Category : Science & Tech

Other News / Science & Tech - 6 days ago

Credit startup Migo expands to Brazil on $20M raise and Africa growth

After growing its lending business in West Africa, emerging markets credit startup Migo is expanding to Brazil on a $20 million Series B funding round led by Valor Capital Group. The San Franicso-based company — previously branded Mines.io — provides AI-driven products to large firms so those companies can extend credit to underbanked consumers in viable ways. That generally means making lending services to low-income populations in emerging markets profitable for big corporates, where they previously were not. Founded in 2013, Migo launched in Nigeria, where the startup now counts fintech unicorn Interswitch and Africa’s largest telecom, MTN, among its clients. Offering its branded products through partner channels, Migo has originated more than 3 million loans to over 1 million customers in Nigeria since 2017, according to company stats. “The global social inequality challenge is driven by a lack of access to credit. If you look at the middle class in developed countries, it is largely built on access to credit,” Migo founder and CEO Ekechi Nwokah told TechCrunch. “What we are trying to do is to make prosperity available to all by reinventing the way people access and use credit,” he explained. Migo does this through its cloud-based, data-driven pl...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 week ago

Africa Roundup: Nigerian fintech gets $360M, mints unicorn, draws Chinese VC

November 2019 could mark when Nigeria (arguably) became Africa’s unofficial capital for fintech investment and digital finance startups. The month saw $360 million invested in Nigerian-focused payment ventures. That is equivalent to roughly one-third of all the startup VC raised for the entire continent in 2018, according to Partech stats. A notable trend-within-the-trend is that more than half — or $170 million — of the funding to Nigerian fintech ventures in November came from Chinese investors. This marks a pivot (to tech) in China’s engagement with Africa. We’ll get to that. Before the big Chinese-backed rounds, one of Nigeria’s earliest fintech companies, Interswitch, confirmed its $1 billion valuation after Visa took a minority stake in the company. Interswitch would not disclose the amount to TechCrunch, but Sky News reporting pegged it at $200 million for 20%. Founded in 2002 by Mitchell Elegbe, Interswitch pioneered the infrastructure to digitize Nigeria’s then predominantly paper-ledger and cash-based economy. The company now provides much of the tech-wiring for Nigeria’s online banking system that serves Africa’s largest economy and population. Interswitch offers a number of personal and business finance products, including its Verve payment ca...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 week ago

Startups Weekly: Chinese investors double down on African startups

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy startups and venture capital news. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I wrote about Airbnb’s issues. Before that, I noted Uber’s new “money” team. Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to [email protected] or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. If you’re new, you can subscribe to Startups Weekly here. China’s pivot to Africa Three African fintech startups; OPay, PalmPay and East African trucking logistics company Lori Systems, closed large fundraises this year. On their own, the deals aren’t particularly notable, but together, they expose a new trend within the African startup ecosystem. This year, those three companies brought in a total of $240 million in venture capital funding from 15 different Chinese investors, who’ve become increasingly active in Africa’s tech scene. TechCrunch reporter Jake Bright, who covers African tech, writes that 2019 marks “the year Chinese investors went all in on the continent’s startup scene” — particularly its fintech projects. Why? “The continent’s 1.2 billion people represent the largest share of the world’s unban...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 week ago

Sim Shagaya’s uLesson African edtech startup raises $3.1M

Nigerian founder Sim Shagaya is back with a new startup —  uLesson — that has raised a $3.1 million seed round led by TLcom Capital. The venture is integrating mobile platforms, SD cards, culture-specific curriculum and a network of tutors to bridge educational gaps for secondary school students in Nigeria and broader Africa. Founded in 2019 by Shagaya — who also founded Nigerian e-commerce startup Konga and ad venture E-Motion — uLesson is headquartered in Lagos with a production studio in Jos. The startup has been in development phase and plans to go to market in February 2020 in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Gambia — Shagaya told TechCrunch on a call. “We’re targeting Anglophone West Africa…for a market of effectively 300 million people,” he said. On product demand, Shagaya notes the priority placed on education across West African households vs. structural deficiencies — such as student teacher ratios as high as 70:1 in countries such as Nigeria. “We have this massive gap…We’re adding more babies in this country nominally than all of Western Europe…Even if the [Nigerian] government was super efficient, it couldn’t catch up with the educational needs of the young people that are coming up,” Shagaya said. To addres...

Other News / Science & Tech - 3 weeks ago

Opera’s Africa fintech startup OPay gains $120M from Chinese investors

Africa-focused fintech startup OPay has raised a $120 million Series B round backed by Chinese investors. Located in Lagos and founded by consumer internet company Opera, OPay will use the funds to scale in Nigeria and expand its payments product to Kenya, Ghana and South Africa — Opera’s CFO Frode Jacobsen confirmed to TechCrunch. Series B investors included Meituan-Dianping, GaoRong, Source Code Capital, Softbank Ventures Asia, BAI, Redpoint, IDG Capital, Sequoia China and GSR Ventures. OPay’s $120 million round comes after the startup raised $50 million in June. It also follows Visa’s $200 million investment in Nigerian fintech company Interswitch and a $40 million raise by Lagos-based payments startup PalmPay — led by China’s Transsion. There are a couple of quick takeaways. Nigeria has become the epicenter for fintech VC and expansion in Africa. And Chinese investors have made an unmistakable pivot to African tech. Opera’s activity on the continent represents both trends. The Norway-based, Chinese-owned (majority) company founded OPay in 2018 on the popularity of its internet search engine. Opera’s web-browser has ranked No. 2 in usage in Africa, after Chrome, the last four years. The company has built a hefty suite of internet-based commercial products i...

Other News / Science & Tech - 3 weeks ago

PalmPay launches in Nigeria on $40M round led by China’s Transsion

Africa-focused payment startup PalmPay has launched in Nigeria after raising a $40 million seed round led by Chinese mobile-phone maker Transsion. The investment came via Transsion’s Tecno subsidiary, with participation from China’s NetEase and wireless comms hardware firm Mediatek — a Transsion spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch. PalmPay had piloted its mobile fintech offering in Nigeria since July, before going live today at a launch in Lagos. The startup aims to become Africa’s largest financial services platform, according to a statement.  As part of the investment, PalmPay enters a strategic partnership with mobile brands Tecno, Infinix and Itel that includes pre-installation of the startup’s app on 20 million phones in 2020. The U.K.-headquartered venture — that was also founded with Chinese seed investment — offers a package of mobile-based financial services, including no-fee payment options, bill pay, rewards programs and discounted airtime. In Nigeria, PalmPay will offer 10% cash back on airtime purchases and bank transfer rates as low as 10 Naira ($.02). In addition to Nigeria, PalmPay will use the $40 million seed funding to grow its financial services business in Ghana. The payments startup has plans to expand to additional countries in 202...

Other News / Science & Tech - 3 weeks ago

Chaka opens up global investing to Africa’s most populous nation

Fintech startup Chaka aims to open up online investing to Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria. The seed-stage company recently went live with its mobile-based platform that offers Nigerians stock trading in more than 40 countries. Chaka positions itself as a passport to local and global investing. The startup has created an API and interface that allows Nigerians with a bank account (and who meet KYC requirements) to create trading accounts to purchase global blue chip and local Nigerian stocks. Investors can get started with as little as 1,000 Naira, or $10, to create a local and global wallet to trade, according to Chaka founder and CEO Tosin Osibodu. The platform has partnerships with two brokers to facilitate stock purchases: Citi Investment Capital and U.S.-based DriveWealth. “Embedded in our offer is the ability to buy on the local stock market…we make it more seamless than usual, and assets…from this whole universe outside the continent,” said Osibodu. The Nigerian Stock Exchange has been upgrading its platform to digitize and accommodate more listings. It has a five-year partnership with NASDAQ and Airtel Africa listed on the NSE in July.  On the Chaka’s addressable market, “Our outlook is that within Nigeria…between one...

Other News / Science & Tech - 3 weeks ago

Pan-African e-tailer Jumia grows 3Q revenue, e-payments and losses

Pan-African e-commerce startup Jumia released its third-quarter financial results today. The numbers and presentation reflected some of the same past trends, with a dash of new, and nary a mention of a declining share price. The results Jumia — with online goods and service verticals in 14 countries — posted third-quarter revenue growth of 19% (€40 million) and increased its active customer base 56% to 5.5 million from 3.5 million over the same period a year ago. Jumia’s Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) — the total amount of goods sold over the period — grew by 39% to €275 million. The online retailer nearly doubled its orders from 3.6 million in Q3 2018 to 7 million in Q3 2019. Jumia also saw growth in its JumiaPay digital finance product, with total payment volume increasing 95% to €32 million in Q3 2019 from €16.4 million in Q3 2018. This is significant, as the company has committed to generate more revenues from digital payment products and offer JumiaPay as a standalone service across Africa. The overall pattern of growing revenues and customers YoY has been consistent for Jumia. But so too have the company’s losses, which widened 34% in 3Q 2019 to €54.6 million, compared to €40.6 million. Negative EBITDA increased 26% to €45.4 million from €35.8 over the same period in...

Other News / Science & Tech - 3 weeks ago

Nigeria’s Interswitch confirms $1B valuation after Visa investment

Nigerian digital payments firm Interswitch confirmed today it has reached unicorn status after Visa acquired a minority equity stake in the firm. “The investment makes Interswitch one of the most valuable African fintech businesses with a valuation of $1 billion,” Interswitch said in a release to TechCrunch. The Visa investment could create the first of two market distinctions for Interswitch — as it shouldn’t change the Lagos-based company’s plans to go public. “An IPO is still very much in the cards; likely sometime in the first half of 2020,” a source with knowledge of the situation told TechCrunch on background. Interswitch did not reveal the amount of Visa’s investment and would not confirm Sky News reporting Monday that pegged it at $200 million for 20%. Whatever the exact number, Interswitch’s confirmation of a $1 billion valuation marks another milestone in African tech. Only one VC-backed startup, turned later-stage company on the continent — e-commerce venture Jumia — has generated enough revenue and capital to achieve a ten-figure valuation. For the near to medium-term, Interswitch could stand as Africa’s sole tech-unicorn, as Jumia’s volatile share-price and declining market-cap since an April IPO have drop...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

African logistics startup Lori Systems raises Series A led by Chinese investors

African on-demand trucking logistics company Lori Systems has raised a Series A round led by Chinese investors Hillhouse Capital and Crystal Stream Capital. Other participating investors included Nigeria and U.S.-based EchoVC, Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen and Nigerian founder Iyinoluwa Aboyeji. Lori Systems is not disclosing the amount of the Series A. DealStreet Asia reported the round amount at $30 million earlier Friday, but Lori Systems’ CEO Josh Sandler would not confirm that. That figure was “something lost in translation” and “a mischaracterization of the raise,” he told TecCrunch on a call. The company issued a clarification to initial reporting in a Medium post. On the reason for the non-disclosure, “Lori has never released fundraising details as we feel it is a vanity metric that distracts from what matters most: our mission of lowering the cost of goods in frontier markets,” Lori Systems co-founder Jean-Claude Homawoo told TechCrunch. A recent Financial Times piece pegged Lori’s total funding raise at $20 million. In an SEC Form D filing in June Lori Systems issued $29 million in equity, though details weren’t given to which parties. Founded in Kenya in 2016, the company provides mobile-based on-demand trucking logistics...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

Solar based ISP startup Tizeti launches 4G LTE network in Nigeria

Nigerian internet service provider Tizeti has launched its first 4G LTE network. The Y Combinator-backed startup — which uses solar-powered towers to deliver net connectivity — has built its premier 4G-capable tower in the city of Port Harcourt, where Tizeti will offer its first 4G and ISP services. The company operates primarily in Lagos, Nigeria’s unofficial business capital, and expanded this year to Ghana. Port Harcourt is the fifth largest city in Nigeria located in River State, another commercial hotspot for the country. Tizeti plans to take its model to additional West African countries in 2020, according to CEO and co-founder Kendall Ananyi. “We leverage inexpensive wireless capacity and plummeting cost of solar panels to create a low capex and opex network of owned and operated towers,” Ananyi told TechCrunch. “We’re able to offer customers unlimited internet at 30 to 50% the cost of traditional mobile data plans,” he said. The price for a Tizeti unlimited plan is 9,500 Nigerian Naira per month, or around $26. The startup has 1.1 million unique users and packages internet services drawing on partnerships with West African broadband provider MainOne and Facebook’s Express Wi-Fi.  On the addressable market for Tizeti after its latest m...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

Africa Roundup: Goldman leads $30M Twiga raise, China grows tech influence, Jumia weathers lockup-expiry

Kenya’s Twiga Foods raised a total of $30 million in October from lenders and investors led by Goldman Sachs. This adds to the list of African startups the U.S. financial firm has backed, including e-commerce venture Jumia and South African fintech startup Jumo. Twiga, a B2B food distribution company, will use its funds to set up a distribution center in Nairobi and deepen its conversion to offering supply chain services for both agricultural and FMCG products. The startup is also targeting Pan-African expansion to French speaking West Africa by third quarter 2020, CEO Peter Njonjo told TechCrunch. The venture has moved quickly on diversifying its supply-chain product mix. “We’re not just doing fruits and vegetables…I’d say we’re at 50/50 now between FMCG  and fresh,” said Njonjo. Twiga doesn’t plan to move toward entering or supplying B2C e-commerce, where it could become a competitor to other online retailers, such as Jumia. But the company has factored for advantages in the B2C e-commerce space. “If you’re able to serve Nairobi’s 180,000 retailers, it means that the furthest customer would be less than two kilometers away from any shop. That’s the power of building a B2C business on top of a B2B platform. So definitely, the potential is there,” said Njonjo. Kenya’s Twig...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

Bosun Tijani talks strategy as CEO of Africa’s new largest tech hub

With CcHub‘s acquisition of iHub in September, Nigerian Bosun Tijani is at the helm of (arguably) the largest tech network in Africa. He is now CEO of both organizations, including their robust membership rosters, startup incubation programs, global partnerships and VC activities from Nigeria to Kenya. One could conclude Tijani has become one of the most powerful figures in African tech with the CcHub/iHub merger. But that would be a little shortsighted. The techie from Lagos still faces plenty of challenges and unknowns in integrating two innovation hubs that lie 3,818 flight kilometers apart. Several sources speaking on background over the last year have indicated iHub was experiencing financial difficulties. Tijani offered TechCrunch some initial details last month on how the acquisition will fall together. Nigeria’s CcHub acquires Kenya’s iHub to create mega Africa incubator But more recently he shared greater detail on his strategy for operating the multi-country innovation network. A big test for Tijani will be aligning the organizations on a path to sustainability. The buzzword is usually code for generating consistent operating income beyond expenses. The growth of innovation spaces, accelerators and incubators in Africa — which tally 618 per GSMA stats — is oft...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

Revisiting Jumia’s JForce scandal and Citron’s short-sell claims

In advance of Jumia’s November financial reporting, it’s worth revisiting the company’s second-quarter results, the downside of which included some negative news beyond losses. The Africa focused e-commerce company — with online verticals in 14 countries — did post second-quarter revenue growth of 58% (≈$43 million) and increased its customer base to 4.8 million from 3.2 million over the same period a year ago. But Jumia also posted greater losses for the period, €67.8 million, compared to €42.3 million in 2018. What appears to have struck the market more than revenues or losses was Jumia offering greater detail on the fraud perpetrated by some employees and agents of its JForce sales program. This was another knock for the firm on its up and down ride since becoming the first tech company operating in Africa to list on the NYSE in April. The online retailer gained investor confidence out of the gate, more than doubling its $14.95 opening share price after the IPO. That lasted until May, when Jumia’s stock came under attack from short-seller Andrew Left, whose firm Citron Research issued a report accusing the company of fraud. That prompted several securities-related lawsuits against Jumia. Africa e-tailer Jumia issues post-IPO results amid short-sell as...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

Naspers Foundry is open for South African startup pitches, CEO says

Naspers’ 1.4 billion rand (≈$100 million) VC fund to support South African startups — Naspers Foundry — is accepting pitches, after making its first investment in online cleaning services company SweepSouth. The funding initiative also has a new leader, Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, who joined Naspers in July as a CEO reporting to Group CEO of Naspers, Bob van Dijk. “We’ll be investing in businesses here in South Africa that have an impact in South Africa. We look for these opportunities all around the country, to the extent that they have South African founders or have a marketplace in South Africa,” Mahanyele-Dabengwa told TechCrunch. Founders from other parts of Africa with startup operations in South Africa can be considered for funding, she clarified. Naspers Foundry will back companies that align with the internet businesses on which Naspers focuses — such as food, payments or classifieds — and any other digital venture that addresses a societal need. On financing size, the Foundry will make equity investments in various amounts, primarily from Series A up to Series B, according to Mahanyele-Dabengwa. Pre-series funding won’t be on the table, for now, but could be at some point. “We’ve been talking to our stakeholders…and there...

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