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.”

#500-startups, #africa, #amazon, #america, #apple, #banking, #bezos-expeditions, #chipper-cash, #e-commerce, #facebook, #financial-services, #ghana, #goldman-sachs, #ham-serunjogi, #hsbc, #interswitch, #iowa, #jeff-bezos, #joe-montana, #kenya, #liquid-2-ventures, #maijid-moujaled, #mastercard, #mobile-payments, #nigeria, #online-payments, #p2p, #paystack, #ribbit, #ribbit-capital, #rwanda, #san-francisco, #series-b, #south-africa, #stripe, #tanzania, #tc, #tesla, #uganda, #united-states, #venture-capital, #visa, #worldremit, #yahoo

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Nigeria’s Autochek raises $3.4M for car sales and service platform

Nigeria based startup Autochek looks to bring the sales and servicing of cars in Africa online. The newly founded venture has closed a $3.4 million seed-round co-led by TLcom Capital and 4DX ventures toward that aim.

The raise comes fresh off of Autochek’s September acquisition of digital car sales marketplace Cheki in Nigeria and Ghana. It also follows the recent departure of Autochek CEO Etop Ikpe from Cars45 — the startup he co-founded in 2016, now owned by Amsterdam based OLX Group.

That’s a lot of news in a short-time for Ikpe. His new company will likely be in direct competition with his previous venture (also located in Nigeria). Still, the Nigerian entrepreneur — who built his early tech credentials at e-commerce startups DealDey and Konga — says Autochek is a new model.

“It’s different in the type of technology we’re building and that it’s asset light. I don’t have any inventory. I don’t buy cars. I don’t transact any [physical] cars. I don’t own any inspection locations. I don’t own any dealerships,” Ikpe told TechCrunch on a call from Lagos.

Autochek’s model, according to its CEO, is aimed at creating the digital infrastructure for a new system to better coordinate sales, servicing, and vehicle records of the car market in Nigeria and broader Africa.

Autochek CEO Etop Ikpe, Image Credit: Autochek

Ikpe characterizes that market as still largely informal and fragmented. “We’re basically focused on technology solutions to build the rails of [Africa’s] automotive sector to run on. We’re focusing on three foundations of the market: transactions and trading, maintenance, and financing,” he said.

Autochek’s platform — managed by a developer team in Lagos and Nairobi — is a network for consumers and businesses to buy cars, sell cars, service cars, and finance cars sales.

On the financing side, the startup launched with 10 bank partnerships in Nigeria and two in Ghana, according to Ikpe. Creating more financing options is both a big opportunity for the startup and consumers, he explained. “The used car market in Africa is a $45 billion a year market that has only a 5% financing penetration rate…so there’s huge upside for growth.”

Image Credit: Autochek

Across its core product offerings, Autochek has created a network of partners and standards. The company generates revenues through fees charged on consumer transactions and commissions paid by dealers and service shops on the platform. Consumers can sign up and use the Autochek app for free.

On the sudden departure from his previous startup, Cars45, “I left because I wanted to build something else,” explained Ikpe. There’s been plenty of speculation in local tech press as to what happened, including reports of forced exits by investors. Ikpe declined to get into the details except to say, “I’ve resigned. I’ve moved on and I’m focused on doing what I’m doing right now.”

In addition to its operations in Nigeria — Africa’s most populous nation, largest economy and top VC destination — Autochek plans to use its seed-financing to expand services and geographic scope. The startup will add associated auto related services, such as insurance and blue book pricing products. Autochek is also eying possible entry in new countries such as Ivory Coast, Senegal, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Algeria. More M&A could also be in play. “Acquisitions are going to be a core part of our expansion strategy,” said Ikpe.

TLcom Capital Partner Andreata Muforo confirmed the fund’s co-lead on the $3.4 million seed round. Speaking to TechCrunch on a call from Nairobi, she named Autochek’s asset light model, Ikpe’s repeat founder status, and the fund’s view of auto sales and service as an underserved market in Africa as reasons for backing the venture. Golden Palm Investments, Lateral Capital, MSA Capital, and Kepple Africa Ventures also joined the investment round.

While fintech gains the majority of VC financing across Africa’s top tech hubs — such as Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa — mobility related startups operating on the continent have attracted notable support. Drone delivery venture Zipline and trucking logistics company Kobo360 have both received backing from Goldman Sachs. In 2019, FlexClub, a South African startup that matches investors and drivers to cars for ride-hailing services, used a $1.3 million round to expand to Mexico in partnership with Uber.

#africa, #berlin, #cars45, #ceo, #entrepreneur, #entrepreneurship, #ghana, #goldman-sachs, #kenya, #kobo360, #lagos, #mexico, #nairobi, #nigeria, #private-equity, #south-africa, #startup-company, #tc, #tlcom-capital, #uber

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Nigeria Goes on Offensive Against Youth Protesting Police Brutality

Young people staged the biggest anti-government uprising in a generation, triggered by relentless police brutality. Rattled, politicians are promising reforms, but using repressive tactics, large and small.

#black-lives-matter-movement, #buhari-muhammadu, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #nigeria, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #police-reform, #special-anti-robbery-squad-sars

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A New Museum to Bring the Benin Bronzes Home

The architect David Adjaye discusses his plans for an institution to house the looted treasures on their to return to Nigeria.

#adjaye-david, #architecture, #art, #arts-and-antiquities-looting, #benin-bronzes, #benin-city-nigeria, #british-museum, #edo-museum-of-west-african-art, #museums, #nigeria

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Nigeria’s Kuda raises $10M to be the mobile-first challenger bank for Africa

The African continent is currently one of the fastest-growing regions when it comes to mobile growth, and financial technology companies that are building services to meet that rapidly-expanding market are getting a lot of attention.

In the latest development, Kuda, a startup out of Nigeria that operates a popular mobile-first challenger bank for consumers and (soon) small businesses, is announcing that it has raised $10 million — the biggest seed round ever to be raised in Africa. The funding comes on the back of strong demand for its services and its ambitions — according CEO Babs Ogundeyi — to become the go-to bank not just for those living on the continent, but for the African diaspora.

“We want to bank every African on the planet, wherever you are in the world,” he said in an interview. It’s starting first in its home market: since launching in September 2019, it has picked up around 300,000 customers — first consumers and now also small businesses — and on average processes over $500 million of transactions each month.

The $10 million is being led by Target Global, the giant VC out of Europe, with Entrée Capital and SBI Investment (once part of SoftBank, now no longer) also participating, along with a number of other notable individual fintech founders and angels.

The list includes Raffael Johnen (founder of Auxmoney), Johan Lorenzen (founder of Holvi), Brandon Krieg/Ed Robinson (founders of Stash), and Oliver and Lish Jung (angel investors in Nubank, Revolut, and Chime).

Prior to this Kuda — which is co-founded by Ogundeyi and CTO Musty Mustapha — had raised $1.6 million in a pre-seed round to launch a beta of its service, and Ogundeyi said he’s already working on a much bigger Series A. No valuation is currently being disclosed.

In a year where many have been watching the world economy with some trepidation on the back of a raging health pandemic hitting multiple geographies, fintech in Africa has been in the spotlight of late.

Most recently, Paystack — a payments startup out of Nigeria — got acquired by Stripe for over $200 million, making it not only Stripe’s biggest acquisition, but the largest exit-by-acquisition to-date for any Nigerian startup. That news followed closely on the heels of Interswitch, another payments startup, hitting a $1 billion valuation on the back of an investment from Visa.

But in truth, startups focused around the business of financial transactions — which also includes the adjacent industry of e-commerce (See: Jumia, the first venture-backed startup out of the region to go public) have been some of the most eagerly-watched, and their services mostly widely-adopted, of all tech plays in the region.

The reason is logical. As a contintent, Africa is one of the most populous, yet one of the more underdeveloped economically, continents in the world. And in our modern times, digital inclusion has become synonymous with financial inclusion. So, as the population begins to adopt mobile technology in earnest, those users represent a big opportunity: there is pent-up demand, and competition is relatively sparse.

That has meant a number of efforts, leveraging the growth in mobile phone usage to provide services to people to make transactions beyond those that they would otherwise only do in person, using cash. These have included innovative services like Mpesa, which uses a person’s phone (which can be a basic feature phone) as a proxy for a bank account, allowing people to pay in and pay out using their phone numbers and prepay accounts.

Nigeria — currently the biggest single economy in Africa — has also been at the center of a lot of fintech activity, and Kuda has been taking that opportunity by the horns.

In its case, that has started with building Kuda’s footprint from the ground up.

The rise of the challenger bank has been one of the more interesting developments in the world of consumer fintech, with companies like N26, Monzo, Starling, Chime, NuBank and Revolut finding a lot of traction with younger users.

But unlike many of these, Kuda does not partner with other banks to manage and back deposits with the challenger bank to in turn focus on customer service, and building user-friendly experiences and value-added services around money management. Instead, Kuda has obtained a microfinance banking license from the central bank of Nigeria.

This means that it manages payments, transfers, issues debit cards (in partnership with Visa and Mastercard). It also, he said, has partnerships with the incumbent banks Zenith Bank, Guaranteed Trust and Access Bank for people to come in for physical deposits and withdrawals when needed.

“We have built the core banking services in-house so we own the full stack,” he said. “It means we don’t have to piggy back on another financial institution. We may choose to partner on certain products but we don’t have to.” He added that the plan will be to get full licenses “in what we consider key regions” but possibly partner in others where the existing infrastructure makes it more logical to do so.

“The reason for the full license is because of monetization,” he added. “As a bank you need to be able to lend, and in Nigeria if you don’t have a full license it’s hard to lend and make money.”

Having an account is free, and so Kuda makes money through other services. Among them, users can top up their phones directly from the Kuda app (most accounts are prepaid), so Kuda acts as a kind of broker in that transaction and makes a percentage from it.

Users can also pay bill through the app, where Kuda also makes a percentage. And, like other banks, Kuda manages its float and invests it in treasury bills, mutual funds and soon other credit products. There are also fees collected from debit transactions but these are not the real focus, he said.

Kuda’s mobile-first interface is not unlike a lot of the new wave of banking services built around apps, including an aim to be more than just a “dumb box” for storing money.

In its case, Kuda uses machine learning to personalize every customer, Ogundeyi said, generating suggested budgets and savings plans for its users. “The plan for our credit service is that we will base how much we issue and at what terms based on your existing spending habits,” he said.

That focus on spending dovetails with the kind of customers that Kuda is targeting. Some 70% of Nigerians are under the age of 30, and they are “smart and entrepreneurial” said Ogundeyi.

Although a pared-down version of Kuda is available for feature devices — it lacks the AI-based money management features, for one thing — the startup is mainly targeting the segment of the population that is buying and using smartphones, have the kind of incomes and lifestyles that mean they are actively depositing and spending money, and — in an increasing number of cases — also running their own businesses. That overlap means that “targeting small business owners doesn’t deviate from our original business model of younger consumers too much,” he said.

While some users are already running some of their small business banking through Kuda, a more formal small business product, with more features tailored for those users, will be launched by Q1 2021, he said.

Nigerian potential, African promise

Ogundeyi said that despite the uncertainty many are feeling around the pandemic, the relative success of Kuda and the optimism around the future of challenger banks, helped the company close this seed round (and raise other money soon) relatively easily.

“The emergence of digital challenger banks, providing customers with a free, digital and significantly better banking experience compared to services offered by traditional banks, has seen huge success across the globe,” said Dr. Ricardo Schäfer, Partner at Target Global, in a statement. “Kuda is one of Africa’s leading digital challenger banks and one of the fastest growing fintechs on the continent. We are very excited to be working with Babs, Musty and the entire Kuda team to further build on the fantastic momentum they have had since inception and support them in taking the company to the next level.” He is joining Kuda’s board with this round.

“Kuda’s relentless drive and ability to execute quickly has allowed it to carve out a highly disruptive business model in the finance and banking industry,” added Avi Eyal, partner at Entrée Capital.

Funding for any startup from the continent is rare enough that stories around it must also be viewed in the context of the bigger challenges in general that African startups have with raising money in a global market, which seems to generally be heavily biased towards developed economies (and startups in specific regions like Silicon Valley) and more known-quantity founders (which often tends to skew to while males).

“Ultimately I think there is work to be done on both sides,” he said of investors, founders and the situation of building stronger African ecosystems. “On the side of investors, more of them need to appreciate the value of the continent. And from the entrepreneurial side, there is work to be done in understanding how investors invest to get them over the line.”

He thinks that having more investors from the continent itself could help.

“Unfortunately we don’t have many African investors. My belief is that people with money typically will give money to people they understand and connect with. It’s not a surprise that if you have gone through a certain establishment (work or school) it’s easier to get funding from someone who was in that organization,” he said. “My first investment came from a friend who was at school with me.”

Indeed, Ogundeyi knows something about the workings of capital from his own first-hand experience. He was actually born England to Nigerian parents, who eventually moved back to Nigeria but kept him in the UK going to British boarding schools and eventually university. Ogundeyi still splits his time between Lagos and London (which is where he was when we spoke last week). He says that he considers himself Nigerian first.

“Nigeria has the potential to be a great national economy if it’s well harnessed,” he said. “Tech is contributing significantly to that. That is why there is a lot of interest and why we are excited to be there.”

#africa, #challenger-banks, #finance, #funding, #kuda, #mobile-banking, #nigeria, #tc

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Bridgefy launches end-to-end encrypted messaging for the app used during protests and disasters

Offline-messaging app Bridgefy — which innovatively uses Bluetooth and Wi-fi — became known as the go-to app by thousands of protesters around the world to keep communications going even when oppressive regimes blocked or shut down the Internet. Recently, activists in Nigeria and Thailand have urged supporters to download the app, as last year, when protesters in Hong Kong downloaded Bridgefy to face the government’s censorship of phone services or data connections. In the last 12 months, the startup says it’s reached 2 million downloads. And since the events of the weekend, when Turkey and Greece were hit by an earthquake, the app is now trending on app stores for those regions.

Bridgefy is now publishing a major new update, with a new, crucial feature for activists: end-to-end encrypted messages. This will allow people to securely send and receive messages when they don’t have access to data and will use the same encryption protocol used by Signal, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger .

Bridgefy launched in 2014 (and appeared on the TechCrunch Disrupt stage in 2017) when the founders identified the problem of not being able to communicate during the earthquakes in Mexico City. It started as a mobile app, and an SDK was added a few years later so other apps could also work without the Internet. The Bridgefy SDK is now licensed to companies on an annual subscription model, based on user volume and is integrated by more than 40 companies across payments, messaging, gaming, social media, dating, and natural disaster apps. Technically-speaking, its competitors include GoTenna and the moth-ball gathering Firechat, although Bridgefy has become better known in the activist space.

The startup is now raising a Seed round and has already raised $800,000 USD, with investors including Twitter cofounder Biz Stone, Alchemist Accelerator and GAN Ventures.

#biz-stone, #bluetooth, #bridgefy, #cofounder, #computing, #europe, #facebook, #firechat, #mesh-networking, #messenger, #mexico-city, #nigeria, #operating-systems, #phone-services, #social-media, #software, #tc, #techcrunch, #thailand, #whatsapp, #wi-fi

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Navy Commandos Rescue American Kidnapped in Niger

U.S. Special Operations forces conducted a predawn raid in neighboring Nigeria to free the American before he could be sold to terrorists.

#defense-department, #kidnapping-and-hostages, #niger, #nigeria, #sahel-africa, #terrorism, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-special-operations-command

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As Lawlessness Roils Nigeria, Police Chief Vows to Take Back Streets

As protests against police brutality have subsided after a violent crackdown, they have been followed by a wave of looting and vandalism that the police have vowed to end.

#attacks-on-police, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #lagos-nigeria, #looting-crime, #nigeria, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings

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In a State of Violence

The people of Nigeria are standing up to a government that seems to hate us.

#buhari-muhammadu, #nigeria, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #police-reform

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A Dozen Protesters in Nigeria Reported Killed by Security Forces

Nigerians are stunned after police and soldiers opened fire on protesters against police brutality. The largely peaceful demonstrations have grown into a challenge for the government.

#black-lives-matter-movement, #buhari-muhammadu, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #lagos-nigeria, #nigeria, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Nigeria Is Murdering Its Citizens

Under President Muhammadu Buhari, there is a sense that the country could burn to the ground.

#abuja-nigeria, #buhari-muhammadu, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #lagos-nigeria, #nigeria, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings

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Why Protests in Nigeria Are Aimed at SARS, a Notorious Police Unit

Africa’s most populous country and biggest oil producer has been convulsed by protests that started with anger over police brutality and have now broadened, drawing worldwide attention.

#demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #internal-storyline-no, #nigeria, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings

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Nigerian Forces Fire on Demonstrators Protesting Police Brutality

The toll was unclear, but witnesses said several people were shot during escalating protests in Lagos. The governor said ‘miscreants’ had hijacked mostly peaceful demonstrations.

#buhari-muhammadu, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #george-floyd-protests-2020, #nigeria, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #police-reform, #prison-escapes

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Heidi Larson Knows How to Build Trust in Vaccines

For the founder of the Vaccine Confidence Project, squashing viral rumors means building trust — and avoiding the term “anti-vaxxer.”

#autism, #centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #computers-and-the-internet, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #ebola-virus, #epidemics, #facebook-inc, #gavi-alliance, #kano-nigeria, #larson-heidi, #london-england, #measles, #medicine-and-health, #mumps, #nigeria, #piot-peter, #polls-and-public-opinion, #rumors-and-misinformation, #social-media, #united-nations-childrens-fund, #vaccination-and-immunization, #wakefield-andrew, #your-feed-health, #your-feed-science

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Nigerians Demand End to Police Squad Known for Brutalizing the Young

The government said it would bow to the demands of Nigerians protesting police abuses, but skeptical protesters vowed to keep the pressure on.

#demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #lagos-nigeria, #nigeria, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #police-reform

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Finance and the digital divide: a conversation with Tunde Kehinde of Lidya

Small and medium businesses have been some of the hardest hit in the Covid-19 pandemic. And all that has been as true in emerging markets as it has been for SMBs in the developed world.

Tunde Kehinde has had a front-row seat witnessing and responding to that crisis. He’s the CEO and co-founder of Lidya, a startup out of Nigeria that has built a platform for SMBs to apply for and get loans and other financial services, aimed at markets on the African continent and increasingly also in emerging economies in Europe. We sat down with him as part of our new virtual Disrupt series, where we have been connecting with some of the biggest movers and shakers in the tech world beyond the US.

Kehinde has been called the “Jeff Bezos of Africa”, a funny title you might think sounds like tenuous or cheesy marketing until you know more about his history in business, the impact it’s had so far (he’s not that old) in the region, and until you hear him speak.

Kehinde — born in Nigeria and exposed to a lot of the US way of doing things through university years at Howard and then Harvard — was previously the co-founder of one of the biggest tech startups to have come out of the continent — Jumia — an Amazon-style marketplace that is slowly branching out into a wider web of services like payments, food delivery and more.

Initially incubated by Rocket Internet, Jumia raised hundreds of millions of dollars from VCs, scaled to multiple countries on the continent, and is now traded publicly on Nasdaq with a current market cap of $660 million — modest by Amazon standards maybe, but a real milestone for African tech.

That alone would probably merit some to wonder if he’s the “next Bezos”, but it’s been his follow-up act at Lidya that paints a broader picture. In short, there is a lot more potential for payment and online commerce services in emerging markets, and focusing on helping small businesses cross the digital chasm is not just a good business opportunity, but a developmental one, too. Capital, specifically the lack thereof, has always been a huge hindrance to growth, and these days it’s an even more critical axiom to address.

You can see the full Disrupt conversation below, where Kehinde covers a lot of ground, not just about his company but about how tech is evolving in the region.

The breakout success of a handful of startups — which include the likes of new digital payments unicorn Interswitch as well as Jumia — venturing into multiple jurisdictions, he noted, is seeing more VCs also increase their interest and investment activity. He thinks the next very important step is to have more exits, which will confer a different kind of credibility and liquidity to the market.

And there should be, he added: There are few places like the African continent that is a blank slate, where you can come in quickly and build a really dominant player, if you have the right capital and team, he said.

“It’s night and day between seven years ago and now,” he added, but also admitted that while financial services and the related world of e-commerce are obvious places to start — it was also the classic category to tackle first in the US and Europe many years earlier — he still sees more interest from VCs in the U.S., Europe and Latin America.

His advice for VCs?

“If I were a VC I would look at what have been the biggest successes from folks like me,” he said. “Seeing Jumia and others going public, as more of these things happen the more you can develop a great policy and that will make it easier. I launched, I got to scale, I got return on investment, the right infrastructure can be built.”

Tune in here to hear him also talk about China and how to handle investment from outside Africa; what other big deals in loans for SMBs, such as Kabbage getting acquired by Amex, mean for startups like Lidya, the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic on business; identifying opportunities beyond your immediate region; and more.

#africa, #african-tech, #disrupt, #ecommerce, #emerging-markets, #finance, #fintech, #jumia, #lidya, #loans, #nigeria, #smbs, #smes, #startups, #tc, #tcuk, #techcrunch-disrupt, #tunde-kehinde

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Interswitch to revive its Africa venture fund, CEO confirms

Pan-African fintech company Interswitch plans to fire up its corporate venture arm again—according to CEO Mitchell Elegbe—who spoke at TechCrunch Disrupt on Wednesday.

The Nigerian founder didn’t offer much new on the Lagos-based firm’s expected IPO, but he did reveal Interswitch will revive investments in African startups.

Founded by Elegbe in 2002, Interswitch pioneered the infrastructure to digitize Nigeria’s then predominantly cash-based economy. The company now provides much of the rails for Nigeria’s online banking system that serves Africa’s largest economy and population of 200 million people. Interswitch has expanded to offer personal and business payment products in 23 Africa countries.

The fintech firm achieved unicorn status in 2019 after a $200 million equity investment by Visa gave it a $1 billion valuation.

Reviving venture investing

Interswitch, which is well beyond startup phase, launched a $10 million venture arm in 2015 that has been dormant since 2016, after it acquired Vanso—a Nigerian fintech security company.

But Interswitch will soon be back in the business of making startup bets and acquisitions, according to Elegbe. “We’ve just certified a team and the plan is to begin to make those kinds of investments again.”

He offered a glimpse into the new fund’s focus. “This time around we want to make financial investments and also leverage the network that Interswitch has and put that at the disposal of these companies,” Elegbe told TechCrunch.

“We’ll be very selective in the companies we invest in. They should be companies that Interswitch clearly as an entity can add value to. They should be companies that help accelerate growth by the virtue of what we do and the customers that we have,” he said.

Recent venture events in African tech have likely pressed Interswitch to get back in the investing arena. As an ecosystem, VC on the continent has increased (roughly) by a factor of four over last five years, to around $2 billion in 2019. But most of that has come from single-entity investment funds, while corporate venture funding (and tech M&A activity) has remained light. That’s shifted over the last several months and the entire uptick has occurred in African fintech around entities that could be viewed as Interswitch competitors.

In July, Dubai’s Network International acquired Kenya -based payment mobile payment processing company DPO for $288 million. Shortly after the acquisition, DPO’s CEO Eran Feinstein said the company would pursue more African acquisitions on its own. In June, another mobile-money payment processor, MFS Africa, acquired digital finance company Beyonic. And in August, South Africa’s Standard Bank—Africa’s largest by assets and lending—acquired a stake in fintech security firm TradeSafe.

Since the rise of Safaricom’s dominant M-Pesa mobile money product in Kenya, fintech in Africa has become infinitely larger and more competitive. The sector has hundreds of startups and now receives nearly 50% of all VC investment on the continent.

The opportunity investors and founders are chasing is bringing Africa’s large unbanked population and underbanked consumers and SMEs online. Roughly 66% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 1 billion people don’t have a bank account, according to World Bank data, and mobile-based finance platforms have presented the best use-cases to shift that across the region.

Interswitch has established itself as a leader in the Africa’s digital finance race. But it’s hard to envision how it can maintain or extend that role without an active venture arm that invests in and acquires innovative, young fintech startups.

No news on IPO

Elegbe had less to offer on Interswitch’s long-anticipated IPO. Asked if the company still planned to list publicly, he offered up a non-answer answer. “At this point in time we’re focused on growing the business and creating value for our customers and that is the our primary focus.”

When pressed “yes or no” on whether an IPO was still a possibility Elegbe confirmed it was. “We have private equity investors and at some point in the life of the business they want exits.” he said. “When it is time for them to exit there are various options on the table and an IPO is an option.”

There’s been talk of an Interswitch IPO for years. In 2016, Elegbe told TechCrunch a dual-listing on the Lagos and London Stock Exchanges was possible. Then word came through other Interswitch channels that it was delayed due to recession and currency volatility in Nigeria in 2017. In November 2019, a source with knowledge of the situation told TechCrunch on background, “an IPO is still very much in the cards; likely sometime in the first half of 2020.” Then came the Covid-19 crisis and the accompanying global economic slump, which may have delayed Interswitch’s IPO plans yet again.

If and when the company goes public, it would be a major event for Nigerian and African fintech. No VC backed fintech firm on the continent has listed globally. Exits for Interswitch’s investors would likely attract to Nigeria and broader Africa more VC from major funds—many of whom remain on the fence about startup opportunities on the continent.

Focus on Africa

On global product expansion, Interswitch plans to maintain an African focus for now, Elegbe explained. “There are enough opportunities for Interswitch on the continent. We’d like to be in as many African countries as possible…and position Interswitch as the (financial) gateway to the continent,” he said.

Elegbe explained the company would continue to work through alliances with major financial services firms to open up global financial access for its African client base. In August 2019, Interswitch launched a partnership that allows its Verve cardholders to make payments on Discover’s global network.

CEO Mitchell Elegbe concluded his Disrupt session with some perspective on balancing the stigmas and possibilities of doing business in Nigeria. Over recent years the country has shifted to become an unofficial hub for big tech expansion, VC investment, and startup formation in Africa. But Nigeria continues to have a difficult operating environment with regard to infrastructure and is often associated with political corruption and instability in its Northeast region due to the Boko Haram insurgency.

“Nigeria has a very large population and a very large market. We have lots of challenges that need to be solved, but it makes sense to me that lots of money is finding its way to Nigeria because the opportunity is there,” he said.

Elegbe’s advice to tech investors considering the country, “Don’t take a short-termist view. There are good people on the ground doing fantastic work—honest people who want to make impact. You need to  seek those people out.”

#africa, #african-tech, #ceo, #corporate-finance, #dubai, #economy, #finance, #financial-technology, #interswitch, #kenya, #lagos, #m-pesa, #mitchell-elegbe, #money, #nigeria, #safaricom, #south-africa, #tc, #tech-in-africa, #venture-capital, #visa, #world-bank

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Interswitch CEO Mitchell Elegbe to discuss African fintech at TechCrunch Disrupt

The CEO of Pan-African fintech unicorn, Mitchell Elegbe, is set to speak at TechCrunch Disrupt 2020 on September 16. He founded the company in Lagos in 2002 to connect Nigeria’s — then — largely disconnected banking system.

Over the next decade plus, Interswitch accelerated the adoption of digital payments across Africa and now stands as one of the continent’s rare fintech unicorns. The company is poised to list on a global exchange, which would also create Africa’s next big tech IPO.

At Disrupt 2020, TechCrunch will seek Elegbe’s perspective on the continent’s fintech scene, Interswitch’s venture plans, and the economic impact of Covid-19 on African startups. This year’s event is 100% virtual, making it possible for anyone with an internet connection to sign in and learn more about Elegbe’s company and digital innovation in Africa.

If you’re a VC or founder in London, Bangalore or San Francisco, you’ll likely interact with some part of Africa’s tech landscape for the first time — or more — in the near future. When measured by monetary values, the continent’s tech ecosystem is small by Shenzhen or Silicon Valley standards.

But when you look at year-over-year expansion in venture capital, startup formation and tech hubs, it’s one of the fastest-growing tech markets in the world.

Bringing the continent’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.

Africa Top VC Markets 2019

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Interswitch became a pioneer of building the infrastructure to digitize finance on the continent. The company pre-dates the rise of mobile money in Kenya through Safaricom’s M-Pesa product, which is one of Africa’s most recognized fintech use-cases. 

Interswitch’s path from startup to unicorn traces back to the vision of CEO Mitchell Elegbe, who was a Nigerian electrical engineering graduate before founding the firm in 2002. The company has since produced a run of product innovation and expansion, starting in Nigeria. Interswitch created the first electronic switch whereby Nigerian financial institutions could communicate and operate ATMs and point of sales operations. The company now provides much of the rails for Nigeria’s online banking system.

Interswitch has since moved into high-volume personal and business finance, with its Verve payment cards and Quickteller payment app. The fintech firm (now well beyond startup phase) has also shaped a Pan-African and global reach — selling its products in 23 African countries with a physical presence in Uganda, Gambia and Kenya . In August 2019, Interswitch launched a partnership that allows its Verve cardholders to make payments on Discover’s global network.

Interswitch Quickteller

Image Credits: Interswitch

Interswitch also launched a venture arm in 2015 called its global ePayment Growth Fund. Another milestone came in November 2019 when Interswitch achieved a $1 billion unicorn valuation after Visa took a reported $200 million minority stake in the company. Other Interswitch backers include IFC and Helios Investment Partners.

The company’s Nigerian origins and operations have become more significant as Nigeria is now Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy. The West African country has become the continent’s unofficial tech hub and fintech capital. Nigerian startups now raise the majority of Africa’s annual VC haul, according to a study by Partech.

Heading into 2020, the momentum was there and the pieces were falling in place for Interswitch to mark that next big achievement — an IPO. Where that listing stands for the firm, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, is one of many topics TechCrunch is excited to discuss with CEO Mitchell Elegbe at Disrupt 2020.

The event runs from September 14 through September 18 and (as mentioned) is 100% virtual this year, making it possible for anyone from London to Lagos to sign in. Get your front row seat to see Mitchell Elegbe live with a Disrupt Digital Pro Pass or a Digital Startup Alley Exhibitor Package. We’re excited to see you there.

#africa, #african-business, #african-tech, #bangalore, #banking, #ceo, #disrupt-2020, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #financial-technology, #helios-investment-partners, #interswitch, #kenya, #lagos, #london, #mitchell-elegbe, #money, #nigeria, #private-equity, #safaricom, #san-francisco, #shenzhen, #startup-company, #tc, #tech-in-africa, #uganda, #venture-capital, #world-bank

0

Tiwa Savage, Queen of Afrobeats, Makes a New Start

A Nigerian superstar is courting an audience in America and worldwide with her latest album, “Celia.”

#celia-album, #music, #nigeria, #savage-tiwa, #women-and-girls

0

Nothing Happens When Women Are Raped in Nigeria

The pain of women and girls simply isn’t a big deal.

#men-and-boys, #nigeria, #sex-crimes, #women-and-girls

0

Mulberry, the warranty service for direct to consumer brands, approaches $10 million ARR

In the two years since Chinedu Eleanya founded Mulberry to be the warranty service for direct-to-consumer brands, business has boomed. 

Already riding a shakeup in consumer behavior brought by the emergence of startup brands selling just about everything to just about everyone, Mulberry brought a much-needed new spin on the warranty service that retailers had depended on for years to make consumers comfortable with big ticket purchases. Now the company is on its way to $10 million in ARR for 2020, thanks in no small part to the new shift to online shopping.

That’s why investors were wiling to invest $10 million into the company back in March before the pandemic hit. The round was led by the early stage New York-based investment firm, Pace Capital and included returning investors like Founder Collective.

Then the pandemic did hit. With COVID-19 pushing more shoppers (at least the ones that still have money to shop) out of stores and online, the need for warranty services has just ballooned, according to Eleanya.

A serial entrepreneur who moved from Nigeria to New York City and founded companies including Cognical and Zibby, Eleanya has found success with Mulberry and its online model.

To be sure, the company isn’t the only startup working in the e-commerce warranty space. There’s also, Clyde, which raised $14 million around the same time to offer similar services.

But the market for these kinds of online services is still growing rapidly, and Eleanya thinks there’s space fora few winners. “When you think of point of sale financial innovation, the extended warranty space is the most interesting,” he said.

From a retailer perspective, lending is good, but the bigger story is that the cost of customer acquisition continues to go up, Eleanya said. For him, retailers need to maximize the long term value by retaining customers and the way to do that, he contends, is to offer services programs.

“We’re democratizing access for small and medium sized retailers so they can compete in this really expensive environment,” he said.

Mulberry is already working with some big direct to consumer brands like Mirror, the smart workout mirror, the coffee maker Breville, and Nectar Sleep — a Casper mattress competitor.

So far, Mulberry has about $1 million in annual recurring revenue and is on pace to hit $10 million in ARR this year, Eleanya said.

 

#business, #coffee-maker, #e-commerce, #economy, #insurance, #kitchen, #new-york, #new-york-city, #nigeria, #pace-capital, #serial-entrepreneur, #tc, #warranty

0

Outspoken Atheist, Arrested in Nigeria for Blasphemy, Hasn’t Been Seen Since

Mubarak Bala, head of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was seized by the police and has disappeared in custody. Other Nigerian nonbelievers fear more detentions are coming.

#atheism, #bala-mubarak, #kano-nigeria, #muslims-and-islam, #nigeria

0

DNA Study from 23andMe Traces Violent History of American Slavery

Scientists from the consumer genetics company 23andMe have published the largest DNA study to date of people with African ancestry in the Americas.

#23andme, #africa, #american-journal-of-human-genetics, #dna-deoxyribonucleic-acid, #genetics-and-heredity, #latin-america, #nigeria, #research, #slavery-historical, #united-states, #your-feed-science

0

Dismemberment Killing of Tech C.E.O. ‘Looks Like Professional Job’

Fahim Saleh, 33, was followed into his luxury Manhattan condo by a man dressed all in black, the official said.

#bangladesh, #fahim-saleh, #lower-east-side-manhattan-ny, #manhattan-nyc, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #nigeria

0

TradeDepot adds $10 million to add financial services to its supply chain services for African SMBs

Nigeria’s e-commerce startup TradeDepot, which connects international brands to small businesses in Africa, has raised $10 million in a new round of funding to expand its business into financial services and credit offerings for retailers.

First launched in 2016, TradeDepot has built up a network of 40,000 small businesses in Nigeria and connects them to local distributors of global consumer brands like Nestlé, Unilever, GB Foods and Danone, according to a statement.

The initial business model managed to attract a $3 million investment led by Partech back in 2018. And now, as the firm invests from its largest African fund, Partech returned to co-lead TradeDepot’s latest round with the International Finance Corp., Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative and MSA Capital.

TradeDepot’s business depends on making a range of household supplies like milk, soap, and detergent more accessible and affordable for the street-side vendors and small shops that provide goods and services for hundreds of communities in cities like Lagos — where the company is headquartered.

Using the company’s mobile apps on Android or Whatsapp, USSD short code messaging or a toll-free phone number, retailers can place orders and have goods and services delivered through TradeDepot’s fleet of vans and tricycles. They can make payments, order stock, and manage inventory online or through the app as well.

For consumer brands, they have a central hub through which to distribute directly to vendors on the continent, along with data that can help them manage their relationship with these small vendors.

Image Credit: TradeDepot

Africa’s offline retail market is estimated at $1 trillion, and this new investment allows us to capture an even greater segment of that market,” said Onyekachi Izukanne, in a statement. “We will continue to use data to drive efficiencies and provide an easier stock acquisition service for our [over] 40,000 retailers, driving down costs for them by negotiating even better deals with our global manufacturing partners, whilst simultaneously providing a better, faster route to market for our suppliers.”

The company said that a new store comes online to use its services every three minutes and that the company receives an order from retailers every four seconds, on average.

Now, with the new capital, TradeDepot will expand into a suite of financial services and lending products for its retailers. Many of the company’s customers lack a credit rating, but TradeDepot has alternative ways to score credit based on the data it has from its existing trading relationships.

“The founders’ vision to build a digital platform that improves the unit economics of serving the mass market is one we feel privileged to support,” said Wale Ayeni, the head of Africa Venture Capital investment at the IFC.

That support disproportionately goes to helping women entrepreneurs, according to the company. Women account for over 75% of the retailers on the company’s platform. Now, with the help of its new investor We-Fi, TradeDepot will look to offer mentorship opportunities and link these business owners to global markets.

“Women play a pivotal role in driving economies across Africa, but lack of access to capital, limited market linkages, cultural norms and other challenges often prevent them from achieving the success they want,” saiid Hanh Nam Nguyen, who represents the We-Fi initiative with the IFC. “We-Fi financing will incentivize TradeDepot to build stronger women-led small and medium enterprises (SME) retailer and distributor networks, which will support them to become drivers of economic growth in their communities.”  

#africa, #android, #articles, #business, #economy, #financial-services, #head, #inventory, #lagos, #merchandising, #nestle, #nigeria, #online-shopping, #partech, #retail, #tc, #unilever

0

George Floyd’s Killing Prompts Africans to Call for Police Reform at Home

Africans are increasingly pushing to hold police agencies to account and “decolonize” the repressive institutions they inherited from colonial rulers.

#africa, #black-lives-matter-movement, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #george-floyd-protests-2020, #kenya, #moyo-yassin-d-2020, #nigeria, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #police-reform, #senegal, #south-africa

0

Disputed African Artifacts Sell at Auction

A Princeton art history professor said the figures were stolen and called on Christie’s to halt the sale, but it went ahead in Paris on Monday.

#art, #arts-and-antiquities-looting, #black-people, #christies, #nigeria, #okeke-agulu-chika, #paris-france, #quai-branly-museum, #republic-of-biafra

0

Coronavirus Is Battering Africa’s Growing Middle Class

From Kenya to Nigeria, South Africa to Rwanda, the pandemic is decimating the livelihoods of the once-stable workers who were helping to drive Africa’s economic expansion.

#bonfire-adventures, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #curfews, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #kenya, #middle-class, #nigeria, #rwanda, #south-africa

0

In Poor Countries, Many Covid-19 Patients Are Desperate for Oxygen

Aid agencies are scrambling to get oxygen equipment to low-income countries where the coronavirus is rapidly spreading.

#africa, #congo-democratic-republic-of-congo-kinshasa, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #gates-bill-and-melinda-foundation, #government-contracts-and-procurement, #hospitals, #latin-america, #lungs, #nigeria, #oxygen, #philanthropy, #poverty, #public-private-sector-cooperation, #rural-areas, #south-asia, #third-world-and-developing-countries, #unaids, #united-nations, #united-nations-childrens-fund, #ventilators-medical, #world-health-organization

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Could developing renewable energy micro-grids make Energicity Africa’s utility of the future?

When Nicole Poindexter left the energy efficiency focused startup, Opower a few months after the company’s public offering, she wasn’t sure what would come next.

At the time, in 2014, the renewable energy movement in the US still faced considerable opposition. But what Poindexter did see was an opportunity to bring the benefits of renewable energy to Africa.

“What does it take to have 100 percent renewables on the grid in the US at the time was not a solvable problem,” Poindexter said. “I looked to Africa and I’d heard that there weren’t many grid assets [so] maybe I could try this idea out there. As I was doing market research, I learned what life was like without electricity and I was like.. that’s not acceptable and I can do something about it.”

Poindexter linked up with Joe Philip, a former executive at SunEdison who was a development engineer at the company and together they formed Energicity to develop renewable energy microgrids for off-grid communities in Africa.

“He’d always thought that the right way to deploy solar was an off-grid solution,” said Poindexter of her co-founder.

At Energicity, Philip and Poindexter are finding and identifying communities, developing the projects for installation and operating the microgrids. So far, the company’s projects have resulted from winning development bids initiated by governments, but with a recently closed $3.25 million in seed financing, the company can expand beyond government projects, Poindexter said.

“The concessions in Benin and Sierra Leone are concessions that we won,” she said. “But we can also grow organically by driving a truck up and asking communities ‘Do you want light?’ and invariably they say yes.” 

To effectively operate the micro-grids that the company is building required an end-to-end refashioning of all aspects of the system. While the company uses off-the-shelf solar panels, Poindexter said that Energicity had built its own smart meters and a software stack to support monitoring and management.

So far, the company has installed 800 kilowatts of power and expects to hit 1.5 megawatts by the end of the year, according to Poindexter.

Those micro-grids serving rural communities operate through subsidiaries in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, and currently serve thirty-six communities and 23,000 people, the company said. The company is targeting developments that could reach 1 million people in the next five years, a fraction of what the continent needs to truly electrify the lives of the population. 

Through two subsidiaries, Black Star Energy, in Ghana, and Power Leone, in Sierra Leone, Energicity has a 20-year concession in Sierra Leone to serve 100,000 people and has the largest private minigrid footprint in Ghana, the company said.

Most of the financing that Energicity has relied on to develop its projects and grow its business has come from government grants, but just as Poindexter expects to do more direct sales, there are other financial models that could get the initial developments off the ground.

Carbon offsets, for instance, could provide an attractive mechanism for developing projects and could be a meaningful gateway to low-cost sources of project finance. “We are using project financing and project debt and a lot of the projects are funded by aid agencies like the UK and the UN,” Poindexter said. 

The company charges its customers a service fee and a fixed price per kilowatt hour for the energy that amounts to less than $2 per month for a customers that are using its service for home electrification and cell phone charging, Poindexter said.

While several other solar installers like M-kopa and easy solar are pitching electrification to African consumers, Poindexter argues that her company’s micro-grid model is less expensive than those competitors.

“Ecosystem Integrity Fund is proud to invest in a transformational company like Energicity Corp,” said James Everett, managing partner, Ecosystem Integrity Fund, which backed the company’s. most recent round. “The opportunity to expand clean energy access across West Africa helps to drive economic growth, sustainability, health, and human development.  With Energicity’s early leadership and innovation, we are looking forward to partnering and helping to grow this great company.”

#africa, #articles, #benin, #co-founder, #ecosystem-integrity-fund, #electricity, #energy, #energy-efficiency, #executive, #ghana, #managing-partner, #nature, #nigeria, #opower, #renewable-energy, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-nations, #united-states, #west-africa

0

Why Is Trump attacking the International Criminal Court?

Why is America attacking the International Criminal Court with economic pressure?

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #american-bar-assn, #california, #european-union, #feinstein-dianne, #france, #germany, #house-of-representatives, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #international-criminal-court, #morocco, #new-york-city-bar-assn, #nigeria, #patton-george-smith, #politics-and-government, #senate, #supreme-court-us, #taliban, #trump-donald-j, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations, #war-crimes-genocide-and-crimes-against-humanity

0

African payment startup Chipper Cash raises $13.8M Series A

African cross-border fintech startup Chipper Cash has closed a $13.8 million Series A funding round led by Deciens Capital and plans to hire 30 new staff globally.

The raise caps an event filled run for the San Francisco based payments company, founded two years ago by Ugandan Ham Serunjogi and Ghanaian 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.

The startup call beckoned and after launching Chipper Cash in 2018, the duo convinced 500 Startups and and Liquid 2 Ventures — co-founded by American football legend Joe Montana — to back their company with seed funds.

Two years and $22 million in total capital raised later, Chipper Cash offers its mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services in seven countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya.

“We’re now at over one and a half million users and doing over a $100 million dollars a month in volume,” Serunjogi told TechCrunch on a call.

Chipper Cash does not release audited financial data, but does share internal performance accounting with investors. Deciens Capital and Raptor Group co-led the startup’s Series A financing, with repeat support from 500 Startups and Liquid 2 Ventures .

Deciens Capital founder Dan Kimmerling confirmed the fund’s lead on the investment and review of Chipper Cash’s payment value and volume metrics.

Parallel to its P2P app, the startup also runs Chipper Checkout: a merchant-focused, fee-based mobile payment product that generates the revenue to support Chipper Cash’s free mobile-money business.

The company will use its latest round to hire up to 30 people across operations in San Francisco, Lagos, London, Nairobi and New York — according to Serunjogi.

Image Credits: Chipper Cash

Chipper Cash has already brought on a new compliance officer, Lisa Dawson, whose background includes stints with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and Citigroup’s anti-money laundering department.

“You know in the world we live in the AML side is very important so it’s an area that we want to invest in from the get go,” said Serunjogi.

He confirmed Dawson’s role aligned with getting Chipper Cash ready to meet regulatory requirements for new markets, but declined to name specific countries.

With the round announcement, Chipper Cash also revealed a corporate social responsibility component to its business. Related to current U.S. events, the startup has formed the Chipper Fund for Black Lives.

“We’ve been huge beneficiaries of the generosity and openness of this country and its entrepreneurial spirit,” explained Serunjogi. “But growing up in Africa, we’ve were able to navigate [the U.S.] without the traumas and baggage our African American friends have gone through living in America.”

The Chipper Fund for Black Lives will give 5 to 10 grants of $5,000 to $10,000. “The plan is to give that to…people or causes who are furthering social justice reforms,” said Serunjogi.

In Africa, Chipper Cash has placed itself in the continent’s major digital payments markets. As a sector, fintech has become Africa’s highest funded tech space, receiving the bulk of an estimated $2 billion in VC that went to startups in 2019.

Africa Top VC Markets 2019

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Those ventures, and a number of the continent’s established banks, are in a race to build market share through financial inclusion.

By several estimates — including The Global Findex Database — the continent is home to the largest percentage of the world’s unbanked population, with a sizable number of underbanked consumers and SMEs.

Increasingly, Nigeria has become the most significant fintech market in Africa, with the continent’s largest economy and population of 200 million.

Chipper Cash expanded there in 2019 and faces competition from a number of players, including local payments venture Paga. More recently, outside entrants have jumped into Nigeria’s fintech scene.

In 2019, Chinese investors put $220 million into OPay (owned by Opera) and PalmPay — two fledgling startups with plans to scale first in West Africa and then the broader continent.

Over the next several years, expect to see market events — such as fails, acquisitions, or IPOs — determine how well funded fintech startups, including Chipper Cash, fare in Africa’s fintech arena.

#africa, #african-tech, #america, #chipper-cash, #citigroup, #deciens-capital, #entrepreneurship, #ghana, #ham-serunjogi, #iowa, #joe-montana, #kenya, #lagos, #liquid-2-ventures, #london, #nairobi, #new-york, #nigeria, #p2p, #paga, #private-equity, #rwanda, #san-francisco, #south-africa, #startup-company, #tanzania, #tc, #tech-in-africa, #uganda, #united-states, #west-africa, #yahoo

0

This Country Fought Ebola. It May Beat Another Disease.

How to combat Covid-19 in a developing economy.

#bangladesh, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #indonesia, #nigeria, #pakistan, #sierra-leone

0

As Energy Prices Tumble, Developing Countries Trim Subsidies

Trying to cut spending as the pandemic reduces tax revenue, governments are finding it easier to lift restraints on what consumers pay for fuel.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #ecuador, #electric-light-and-power, #energy-and-power, #india, #international-energy-agency, #nigeria, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #politics-and-government, #prices-fares-fees-and-rates, #taxation

0

Uber Africa launches Uber Cash with Flutterwave and explores EVs

Uber is launching its Uber Cash digital wallet feature in Sub-Saharan Africa through a partnership with San Francisco based — Nigerian founded — fintech firm Flutterwave.

The arrangement will allow riders to top up Uber wallets using the dozens of remittance partners active on Flutterwave’s Pan-African network.

Flutterwave operates as a B2B payments gateway network that allows clients to tap its APIs and customize payments applications.

Uber Cash will go live this week and next for Uber’s ride-hail operations in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana, Ivory Coast and Tanzania, according to Alon Lits — Uber’s General Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Depending on the country, you’ve got different top up methods available. For example in Nigeria you can use your Verve Card or mobile money. In Kenya, you can use M-Pesa and EFT and in South Africa you can top up with EFT,” said Lits.

Uber Cash in Africa will also accept transfers from Flutterwave’s Barter payment app, launched with Visa in 2019.

The move could increase Uber’s ride traffic in Africa by boosting the volume of funds sent to digital wallets and reducing friction in the payment process.

Uber still accepts cash on the continent — which has one of the world’s largest unbanked populations — but has made strides on financial inclusion through mobile money.

Update on Uber Africa

Uber has been in Africa since 2015 and continued to adapt to local market dynamics, including global and local competition and more recently, COVID-19. The company’s GM Alon Lits spoke to TechCrunch on updates — including EV possibilities — and weathering the coronavirus outbreak in Africa.

Uber in Sub-Saharan Africa continued to run through the pandemic, with a couple exceptions. “The only places we ceased operations was where there were government directives,” Lits said. That included Uganda and Lagos, Nigeria.

Though he couldn’t share data, Lits acknowledged there had been a significant reduction in Uber’s Africa business through the pandemic, in line with the 70% drop in global ride volume Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi disclosed in March.

“You can imagine in markets where we were not allowed to operate revenues obviously go to zero,” said Lits.

Like Africa’s broader tech ecosystem, Uber has adapted its business to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Africa, which hit hardest in March and April and led to lockdowns in key economies, such as Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa

On how to make people feel safe about ride-hailing in a coronavirus world, Lits highlighted some specific practices. In line with Uber’s global policy, it’s mandatory in Africa for riders and drivers to wear masks.

“We’re actually leveraging facial recognition technology to check that drivers are wearing masks before they go,” said Lits. Uber Africa is also experimenting with impact safe, plastic dividers for its cars in Kenya and Nigeria.

Uber Africa Nairobi

Image Credits: Uber

In Africa, Uber has continued to expand its services and experiment with things the company doesn’t do in in any major markets. The first was allowing cash payments in 2016 — something Uber hopes the introduction of Uber Cash will help reduce.

Along with rival Bolt, Uber connected ride-hail products to Africa’s motorcycle and three-wheeled tuk-tuk taxi markets in 2018.

Uber moved into delivery in Africa, with Uber Eats, and recently started transporting medical supplies in South Africa through a partnership with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mobility Africa

In addition to global competitors, such as Bolt, Uber faces local competition as Africa’s mobility sector becomes a hotspot for VC and startups.

A couple trends worth tracking will be Uber’s potential expansion to Ethiopia and moves toward EV development in Africa.

On Ethiopia, the country has a nascent tech scene with the strongest demographic and economic thesis — Africa’s second largest population and seventh biggest economy — to become the continent’s next digital hotspot.

Ethiopia also has a burgeoning ride-hail industry, with local mobility ventures Ride and Zayride. Uber hasn’t mentioned (that we know of) any intent to move into the East African country. But if it does, that would serve as a strong indicator of the company’s commitment to remaining a mobility player in Africa.

Ampersand Africa e motorcycle

Ampersand in Rwanda, Image Credits: Ampersand

With regards to electric, there’s been movement on the continent over the last year toward developing EVs for ride-hail and delivery use.

In 2019, Nigerian mobility startup MAX.ng raised a $7 million Series A round backed by Yamaha, a portion of which was dedicated to pilot e-motorcycles powered by renewable energy.

Last year the government of Rwanda established a national plan to phase out gas motorcycle taxis for e-motos, working in partnership with EV startup Ampersand.

And in May, Vaya Africa — a ride-hail mobility venture founded by mogul Strive Masiyiwa — launched an electric taxi service and solar charging network in Zimbabwe. Vaya plans to expand the program across the continent and is exploring e-moto passenger and delivery products.

On Uber’s moves toward electric in Africa, it could begin with two or three wheeled transit.

“That’s something we’ve been looking at in South Africa…nothing that we’ve launched yet, but it is a conversation that’s ongoing,” said Uber’s Sub-Saharan Africa GM Alon Lits.

He noted one of the challenges of such an electric model on the continent is lack of a robust charging infrastructure.

Even so, if Uber enters that space — with Vaya and others — emissions free ride-hail and delivery EVs buzzing around African cities could soon be a reality.

#africa, #african-tech, #business, #ceo, #dara-khosrowshahi, #e-motorcycles, #energy, #ethiopia, #evs, #flutterwave, #ghana, #kenya, #lagos, #nigeria, #player, #rwanda, #san-francisco, #south-africa, #tanzania, #tc, #transport, #uber, #uganda, #vaya-africa, #visa, #yamaha, #zimbabwe

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The Sun Exchange raises $3M for crypto driven solar power in Africa

South Africa based renewable energy startup Sun Exchange has raised $3 million to close its Series A funding round totaling $4 million.

The company operates a peer-to-peer, crypto enabled business that allows individuals anywhere in the world to invest in solar infrastructure in Africa.

How’s that all work?

“You as an individual are selling electricity to a school in South Africa, via a solar panel you bought through the Sun Exchange,” explained Abe Cambridge — the startup’s founder and CEO.

“Our platform meters the electricity production of your solar panel. Arranges for the purchasing of that electricity with your chosen energy consumer, collects that money and then returns it to your Sun Exchange wallet.”

It costs roughly $5 a panel to get in and transactions occur in South African Rand or Bitcoin.

“The reason why we chose Bitcoin is we needed one universal payment system that enables micro transactions down to a millionth of a U.S. cent,” Cambridge told TechCrunch on a call.

He co-founded the Cape Town headquartered startup in 2015 to advance renewable energy infrastructure in Africa. “I realized the opportunity for solar was enormous, not just for South Africa, but for the whole of the African continent,” said Cambridge.

“What was required was a new mechanism to get Africa solar powered.”

Sub-Saharan Africa has a population of roughly 1 billion people across a massive landmass and only about half of that population has access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency.

Recently, Sun Exchange’s main market South Africa — which boasts some of the best infrastructure in the region — has suffered from blackouts and power outages.

Image Credits: Sun Exchange

Sun Exchange has 17,000 members in 162 countries who have invested in solar power projects for schools, businesses and organizations throughout South Africa, according to company data.

The $3 million — which closed Sun Exchange’s $4 million Series A — came from the Africa Renewable Power Fund of London’s ARCH Emerging Markets Partners.

With the capital the startup plans to enter new markets. “We’re going to expand into other Sub-Saharan African countries. We’ve got some clear opportunities on our roadmap,” Cambridge said, referencing Nigeria as one of the markets Sun Exchange has researched.

There are several well-funded solar energy startups operating in Africa’s top economic and tech hubs, such as Kenya and Nigeria. In East Africa, M-Kopa sells solar hardware kits to households on credit then allows installment payments via mobile phone using M-Pesa mobile money. The venture is is backed by $161 million from investors including Steve Case and Richard Branson.

In Nigeria, Rensource shifted from a residential hardware model to building solar-powered micro utilities for large markets and other commercial structures.

Sun Exchange operates as an asset free model and operates differently than companies that install or manufacture solar panels.

“We’re completely supplier agnostic. We are approached by solar installers who operate on the African continent. And then we partner with the best ones,” said Cambridge — who presented the startup’s model at TechCrunch Startup Battlefield in Berlin in 2017.

“We’re the marketplace that connects together the user of the solar panel to the owner of the solar panel to the installer of the solar panel.”

Abe Cambridge, Image Credits: TechCrunch

Sun Exchange generates revenues by earning margins on sales of solar panels and fees on purchases and kilowatt hours generated, according to Cambridge.

In addition to expanding in Africa, the startup looks to expand in the medium to long-term to Latin America and Southeast Asia.

“Those are also places that would really benefit from from solar energy, from the speed in which it could be deployed and the environmental improvements that going solar leads to,” said Cambridge.

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Halal fintech startup Wahed closes $25M led by Saudi Aramco’s investment arm

New York-based fintech startup Wahed (meaning ‘One’ in Arabic) describes itself as a digital Islamic investment platform and as the world’s first ‘halal robo adviser’. It’s now closed a $25 million investment round led by Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Ventures (also known as Wa’ed Ventures), a venture capital investment arm of oil giant Saudi Aramco.

Existing investors BECO and CueBall Capital participated, as well as Dubai Cultiv8, and Rasameel. The funds will be used to expand internationally, including developing the company’s subsidiary in Saudi Arabia. The platform is currently running in the US and UK, and has more than 100,000 clients globally. It plans to grow in the largest Muslim markets including Indonesia, Nigeria, India and the CIS. The three-year-old company has already received a license to operate in Saudi Arabia, and aims to get regulatory approval in 20 countries.

According to Crunchbase, Wahed has now raised a total of $40 million in funding since its 2015 founding by Junaid Wahedna.

Last October, Wahed launched in Malaysia after the Malaysian Securities Commission awarded the company the country’s first Islamic Robo Advisory license. The firm is also considering listing its Islamic ETF on the Saudi stock exchange

Ethical investment and Islamic finance is growing in popularity in Muslim countries so long as it is in line with Islamic ethics, so Wahed looks set to benefit.

Commenting on the investment, Junaid Wahedna, CEO of Wahed, said: “We’re excited to have the support of Aramco Ventures as we foray into the Saudi market. We consider Aramco a strategic long term partner in both the Kingdom and the rest of the world.” 

Wassim Basrawi, Managing Director at Wa’ed Ventures, said: “We believe in Wahed’s mission to provide ethical investing. The company has taken the lead in delivering investment services to one of the world’s fastest-growing sectors – Islamic Finance. Wahed is also, in the true spirit of FinTech, helping to broaden the investment landscape. This latest funding round will enable Wahed to make Saudi their regional MENA hub and contribute towards a fast-growing FinTech ecosystem.”

#ceo, #countries, #crunchbase, #economy, #finance, #fintech-startup, #india, #indonesia, #malaysia, #new-york, #nigeria, #saudi-arabia, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #wahed

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Africa’s top angel Tomi Davies eyes startups and co-investors

When Nigerian angel investor Tomi Davies backed his first company — Strika Entertainment in 2001 — he admits he wasn’t aware of his future role.

“I was just helping out friends. I didn’t know it was angel investing. I didn’t know there was a structure to it,” he said.

Seven years later, Davies received a 20x return on his first exit and a decade after that he’s recognized as an architect of early-stage investing across Africa.

Davies is President of The African Business Angel Network and continues to fund and mentor young tech entrepreneurs in multiple countries.

On a call with TechCrunch, he shared advice for startups on fundraising, surviving COVID-19 and suggestions for global investors on entering Africa.

VC in Africa

Davies’ ascendance in fundraising runs parallel to the boom in startup formation and VC on the continent over the last decade.

When he began In 2001, there wasn’t much measurable venture or digital entrepreneurial activity in Sub-Saharan Africa, outside South Africa. In fact, there was limited data on VC investing on the continent until around five years ago.

An early Crunchbase assisted study estimated VC to African startups annually grew from $40 million in 2012 to $500 million by 2015. A recent assessment by investment firm Partech tallied $2 billion going to the continent’s digital entrepreneurs in 2019, across top markets Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya.

Africa Top VC Markets 2019

Image Credits: TechCrunch

There are now thousands of VC backed startup entrepreneurs across the continent descending on every conceivable use-case — from fintech to on demand electric motorcycle mobility.

Increasingly, Davies’ home country of Nigeria has become the continent’s unofficial capital for venture investment and startup formation, given its market thesis of having Africa’s largest economy and population of 200 million people.

Even with the boom in VC to the continent’s startups — which has drawn investors such as Goldman Sachs and Steve Case — for years panels at African tech conferences have echoed the need for more early-stage funding options.

Davies has worked to meet that. He came to investing at the friends and family level after receiving an MBA at the University of Miami and an earlier career that spanned roles in management consulting, telecoms and IT.

After emerging as one of the early angels to Africa’s startups, supporting the continent’s innovation ecosystem became a mission for the Nigerian investor.

“My raison d’etre became, and will remain until the day I die, tech in African,” Davies said on a call from Lagos.

How to pitch

In his role as President of The African Angel Business Network, or ABAN, Davies has worked with a team to build out a local investor web across the continent.

“ABAN is very simply a network of networks…we have 49 networks in 33 African countries,” he explained.

Those include Lagos Angel Network, which Davies co-founded, Cairo Angels and Angel Investor Ethiopia, announced in Addis Ababa in 2019.

Tomi Davies (L) judges pitches with Cellulant CEO Ken Njoroge at Startup Ethiopia 2019, Image Credits: Jake Bright

ABAN establishes certain guidelines and criteria for how member networks operate, but each chapter sets its own investment terms, according to Davies.

For example, ABAN affiliated Dakar Angel Network — founded in 2018 to support startups in French speaking Africa — offers seed investments of between $25,000 to $100,000 to early-stage ventures.

Where and how startups seek funds from ABAN’s family of networks depends on where they operate. “One thing I say to everybody, from presidents to business people to investors, is Africa is about cities,” Davies said.

“When you know which city your looking to invest in or seek investment in, automatically we’ll be in a position to say, ‘here’s your network.’”

For the Lagos Angel Network in Nigeria, the team has a pitch night the third Thursday of each month with a 30 day rule. “Before you leave, you’ll hear if we’re interested or not. If we’re interested, we’ve got 30 days to make you an offer,” explained Davies.

Advice to startups

In addition to his work with ABAN, Davies continues to invest in his own portfolio of startups — now at 32 ventures — and is a regular judge on Africa’s tech competition circuit.

He’s developed a framework to assess companies and shared parts of it with TechCrunch.

Tomi Davies (center) at Startup Battlefield Africa 2017

“What I say to any startup raising is the first thing any investor is listening to is how do I get my money back. That’s question number one, ‘How do I get my exit?,’” he said.

Davies stressed three things to satisfy that question: “The product service offering that you have, the customers who see value in that product service offering and the nature of the relationship in terms of channel and price offering,” he said.

“That’s what you’re always tinkering with after you start with some kind of value proposition.”

Weathering recession

Davies referenced the increased significance of referrals, given the coronavirus has cancelled a number of events and limited mobility to pitch in person in Africa’s top VC markets.

“Because of COVID-19, networks have become critically important. Because investors can’t touch, can’t feel, can’t see [founders] people are looking now for referential integrity, ‘Who sent me this deck?,’” Davies said.

On how a coronavirus induced Nigerian recession may impact startups, Davies flagged the country’s non-stop informal commercial activity — and the adaptability of Nigerian entrepreneurs — as factors that could carry ventures through.

“There’s a significant chunk of the economy that’s in the informal market. So even if you look back at the recessions we’ve had…it hasn’t been felt on the streets,” he said.

Davies is also collaborating with partners on creating working capital solutions for startups whose revenues have been impacted by slowdown.

Co-investors

Tomi Davies is direct about his desire to draw new partners from tech centers such as Silicon Valley, into early-stage investing in Africa.

“We are always looking for co-investors and I speak on behalf of all 49 networks in ABAN,” he said. Davies highlighted the local expertise each network brings to their market as a benefit to VCs looking to invest on the continent through an African Business Angel Network affiliate.

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