over two years I used to buy items from auctions, garage sales, people online and sell for a profit to supplement my income. During this period, I picked up a few issues I kept noticing are not being attended to:
Safety when buying goods from strangers – Most of the people I was interacting with kept on expressing their horrible experiences while trying to trade with people they had met through online classifieds. For over a decade, not much innovation had taken place to make the lives of users of classifieds safer.
Local flavor and relevance – Most of the dominating platforms that currently exist were not started in South Africa. They are from countries overseas and have been tweaked a bit by adding local cities and towns to fit local consumers locations. People love to be recognized for who they really are, to be acknowledged for their uniqueness and to have the choice to be addressed in their own language of choice.
Simplicity. This has been my personal issue for a while with classifieds, they are generally cluttered with too much pop-up ads, too many categories and too many color combinations.

How has uptake been like since you launched?
We are currently experiencing traffic between 2500 – 3000 unique visitors monthly and 60 000 to 92 000 hits per month. We are working hard at gaining more exposure for the platform to grow the awareness and traffic to the platform. The most important thing though is servicing the needs of our users which will eventually translate to bigger traffic.

Your company is in direct competition with giants like OLX. What do you do differently to distinguish yourself from them?
Our main focus is to innovate and solve the above-mentioned issues.
Safety – We are about to launch a feature called “Plan A Meet” this coming week (no later than the 4th of May, 2018), which aims at helping users plan a safe place to meet a buyer or seller. A user will type the name of the suburb where they will be meeting and through our spatial intelligence capabilities, we suggest the closest Points of Interest (Police station, restaurants, ATMs or banks and filling stations – we hope later CCTV cameras will be possible to show too). This is necessary to put our users at a better chance of avoiding being put in a situation where they are in a place they don’t feel safe at and meeting a total stranger whom they do not know and their unknow real intention other than to trade.
This feature puts Sirtch at a unique position as the only platform that goes an extra mile to put its users’ safety first. No other classified platform has done a safety feature to this level. We will continue to improve this feature over time to make it even better.
Local flavor and Relevance – Sirtch is currently offered in four languages (English, IsiZulu, IsiXhosa and Afrikaans) and more local languages will be added in time to come. This hits the nail in the head regarding giving people the choice to be addressed in their own language of choice. It recognizes that South Africans are a diverse nation, multi-cultured and it tells of the culture (within Sirtch) of recognizing that each and every user is different. This makes users feel at home, safe and acknowledged. It connects us to them at a deeper level.
Simplicity – Anyone will immediately notice when they land on our first page that our platform is clean, simple and focuses on only 5 categories (Electronics, Cars & Bakkies, Real Estate, Homeware and Jobs). These are the core needs for our users over their lifetime. At some point, they change cars, look for a better house to stay, want to change their smartphone or that couch in the lounge and always looking for a better paying job. The first place we want them to consider finding these to be Sirtch. It also makes it easier for us to moderate ads posted on our platform. We do not allow any offensive content posted on our platform – any offenders are immediately blocked.
These three differentiate us from our competition drastically as it shows how we put our users’ needs first.

What are some of the biggest challenges you faced since the inception of the company?

The biggest challenge is being consistent with the plan when things seem to be slow, believing that consistently communicating our solutions of the issues we are trying to address will bring more success eventually. Doing this in shoe-string budget makes it very difficult especially when all the operational needs are personally funded. It requires a constant self-reminder of where we are going and why we are doing this.
It also brings out the best in our creativity to get the best out of every rand we spend. I firmly believe that all the sacrifices made and will continue to make are worth it. The business will grow and will without a doubt prove its viability, thus attracting big players to invest.

What advice would you wish to share with aspiring African entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship generally is a lonely road, especially at the infancy stage of the business. It requires entrepreneurs to take long-term view, have a level head, be consistent with the steps they are taking towards realizing their goal.
In Africa, it takes one to be very practical, realistic and very patient. Funding is one of the biggest challenges. Funding is there, it only requires one to take the journey alone first to proving viability of the business they are involved in. This is the hardest part of the road, it is riddled with self-doubt, lots of disappointments, tough decisions and difficult sacrifices to be made.
The upside of it all is that if you’re able to beat all the odds against you, are patient enough and have pushed your business towards the light at the end of the tunnel (visible signs of viability), there are a lot of venture capitalists and funding institutions across Africa willing to invest into bankable businesses. Your business doesn’t have to be already making a profit but needs to have visible signs that with the right financial input there is a chance that it could be a success story.
I would also advise entrepreneurs to have a pinch of stubbornness (to be able to carry their vision through the tough times), the will to push themselves through all the negative voices and mentors to help guide you where your knowledge fades.

Kenya’s Biasharabot enabling SMEs respond effectively to customer queries online

0
Biasharabot Founders

Biasharabot, a Kenyan-based company that develops bots for small and medium sized enterprises to use to streamline their social media marketing and maximize the income. The bots enable them to respond to queries on time. TechMoran spoke to Biasharabot founders, who were incredibly excited to share with us their vision for their company moving forward.

Briefly tell us about yourselves, your educational background, team and how you came together to form
BiasharaBot was founded by Felix Cheruiyot and Moses Korir. Moses is a graduate of JKUAT with a BSc in Actuarial Science while Felix is graduate of Kenyatta University with Computer Engineering. We met in high school, and we have know each other for over 17 years.

How would you describe your company; how does it work and make money?
BiasharaBot is a startup that focuses on helping small and medium sized business sell more on social media providing tools which help increase engagement. The application features includes:
Ecommerce chatbot that is able to take the customer through the sale process until they confirm their order.
We also provide post manager where they can create marketing and schedule for posting on social media at specified times.
A message broadcast features which allows clients to send bulk messages to messenger accounts of their customers as a way of running promotion or informing customers about new product arrivals.
We have also integrated into:
M-Pesa so as to offer payment while still on Messenger using M-Pesa express checkout process.
Fulfilment providers like Sendy and we look forward to adding others like G4S and Wells Fargo. The client can compare the different cost of each provider and choose the cheapest one. They can also request for delivery at a click of a button.

The product is a software as a service and customers pay monthly subscription fee.

Biasharabot Founders

What market gap did you spot that motivated you to start the company?
We noticed a lot businesses do not have resources to employ someone to manage their social media accounts on a full time basis. This means they are not able to engage effectively on social media. Whenever a customer enquiries about a product on social media, if they are not responded to quickly the customer moves on to another seller thus the business misses out on sales opportunity. Also businesses do not have time to update their social media accounts regularly missing out on building loyalty with their customer which is critical in establishing repeat business. Many small businesses do not have an engagement tool they can use to inform customers about new products and offers or promotions they are running on a one on one communication.

How has uptake been like since you launched?
We had a successful beta test where customers made orders and they were delivered to successfully. We have now opened it to public and we have some clients who are using it. The feedback has been great and we are improving the product further based on customer
feedback.

Who is your major competition? What do you do different to distinguish yourself from them?
Our major competitors are mainly freelancers.
Being a SAAS product we provide a off-the shelf solution hence reduced cost and implementation time to the client. We have a strong team that works full-time on the product, and this helps us to innovate further and deploy best industry practices.

What are some of the biggest challenges you faced since the inception of the company?
The awareness of the chatbot concept by businesses is one of the challenges we have faced. We have been educating our customers on how chatbots works during the onboarding process.

What advice would you wish to share with aspiring African entrepreneurs?
To always develop their products or services with the customer. Working with the customer helps you so that you don’t develop product or services no one will buy. You will also get important feedback which will help you develop a product or service that is useful in solving customer problems.

Nigeria’s TradeDepot Secures $3 Million Series A Led by Partech to Digitize FMCG Distribution to Informal Retailers in Africa

0

TradeDepot, the innovative SaaS platform for FMCG distribution in Africa has raised $3 million in funding from Partech’s recently launched Africa Fund.

The Series A round which will support the expansion of TradeDepot’s footprint in Nigeria and development in other countries.

According to Onyekachi Izukanne, co-founder and CEO of TradeDepot, “This first external funding round was critical for us: we have proven that there is a strong demand for such a distribution platform among consumer goods companies and retailers in emerging markets, and we now wish to use these funds to support our growth strategy.”

Izukanne adds that for a very long time, consumer goods distribution in emerging countries with millions of small and informal retailers at the end of the supply chain has been very poorly addressed by existing tech platforms. TradeDepot wants to change this status quo by enabling every convenience store in Africa to consistently receive their supplies at the best possible prices; to be THE supply partner for Africa’s retail outlets.

Since its founding in 2016, TradeDepot has successfully developed a 360°solution integrating all participants in the trade value chain: manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

The solution quickly convinced first rank FMCG companies and has been deployed all over the country in distributors’ warehouses. Through TradeDepot’s platform, small retailers have a real time view of all prices and discounts available from every major brand; they can directly order products which are then delivered to them as the order is routed to the appropriate nearby depot.

At the same time, manufacturers have full visibility over their distribution and can leverage the platform to optimize deliveries to their distributors, improve their pricing and have a direct channel towards their end-retailers.

In Nigeria alone, this $340bn market loses more than $4bn every year due to a lack of visibility and the resulting waste in logistics, making retailers in African countries subject to some of the highest product distribution costs in the world.

“This is a game changer in the industry”, explained Cyril Collon, General Partner at Partech. “We couldn’t be happier to have TradeDepot as the first investment of our African fund, as it characterizes what we want to do in Africa in the coming years: support extraordinary entrepreneurs who leverage tech to solve pan-African problems.”

“At Partech, we are strong believers in tech platforms that digitize the huge informal markets that are present in Africa. TradeDepot is one of them: they are addressing the largest market in Africa, that is today 98% informal and 99% offline. The opportunity there is massive.” said Tidjane Deme, General Partner at Partech. “Partnering with TradeDepot was a no-brainer for us after the first meeting. We were fully convinced by the founders’ vision, their strong understanding of the market and their ambition to transform this industry. The deep market experience of Kachi, Michael and Ruke has proven to be very efficient in their first two years of development and we are extremely proud to come onboard and support them in this next phase of growth”.

Kenya’s Mobius Motors raises a $5 million debt financing to set up a manufacturing facility in Nairobi

0

Kenya’s Mobius Motors has received a $5 million loan from The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance institution to manufacture vehicles in Africa designed for Africa’s roads and drivers.

Mobius, the only company manufacturing cars in Kenya, will use the OPIC loan to expand production and develop a new manufacturing facility near Nairobi. Mobius aims to produce an additional 1,900 vehicles by 2019.

“Mobius has developed an innovative solution to the shortage of affordable transportation in Africa, which is one of the biggest hurdles to economic growth,” said Ray W. Washburne, OPIC president and CEO. “By making transportation more affordable and convenient, these vehicles will improve overall mobility in East Africa, and expand access to education, healthcare, and employment.”

Mobius describes its vehicle as a car Designed for Africa and Built in Africa. Only about five percent of the population in Africa owns a car, many of the cars on the road are imported used cars that are not suitable for the challenging road conditions. Public transportation in many regions is also limited and unreliable.

The Mobius vehicles add performance-critical features like rugged suspension, while eliminating nonessentials like parking sensors and automatic windows to keep prices low. The vehicles rides well on unpaved roads and costs about half the price of a five-year-old SUV.

Several of the company’s early customers have been small businesses including a baker who needed a more durable vehicle to complete product deliveries to remote communities, and a tourism company operator who drives visitors through the Nairobi National Park.

OPIC’s $5 million loan is part of an $11 million financing, which also includes investment from the New York-based PanAfrican Investment Co.

 

Usalama Technologies enabling quick and easy access to emergency services

0

Usalama Technologies, a mobile based platform that links its users to emergency service providers while providing access to real time data on an online response center aims to end the slow cumbersome and ineffective emergencies services in the country using technology.

The team believes that traditional emergency service providers are poorly linked to the people in distress which leads to slow responses, worsened injuries and some cases death.

TechMoran caught up with the team and here is what inspired them to start Usalama and what has kept them going.

Briefly tell us about yourselves?
I am Edwards Iganji, 24, an Informatics and Computer Science graduate from Strathmore University. I co-founded Usalama Technologies with James Chege, 23, Informatics and Computer Science Graduate from Strathmore University and Marvin Makau, 24,Informatics also a Computer Science Graduate from Strathmore University

In 2012, I was a freshman in college and one evening while going home I was suddenly surrounded by four men at gun point. I sadly realized that there was no way I could call for help. So one of them punched me in the gut and as I was writhing in pain they ransacked me. The ordeal lasted for 5 minutes but afterwards, I saw a problem. I shared with my classmates James and Marvin and we began thinking of the problem and its solution. The current methods of accessing emergencies are slow cumbersome and ineffective on the other hand the emergency service providers are poorly linked to the people in distress which leads to slow responses, worsened injuries and some cases death.

What is Usalama to a layman?
Usalama is a mobile based platform that links its users to emergency service providers while providing access to real time data on an online response center.
The platform has three interlinked components: an end user mobile app linked to the online response center for emergency providers which is in turn linked to the agent app for their field agents on the ground.

At a glance the platform has two main sides; the end user on one and the emergency service providers on the other. It works in four steps:

  1. When in distress, simply shake your phone to open the app or long press volume down to trigger a distress. This distress notification contains the user’s exact GPS coordinates, their name, phone number and other bio data(gender, blood group, allergenes, preferred hospital e.t.c)
  2. The distress is sent to your next of kin and to the online response center of the emergency provider.
  3. The service provider receives the distress, opens it and prompts the platform to automatically pick out the nearest agent from the person in distress and forward it to their agent app.
  4. The agent receives the distress, opens it and is dispatched to respond.
    Our focus as of now is on four types of emergencies: medical emergencies, security emergencies, roadside rescue and gender-based violence. In each of these areas we seek emergency service providers that offer services in the respective sector and sign them up for our platform. We generate revenue by charging the private(for-profit) emergency providers monthly fee for using our platform based on the size their users.

What market gaps are you filling?
We are addressing poor access to emergency services. In Kenya and many other African and Third world countries, there is a general lack of integrated emergency services that the public can easily access to receive timely emergency care. There is also poor coordination of major incident management activities.

A lack of a national incident command system and a lack of national standard emergency operational procedures often leads to uncoordinated efforts.
The current methods of accessing emergencies are slow cumbersome and ineffective on the other hand the emergency service providers are poorly linked to the people in distress which leads to slow responses, worsened injuries and some cases death.

According to statistics done by the IPOA(Independent Police Oversight Authority) in Kenya in 2014; 75000 of major assaults occur annually and yet only 20% get reported to authorities. They have attributed this to poor linkage between the authorities and the people; hence this is the problem we have set out to achieve. Nairobi alone averages about 10 car jackings per day and most of these are often responded due to the lack of efficient communication between victims and potential help. In most African cities, criminal activities are on the rise with the general increase in modernization.

It is estimated that there are nearly 50 different numbers to call in Nairobi for health emergency help. In summary, these are: 2 central hotlines + 24 ambulance numbers + 21 public and private hospitals + some unrecorded ones.

There are slightly over 130 functional ambulances in Nairobi with about 80 of them in active daily operation. As per the WHO, there requires about a further 70 ambulances in the city alone to satisfy the 1 ambulance to 50,000 people ratio.

Many of the dormant ambulances have been grounded as a result of lack of demand, when in reality, lack of access to this infrastructure leads to loss of thousands of lives annually in the city alone. This worrying statistics are replicated across other African and developing countries’ cities. In Kenya, during medical emergencies, ambulances are the 5th transportation response option considered by many trailing behind to private vehicles, motorcycles, public transport and being carried or walked to the hospital which further emphasizes the fact that many victims lack appropriate access to them.

What are some of your products and how has uptake been like since you launched?
The Usalama Platform has been our main product. We have also done bespoke software (web apps, mobile apps and desktop) for corporates and other firms. However, our focus is around our main product, Usalama.

These are our main landmarks:
Winner – Next Gen Franchising by the International Franchise association 2018, Winner HiiL innovating Justice Challenge from the Netherlands 2017, Finalists Africa prize by the royal academy of engineering 2017, winners Innovate counties challenge by The UN habitat and Bithub Africa 2017, Winners Innovate for Life by AMREF Africa 2018, Finalists Pitch at Palace Africa 2017, Winners Start.up Germany Tour 2017

We have only just tapped into this market, so far, we have 4000 active downloads, we have linked over 2500 people to help and have onboarded 7 service providers. The opportunity here is amazing. Because the problem is not just in Kenya but all over Africa. In Kenya alone there 2000 emergency service providers (security firms, ambulance companies and road side rescue companies), and with 67% smart phone penetration the market is estimated at 10 billion dollars.

Who is your major competition? What do you do different to distinguish yourself from them?
Flares and Upesy:
Unlike our competitors; our solution is an open architecture that links emergency service providers to end users who may need help during emergency in a fast, efficient and effective way. This means that as many emergency service providers can be linked to as many end users.

Usalama has an elaborate feedback mechanism that allows the service provider to track the emergency response status Like how Uber users can track their taxi.
Usalama is also built to seamlessly scale based on the size of each emergency service provider. As a provider grows the platform expands with minimum costs.

What are some of the biggest challenges you faced since the inception of the company?
At the beginning it was tough convincing service providers to sign up and pay monthly for using our platform. They were afraid of the new concept but we eventually convinced them by allowing a month trial with a commitment to continue paying. Right now, our main focus is on boarding more service providers.

What advice would you wish to share with aspiring African entrepreneurs?
My advice would be two: to put Jesus first in everything they do. This far we have reached it’s His Grace.

Secondly be diligent and consistent in all that you do. Just focus on delivering an amazing experience for your clients and users then everything else will follow. The funding will follow, more customers will follow, publicity will follow etc.

Egypt mass transit app SWVL Raises $8 Million In Series A Funding

0

SWVL, Egyptian app-based mass transit system just raised $8 million in Series A funding, setting a new record for the largest round of funding to be pumped into any tech start-up in Egypt, an also the biggest round yet raised from the Middle East.

The round was led by BECO Capital, DiGAME and Silicon Badia with participation from Raed Ventures, Arzan VC, Oman Technology Fund and EDventure Holdings. The chair person of Esther Dyson will be joining SWVL’s board of directors.

SWVL, which defines itself as “Public transport for millennials” is an app-based mass transit system that aims to reinvent the daily commute of Egyptians and eventually the world by customizing public transportation for the public and maximizing their comfort. Saving their time and money.

SWVL CEO and co-founder, Mostafa Kandil told to Forbes Middle East, “Swvl intends to invest $16.9 million (300 million EGP) in the local market in the next three years to empower as many micro-entrepreneurs as possible in Egypt and the region and to become one of the biggest job creators in the country.”

He added that the funding is a stamp of approval for the company from several backers and will enable it to secure its place amongst the global leaders of modern smart transit solutions and to rapidly expand its services to other markets across the Middle East, South East Asia and Africa region within 2018.

Swvl ranked at 15th by Forbes Middle East of the 50 startups to watch in the Arab world. CEO, Mostafa Kandil alongside his co-founders Mahmoud Nouh and Ahmed Sabbah were also listed amongst the Top 30 under 30 entrepreneurs to watch earlier this year on the same publication.

SWVL offers its customers accessibility to fixed routes for a fixed flat fare, at prices up to 80% cheaper than on-demand ride-hailing services. It’s popularity has risen particularly in the cities of Cairo ad Alexandria, where it operates hundreds of buses.

This popularity comes as a result of the company allowing users to share on demand buses, in order for them to beat the frustrations of traffic. Most of their customers are college students and corporate employees. Majority of these are women.

The women prefer SWVL buses in order to avoid harassment they face on alternative means of public transport. The company will progressively work towards developing customized products for their different customers, as well as building their network.