All posts in “Nigeria”

Venture capital and the blockchain will be the talk at Startup Battlefield Africa

TechCrunch Startup Battlefield returns to Africa next month, and we have an agenda chock-full of interesting panels and our premier startup competition.

Joining us in Lagos, Nigeria on December 11 for a couple of those aforementioned panels will be Chris Folayan, the founder and CEO of Mall for Africa; Nichole Yembra, chief financial, risk and investment officer for Venture Garden Group (VGG) and a managing partner at GreenHouse Capital; and Olaoluwa Samuel-Biyi, partner at Hacked Capital.


Chris Folayan, who is originally from Nigeria, graduated from California State University, San Jose, and founded and sold several companies globally. He also established new companies in Africa, the U.S., the Middle East and Asia. Mall for Africa is a global economy e-commerce infrastructure company enabling Africans to purchase items directly from international online retailers in the U.S. and Europe, as well as local online retailers in Africa.

At VGG, Nichole Yembra is responsible for investor relations and the financial strategy of the seven technology companies under its umbrella as they serve public and private clients across the aviation, power, education, financial services, and social investment sectors. Through GreenHouse Capital, Nichole takes on fintech-enabled portfolio companies looking to transform the education, renewable energy, big data and fintech ecosystems.

Nichole Yembra

The portfolio companies’ products have connected over 3,000 students to tutors, revolutionized off-grid solar solutions and increased banking services of Nigeria’s nearly 84.6 million unbanked population. In addition to this work, Nichole is committed to making gender diversity a priority within the fintech space in Nigeria and enhancing opportunities for women in leadership.

Olaoluwa Samuel-Biyi

Olaoluwa Samuel-Biyi is a co-founder of SureGifts, a Nigeria-based gift card retailer and technology provider. Olaoluwa joined the founding team of Jumia in 2012 to work on business intelligence and commercial planning, before leaving to build SureGifts. He also consults on investment and financial strategy for Venture Garden Group. He studied Accounting and Finance at the University of the West Indies, Barbados.

And of course, the main event will be Startup Battlefield. Fifteen companies will compete in front of a live audience and top judges for a shot at US$25,000 USD in no-equity cash plus a trip for two to compete in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch’s flagship event, Disrupt in 2019 (assuming the company still qualifies to compete at this time).

Startup Battlefield Africa is right around the corner and you can get your tickets here.

Flutterwave and Ventures Platform CEOs will join us at Startup Battlefield Africa

Startup Battlefield is returning to Africa this December. TechCrunch will be hitting Lagos, Nigeria, bringing with it our Battlefield competition and a day’s worth of panel discussions, focused on topics facing the city’s startup scene.

Iyin “E” Aboyeji

We’ve already announced a pair of speakers for the event and and are excited to add a couple more to the list, bringing with them expertise on topics like VC funding and blockchain technology.

Iyin “E” Aboyeji is the Founder and CEO of Flutterwave, a payment solution designed to transfer funds between Africa and abroad. The Lagos-based startup serves as a payment gateway for a number of high profile companies including Uber, TransferWise, booking.com and tuition platform, Flywire.

In July of this year, Flutterwave rasied a $10 million Series A led by Greycroft Partners and Green Visor Capital.

Other investors include Y Combinator, Omidyar Network, Social Capital, CRE Venture Capital and HOF Capital. Aboyeji will join us to discuss the potential of blockchain tech in Africa’s burgeoning startup scenes.

Kola Aina

Kola Aina is the CEO and founder of Ventures Platform, a Lagos-based VC firm focused on Africa. VP is among the largest accelerator/seed stage funders in the space with an eye toward solving local issues. In addition to serving as a Partner at the fund, Aina is also a mentor at World Bank Group and Google’s Launchpad Accelerator.

We’ve got plenty more speakers to announce in the coming weeks. You can grab your tickets to the event here.

Hear about the keys to local investing at Startup Battlefield Africa with Omobola Johnson and Lexi Novitske

Omobola Johnson (Image: Flickr/World Economic Forum under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

TechCrunch Startup Battlefield is returning to Africa in December, this time in Lagos, Nigeria. We will have a day-long program full of our flagship Battlefield competition highlighting the best startups that Africa has to offer.

Not only that, we’ll have panel discussions designed to explore the continent’s rapidly developing technological infrastructure on the continent. To wit, I’m excited to announce the first two speakers who will don our stage with direct knowledge about investing Silicon Valley money in the local ecosystem.

Omobola Johnson is a senior partner at TLcom Capital and the former minister of communication technology for Nigeria. Her vast knowledge about the startup investing landscape comes from her 25-year tenure at Accenture where she served as the managing director.

As ICT minister, she focused on the execution of the National Broadband Plan, as well as promoting government interest in local venture capital through the development of a fund and a network of startup incubators. And at Accenture, she advised numerous startups in various industries on how to become competitive and help to strengthen the tech landscape.

Lexi Novitske

Lexi Novitske is the principal investment officer for Singularity Investments where she is responsible for managing investments in the firm’s Africa portfolio.

Novitske moved to Africa from the United States, having identified a unique approach to providing African startups with the capital necessary to thrive. Big surprise: It’s not just about writing a check and hoping for returns. It’s about understanding the complexities of the environment, modifying Western attitudes about business and working hard with your companies to ensure the best outcomes.

Johnson and Novitske are just the beginning of what we have to offer at Battlefield Africa technology. Stay tuned for more announcements of great speakers and get your tickets before they sell out.

MallforAfrica goes global, Kobo360 and Sokowatch raise VC, France explains its $76M fund

B2B e-commerce company Sokowatch closed a $2 million seed investment led by 4DX Ventures. Others to join the round were Village Global, Lynett Capital, Golden Palm Investments and Outlierz  Ventures.

The Kenya-based company aims to shake up the supply chain market for Africa’s informal retailers.

Sokowatch’s platform connects Africa’s informal retail stores directly to local and multi-national suppliers — such as Unilever and Proctor and Gamble — by digitizing orders, delivery and payments with the aim of reducing costs and increasing profit margins.

“With both manufacturers and the small shops, we’re becoming the connective layer between them, where previously you had multiple layers of middle-men from distributors, sub-distributors, to wholesalers,” Sokowatch founder and CEO Daniel Yu told TechCrunch.

“The cost of sourcing goods right now…we estimate we’re cutting that cost by about 20 percent [for] these shopkeepers,” he said.

“There are millions of informal stores across Africa’s cities selling hundreds of billions worth of consumer goods every year,” said Yu.

These stores can use Sokowatch’s app on mobile phones to buy wares directly from large suppliers, arrange for transport and make payments online. “Ordering on SMS or Android gets you free delivery of products to your store, on average, in about two hours,” said Yu.

Sokowatch generates revenues by earning “a margin on the goods that we’re selling to shopkeepers,” said Yu. On the supplier side, they also benefit from “aggregating demand…and getting bulk deals on the products that we distribute.”

The company recently launched a line of credit product to extend working capital loans to platform clients. With the $2 million round, Sokowatch — which currently operates in Kenya and Tanzania — plans to “expand to new markets in East Africa, as well as pilot additional value add services to the shops,” said Yu.

MallforAfrica and DHL launched MarketPlaceAfrica.com: a global e-commerce site for select African artisans to sell wares to buyers in any of DHL’s 220 delivery countries.

The site will prioritize fashion items — clothing, bags, jewelry, footwear and personal care — and crafts, such as pictures and carvings. MallforAfrica is vetting sellers for MarketPlace Africa online and through the Africa Made Product Standards association (AMPS), to verify made-in-Africa status and merchandise quality.

“We’re starting off in Nigeria and then we’ll open in Kenya, Rwanda and the rest of Africa, utilizing DHL’s massive network,” MallforAfrica CEO Chris Folayan told TechCrunch about where the goods will be sourced. “People all around the world can buy from African artisans online, that’s the goal,” Folayan told TechCrunch.

Current listed designer products include handbags from Chinwe Ezenwa and Tash women’s outfits by Tasha Goodwin.

In addition to DHL for shipping, MarketPlace Africa will utilize MallforAfrica’s e-commerce infrastructure. The startup was founded in 2011 to solve challenges global consumer goods companies face when entering Africa.

French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a $76 million African startup fund at VivaTech 2018 and TechCrunch paid a visit to the French Development Agency (AFD) — which will administer the new fund — to get details on how it will work.

The $76 million (or €65 million) will divvy up into three parts, AFD Digital Task Team Leader Christine Ha told TechCrunch.

“There are €10 million [$11.7 million] for technical assistance to support the African ecosystem… €5 million will be available as interest-free loans to high-potential, pre-seed startups…and…€50 million [$58 million] will be for equity-based investments in series A to C startups,” explained Ha during a meeting in Paris.

The technical assistance will distribute in the form of grants to accelerators, hubs, incubators and coding programs. The pre-seed startup loans will issue in amounts up to $100,000 “as early, early funding to allow entrepreneurs to prototype, launch and experiment,” said Ha.

The $58 million in VC startup funding will be administered through Proparco, a development finance institution — or DFI — partially owned by the AFD. “Proparco will take equity stakes, and will be a limited partner when investing in VC funds,” said Ha.

Startups from all African countries can apply for a piece of the $58 million by contacting any of Proparco’s Africa offices.

The $11.7 million technical assistance and $5.8 million loan portions of France’s new fund will be available starting in 2019. On implementation, AFD is still “reviewing several options…such as relying on local actors through [France’s] Digital Africa platform,” said Ha. President Macron followed up the Africa fund announcement with a trip to Nigeria last month.

Nigerian logistics startup Kobo360 was accepted into Y Combinator’s 2018 class and gained some working capital in the form of $1.2 million in pre-seed funding led by Western Technology Investment.

The startup — with an Uber -like app that connects Nigerian truckers to companies with freight needs — will use the funds to pay drivers online immediately after successful hauls.

Kobo360 is also launching the Kobo Wealth Investment Network, or KoboWIN — a crowd-invest, vehicle financing program. Through it, Kobo drivers can finance new trucks through citizen investors and pay them back directly (with interest) over a 60-month period.

On Kobo360’s utility, “We give drivers the demand and technology to power their businesses,” CEO Obi Ozor told TechCrunch. “An average trucker will make $3,500 a month with our app. That’s middle class territory in Nigeria.”

Kobo360 has served 324 businesses, aggregated a fleet of 5,480 drivers and moved 37.6 million kilograms of cargo since 2017, per company stats. Top clients include Honeywell, Olam, Unilever and DHL.

Ozor thinks the startup’s asset-free, digital platform and business model can outpace traditional long-haul 3PL providers in Nigeria by handling more volume at cheaper prices.

“Logistics in Nigeria have been priced based on the assumption drivers are going to run empty on the way back…When we now match freight with return trips, prices crash.”

Kobo360 will expand in Togo, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and Senegal.

[PHOTO: BFX.LAGOS] And finally, applications are open for TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield Africa, to be held in Lagos, Nigeria, December 11. Early-stage African startups have until September 3 to apply here.

More Africa Related Stories @TechCrunch

·         CowryWise micro-savings service opens high-yield government bonds to everyday Nigerians


African Tech Around the Net

·         More Than Half of Sub-Saharan Africa to Be Connected to Mobile by 2025, Finds New GSMA Study
·         Ethiopia’s Gebeya acquires Coders4Africa to accelerate its growth
·         Rwanda, Andela partner to launch pan-African tech hub in Kigali
·         Google’s free public Wi-Fi initiative expanded to Africa
·         Accounteer wins 2018 MEST Entrepreneur challenge
·         SafeBoda completes expansion to Kenya, now live in Nairobi
·         Uganda government sued over social media tax

CowryWise micro-savings service opens high yield government bonds to everyday Nigerians

In emerging market countries where economic volatility is a way of life, there aren’t a lot of relatively safe options for members of the burgeoning middle class to park their money.

For instance, countries like Nigeria have experienced a tremendous growth in the number of citizens entering the middle class, which now accounts for about 23% of the population (it’s around 50% in the U.S.), according to a recent article citing the African Development Bank.

While Nigeria now faces some significant headwinds from a weak domestic currency (the naira), high interest rates and a manufacturing recession, there are ways that local investment can both protect the wealth that’s been created and encourage investment domestically to potentially spur development.

At least, that’s the conclusion that college friends Razaq Ahmed and Edward Popoola came to while they were thinking about opportunities for new financial services options in their home country of Nigeria.

The two men, Ahmed with a background in finance and Popoola in computer science, are launching a company called CowryWise that gives Nigerian investors a way to save their money by investing in high yield government bonds. The rates on those products are high enough to absorb the wild swings in value of the naira and still provide a healthy return for investors, according to Ahmed.

Set to present at this year’s demo day from Y Combinator, CowryWise is one of a number of startups that Y Combinator has backed coming from the African continent and an example of the wellspring of entrepreneurial talent that is flourishing in sub-Saharan Africa.

Using CowryWise a customer would just have to sign up with their email address and phone number and link their bank account up to the CowryWise platform.

There are already roughly 57 million savings accounts in Nigeria and 32 million unique bank users. By investing in the bonds, these savers gain access to interest rates that range between 10% and 17%, according to Ahmed.

“The bonds… are similar to the treasuries issued by the U.S. government, which is A rated,” says Ahmed. Even if there were foreign currency risk from investing in the Naira, the inflation rate is currently around 11%, according to Ahmed. Given that most of the bonds are yielding interest rates on the higher end, it’s just a better deal for consumers, he said.

“There’s more value in keeping the money in government treasury bills,” than in the bank, says Ahmed.

For Ahmed and Popoola, the decision to launch CowryWise was a way to bring investment opportunities to a retail investor that hadn’t been able to access the best that the financial system in Nigeria had to offer.

To target these retail investors, meant leveraging technology to scale quickly and cheaply across the country. The two men started developing their service in January and tested it in February and March with friends and family.

CowryWise isn’t without competitors. Another Nigerian company, Piggybank, recently raised $1.1 million for its own automated savings solution. Like CowryWise Piggybank also taps into government bonds to offer better rates to its investors.

That company already has 53,000 registered users — who have saved in excess of $5 million since 2016, according to a release.

There are subtle differences between the two. Piggybank touts its ability to save through bonds, but it is primarily working with banks to get Nigerians saving money. Cowrywise is using Meristem Financial (Ahmed’s old employer) as the asset manager for its investments into the bond market.

Another difference is the time customers’ funds are locked up. Piggybank has a three month savings period required before investors can withdraw funds, while CowryWise will let its customers withdraw cash immediately, according to this teardown of the two services.

Ultimately, there’s a large enough market for multiple players, and a need for better financial services, according to Ahmed.

“We kept having interest from retail investors on why they want to do micro-savings and micro-investment, but they didn’t have the required capital,” Ahmed says. “That was the major reason for staring the company. Why not democratize the assets? And make them available in investments and savings in this traditional instrument?”