Category : Science & Tech

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 day ago

Catalyst Fund gets $15M from JP Morgan, UK Aid to back 30 EM fintech startups

The Catalyst Fund has gained $15 million in new support from JP Morgan and UK Aid and will back 30 fintech startups in Africa, Asia, and Latin America over the next three years. The Boston based accelerator provides mentorship and non-equity funding to early-stage tech ventures focused on driving financial inclusion in emerging and frontier markets. That means connecting people who may not have access to basic financial services — like a bank account, credit or lending options — to those products. Catalyst Fund will choose an annual cohort of 10 fintech startups in five designated countries: Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, India and Mexico. Those selected will gain grant-funds and go through a six-month accelerator program. The details of that and how to apply are found here. “We’re offering grants of up to $100,000 to early-stage companies, plus venture building support…and really…putting these companies on a path to product market fit,” Catalyst Fund Director Maelis Carraro told TechCrunch. Program participants gain exposure to the fund’s investor networks and investor advisory committee, that include Accion and 500 Startups. With the $15 million Catalyst Fund will also make some additions to its network of global partners that support the accelerato...

Other News / Science & Tech - 4 days ago

What we know (and don’t) about Goldman Sachs’ Africa VC investing

Goldman Sachs is investing in African tech companies. The venerable American investment bank and financial services firm has backed startups from Kenya to Nigeria and taken a significant stake in e-commerce venture Jumia, which listed on the NYSE in 2019. Though Goldman declined to comment on its Africa VC activities for this article, the company has spoken to TechCrunch in the past about specific investments. Goldman Sachs is one of the most enviable investment banking shops on Wall Street, generating $36 billion in net revenues in 2019, or roughly $1 million per employee. It’s the firm that always seems to come out on top, making money during the financial crisis while its competitors were hemorrhaging. For generations, MBAs from the world’s top business schools have clamored to work there, helping make it a professional incubator of sorts that has spun off alums into leadership positions in politics, VC and industry. All that cache is why Goldman’s name popping up related to African tech got people’s attention, including mine, several years ago.

Other News / Science & Tech - 2 weeks ago

Into Africa: tech leaders weigh in on Jack Dorsey’s planned move to the continent

It’s not every day that the CEO of a large Silicon Valley tech company decides to relocate to a different part of the world in order to learn more about it — particularly when it has been frequently maligned and often overlooked by big business. But Jack Dorsey, the American tech entrepreneur who co-founded and leads not one, but two publicly listed companies (Twitter and Square) is not your typical CEO. Dressed down, bearded, often wearing a wooly hat and speaking in a slow, quiet voice, you might even call Dorsey the anti-CEO. He eschews many of the stereotypical trappings of the executive life and mannerisms in favor of taking silent retreats and traveling to countries like Burma. In November 2019, Dorsey’s itchy feet took him to Africa, where he visited Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Ethiopia on a listening tour. He had meetings at incubators in Lagos and Addis Ababa, and talked to a number of African tech leaders, including Tayo Oviosu, the CEO of Nigerian payments startup Paga, and Yele Bademosi, the director of Binance Labs. And before he departed back for the U.S., he did something more: he announced that he would return in 2020 to live somewhere on the continent for up to six months. “Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!)....

Other News / Science & Tech - 2 weeks ago

Jumia, DHL and Alibaba will face off in African e-commerce 2.0

The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but e-commerce is set to boom. Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition. To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and opportunity, perhaps more than any other market in the world. Across major African economies, many of the requisites for online retail — internet access, digital payment adoption, and 3PL delivery options — have been severely lacking. Still, startups jumped into this market for the chance to digitize a share of Africa’s fast growing consumer spending, expected to top $2 billion by 2025. African e-commerce 2.0 will include some old and new players, play out across more countries, place more priority on internet services, and see the entry of China. But before highlighting several things to look out for in the future of digital-retail on the continent, a look back is beneficial. Jumia vs. Konga The early years for development of African online shopping largely played out in Nigeria (and to some extent South Africa). Anyone who visited Nigeria from 2012 to 2016 likely saw evidence of one of the continent’s early e-commerce showdowns. Nigeria had its o...

Other News / Science & Tech - 2 weeks ago

Jumia, DHL, and Alibaba will face off in African ecommerce 2.0

The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but ecommerce is set to boom. Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition. To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and opportunity, perhaps more than any other market in the world. Across major African economies, many of the requisites for online retail — internet access, digital payment adoption, and 3PL delivery options — have been severely lacking. Still, startups jumped into this market for the chance to digitize a share of Africa’s fast growing consumer spending, expected to top $2 billion by 2025. African e-commerce 2.0 will include some old and new players, play out across more countries, place more priority on internet services, and see the entry of China. But before highlighting several things to look out for in the future of digital-retail on the continent, a look back is beneficial. Jumia vs. Konga The early years for development of African online shopping largely played out in Nigeria (and to some extent South Africa). Anyone who visited Nigeria from 2012 to 2016 likely saw evidence of one of the continent’s early e-commerce showdowns. Nigeria had its ow...

Other News / Science & Tech - 3 weeks ago

2019 Africa Roundup: Jumia IPOs, China goes digital, Nigeria becomes fintech capital

2019 brought more global attention to Africa’s tech scene than perhaps any previous year. A high-profile IPO, visits by both Jacks (Ma and Dorsey) and big Chinese startup investment energized that. The last 12 months served as a grande finale to 10 years that saw triple-digit increases in startup formation and VC on the continent. Here’s an overview of the 2019 market events that captured attention and capped off a decade of rapid growth in African tech. IPOs The story of the year is the April IPO on the NYSE of Pan-African e-commerce company Jumia. This was the first listing of a VC-backed tech company operating in Africa on a major global exchange —  which brought its own unpredictability. Founded in 2012, Jumia pioneered much of its infrastructure to sell goods to consumers online in Africa. With Nigeria as its base market, the Rocket Internet-backed company created accompanying delivery and payments services and went on to expand online verticals into 14 African countries (though it recently exited a few). Jumia now sells everything from mobile phones to diapers, and offers online services such as food-delivery and classifieds. Seven years after its operational launch, Jumia’s stock debut kicked off with fanfare in 2019, only to be followed by volatility. The onli...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

A look ahead at blockchain’s next decade

Jonathan Johnson Contributor Share on Twitter Jonathan Johnson is president of Medici Ventures and CEO of Overstock.com. More posts by this contributor Three challenges facing blockchain technology The road to the blockchain revolution has not always been smooth. Most tech experts agree that the potential for new businesses and applications built on distributed ledgers is sky-high, but we are still waiting for that breakthrough year when blockchain transitions from a tech-oriented focus to widespread adoption. 2020 is a new year and the start of a new decade. I believe we are on the cusp of a blockbuster year for blockchain development and that 2020 will see this technology begin to take its biggest, most world-changing steps yet. As innovators continue to shape the competitive landscape, we will see more products in production and we will begin to see true blockchain-based solutions. I’ve reached out to some creative and influential thought-leaders in the blockchain space for their predictions for the upcoming year. Their predictions – along with a few of my own — are below. Products in production “Those who have been quietly building during the crypto winter will begin to deliver beta and...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

Nigeria’s Rensource raises $20M to power African markets by solar

Nigerian startup Rensource Energy has raised a $20 million Series A round co-led by CRE Venture Capital and the Omidyar network. The renewable energy company builds and operates solar-powered micro-utilities that provide electricity to commercial community structures, such as open-air trading bazaars. Launched in 2016, the startup has shifted its operating strategy. “We’ve pivoted away from a residential focus…and we’re building much larger systems to become essentially the utility for these large urban markets we have a lot of in Nigeria,” Rensource co-founder Ademola Adesina told TechCrunch. The company has a partnership with German manufacturer BOS AG, with whom it designs specialized panels for it use case. Rensource also has developer teams in Nigeria and Europe for its software-related programs. In addition to becoming a micro-energy provider to Nigeria’s robust SME classes, the startup aims to offer them B2B services. With the $20 million round, Rensource is launching its Spaces Offline to Online platform for supply-chain services, including business-analytics and working capital options. “It’s a mini-ERP tool. We’re trying to bring a universe of people who are banked, but…still offline — their products are offlin...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

Payment startup Chipper Cash raises $6M for Southern Africa expansion

African cross-border fintech startup Chipper Cash has raised a $6 million seed round led by Deciens Capital. The San Francisco-based company offers mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services in six countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya. Chipper Cash will use the capital to grow its team and move into new geographic areas, according to CEO Ham Serunjogi. “Southern Africa is an area we’re looking to expand to in 2020,” he told TechCrunch on a call. Chipper Cash won’t yet disclose which countries that could entail. The digital finance startup’s had a busy 12 months in an eventful year overall for Africa’s fintech scene. After going live in 2018, Chipper Cash raised $2.4 million in May 2019 in a seed round that included support from 500 Startups and Liquid 2 Ventures — co-founded by American football icon Joe Montana. In September, Chipper Cash expanded into what is now arguably Africa’s largest fintech market, Nigeria. With its latest round, the startup has raised more than $8 million in seed capital. Participants in the $6 million financing include previous investors, and a few new backers, such as Boston-based Raptor Group. Deciens Capital co-founder Dan Kimerling confirmed the fund’s lead on the latest roun...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

Jiji raises $21M for its Africa online classifieds business

Pan-African digital classifieds company Jiji has raised $21 million in Series C and C-1 financing from six investors, led by Knuru Capital. The Nigeria-based venture, co-founded by Ukrainian entrepreneur Vladimir Mnogoletniy, has an East to West presence that includes Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. Buyers and sellers in those markets use Jiji to transact purchases from real estate to car sales. “We are the largest marketplace in Africa where people can sell pretty much anything…We are like a combination of eBay and Craigslist for Africa,” Mnogoletniy told TechCrunch on a call. The classifieds site has two million listings on its Africa platforms and hit eight million unique monthly users in 2018, per company stats. Jiji sees an addressable market of 400 million people across its operating countries, according to Mnogoletniy. The venture bought up one of its competitors in April this year, when it acquired the assets of Naspers-owned online marketplace OLX in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Jiji’s top three categories for revenues and listings (in order) are vehicle sales, real estate and electronics sales (namely mobile phones). With the recent funding, the company’s total capital raised from 2014 to 2019 comes to $50 million. Knur...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month 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 month 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 month 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 month 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 - 2 months 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...

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