Venture Capital

Asoko Insight Secures $3.6 Million in Series A Funding Round for Pan-African Expansion


Asoko Insight, a London-headquartered provider of corporate intelligence with research bases in Accra, Lagos, Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Abidjan has completed a $3.6 million Series A fundraising round, as it moves into the next stage of its pan-African expansion plan.

The round of funding was led by early shareholders, including North Base Media, CRE Venture Capital, Singularity Investments and Lateral Capital joined by new participants including LC Partners, Spice Fund, Outlierz Ventures, and Zephyr Acorn. The round was oversubscribed by 20%.

Asoko Insight says it will use the new funding to deepen its product offering to compliance professionals, expand its African footprint and build out its technology to support scaling data collection, analysis and delivery.

“Tackling Africa’s corporate data gap comes with unique challenges. Since Asoko’s launch four years ago, we have successfully bridged these by aggregating and enhancing corporate data sets, developing a tech-enabled collection and delivery platform and establishing strong brand recognition among core suppliers and clients. Our next step is guided by what our clients want: more coverage, in particular on ownership and network linkages” says Rob Withagen, Co-Founder & CEO.

The fund-raise follows a strong 2017 for the company in which both the number of companies and countries covered doubled and global players including Goldman Sachs, UBS, HB Fuller and Deloitte subscribed. Asoko also concluded a string of strategic partnerships, including one with London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG), PwC and CDC Group to develop the 2018 edition of Companies To Inspire Africa.

“Asoko’s information services provide clients with critical insights into business segments and markets in Africa. We were excited to participate in this funding round, which will dramatically expand the scope of Asoko’s coverage and improve the transparency of markets in Africa for Asoko’s clients,” says Stuart Karle, a partner in North Base Media and member of the Asoko board.

Julien Riant and Charles-Henri de Mortemart, partners at incoming investor LC Partners, added: “We are proud to work with the Asoko team who has developed a unique corporate information offering for Africa. We strongly believe in Asoko’s product roadmap and its contribution to the global visibility of robust, African businesses in key African economies.”

In 2015, Asoko Insight raised $1.35m from North Base Media and CRE Venture Capital for pan-African expansion.

Africell raises $116.5m to fund its 4G roll-out & expand across sub-Saharan Africa


Africell Holdings has signed a new $116.5m syndicated loan for the expansion of its mobile network operations across sub-Saharan Africa.

According to founding CEO and Group Chairman, Ziad Dalloul  Africell‘s success comes from the communities it works in and its management’s focus on operational efficiency to create value for its customers. However, Africell has been in customers bad books for refusing to register locals in Uganda with national IDs and passports and only signing up expats. It’s growth might be hindered and investor money lost if this continuous.

“It is important to partner with investors who truly understand our business model as well as our markets to structure solutions that support our growth programs.”

Lintel Capital UK Advisors LLP, the company’s advisor led and structured the 5-year deal between the company and a syndicate of 4 international investors consisting of Gemcorp Capital, funds advised by Helios Investment Partners and others.

With operations in Gambia and Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda,  the mobile telephone operator will use the 5-year facility to fund its fund 4G roll-out to meet the growing demand for data in SSA, whilst simultaneously providing the necessary operational flexibility the company requires to expand opportunistically, a key aspect of the company’s growth strategy.

Shawn Gates, Lintel Capital’s CIO and lead advisor for the deal, said: “This deal represents another successful milestone in Africell’s evolution, and we expect it to help unlock meaningful growth opportunities as the company continues to expand. Africell has all the characteristics we look for in a company: strong track record, good growth prospects, clear development impact and a positive enterprise culture. We are very proud to have arranged this deal and of the ongoing partnership we’ve formed with Africell to continue shaping its bright future.”   

A couple of lessons from a couple of failed African startups

photo credits: blogsoshace
photo credits: blogsoshace

Much as we would like to talk about the roses and daisies of the startup world, the funding rounds and bright futures, we still have to face the ugly skeletons in the industry’s closet. It’s hardly surprising that startups fail. 90% of startups fail globally, in Africa, that statistic is twice as high.

Over the past few years, the African tech scene has been bustling with startups, as evidenced by the sudden influx of Vcs and angel investors, lots of good press shining the spotlight and pitching competitions every other weekend. All this is a positive nod for Africa’s startup scene but more often than not, majority of these startups fail. Even the ones that raise good money are not immune to failure on an even larger scale. In the recent past several big names in the industry have bit the dust. This trend has been observed over time and perhaps it’s about time we knew why.

Here are some of them. (Only listed for others to learn from their mistakes)

Launched by ex-Carmudi Nigeria employees, Linda.com.ng, was a dating site which expected to make it easy for singles in Nigeria to find and date other singles easily conveniently and lead to long-term relationships and celebrated marriages.

During the launch Jimi Akinleye, the founder of Linda.com.ng said,  “Every single person in the country wants to connect with a member of the opposite sex. They do this because they believe such a connection would lead to a long lasting relationship. Often times, it leads to marriages. We want to be the bridge for such level of interaction. We want to be the go-to place for meeting new people, starting new relationships that would be long lasting and could also lead to marriages.”

The it shut down. Akinleye said the site was shut down because of some reasons such as high customer acquisition costs, too low numbers, bad timing and poor choice of market and the complexity of the product. Akinleye is now deeply into e-commerce and owns a few niche commerce businesses in Nigeria and Ghana and also heads a content marketing agency based in San Diego which helps online businesses in creating excellent content for blogs and social network.

The South African startup, Mxit, launched in 2005, had a very good run, accumulating over 100 million user worldwide before its Swan song in late 2015. The company had done well for the most art, and had even recently expanded into the Indian and Nigerian markets, which are notably very high user markets. Nonetheless they recorded a significant nose dive in active users. They later on shut down all commercial activities and donated all their IP and technology assets to mobile-based public benefit organization The Reach Trust, initially established to improve lives using Mxit technology. However, users are still able to access the social networking services.“Whilst Mxit overall has seen a decline in activity and engagement over the past 18 months, the use of services offered by The Reach Trust on Mxit has been stable and in many cases show an upward trend,” said Francois Swart, outgoing chief executive officer (CEO) of Mxit.

Nigeria’s Yarnable, ran by then CEO Ahmad Mukoshy, was for lack of a better word, a Nigerian twitter. They were unsuccesful in their bid to duplicate something as massive as twitter, despite their being more region specific. The major reason for their failure was lack of funding and technical support, which is basically what afflicts most African based startups. However, the situation looked up a bit when Yarnable was acquired by MobiQube Nigeria Limited.

Another startup that bit the dust around the same time as MXit, though with a much less track record than MXit, is South Africa’s Quweza,a data analytics company centered around the education sector. Their main product aimed to improve the quality of feedback in schools. Their analytics platform is designed to capture, analyze and report student performance data in simple graphs and charts to help educators make smarter decisions. Not a very bad idea, right? So why was Quweza a pitiable flop?

Former Quweza CEO opened up about his experience,“ Things started off great, we had an ambitious, multi-faceted, highly enthusiastic team. We noticed the gap in the market, and we convinced ourselves that there was a market in the gap. In one of our earlier meetings we even projected annual recurring revenue of about R19.2 million a year, this was before we even sat down to talk to a single user or potential client. Why didn’t we, you ask? Well we didn’t have to, we knew exactly what they wanted, duh! At this point in time we didn’t even have a minimal viable product (MVP), actually at no point in this journey did we ever have a minimal viable product, why? Because at this stage of our technology business careers we were not fully aware of what an MVP actually was. As a complete and utter 180 degrees from MVP-ness, we had become best friends with scope creep (“Hey guys, I think we should also add this before we go live…”). During this journey we were still to master the art of testing products on the market, we were still learning the magical ways of being a “lean startup”.

He mentioned several other reasons for failure such as assuming family would be quick to be the earliest paying customers. “One of the early mistakes I made when I was part of Quweza was to assume that family would be quick to purchase your product,” Mmari explained, “If I had the chance to do it again I would go as further away from family as possible. It can get very tricky very fast, when dealing with family and business, especially in the early days. If you do want to get family involved, rather turn to them for funding and hustle hard to get startup capital via angel investments or no-interest loans (or better yet no-loan loans #freeMoney). Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that they will be your first paying clients.” However, the major lesson other startup founders can take away from Quweza is to have a product centered around and validated by the customers. The quickest way to kill your company is to neglect your customer.

Nonetheless, failure is not meant to be a permanent barrier to success but is astepping stone instead.
“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.” – Henry Ford

Farmers sponsor platform Farmcrowdy raises $1 million in seed funding to expand to 20 states in Nigeria

Nigeria’s Farmcrowdy, an online platform allowing Nigerians to venture in and sponsor agriculture has closed $1 million in seed funding to scale its operations with plans to expand into a combined 20 states in Nigeria.

The $1m was raised from Cox Enterprises, Techstars Ventures, Social Capital, Hallett Capital and Right-Side Capital; as well as angel investors Tyler Scriven, Michael Cohn,Josephine Group, FC Agro Allied SPV and Dr. Christof Walter.

The money will also see it work with 4,000 additional small-scale farmers and engage a combined 20,000 new farm followers and farm sponsors on it’s platform to learn about the opportunities in Agriculture and partner with farmers.

According to Onyeka Akumah, Co-Founder and CEO of Farmcrowdy, “Today’s seed announcement is a remarkable milestone for us and Nigeria’s Agritech industry as a whole. It will allow us to build on our earlier traction as we continue to introduce Nigerians to this exciting new category of partnering with farmers for impact and return.”

Launched just over a year ago, Farmcrowdy, was the only African startup from Techstars Atlanta’s 2017 cohort and connects small scale farmers with sponsors, who invest in farm cycles. A farm cycle can be anything from poultry [3-5 months] to cassava [9 months].

The farmers receive on-the-ground advice from  Farmcrowdy’s Technical Field Specialists who also give them training in better agriculture practices and provide them with quality farm input. Prior to harvest, Farmcrowdy works with pre-arranged buyers who assist the farmers sell their yield at harvest and earn a decent margin.

The sponsor then gets their original sponsorship +40% of the profit from the harvest, the farmer receives 40% of the profit and Farmcrowdy receives 20% of the profit. Farm sponsors can get between 6-25% returns after harvest depending on the farm type they sponsor.

Farmcrowdy has to-date recorded close to 1,000 unique farm sponsors from Nigerians in Nigeria, the US and UK. The company has aggregated a combined 4,000 acres of farmland across 8 states in Nigeria and worked with more than 2,000 small scale farmers. The site has raised over 250,000 organic chickens on its poultry farm cycles.

Farmcrowdy recently launched their first mobile app which provides an accessible platform for agriculture enthusiasts to experience, learn, do their farming business with real farmers and appreciate agriculture practice first-hand through regular updates, images and videos from the farms. These allows Farm sponsors and farm followers to digitally track the progress of their sponsored farms from their mobile devices. The app has seen close to 5,000 downloads in the 3 weeks since launch, positioning the startup to take on more farm followers and sponsors both locally in Nigeria and globally.

“Onyeka Akumah and the Farmcrowdy team are changing the global dynamics of farming and agriculture.  Techstars is proud and honored to be a continued part of the Farmcrowdy journey via investment from Techstars Ventures, the venture capital arm of Techstars.  We first met the Farmcrowdy team at Techstars Atlanta in partnership with Cox Enterprises and were immediately impressed by their vision, execution, and the vast scope of their potential impact to the world,” said Cody Simms, Partner, Techstars Ventures.

The endless pursuit of Unicorns in Africa is not constructive-Keet van Zyl


This post by Keet van Zyl first appeared on Medium hereKeet van Zyl  is a Venture catalyst, scale-up Investor and co-founder at Knife Capital.

With entrepreneurship conference season hitting South Africa, coffee-infused conversations about the lesser-spotted African Unicorn are unavoidable, and DNA traces of this mythical beast seem to be present in every startup that is pitching.

While I am all for stretch goals and would love to see some African Unicorns in the club, the endless pursuit of Unicorn status at the expense of building sustainable companies is not constructive for the ecosystem. Unicorns aren’t real, and neither are the valuation expectations of many local startups that believe they will be worth over USD1bn within 5 years. I’d rather back some scalable high-growth Gazelles on their path to sustainability/ exit!

Unicorns: Startups (sometimes without an established performance record), valued at USD1bn or more, normally pre-public listing (IPO).

Gazelles: Young post-commercialisation phase businesses that are able to scale and maintain a high revenue growth rate off a decent base over a prolonged period. In the US, this is usually well in excess of 20% year-on-year for a period of 3-4 years or more, starting from a revenue base of at least $1 million. (My view is that in South Africa this range should be a sustainable year-on-year growth rate of 30%+ for 3 years or more off a revenue base of at least ZAR5m).

Zebras have also recently joined the Startup Animal Kingdom with an impact stripe: Profitable businesses that solve real, meaningful problems and in the process repair existing social systems.

In the new startup economy Government policies aim to promote an ‘enabling environment’; corporates launch pre-emptive strikes to be the disruptors as opposed to the disruptees; accelerators are mainly accelerating the rate at which new accelerators launch; becoming an angel investor is the new sabbatical and if you are not the founder of something you are mentoring someone. It is hard not to get caught up in the hype!

Entrepreneurship is hard enough in Africa. But one of the the key differentiators of many startups across tech hubs on this continent is that they set out to build sustainable companies that solve real problems. Because they have to. There is simply not enough risk funding available to feed the Unicorn monster from too early on until it figures out a business model. Many investors require proven traction to de-risk investments to some extent (and many of those who don’t, do so after gaining a few battle-scars). Which brings us back to Gazelles.

Gazelles also happen to be ‘super job creators’ and create a large share of new net jobs to support their faster growth rates. So to create a lot of jobs [in South Africa], we need to fund Gazelles with so-called ‘smart money’, accelerate their growth, and reduce the risk of failure through access to knowledge and market access networks.

This is not about maintaining low expectations to boost happiness levels in African startup ecosystems. It is about accepting the realities of fragmented ecosystems, and working with what we have to achieve the best outcome for all. And leap-frog things from there when Unicorn-like gaps inevitably open up.

mPharma raises $6.6 million to provide inventory financing to pharmacies across Africa


mPharma, a venture-backed startup with a simple mission to make prescription drugs in emerging markets easily accessible, and easily affordable has raised a $6.6 million Series A round to provide doctors, patients and pharmacists access to a network of high quality chronic disease medicines at sustainable prices.

The round was led by India’s Shravin Bharti Mittal, Social Capital, Golden Palm Investments and 4DX Ventures. Several investors from Senegal, Kenya, and Turkey also participated in the round. Jim Breyer, an early Facebook investor also invested and joined the board.

This is the firm’s second biggest raise after it raised $5 million led by Social Capital in 2015.

Founded by Greg Rockson, mPharma is based in Ghana and has partnered with major pharmaceutical manufacturers, insurance companies, financial institutions and governments to deliver medicines directly into the hands of consumers in these underserved markets.

The firm will use the new funding to reach more users across Africa with its proprietary software. At the moment the firm operates in four countries and services over 15,000 pharmacies. Its software helps pharmacies to accurately forecast prescription drugs demand to help them source for more in time and at affordable prices.

The firm also provides inventory financing to clients across Africa. mPharma has operations in Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, and Kenya.

“As we enter 2018, we intend to focus on scaling our operations across Africa as we work towards building economies of scale in partnership with providers,” said Rockson. “Our proprietary supply chain software enables us to implement vendor managed inventory for independent healthcare providers in Africa. This model enables mPharma to create a tightly coupled pharmacy monolith — on a continent that has a highly fragmented pharmacy retail market — with leverage over pricing, distribution and reimbursements.”

mPharma’s tools include Thea, a CRM tool that gives facilities the ability to perform claim submission and management; SyncDB, an onsite integration that allows for a facility to automatically sync select parts of their database to mPharma’s integration layer; its REST API that allows integration with mPharma and an excel spreadsheets tool that allows pharmacies to keep track of their dispensations.


DIFC launches a $100m FinTech-focused fund to accelerate fintech startups in the MENA region


 Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), a financial hub in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region has launched a USD 100 million FinTech-focused fund to invest in and accelerate fintech startups from incubation through to growth stage.

According to His Excellency Essa Kazim, Governor of DIFC, “It gives me great pleasure to announce that today, we are launching a new USD 100 million fund to help establish, grow and upscale start-up and growth stage FinTech firms looking to access the MEASA markets.”

The fund will leverage the DIFC’s FinTech ecosystem consisting of attractive experimental licenses, market leading pricing and collaborative spaces to help startups to launch and grow their businesses in the region. DIFC expects to encourage greater trade flows through the South-South corridor, which stretches from Latin America, through to Africa, India, South East-Asia and China.

The importance of geo-economics on trade deals, the impact of financial reforms in emerging markets on the development of sustainable economic development, and the digitalisation of finance were amongst the main topics covered during the day.

To that end, FinTech and the digitalisation of finance in emerging markets dominated the discussion during the second half of the day. The discussions shed light on the power of blockchain to revolutionise the sectors of banking, trade finance and data housing. Panellists also discussed the social impact of FinTech, and its ability to bring banking and finance services to millions individuals in the region with limited access to banking and financial services.

JUMO raises $24 million loan facility from Finnish development Finnfund


Jumo, a big data analytics firm which allows cost-efficient provision of loans has raised $6m from Finnfund in form of a debt instrument to support its expansion in Africa and Asia and the development of its platform in order to provide new services for SMEs, small and medium-sized enterprises.

The $6m is part of an overall 24 million USD-loan facility, which was arranged by Gemcorp Capital, an independent emerging markets investment management firm based in London and an early investor in Jumo.

According to Jaakko Kangasniemi, Managing Director of Finnfund, “We are keen to provide funding for Jumo’s expansion and further development. Financial inclusion is very important for development; people need to be able to access quality financial services. It gives them security, enables them to plan their lives more effectively and often gives them an opportunity to start or grow their own business and improve their livelihoods.”

JUMO is a multi-sided platform for Mobile Network Operators and Financial Service Providers and has served over 5 million people in Africa and Asia using behavioural data from mobile usage. Users are able to create a financial identity and gain access to affordable, real-time, financial services fitted to their specific needs. The services are benefitting broad segments of customers including people with low incomes and those who own micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) who have previously been excluded from traditional banking services.

“As an investor, Finnfund brings a sharp focus to achieving meaningful social impact with sustainable profit. That aligns well with our mission,” says Andrew Watkins-Ball, founder and CEO of Jumo.  “Having proven our model, we are now expanding our footprint to reach millions more people who are excluded from the formal financial system. With Finnfund we have an investor who supports our view that inequality is unacceptable.”

Jumo has granted more than 20 million loans.  Currently, the company employs over 300 people, who are mostly based in South Africa. The main markets include Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana and Pakistan.

Naked raises R20m investment from Hollard & Yellowwoods to give customers a more flexible insurance experience.


Naked also revealed that it has appointed outgoing Hollard group CEO Nic Kohler to its board of directors.


Digital Cabinet raises R5m equity round from HAVAIC & Growth Grid for expansion

South Africa’s Digital Cabinet has received R5m led by HAVAÍC and a consortium of individuals including its own team, and Growth Grid Venture Capital Partners.
The firm will use the capital raise to increase its staff capacity, undertake a concerted marketing exercise with the objective of creating product and brand awareness and implementing further product development.
The firm believes the move to increase staff capacity will drive additional product development which promises to result in Digital Cabinet establishing itself as a leader in document and workflow management.
According to Daniel Kritzas, CEO of Digital Cabinet, “Increased focus on marketing and brand awareness will draw increased attention to the company and its existing range of product solutions. Heightened awareness,” he believes, “will lead to increased enquiries from companies wishing to take advantage of Digital Cabinet’s innovations and so improve their internal processes.”

Digital Cabinet offers companies cloud-based paperless document and workflow management solutions, and is on the brink of a period of rapid growth as a result of increased focus on sales and marketing as opposed to product development on which it has focused to date distribution agreements with partners abroad; and a partnership with Computershare for its digital post offering.

Grant Rock, Executive Director of HAVAÍC, comments that: “The scale of the capital raise validates the faith that HAVAÍC showed in Digital Cabinet when HAVAÍC led the first investment in the company, a convertible loan extended in 2016.” The convertible loan was converted into equity as part of the capital raise, resulting in strong returns for the initial group of investors. “We believe that the calibre of Digital Cabinet’s leadership and the nature of the business alliances it is forming will result in good returns for the new investors as well,” says Rock.

Rob Ferguson, Founding Investor and Executive Director of Growth Grid believes: “This joint investment by HAVAÍC and Growth Grid marks the beginning of a collaborative relationship between the two companies united by their interest in identifying innovative companies and the desire to provide the entrepreneurs with the financial resources and guidance to enable them to realise their powerful visions”.

What Venture Capitalists look for in a Pitch


As a promising startup, you may be asking yourself “What exactly do Venture Capitalists have interest in pitches?” Well, the answer is quite simple huh. They are only looking for an opportunity for a great investment in your pitch. A startup can have the best presenters who have an eloquent presentation language capable of convincing investors but if the pitch does not promise to be a good investment, it is more likely your pitch will be rejected.

In the first place, Venture Capitalists fund promising businesses therefore you don’t have to put a lot of focus on the design of your PowerPoint slides. Founders preparing their pitch should go with the due that a great investment opportunity is all they need to offer.

One Big Consideration

Startups need to understand that money coming from VC’s is mainly raised from pension funds and many other financial institutions. Therefore, entrepreneurs seeking funding of their businesses must recognize that every Venture Capitalists putting money on risk – Oh yes, an investment is a risk – are reliable and required to justify every single portion of investment to their respective Investors (LPs)

Investors Returns

Venture Capitalists are also interested in startups making valuable returns that are worth risking. A startup may have a plan on how it will generate enough revenues to cater for the initial investment but if the returns will not be reasonable over a given period of time, many investors will shun away from such Investments. Startups must therefore be in a position to raise revenues in accordance to the time factor for them to be labeled as “great investments”

VC’s need to make five to ten times in returns on their investment to keep their job. This actually means for them to put money on a startup, it should be in line to exit or go public in a span of 5 – 10 years from the initial year of investing.

VC’s don’t have all the time to listen to you

It is widely known that investors only spend about 15% of their time listening to startups that are pitching. They in turn put a lot of time in ensuring that what they have already put money on moves forward to be successful. This means that a startup really has to put across all the reasons investors should believe in their business and why they should find adding it up into their portfolio of investments something worthwhile.

Startups should put themselves in the shoe of the investors they are approaching and view themselves from an investor’s standpoint. If you have any doubts about it being a great investment then actually there is no point of going forward and perfecting your pitch because no one will bet their money on you. By learning what Investors are interested in, you are boosting your chance of getting your business funded. Research on the previous deals they have invested in and learn a couple of things that come out clearly as major factors they are interested in. Creating a startup that is investable is what really convinces a venture capitalist not that colourful deck full of slides.

Engineers Without Borders Canada invests in startup SME lending marketplace Bloom Impact


Ghana’s Bloom Impact, a machine learning loans marketplace accessible from smartphones has raised undisclosed funding from Engineers Without Borders Canada, EWB Ventures, an early-stage investor in innovative Africa-based social enterprises.

EWB has also invested in M-ShuleNumida TechnologiesFarmDrive and Rent-to-Own. Its latest investment in Africa will allow MSMEs to create a digital profile, learn about and apply for financial services, and receive offers that best meet their needs.

According to Elena Haba, Legal and Investment Officer with EWB’s Strategy and Investment team, “For us, the unique approach and scalability of Bloom’s potential impact was most compelling. By working on closing the financial gap faced by MSME’s, Bloom is helping these small businesses grow and generate much-needed employment opportunities for underserved individuals.”

EWB believes that by supporting MSMEs to thrive, the jobs generated through them and the wealth created by them can ultimately help alleviate poverty. EWB also thinks Bloom will be particularly useful for women, who face many barriers in accessing traditional banking and financial services.

In addition to the tremendous convenience and cost savings Bloom Impact provides for MSMEs, creating financially educated business owners is also a critical component.

Bloom Impact also partners with banks and microfinance institutions and it disrupts their customer acquisition approach by cutting costs and providing digital, eligible, validated, scored and financially-educated customers.

The investment will help Bloom Impact to grow its product adoption, referral and incentive programs, as well as advance product development.

“EWB understands the barriers that prevent scale and growth in emerging markets and how social enterprises can have an impact,” says Bloom Impact Co-Founder and CEO, Carol Caruso. “We are delighted to partner with EWB due to this experience on the ground, our shared mission to drive inclusive finance and EWB’s wealth of talent management support, which is critical to our success.”

Fabwoman raises funding to bolster its news & product discovery platform for Nigeria’s millennial women


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. 


Graca Machel Trust to Fund Women Healthtech Entrepreneurs Joining Nailab & UNFPA’s IAM Accelerator


The Graca Machel Trust has joined UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund and Nailab to see more women join the second round of the IAM Accelerator 2.0. and invest in them.

According to Nomsa Daniels, CEO of the Graca Machel Trust; “The Graca Machel Trust is delighted to team-up with UNFPA Kenya and the Nailab in making IAM 2.0 a ground-breaking success. Too many women entrepreneurs lack access to the necessary financing and support structures to let them thrive. This not only holds them back, but also the families and communities they are part of, and countries as a whole”

The 4 month acceleration programme gives startups seed-funding, training, coaching, and mentoring to fine-tune their innovations, bring it to market, and find the right business models to sustain and facilitate their growth.

The first IAM round which was launched in June 2016 lacked female lead start-ups and the diminished role of female participation in the start-ups and the development of innovations was evident.

Building on the successes of the first IAM Accelerator round and drawing from this important learning, the Graca Machel Trust initiative New Faces New Voices will join UNFPA and Nailab to empower women entrepreneurs for advancing the health and well-being of adolescent and young people in Kenya through IAM 2.0 funding.

“I am pleased to see Graca Machel Trust join the initiative and it’s my believe as we all join forces that we shall see greater impact as we address SRH challenges,” said Sam Gichuru, Founder and CEO Nailab.

Andela raises $40m to launch in two additional African countries in 2018


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.



Pay-As-You-Go Solar platform Angaza raises $10.5 million in Series B financing

 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.

Zumi Magazine, a Kenyan lifestyle & fashion site raises $250,000 to expand into Nigeria & Ghana


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.


Christ-centered business education & entrepreneurship accelerator Sinapis to launch in Uganda


Sinapis, a social enterprise that empowers entrepreneurs in the developing world by providing them with a rigorous Christ-centered business education, mentoring services, and access to seed capital is set to launch in Kampala, Uganda.

The launch in Uganda is part of its plans to help entrepreneurs practically integrate their faith while building strong businesses all over the world. So far, Sinapis has active programs in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Ghana, Brazil.

We caught up with Asha Mweru, Regional Expansion Manager, Sinapis and this is what we learned about the firm.

Briefly take us through the roots of Sinapis

The roots of Sinapis date back to December of 2008 when our co-founders Courtney Rountree Mills and Karibu Nyaggah, both Harvard graduate students met during a student trip to east Africa. Courtney was a graduate student at Harvard Kennedy School and Karibu was a graduate student at Harvard Business School. Karibu was leading the student trip to his home country of Kenya. They became fast friends during the trip, and soon revealed my vision of setting up an accelerator program for start-up stage entrepreneurs in Kenya.

Later that year, Courtner embarked on her thesis where she received the opportunity to work with the Ministry of Finance in Kenya to help them look at bottlenecks in the private sector, particularly with regards to entrepreneurship. She received funds from Harvard to do research on the subject the summer of 2009 and travelled to Kenya with fellow Harvard graduate, Matt Stolhandske, to diligence the viability of an early stage accelerator program in Nairobi.

Interviewing over 100 professionals from the for-profit, non-profit and government sectors on the entrepreneurship space laid the groundwork for the first version of the business plan for the accelerator program. Increasingly, there was a call to think about how this accelerator program could directly glorify God’s kingdom and increase His presence in Kenya in a practical way. Thus, we decided to make the Sinapis program centered on Kingdom business principles that help entrepreneurs integrate their faith with their business. We named the organization Sinapis, the latin name for the mustard seed found in the mustard seed parable of the New Testament, to reflect this vision. So far the company has scaled its program to entrepreneurs in Mombasa, Kisumu, Ghana and Brazil.

What was the inspiration behind starting Sinapis than any other thing?

For the longest time, a lot of people and Christians per se have separated their day to day lives at work and while running a business from their faith. This dichotomy has caused numerous problems especially around upholding ethical grounds across the board. Instead of business being regarded as an extension of our faith, it has been segregated and has had its own rules governing it. Sinapis’ inspiration is to create a practical bridge of how to build and scale businesses successfully while still integrating your faith thus allowing you to live a seamless integrated life as a Christian business owner.

Take us through a journey of what aspects of training does Sinapis offer entrepreneurs?

The Sinapis Entrepreneurship Academy is an intensive 4-month business training program similar to a mini-MBA but customized for earlier stage ventures. Participants in this program spend approximately 20 hours per week completing prework material, attending in-person class sessions, and doing practical “field work” assignments that allow immediate implementation of lessons learned. Each week entrepreneurs go through class sessions that enable them to answer some of the most pressing business problems they and also gives them the skill to act on it. These include: Who is my customer? How do I price my product? How do I make a sale? How do I ensure I have all the right financial records in place? how do I manage my cash flows not to go bankrupt? How can I compete effectively in the market? etc. As an entrepreneur, you are then given assignments that allow you to practically implement everything you are learning each week so you can see some immediate improvements and feel more grounded in understanding and running your businesses. The entrepreneurs also have each other in class who end up providing a huge network of support and resources.

What has been the impact since you started Sinapis? How many entrepreneurs have been trained since the organization was established in Kenya?

To date, we’ve worked with over 700 entrepreneurs in Kenya and have seen great results thus far. On average the entrepreneurs grow revenues by 166% annually, create 3 new jobs/year and raise 15x more in investment capital after our program as compared to before. They’re also 46% more likely to still be in business after 3 years as compared to the national average. This is an affirmation that we are doing things right. Some of the feedback we’ve received from entrepreneurs is that they would have failed if they hadn’t gone through the Sinapis program.

After the training there is a competition where the finalists pitch the idea, tell us more about that?

Upon completion of the training program, the entrepreneurs are eligible to compete in the Sinapis Business Plan Competition, in which the top finalists compete for $10,000 in seed capital at a live pitch event. 
The finalists in the business plan competition are then invited to join our Fast Track Fellows Program, which is a 6-month accelerator program that provides the entrepreneurs access to high quality generalist consultants, professional advisors, successful entrepreneur mentors, advanced training, and investor matchmaking.

Who are the other previous entrepreneurs who were finalists in the competition? Highlight for us some of their winning business.

Sinapis is sector agnostic and hence has had a variety of entrepreneurs in different sectors go through the program; from agribusiness to tech to even traditional ones like construction. Some of our well known finalists and winners include Grace Murugi from Cakes.co.ke, Amanda Gicharu from Amanda’s Kitchen, Wanjiku Kandie from Waridi Events, Waweru Kuria, pivoted his business and now runs Inuka Pap which recently joined TechStars. These are but a few of some incredibly talented entrepreneurs who go through the Sinapis Academy, you can read more on them on our website.

So where do you start when you have a business idea and want to join Sinapis?

Simple, apply! We would then call you to take you through an application process and once you go through, you would be getting ready for an unforgettable 16 weeks!

What’s next for Sinapis for the next 5 years? Are you planning to expand the program locally? In East Africa?

As we grow we will continually improve our program to ensure that entrepreneurs can practically integrate their faith while building strong businesses all over the world. So far, we have started programs in Kisumu, Mombasa, Ghana, Brazil and are in the processes launching a program in Uganda.

Legal SaaS platform Libryo secures $1M to expand across Africa & Europe to help solve regulatory complexity

UK and South Africa-based online legal compliance platform Libryo has closed a £787k ($1million)to solve the problem of regulatory complexity in organisations.

The round was led by Seedcamp and Nextlaw Lab as well as Innogy UK Innovation Hub, Force Over Mass and various angel investors including Steve Gledden and Chris Field.

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.



Naspers Pumps $775m into Delivery Hero to Increase its Stake to 23.6 Percent

Naspers Building in Cape Town (Wikipedia)

Naspers is obtaining 22,359,857 shares of Delivery Hero stock from Rocket Internet for €660m (US$775m) at a price of €29.50 per share in a move that will see it increase its stake in the food ordering and delivery firm to 23.6 percent.

The deal makes Naspers the largest shareholder in Delivery Hero. Naspers initially invested in Delivery Hero in May of this year. Since then, the company executed a successful IPO in June and delivered strong half-year results as a public company on September 26, 2017.

“The food delivery sector is still underpenetrated and growing rapidly across the world. Many markets have experienced significant traction already, but we believe the potential is far greater in high-growth markets than that observed in the West,” Naspers CEO, Bob van Dijk said.

Growing its position in online food ordering and delivery is consistent with Naspers’ strategy to invest in platforms with global potential that offer online marketplace services in high-growth markets.

In addition to the investment in Delivery Hero, Naspers recently led an $80M Series E investment in Swiggy, a leading food ordering and delivery platform in India. Through majority-owned Movile, Naspers has a leading food delivery business in iFood, operating in Brazil and Mexico (under the brand SinDelantal), and Naspers also operates Mr. D Food, a food delivery business in South Africa.

The transaction is subject to regulatory approval, will be funded from existing resources, and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2018.