African fintech startup Chipper Cash raises $30M backed by Jeff Bezos

African cross-border fintech startup Chipper Cash has raised a $30 million Series B funding round led by Ribbit Capital with participation of Bezos Expeditions — the personal VC fund of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Chipper Cash was founded in San Francisco in 2018 by Ugandan Ham Serunjogi and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled. The company offers mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services in seven countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya.

Parallel to its P2P app, the startup also runs Chipper Checkout — a merchant-focused, fee-based payment product that generates the revenue to support Chipper Cash’s free mobile-money business. The company has scaled to 3 million users on its platform and processes an average of 80,000 transactions daily. In June 2020, Chipper Cash reached a monthly payments value of $100 million, according to CEO Ham Serunjogi .

As part of the Series B raise, the startup plans to expand its products and geographic scope. On the product side, that entails offering more business payment solutions, crypto-currency trading options, and investment services.

“We’ll always be a P2P financial transfer platform at our core. But we’ve had demand from our users to offer other value services…like purchasing cryptocurrency assets and making investments in stocks,” Serunjogi told TechCrunch on a call.

Image Credits: Chipper Cash

Chipper Cash has added beta dropdowns on its website and app to buy and sell Bitcoin and invest in U.S. stocks from Africa — the latter through a partnership with U.S. financial services company DriveWealth.

“We’ll launch [the stock product] in Nigeria first so Nigerians have the option to buy fractional stocks — Tesla shares, Apple shares or Amazon shares and others — through our app. We’ll expand into other countries thereafter,” said Serunjogi.

On the business financial services side, the startup plans to offer more API payments solutions. “We’ve been getting a lot of requests from people on our P2P platform, who also have business enterprises, to be able to collect payments for sale of goods,” explained Serunjogi.

Chipper Cash also plans to use its Series B financing for additional country expansion, which the company will announce by the end of 2021.

Jeff Bezos’s backing of Chipper Cash follows a recent string of events that has elevated the visibility of Africa’s startup scene. Over the past decade, the continent’s tech ecosystem has been one of the fastest growing in the world by year year-over-year expansion in venture capital and startup formation, concentrated in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.

Africa Top VC Markets 2019

Image Credits: TechCrunch/Bryce Durbin

Bringing Africa’s large unbanked population and underbanked consumers and SMEs online has factored prominently. Roughly 66% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 1 billion people don’t have a bank account, according to World Bank data.

As such, fintech has become Africa’s highest-funded tech sector, receiving the bulk of an estimated $2 billion in VC that went to startups in 2019. Even with the rapid venture funding growth over the last decade, Africa’s tech scene had been performance light, with only one known unicorn (e-commerce venture Jumia) a handful of exits, and no major public share offerings. That changed last year.

In April 2019, Jumia — backed by investors including Goldman Sachs and Mastercard — went public in an NYSE IPO. Later in the year, Nigerian fintech company Interswitch achieved unicorn status after a $200 million investment by Visa.

This year, Network International purchased East African payments startup DPO for $288 million and in August WorldRemit acquired Africa focused remittance company Sendwave for $500 million.

One of the more significant liquidity events in African tech occurred last month, when Stripe acquired Nigerian payment gateway startup Paystack for a reported $200 million.

In an email to TechCrunch, a spokesperson for Bezos Expeditions confirmed the fund’s investment in Chipper Cash, but declined to comment on further plans to back African startups. Per Crunchbase data, the investment would be the first in Africa for the fund. It’s worth noting Bezos Expeditions is not connected to Jeff Bezo’s hallmark business venture, Amazon.

For Chipper Cash, the $30 million Series B raise caps an event-filled two years for the San Francisco-based payments company and founders Ham Serunjogi and Maijid Moujaled. The two came to America for academics, met in Iowa while studying at Grinnell College and ventured out to Silicon Valley for stints in big tech: Facebook for Serunjogi and Flickr and Yahoo! for Moujaled.

Chipper Cash founders Ham Serunjogi (R) and Maijid Moujaled; Image Credits: Chipper Cash

The startup call beckoned and after launching Chipper Cash in 2018, the duo convinced 500 Startups and Liquid 2 Ventures — co-founded by American football legend Joe Montana — to back their company with seed funds. The startup expanded into Nigeria and Southern Africa in 2019, entered a payments partnership with Visa in April and raised a $13.8 million Series A in June.

Chipper Cash founder Ham Serunjogi believes the backing of his company by a notable tech figure, such as Jeff Bezos (the world’s richest person), has benefits beyond his venture.

“It’s a big deal when a world class investor like Bezos or Ribbit goes out of their sweet spot to a new area where they previously haven’t done investments,” he said. “Ultimately, the winner of those things happening is the African tech ecosystem overall, as it will bring more investment from firms of that caliber to African startups.”

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Insight Partners, Precursor Ventures join Hustle Fund in raising new fund money

Even as the country is in the final days of a polarizing election, the cogs of VC never stop turning. On this ever-so-quiet, non-election-news Tuesday, venture firms still managed to file paperwork with the SEC indicating newly raised funds. Precursor Ventures and Insight Partners will join Hustle Fund in closing new capital.

The filings are noteworthy because they signal new capital coming into the startup world, which could look dramatically different in the coming weeks. Still, Precursor Ventures and Hustle Fund are both still fundraising, so expect them to (hopefully) add more capital in the coming months.

Precursor Ventures, led by Charles Hudson, has raised a new tranche of capital to invest in pre-seed companies. The firm first filed in March 2020 that it had plans to raise a $40 million fund, and today it appears that it has closed $29 million of that goal. Recent investments from Precursor include The Juggernaut, mmhmm and TeamPay. The fund made headlines recently because it promoted Sydney Thomas, its first hire, to principal. Hudson was unable to comment due to fundraising activity.

We also saw a filing from Insight Partners, which closed a $9.5 billion fund in April for startups and growth-stage investments, indicating that it has raised money for its first-ever Opportunity Fund. The SEC filing shows that Insight Partners has raised $413 million for the opportunity fund. Insight did not return a request for comment.

Earlier today, SEC filings also showed that Hustle Fund has raised $30 million for a second fund, surpassing its previous fund of $11.5 million. Interestingly, paperwork for this new fund was first filed in May 2019 with the intention to raise $50 million. Today’s news, thus, is its first close. While the firm is still fundraising, it’s a long gap between filing and first close. The fund was launched in 2018 by ex-500 Startup partners Eric Bahn and Elizabeth Yin to, similar to Precursor, invest in pre-seed startups. Hustle Fund invests $25,000 checks into 50 startups per year.

Yin declined to comment due to ongoing fundraising activity.

While the spree of funds on Election Day was noteworthy, it was somewhat expected. Generally speaking, funds want to get their paperwork cleared and closed before a potentially chaotic event or time of unrest. We saw closes from OpenView, Canaan, True Ventures and more, while firms including First Round and Khosla filed paperwork for new funds. Time will tell if this is a final exhale of news until January 1, or if the VC world will continue pushing droves of capital, holidays be damned.

#500-startups, #elizabeth-yin, #first-round, #hustle-fund, #insight-partners, #precursor-ventures, #tc, #venture-capital

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Springboard raises $31 million to expand its mentor-guided education platform to more geographies

Springboard, an online education platform that provides upskilling and reskilling training courses to people looking to learn in-demand roles, has raised $31 million in a new financing round as it looks to expand to more geographies.

The Series B financing round for the San Francisco-headquartered startup was led by investment firm Telstra Ventures . Vulcan Capital and SJF Ventures, as well as existing investors Costanoa Ventures, Pearson Ventures, Reach Capital, International Finance Corporation (IFC), 500 Startups, Blue Fog Capital, and Learn Capital also participated in the round, said the seven-year-old startup, which has raised more than $50 million to date.

Springboard offers a range of six-month and nine-month courses on data-science, artificial intelligence, design, coding, analytics and other upskilling subjects to help students and those who are already employed somewhere land better jobs.

The startup, which expanded to India last year, also connects students with mentors — people who are working at Fortune 500 companies — to guide them better navigate professional decisions, Vivek Kumar, Managing Director at Springboard, told TechCrunch in an interview.

Startups offering upskilling courses have gained traction in recent years as companies across the globe complain about not being satisfied with a large portion of the undergraduate students who are applying for a job with them.

In many markets like India, one of the global hubs for tech consulting firms, it has become a common sight for several major IT giants to spend months in retraining their new hires. Moreover, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in elimination of tens of thousands of additional jobs.

“India is witnessing one of its toughest challenges owing to the recent job losses that have impacted a large section of the workforce. It is therefore imperative for displaced workers to make the difficult transition into new, in-demand careers,” said Parul Gupta, co-founder of Springboard, in a statement.

To make its courses reach more students, Springboard has adjusted the price points of its offering for each geography. A nine-month course that sells for around $7,500 in the U.S., for instance, is priced at $3,300 in India, explained Kumar.

The startup, which also works with financial partners to allow students to pay for the course in instalments and at no interest, refunds the tuition fee to the students who are unable to secure a better job, said Kumar.

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#500-startups, #apps, #asia, #costanoa-ventures, #education, #funding, #learn-capital, #pearson-ventures, #reach-capital, #sjf-ventures, #springboard, #telstra-ventures, #vulcan-capital

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5 VCs agree: COVID-19 reshaped adtech and martech

We last surveyed VCs about their advertising and marketing investment strategies back in January — which is to say, in a completely different world, before the coronavirus pandemic began to wreak havoc on the global economy.

While there don’t appear to be any comprehensive numbers yet about the effect on digital advertising (which is, after all, still playing out), early data and anecdotes suggest a rapid decline, with some categories of ad spend disappearing entirely.

And as we noted in our previous survey, Crunchbase data shows that adtech had already fallen at a roughly 10% compounded annual growth rate over the last five years.

So what does the landscape look like now, and where are the remaining opportunities? To find out, we’ve compiled updated answers from two investors who participated in the previous survey and brought in three new perspectives:

For the most part, they acknowledged the landscape’s challenges — not just the pandemic, but the general maturity of the industry — while also pointing to opportunities in areas like machine learning. As Elton put it succinctly, “Marketing and advertising are not going away.”

Eric Franchi, MathCapital

How much time are you spending looking at marketing tech or adtech startups right now? Are you more focused on one or the other?

Adtech and martech are our main categories as a fund. We selectively invest in categories that might benefit from it (think DTC brands or media) or be of benefit to it (think next-generation CRM or HR tech). But 90%+ of our focus is adtech and martech.

What are you looking for in your next investment?

As always — team first. We look for founding teams with talent, vision and grit. We keep a fairly wide berth in terms of products and categories but we are spending much of our time focused on two themes: the post-privacy era in marketing (i.e. new, cookieless, compliant forms of identity and infrastructure) and future of digital media (i.e. video, OTT, audio, etc.).

How has COVID-19 impacted the adtech and martech investing landscape? Are there still opportunities?

Dealflow is down somewhat, but we are still seeing great opportunities. We have several investments in the pipeline for Q2. The challenges right now are similar to other sectors: spending time getting to know teams and calibrating expectations for growth in a Zoom-only (for now) world.

What kind of advice are you giving to your portfolio companies?

Right now, two months post-lockdown, most adjustments have been made to budgets and plans, teams (and customers) are adjusted to being fully remote and things have somewhat stabilized. Now is the time to get teams focused on sales and marketing. It’s a unique and rare time to outflank larger, slower-moving competitors and adapt to the market.

Christine Tsai, 500 Startups

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Berlin’s Zenjob gets $30M to take its digital staffing service nationwide and beyond

Berlin -based recruitment startup, Zenjob, which operates a digital platform connecting students with highly flexible temp jobs in sectors such as retail, logistics and hospitality, has closed a €27 million ($30M) Series C led by Forestay Capital. Also participating in the funding round: Redalpine, Acton Capital, Axa Venture Partners and Atlantic Labs.

Prior to this round Zenjob, a 500 startups growth hacking program alum, had raised just under $25M, according to Crunchbase.

The 2015 founded startup says it plans to use the money to further expand in Germany, where it currently offers a service in 14 cities — letting employers book student workers by the hour, with as little as 24 hours’ advance notice. Flush with Series C cash it’s now aiming to be nationwide by the end of the year.

It is also planning its first international expansion — spying opportunity amid the coronavirus crisis as it suggests social distancing requirements are generating demand for additional staff in certain sectors. (Which is something we’ve also heard from other recruitment startups in recent months.)

“The coronavirus crisis requires social distancing, which has created increased demand for staffing in, especially, logistics and retail,” said Fritz Trott, co-founder and CEO, in a statement. “Our service means that we can assist in the almost effortless digital hiring of hundreds of new students every day to fill these gaps.”

The new financing will also go on tech development to push for greater efficiency gains for users.

Zenjob says it wants to be able to use algorithms to further help predict staff demand in future, for example.

As well as job matching, the platform handles billing to cut down admin requirements for employers wanting temps to plug seasonal and/or short term vacancies.

Zenjob says its app reaches more than 15,000 students daily at this stage. It hasn’t provided data on how many employers are signed up to use the service.

Commenting on the Series C in a statement, Forestay Capital’s managing partner, Frederic Wohlwend, said: “We are delighted to have invested in Zenjob and are very much looking forward to working with Fritz and his highly talented team. Zenjob is a company that has deployed disruptive technology to shake-up the temporary employment market and which, prior to this coronavirus crisis, had already proven itself to have an exciting future. Now, during this pandemic, its flexible digital recruiting service has, in our eyes, further been confirmed as a model for keeping the working world moving.”

#500-startups, #axa-venture-partners, #berlin, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #europe, #germany, #logistics, #recent-funding, #startup-company, #startups, #zenjob

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NextView Ventures is launching a remote accelerator for startups

Over the weekend, Silicon Valley leader Marc Andreessen broke his usual silence and gave some advice to Silicon Valley: It’s time to build. The famed investor urged CEOs, entrepreneurs and investors alike to welcome new companies into their circles.

The blog post details high-flying pieces of advice that could each land in a unique angle depending on where you sit. But as venture capitalists rush to prove they are open for business, the true test these days is a bit more grounded: cut checks and signed term sheets.

The words are eerily similar to the thesis of NextView Ventures, a Boston-based venture capital firm, and its new remote accelerator program, announced today.

“During this current COVID crisis, we have seen many VCs publicly saying that they are ‘open for business,’ but we wanted to put our money where our mouth is,” according to partner David Beisel.

Using money earmarked from its current fund, NextView will invest $200,000 for an 8% stake in fewer than 10 pre-seed and seed startups. The program will be fully virtual and is investing in founders that drive change in the “everyday lives of everyday people.”

Rob Go, the co-founder of NextView, tweeted about the launch today.

The NextView accelerator is launching at a time when historical incubators like Y Combinator and 500 Startups are rethinking their independent strategies. Today Y Combinator announced its upcoming batch will be fully remote, and last month 500 Startups said it is scrapping its cohort model.

The firm also publicly said what it didn’t like about traditional accelerator programs, like big batch sizes and flashy demo days.

“Accelerators were at their best when they were small and intimate. YC’s initial batch was just eight companies,” Beisel said about the small number of participants. “But over time, accelerators became more of a numbers game.”

Beisel added, “traditional accelerator demo days originated as a way to showcase startups to follow-on investors, but eventually evolved into an elaborate show attempting to satisfy many constituents.”

Still, an unavoidable truth about demo days is that it connects startups to founders and ideally that first check. What happens to deal success when you don’t have a buzzy room of journalists, venture capitalists and bright lights on founder faces?

After YC and 500 Startups hosted their first-ever virtual demo days this year, we’ve heard grumblings of mixed results. Y Combinator last week changed from always investing in YC graduates to reviewing on a case by case basis, hinting at conservatism within the accelerator.

NextView also approaches post-accelerator funding conservatively. The firm says it will connect its small cohort to next-round investors, but will “intentionally not lead the next round of financing.” The firm is being upfront about its choice to not lead follow-on investing to “avoid potential signaling issues for future financings.” The company will participate with at least pro-rata for all companies in any subsequent round of financing to help the cohort.

An optimistic read of this decision is that NextView is viewing its accelerator as a separate function of its investment firm and wants to be more of a helper than a robust pipeline for deal flow. Alternatively, it could mean that the firm doesn’t want to over-promise capital in an unpredictable time for the economy. And in the chance that it does find a gem within this batch, it would be surprising for NextView to not invest in the company.

The bottom line is that NextView is launching an accelerator and investing in startups during a time when many are not. So while we’ll wait to see how successful the firm is in cultivating young startups with ripe returns, for now it’s building. And in today’s new normal, building is a welcome sign.

#500-startups, #boston, #entrepreneurship, #nextview-ventures, #tc, #venture-capital, #y-combinator

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Venture capitalists chat edtech’s new normal after COVID-19 

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus has had a monumental impact on the way we view technology’s relationship with education. For now, students are learning from home. But what happens when they return to school?

Picking up where we left off in last week’s survey, we asked top investors in the space for their predictions on what is ahead once life resumes to its new normal. One investor mentioned how in March, they spent a third of their time in edtech. Now, they’re spending almost all their time vetting startups there. Another said that the sector has always been underfunded. Time will tell if venture capitalists become more bullish on the sector, and more importantly, if adoption from schools with strict budgets becomes more lenient.

A harsh statistic sums the dynamic of adoption and investment pretty well: according to Tetyana Astashkina and Jean Hammond of Learn Launch, less than 5% of the $1.6 trillion spent on education in the U.S. is attributed to edtech. Let’s see if other investors think that percentage will shift forward after the pandemic ceases.

Their responses have been edited for length and clarity.

#500-startups, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #education, #extra-crunch, #funding, #fundings-exits, #ggv, #ian-chiu, #investor-surveys, #jean-hammond, #jennifer-carolan, #jenny-lee, #learn-launch, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #mac-venture-capital, #marlon-nichols, #mercedes-bent, #owl-capital, #reach-capital, #shauntel-garvey, #startups, #tc, #techstars, #tetyana-astashkina, #venture-capital

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