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African e-commerce startup Jumia files for IPO on NYSE

Posted by on Mar 12, 2019 in africa, eCommerce, Egypt, Fundings & Exits, Ghana, Goldman Sachs, IPO, jumia, kenya, Lagos, morgan stanley, morocco, Naspers, Nigeria, online retail, Rocket Internet, Smartphones, Startup company, Startups, TC, tech startup, travel bookings, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, unicorn | 0 comments

Pan-African e-commerce company Jumia filed for an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange today, per SEC documents and confirmation from CEO Sacha Poignonnec to TechCrunch.

The valuation, share price and timeline for public stock sales will be determined over the coming weeks for the Nigeria-headquartered company.

With a smooth filing process, Jumia will become the first African tech startup to list on a major global exchange.

Poignonnec would not pinpoint a date for the actual IPO, but noted the minimum SEC timeline for beginning sales activities (such as road shows) is 15 days after submitting first documents. Lead adviser on the listing is Morgan Stanley .

There have been numerous press reports on an anticipated Jumia IPO, but none of them confirmed by Jumia execs or an actual SEC, S-1 filing until today.

Jumia’s move to go public comes as several notable consumer digital sales startups have faltered in Nigeria — Africa’s most populous nation, largest economy and unofficial bellwether for e-commerce startup development on the continent. Konga.com, an early Jumia competitor in the race to wire African online retail, was sold in a distressed acquisition in 2018.

With the imminent IPO capital, Jumia will double down on its current strategy and regional focus.

“You’ll see in the prospectus that last year Jumia had 4 million consumers in countries that cover the vast majority of Africa. We’re really focused on growing our existing business, leadership position, number of sellers and consumer adoption in those markets,” Poignonnec said.

The pending IPO creates another milestone for Jumia. The venture became the first African startup unicorn in 2016, achieving a $1 billion valuation after a $326 funding round that included Goldman Sachs, AXA and MTN.

Founded in Lagos in 2012 with Rocket Internet backing, Jumia now operates multiple online verticals in 14 African countries, spanning Ghana, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Morocco and Egypt. Goods and services lines include Jumia Food (an online takeout service), Jumia Flights (for travel bookings) and Jumia Deals (for classifieds). Jumia processed more than 13 million packages in 2018, according to company data.

Starting in Nigeria, the company created many of the components for its digital sales operations. This includes its JumiaPay payment platform and a delivery service of trucks and motorbikes that have become ubiquitous with the Lagos landscape.

Jumia has also opened itself up to traders and SMEs by allowing local merchants to harness Jumia to sell online. “There are over 81,000 active sellers on our platform. There’s a dedicated sellers page where they can sign-up and have access to our payment and delivery network, data, and analytic services,” Jumia Nigeria CEO Juliet Anammah told TechCrunch.

The most popular goods on Jumia’s shopping mall site include smartphones (priced in the $80 to $100 range), washing machines, fashion items, women’s hair care products and 32-inch TVs, according to Anammah.

E-commerce ventures, particularly in Nigeria, have captured the attention of VC investors looking to tap into Africa’s growing consumer markets. McKinsey & Company projects consumer spending on the continent to reach $2.1 trillion by 2025, with African e-commerce accounting for up to 10 percent of retail sales.

Jumia has not yet turned a profit, but a snapshot of the company’s performance from shareholder Rocket Internet’s latest annual report shows an improving revenue profile. The company generated €93.8 million in revenues in 2017, up 11 percent from 2016, though its losses widened (with a negative EBITDA of €120 million). Rocket Internet is set to release full 2018 results (with updated Jumia figures) April 4, 2019.

Jumia’s move to list on the NYSE comes during an up and down period for B2C digital commerce in Nigeria. The distressed acquisition of Konga.com, backed by roughly $100 million in VC, created losses for investors, such as South African media, internet and investment company Naspers .

In late 2018, Nigerian online sales platform DealDey shut down. And TechCrunch reported this week that consumer-focused venture Gloo.ng has dropped B2C e-commerce altogether to pivot to e-procurement. The CEO cited better unit economics from B2B sales.

As demonstrated in other global startup markets, consumer-focused online retail can be a game of capital attrition to outpace competitors and reach critical mass before turning a profit. With its unicorn status and pending windfall from an NYSE listing, Jumia could be better positioned than any venture to win on e-commerce at scale in Africa.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Nigerian fintech firm TeamApt raises $5M, eyes global expansion

Posted by on Feb 28, 2019 in africa, Asia, Banking, Canada, cellulant, ceo, CFO, Chief Information Officer, consumer finance, economy, engineer, ethiopia, Europe, Finance, flutterwave, Lagos, Mexico, money, Nigeria, online payments, paystack, POS, Series A, TC | 0 comments

Nigerian fintech startup TeamApt has raised $5.5 million in capital in a Series A round led by Quantum Capital Partners.

The Lagos based firm will use the funds to expand its white label digital finance products and pivot to consumer finance with the launch of its AptPay banking app.

Founded by Tosin Eniolorunda, TeamApt supplies financial and payment solutions to Nigeria’s largest commercial banks — including Zenith, UBA, and ALAT.

For Eniolorunda, launching the fintech startup means competing with his former employer, the later stage Nigerian tech company Interswitch.

The TeamApt founder is open about his company going head to head not only with his former employer, but other Nigerian payment gateway startups.

“Yes, we are in competition with Interswitch,” Eniolorunda said. But he also said that the Nigerian fintech startups Paystack and Flutterwave—both of which facilitate payments for businesses— are competitors as well.

TeamApt, whose name is derivative of aptitude, bootstrapped its way to its Series A by generating revenue project to project working for Nigerian companies, according to CEO Eniolorunda.

“To start, we closed a deal with Computer Warehouse Group to build a payment solution for them and that’s how we started bootstrapping,” he said. A project soon followed for Fidelity Bank Nigeria.

TeamApt now has a developer team of 40 in Lagos, according to Eniolorunda, who spent 6 years at Interswitch as developer and engineer himself, before founding the startup in 2015 .

“The 40 are out of a total staff of about 72 so the firm is a major engineering company. We build all the IP and of course use open source tools,” he said.

TeamApt’s commercial bank product offerings include Moneytor— a digital banking service for financial institutions to track transactions with web and mobile interfaces—and Monnify, an enterprise software suite for small business management.

TeamApt worked with Sterling Bank Nigeria to develop its Sterling Onepay mobile payment app and POS merchant online platform, Sterling Bank’s Chief Information Officer Moronfolu Fasinro told TechCrunch.

On performance, TeamApt claims 26 African bank clients and processes $160 million in monthly transactions, according to company data. Though it does not produce public financial results, TeamApt claimed revenue growth of 4,500 percent over a three year period.

Quantum Capital Partners, a Lagos based investment firm founded by Nigerian banker Jim Ovia, confirmed it verified TeamApt’s numbers.

“Our CFO sat with them for about two weeks,” Elaine Delaney said.

TeamApt’s results and the startup’s global value proposition factored into the fund’s decision to serve as sole-investor in the $5.5 million round.

“The problem that they’re solving might be African but the technology is universal. ‘Can it be applied to any other market?’ of course it can,” said Delaney.

Delaney will take a board seat with TeamApt “as a supportive investor,” she said.

TeamApt plans to develop more business and consumer based offerings. “We’re beginning to pilot into much more merchant and consume facing products where we’re building payment infrastructure to connect these banks to merchants and businesses,” CEO Tosin Eniolorunda said.

Part of this includes the launch of AptPay, which Eniolorunda describes as “a push payment, payment infrastructure” to “centralize…all services currently used on banking mobile apps.”

The company recently received its license from the Nigerian Central Bank to operate as a payment switch in the country.

On new markets, “Nigeria comes first. But we’re also looking at some parts of Europe. Canada is also hot on list,” said Eniolorunda.  He wouldn’t specific a country but said to look for a TeamApt expansion announcement by fourth quarter 2019.

TeamApt joins several fintech firms in Africa that announced significant rounds, expansion, or partnerships over the last year.  As covered by TechCrunch, in September 2018, Nigeria’s Paga raised $10 million and announced possible expansion in Ethiopia, Asia, and Mexico. Kenyan payment company Cellulant raised $53 million in 2018, targeted to boost its presence across Africa. And in January, Flutterwave partnered with Visa to launch the GetBarter global payment product.

The fintech space has also been the source of speculation regarding the continent’s first tech IPO on a major exchange, including Interswitch’s much anticipated and delayed public offering.

TeamApt’s CEO is open about the company’s future intent to list. “The project code name for the recent funding was NASDAQ. We’re clear about becoming a public company,” said Eniolorunda.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Showing the power of startup women’s health brands, P&G buys This is L

Posted by on Feb 5, 2019 in africa, Exit, India, Mergers and Acquisitions, New York, p&g, procter & gamble, San Francisco, Startups, TC, Uganda, Y Combinator | 0 comments

The P&G acquisition of This is L., a startup retailer of period products and prophylactics, shows just how profitable investing in women’s healthcare brands and products can be.

A person with knowledge of the investment put the price tag at roughly $100 million — a healthy outcome for investors and company founder Talia Frenkel. But just as important as the financial outcome is the deal’s implications for other mission-driven companies.

This is L. launched from Y Combinator in August 2015 with a service distributing condoms in New York and San Francisco and steadily expanded into feminine hygiene products.

Frenkel, a former photojournalist who worked for the United Nations and Red Cross, started the company in 2013 — roughly three years after an assignment in Africa revealed the toll that HIV/AIDs was taking on women and girls on the continent.

“I didn’t realize the No. 1 killer of women was completely preventable and I think that really inspired me to action,” Frenkel told TechCrunch at the time of the company’s launch.

Now the company has distributed roughly 250 million products to customers around the world.

“Our strong growth has enabled us to stand in solidarity with women in more than 20 countries,” said Frenkel in a statement following the acquisition. “Our support has ranged from partnering with organizations to send period products to Native communities in South Dakota, to supplying pad-making machines to a women-led business in Tamil Nadu. Pairing our purpose with P&G’s expertise, scale and resources provides an extraordinary opportunity to contribute to a more equitable world.”

The company is available in more than 5,000 stores across the U.S. and is working with women entrepreneurs in countries from Uganda to India and beyond.

“This acquisition is a perfect complement to our Always and Tampax portfolio, with its commitment to a shared mission to advocate for girls’ confidence and serve more women,” said Jennifer Davis, president, P&G Global Feminine Care. “We feel this is a strong union and together we can be a greater force for good.”

For investors with knowledge of the company, the P&G acquisition is a harbinger of things to come. The combination of a non-technical, female founder operating in the consumer packaged goods market with a mission-driven company was an anomaly in the Silicon Valley of four years ago, but Frenkel’s success shows what kind of opportunities exist in the market.

“With this acquisition investors need to update their patterns,” said one investor with knowledge of the company.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Partech is doubling the size of its African venture fund to $143 million

Posted by on Jan 31, 2019 in africa, berlin, Business, Column, east africa, economy, entrepreneurship, Finance, kenya, Nairobi, paris, partech ventures, Private Equity, San Francisco, Startup company, TPG Growth | 0 comments

Partech has doubled its Africa VC fund to $143 million and opened a Nairobi office to complement its Dakar practice.

The Partech Africa Fund plans to make 20 to 25 investments across roughly 10 countries over the next several years, according to General Partner Tidjane Deme. The fund has added Ceasar Nyagha as Investment Officer for the Kenya office to expand its East Africa reach.

Partech Africa will primarily target Series A and B investments and some pre-series rounds at higher dollar amounts. “We will consider seed-funding—what we call seed-plus—tickets in the $500,000 range,” Deme told TechCrunch on a call from Dakar.

“In terms of sectors, we’re agnostic. We’ve been looking at all…sectors. We’re open to all plays; we have a strong appetite for people who are tapping into Africa’s informal economies,” he said.

African startups who want to pitch to the new fund should seek a referral. “My usual recommendation is to find someone who can introduce you to any member of the team. We receive a lot of requests…but an intro and recommendation…shortcuts one through all that,” Deme said.

Headquartered in Paris, Partech has offices in Berlin, San Francisco, Dakar, and now Nairobi. To bring the Arica fund to $143 million the VC firm tapped a number of other funds, several undisclosed corporate venture arms, and development finance institutions.

They include Averroes Finance III, the IFC, the EBRD, and African Development Bank. Deme would not list figures, but confirmed “the IFC and European Bank for Reconstruction committed the largest amounts.”

On why players like the IFC, which has its own VC shop for African startups, would place capital with Partech, Deme explained, “many have existing mandates to co-invest…others may not know this territory as well and would rather invest in another fund” with regional experience.

Partech used that experience in 2018 to make 4 investments in African startups (2 undisclosed). They led the $16 million round in South African fintech firm Yoco (covered here at TechCrunch) and a $3 million round in Nigerian B2B e-commerce platform TradeDepot.

Partech Africa joined several Africa focused funds over the last few years to mark a surge in VC for the continent’s startups. Partech announced its first raise of $70 million in early 2018 next to TLcom Capital’s $40 million, and TPG Growth’s $2 billion.

Africa focused VC firms, including those locally run and managed, have grown to 51 globally, according to recent Crunchbase research.

As for a bead on total VC spending for African tech, figures can vary widely.

By Partech’s numbers, compiled from an annual survey it does on Africa, 2017 funding for African startups reached $560 million.

Partech hasn’t released its 2018 Africa VC estimate but it will now be up  some $70 million more from its own recent raise.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Flutterwave and Visa launch African consumer payment service GetBarter

Posted by on Jan 17, 2019 in africa, android, Apple, cameroon, ceo, Column, credit cards, E-Commerce, economy, Facebook, Finance, flutterwave, Ghana, greycroft, kenya, M-Pesa, mastercard, money, Nigeria, online payments, rave, San Francisco, South Africa, spokesperson, Uber, Uganda, visa, vodafone | 0 comments

Fintech startup Flutterwave has partnered with Visa to launch a consumer payment product for Africa called GetBarter.

The app based offering is aimed at facilitating personal and small merchant payments within countries and across Africa’s national borders. Existing Visa card holders can send and receive funds at home or internationally on GetBarter.

The product also lets non card-holders (those with accounts or mobile wallets on other platforms) create a virtual Visa card to link to the app.  A Visa spokesperson confirmed the product partnership.

GetBarter allows Flutterwave—which has scaled as a payment gateway for big companies through its Rave product—to pivot to African consumers and traders.

Rave is B2B, this is more B2B2C since we’re reaching the consumers of our customers,” Flutterwave CEO Olugbenga Agboola—aka GB—told TechCrunch.

The app also creates a network for clients on multiple financial platforms, such as Kenyan mobile money service M-Pesa, to make transfers across payment products, national borders, and to shop online.

“The target market is pretty much everyone who has a payment need in Africa. That includes the entire customer base of M-Pesa, the entire bank customer base in Nigeria, mobile money and bank customers in Ghana—pretty much the entire continent,” Agboola said.

Flutterwave and Visa will focus on building a GetBarter user base across mobile money and bank clients in Kenya, Ghana, and South Africa, with plans to grow across the continent and reach those off the financial grid.

“In phase one we’ll pursue those who are banked. In phase-two we’ll continue toward those who are unbanked who will be able to use agents to work with GetBarter,” Agboola said.

Flutterwave and Visa will generate revenue through fees from financial institutions on cards created and on fees per transaction. A GetBarter charge for a payment in Nigeria is roughly 40 Naira, or 11 cents, according to Agboola.

With this week’s launch users can download the app for Apple and Android devices and for use on WhatsApp and USSD.

Founded in 2016, Flutterwave has positioned itself as a global B2B payments solutions platform for companies in Africa to pay other companies on the continent and abroad. It allows clients to tap its APIs and work with Flutterwave developers to customize payments applications. Existing customers include Uber, Facebook, Booking.com, and African e-commerce unicorn Jumia.com.

Flutterwave has processed 100 million transactions worth $2.6 billion since inception, according to company data.

The company has raised $20 million from investors including Greycroft, Green Visor Capital, Mastercard, and Visa.

In 2018, Flutterwave was one of several African fintech companies to announce significant VC investment and cross-border expansion—see Paga, Yoco, Cellulant, Mines.ie, and  Jumo.

Flutterwave added operations in Uganda in June and raised a $10 million Series A round in October that saw former Visa CEO Joe Saunders join its board of directors.

The company also plugged into ledger activity in 2018, becoming a payment processing partner to the Ripple and Stellar blockchain networks.

Flutterwave hasn’t yet released revenue or profitability info, according to CEO Olugbenga Agboola.

Headquartered in San Francisco, with its largest operations center in Nigeria, the startup plans to add operations centers to South Africa and Cameroon, which will also become new markets for GetBarter.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Venture capital, global expansion, blockchain and drones characterize African tech in 2018

Posted by on Dec 28, 2018 in 2018 Year in Review, africa, Column, Startups, TC, Venture Capital | 0 comments

2018 saw Africa’s tech sector become more dynamic and international. VC firms on the continent multiplied. There were numerous investment rounds. And startups pursued acquisitions and global expansion. Here’s a snapshot of the news that shaped African tech over the last year.  

Surge in VC funds

A notable 2018 trend was Africa’s VC landscape becoming more African, with an increasing number of investment funds headquartered on the continent and run by locals, according to Crunchbase data released in this TechCrunch exclusive.

Drawing on its database and primary source research, Crunchbase identified 51 viable Africa-focused VC funds globally with at least 7-10 investments in African startups from seed to series stage.

Of the 51 funds, 22 (or 43 percent) were headquartered in Africa and managed by Africans. Of those 22, nine (or 41 percent) were formed since 2016 and nine were Nigerian.

Four of the nine Nigeria-based funds were formed within the last year: Microtraction, Neon Ventures, Beta.Ventures and CcHub’s Growth Capital fund.

The Crunchbase study also tracked more Africans in top positions at outside funds and the rise of homegrown corporate venture arms.

One of those entities with a corporate venture arm, Naspers, announced a $100 million fund named Naspers Foundry to invest in South African tech startups. This was part of a $300 million (4.6 billion Rand) commitment by the South African media and investment company to support South Africa’s tech sector overall, as reported here at TechCrunch.

Another DFI came on the scene when France announced a $76 million African startup fund administered by the French Development Agency, AFD. TechCrunch got the skinny on how it will work here.

Investment and expansion

If African VC investment headlines were scarce a decade ago, in 2018 we became overwhelmed with them. This was largely a result of several recently closed Africa funds — TLcom’s $40 million, Partech’s $70 million, TPG’s 2 billion — beginning to deploy that capital.

In March, Nigerian consumer data analytics firm Terragon raised $5 million from TLcom. Kenyan business enterprise software company Africa’s Talking raised $8.6 million in a round led by IFC.

Investment startup Piggybank.ng closed $1.1 million in seed funding and announced a new product — Smart Target, for traditional savings groups. Trucking Logistics company Kobo360 raised two rounds, for a total of $7.2 million. Kenya-based agtech supply chain startup Twiga Foods raised $10 million. B2B retail supply chain Sokowatch closed a $2 million seed round led by 4DX ventures.

White-label lending startup Mines.io secured a $13 million Series A round. South African SME payment venture Yoco raised $16 million. Paga Payments added $10 million in fresh funding.

And then there were the three huge raises of the year. Kenyan digital payment company Cellulant hauled in $37.5 million in a Series C round led by TPG Growth. South African lending startup Jumo raised $52 million led by Goldman Sachs. And just this month, The Carlyle Group invested $40 million in Africa-focused online travel site Wakanow.com.  

Acquisitions and expansion

In 2018, African tech demonstrated it can travel, as several digital companies expanded on the continent and abroad. In May, 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.

Paga announced plans to expand in Africa and internationally, with an eye on Ethiopia, Mexico and the Philippines, CEO Tayo Oviosu told TechCrunch. Kobo360 is moving into in new markets — Ghana, Togo and Cote D’Ivoire.

On the back of its $52 million round, Jumo said it would expand in Asia and started by opening an office in Singapore.

On the acquisition front, Terragon bought Asian mobile marketing company Bizense in a cash and stock deal. The company is exploring greater growth opportunities in Latin America and Southeast Asia, CEO Elo Umeh told TechCrunch.

TPG Growth acquired a majority stake (of an undisclosed value) in Africa entertainment content company TRACE. After previous investments, Naspers acquired  96 percent of Southern African e-commerce venture Takealot.

And in December, California-based Emergent Technology Holdings acquired Ghanaian fintech payment company InterpayAfrica.

Partnerships

Collaboration between local tech firms and big global names continued in 2018. Liquid Telecom and Microsoft continued their partnership to offer connectivity cloud services such as Microsoft’s Azure, Dynamics 365 and Office 365 to select startups and hubs. This is part of Liquid Telecom’s strategy to go long on Africa’s startups as its future clients and the continent’s next big companies.

Facebook teamed up with Nigerian tech hub CcHub to launch its NG_Hub high-tech incubator.

Blockchain

As crypto fever gripped many leading economies in 2018, Africa was shaping its own blockchain narrative — one more grounded in utility than speculation. 500 Startups-backed SureRemit launched a crypto token product aimed at disrupting Africa’s multi-billion-dollar remittance market and raised $7 million in an ICO. South African payments venture Wala and solar energy startup Sun Exchange also had ICOs.

For blockchain as a platform, agtech startups Twiga Foods and Hello Tractor partnered with IBM Research to use the digital ledger tech to advance small-scale farmers and agriculture on the continent.

Ride-hail boda bodas

Ride-hail tech expanded into the continent’s frequently used motorcycle taxi market. Uber entered the three-wheeled tuk tuk moto taxi market in Tanzania in March and Uber and Taxify launched motorcycle passenger services in East Africa, including Kenya and Uganda.

Fails

Last year saw Y Combinator-backed VOD startup Afrostream shutter. In February 2018, Nigerian e-commerce startup Konga — backed by VC — was sold in a distressed acquisition. There were high expectations for Konga and its much-liked founder Sim Shagaya. I made the case that Konga’s acquisition was one of Africa’s first big startup fails that flew under the radar.

Drones

TechCrunch did a deep dive into Africa’s drone scene, talking to several experts and looking at emerging use cases across delivery services, agtech and surveying. On the regulatory side, several countries — Rwanda, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia and Malawi — are doing some interesting things around regulation and creating drone-testing corridors for global players.

TechCrunch and Africa

In 2018 TechCrunch did more with Africa than any previous year. In addition to more content, there was a market engagement trip to Ghana and Nigeria, with meet-and-greets at Impact Hub, MEST Accra and Lagos, and CcHub.

TechCrunch also had its first Africa panel on Disrupt SF’s main stage, an Africa session at Disrupt Berlin and held the second Startup Battlefield Africa in December in Nigeria.

Fifteen startups competed in Lagos in front of a Pan-African and global crowd. South African virtual banking startup Bettr was runner-up. Ultra-affordable ultrasound startup M-Scan from Uganda was the winner.

More Africa-related stories @TechCrunch

African tech around the ‘net  


Source: The Tech Crunch

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IBM Africa and Hello Tractor pilot AI/blockchain agtech platform

Posted by on Dec 21, 2018 in africa, AgTech, Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, Column, Hello Tractor, IBM | 0 comments

IBM Research and agtech startup Hello Tractor have developed an AI and blockchain-driven platform for Africa’s farmers. The two companies will pilot the product in 2019 through an ongoing partnership co-financed by IBM.

Dubbed Digital Wallet in beta, the cloud-based service aims to support Hello Tractor’s business of connecting small-scale farmers to equipment and data analytics for better crop production.

“Agriculture is a complex industry that can have so many different variables. We’re bringing a decision tool to the Hello Tractor ecosystem powered by AI and blockchain,” Hello Tractor CEO Jehiel Oliver told TechCrunch.

The startup joined IBM Research to demo the new service at Startup Battlefield Africa in Lagos.

Available to Hello Tractor clients, the online platform will use a digital ledger and machine learning to capture, track, and share data, while “creating end-to-end trust and transparency across the agribusiness value chain,” according to an IBM release.

Digital Wallet will draw on remote and IoT-based weather-sensing methods and AI to help farmers determine crops and inputs, choose when to plant and optimize and predict crop yields.

The cloud-based dashboard also employs a blockchain ledger to improve multiple points of Hello Tractor’s business.

“We’re an agricultural technology company. Our platform connects farmers who need tractor services to tractor owners who own these assets as a business. We create that marketplace to bring supply and demand together,” said Oliver.

The demand stems from the 80 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s crops harvested without tractors or machinery and the 50 percent of the continent’s farmers who suffer post-harvest losses annually, according to IBM and the Food and Agricultural Organization.

IBM and Hello Tractor’s Digital Wallet will also loop in data from fleet owners regarding tractor use, track and predict repairs and servicing and build credit profiles to open bank financing for farmers.

Hello Tractor is a connecting service — neither the startup nor its farming clients own tractors. Founded in 2014, the venture began operations in Nigeria and has expanded into Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania and Bangladesh within the last year, according to its CEO. A for-profit entity, Hello Tractor has raised funding from private investors, DFI grants and a seed round.

The company currently generates revenue by selling the tractor-monitoring devices and software subscriptions for its app, according to Oliver. Hello Tractor doesn’t yet charge transactional fees for connecting tractors to farmers, “but we’ll be testing that next year,” he said.

The startup also plans to create broader revenue opportunities from data analytics.

“At this phase we focus primarily on mechanization, but coupling the insights being generated through that device with the IBM platform solutions specifically for agriculture can extend the value we offer our customers and…be monetized,” said Oliver.

He estimates the business of connecting small-scale farmers to tractors as a “multi-billion market” globally and pointed to Nigeria as the African nation with “the largest inventory of arable-uncultivated farmland,” 37 percent of the country, according to World Bank data.

IBM Research’s co-financing to build Digital Wallet does not include any equity stake in Hello Tractor, IBM confirmed.

The collaboration aligns with IBM’s global agricultural strategy, embedded largely in its Watson AI business platform and global agtech partnerships. As TechCrunch covered, IBM partnered with Kenyan agtech startup Twiga earlier this year to introduce to Twiga’s network of vendors a blockchain-enabled working capital platform.

IBM Research views the partnership “as scientific research collaboration,” according to VP Solomon Assefa.

“Through all its touch points — farmers, machinery, dealers, crop yields, data inputs — Hello Tractor is convening the whole agricultural ecosystem,” he said.

As discussed at Startup Battlefield Africa, Africa is shaping its own blockchain-focused startups and use cases — characterized more by utility than speculation. On the crypto-side, there were several 2018 ICOs, including remittance startup SurRemit’s $7 million token launch, payments venture Wala’s $1 million offering and one by South African solar energy startup Sun Exchange.

IBM Research and Hello Tractor teams will continue to build out the blockchain-enabled Digital Wallet on a lab, engineer and business level throughout 2019.

“We’re cultivating the partnership… including the executive and go-to-market side. You also have to focus on how you scale,” said Assefa.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Netflix rival Iflix launches $5M search for up-and-coming filmmakers in Asia

Posted by on Dec 6, 2018 in africa, Asia, Bangladesh, Benjamin Grubbs, computing, digital media, iflix, Indonesia, malaysia, Media, Middle East, Netflix, Next 10 Ventures, Philippines, tiktok, Viddsee, world wide web, YouTube | 0 comments

Netflix is increasing its efforts in Asia after it commissioned more local content and began testing more aggressive price points, but one local rival is hitting back with a program to spotlight promising creators in the region.

Malaysia-headquartered Iflix, which operates in 26 countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, today announced a $5 million program to find 30 filmmakers across four of its largest markets: Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. The company, which has raised nearly $300 million from investors that include Sky, offers a freemium service with a paid tier that costs around $3 per month. It claims an audience of ‘millions’ of users.

The twelve-month initiative will be run alongside Next 10 Ventures, a digital content program from ex-YouTube exec Benjamin Grubbs, with the aim of helping would-be or part-time filmmakers to fully pursue their passion.

“There’s ad revenue in some markets but it may not be sufficient enough to enable you to have a full-time career,” Grubbs, who was previously YouTube’s global director of top creator partnerships, told TechCrunch in an interview. “A commitment up front to support creative storytellers is a positive element fo the ecosystem… there are things people want to do without waiting for brand sponsorship.”

In addition to financing, the program will provide mentoring, equipment and other assistance to produce content exclusively for Iflix.

Iflix launched its own original content program 18 months ago, and Craig Galvin — the company’s global head of content — said that the initiative isn’t just limited to creators’ local markets, which might be a logical assumption given Netflix’s more global approach.

Instead, Galvin — who launched Iflix’s first short-form video program earlier this year — argued that there is the potential to reach Iflix’s global viewers.

“We do see our pathway to be more local-centric but I do believe some of this content will travel well beyond their territories,” he told TechCrunch.

“For many, the remuneration isn’t quite there yet,” Galvin added. “So for us, it’s allowing them some scope to help reach their full potential.”

The short videos supported by the program won’t be quite as brief as the seconds-long shorts you’ll find on TikTok, the fast-growing video platform, since Galvin and Grubbs are seeking more episodic content. However, they remain open to “exploring experimentation” — potentially series of one-minute shorts — if such proposals are judged to resonate with audiences.

“There’s no definitive number but we’re expecting around 1,500 pieces of content as part of this program,” Galvin said, adding that he hopes to expand the program to cover more, or all, of Iflix’s markets in the future.

Filmmakers wanting to apply to the program can do so on the website here.

One obvious comparison to the Iflix initiative is Viddsee, a Singapore-based streaming service that features short video content from independent filmmakers in Asia and beyond.

Founded in 2012, Viddsee has raised a little over $2 million to date and it recently introduced a crowdfunding feature that allows filmmakers to raise money directly from its global audience. The company has also helped filmmakers to find brand sponsors in order to get the checks required to fund production.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Five years and one pivot later, Trueface emerges with a promise for better facial recognition tech

Posted by on Nov 21, 2018 in africa, Asia, Colombia, facial recognition, facial recognition software, harvard, learning, Medellin, Scout Ventures, Southeast Asia, surveillance, TC, video surveillance | 0 comments

Shaun Moore and Nezare Chafni didn’t initially intend to develop a new standalone facial recognition technology, when they first got started developing the technology that would become their new company, Trueface.ai.

When the two serial entrepreneurs were planning their next act five years ago, they wanted to ride the wave of smart home technologies with the development of a new smart doorbell — called Chui.

That doorbell would be equipped with facial recognition software as a service. The company raised $500,000 in angel funding and opened a manufacturing facility in Medellin, Colombia.

What the two entrepreneurs discovered was that most existing facial recognition tools lacked the ability to identify spoof or presentation attacks, which rendered the tech unfeasible for the access control functions they were trying to develop.

So Moore and Chafni set out to develop better software for facial recognition.

 

“In 2014 we focused our engineering efforts on deploying face recognition on the edge in highly constrained environments that could identify hack or spoof attempts,” Moore, the chief executive of Trueface.ai said in an email. “This technology is the core of what has become Trueface.”

With the upgrades to the product, Chui began tackling the commercial access control market, and while customers loved the software, they wanted to use their own hardware for the product, according to Moore.

So the two entrepreneurs shuttered the factory in 2017 and began focusing on selling the facial recognition product on its own. Thus Trueface was born.

It’s actually the third company that the two founders have worked on together. Friends since their days studying business at Southern Methodist University, Moore and Chafni previously worked on a content management startup, before moving on to Chui’s smart doorbell.

The company spun Trueface out of Chui in June 2017 and raised seed capital from investors including Scout Ventures with Harvard Business Angels and GSV Labs. That $1.5 million round has powered the company’s development since (including the integration with IFTT earlier this year to prove that its system worked).

But over the past few years, as damning stories around the risks associated with potentially bad training data being applied to facial recognition technologies continued to appear, the company set itself another task — aligning its training data with the real world.

To that end the company has partnered with a global non-profit which is collecting facial images from Africa, Asia and Southeast Asia to create a more robust portfolio of images to train its recognition software.

“Like many facial recognition companies, we acknowledge the implicit bias in publicly available training data that can result in misidentification of certain ethnicities,” the company’s chief executive has written. “We think that is unacceptable, and have pioneered methods to collect a multiplicity of anonymized face data from around the world in order to balance our training models. For example, we partnered with non-profits in Africa and Southeast Asia to ensure our training data is diverse and inclusive, resulting in reduced bias and more accurate face recognition – for all.

The company has also established three principles by which its technology will be applied. The first is an explicit commitment to reduce bias in training data; the second, an agreement with its customers that in any case that goes to court, human decision making is privileged over any data from its software; and finally, an explicit focus on data security to prevent breaches and data transparency so that customers discloes what information they’re collecting.

“When implemented responsibly, people will demand this technology for its daily benefits and utility, not fear it,” writes Moore.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Expanding its internet service to more countries in Africa, Tizeti raises $3 million

Posted by on Sep 4, 2018 in africa, internet service providers, Recent Funding, Startups, TC, Tizeti, Y Combinator | 0 comments

Tizeti, the Nigerian internet service provider behind the brand Wifi.com.ng, has raised $3 million in a new round of funding as it expands its unlimited internet service into Ghana.

The new financing was led by 4DX Ventures, a new, Africa-focused fund that’s been deploying capital at an incredibly fast clip since its launch earlier this year. Its portfolio includes Sokowatch, a startup connecting local African retailers to international suppliers; the outsourced programmer placement and apprenticeship service, Andela; and the integrated pharmacy supplier and operator, mPharma.

For Walter Baddoo, one of 4DX Ventures co-founders and a new addition to the Tizeti board, the value in a company that operates as “the Comcast of Africa” was clear.

“If you take the efficiency of point to multipoint wireless technology and you add to that solar infrastructure, you leap-frog a generation of infrastructure. That makes getting cheap data to the hands of customers much easier,” Baddoo says.

Tizeti does exactly that. Using solar energy to power its wireless towers, the company provides residences, businesses, events and conferences with unlimited high-speed broadband internet access, which now covers more than 70 percent of Lagos. Since its launch from Y Combinator’s winter 2017 batch, the company has installed over 7,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots in Nigeria with 150,000 users.

Tizeti co-founders Ifeanyi Okonkwo and Kendall Ananyi

In November, the company partnered with Facebook to offer Express Wi-Fi and roll out hundreds of hotspots across the Nigerian capital of Abuja.

Now, with the new funding, Tizeti is expanding its operations outside of Nigeria, launching a new brand — Wifi.Africa — and pushing its service into Ghana.

Tizeti was built to tackle poor internet connectivity not only in Nigeria, but on the continent as a whole, by developing a cost-effective solution from inception to delivery, for reliable and uncapped internet access for potentially millions of Africans,” said Kendall Ananyi, the co-founder and chief executive of Tizeti.

The company’s unlimited internet packages cost $30 per-month, a price it’s able to achieve through the use of cheap solar electricity to power its towers.

“Reducing the cost of data in Africa is a critical step in accelerating the pace of internet adoption across the continent,” Baddoo said in a statement. “Tizeti makes it easier and cheaper to connect Africa to the global digital economy and we are excited to partner with Kendall and his team on this mission.”

All of this is being powered by a network of new undersea cables stretching along the ocean floor that is bringing connectivity to the continent.

“There’s a ton of capacity going to 16 submarine cables [coming into Africa],” Ananyi told us back in 2017. “The problem is getting the internet to the customers. You have balloons and drones and that will work in the rural areas but it’s not effective in urban environments. We solve the internet problem in a dense area.”

It’s not a radical concept, and it’s one that has netted the company 3,000 subscribers already and nearly $1.2 million in annual recorded revenue in its first months of operations, Ananyi told us at the time.

“There are 1.2 billion people in Africa, but only 26 percent of them are online and most get internet over mobile phones,” says Ananyi. Perhaps only 6 percent of that population has an internet subscription, he said.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Steve Song


Source: The Tech Crunch

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