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Plentywaka Gets Backing From Techstars

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Nigeria’s Plentywaka Gets Backing From Techstars, Plans Expansion to Canada

Plentywaka, a Nigerian bus-booking platform, today announced that it has been accepted into the Techstars Toronto accelerator program.

It will join nine other startups in the class of 2021 and secure funding from the accelerator as it sets its sights on global expansion.

The Lagos-based company, founded by Onyeka Akumah, Johnny Ena, John Shaibu and Afolabi Oluseyi, operates an ‘Uber-for-buses’ model connecting commuters with buses via an app.

Plentywaka launched in September 2019, and in the first two months, moved an average of six people daily, according to CEO Akumah.

By its sixth month, this number increased to about 1,500 daily, and the company completed more than 100,000 rides within that timeframe.

Then in March 2020, the pandemic-induced lockdown hit businesses across Lagos and other states within Nigeria.

Due to the nature of its business, Plentywaka had to make a slight pivot and began transporting essential services across Lagos, especially food items. It also opened a logistics service.

As the lockdown eased across the city and commuting resumed, the company moved 60% capacity while the operational cost remained the same.

Although growth was steady and picking up, the company started seeking external investment. It received $300,000 pre-seed from its parent company, EMFATO and other early-stage investors like Microtraction and Niche Capital in August.

“Plentywaka is getting to a point where we’re now becoming more like an aggregator as we onboard transportation companies on our platform. Interstate travel in Nigeria is data insufficient, and we want to be the first company to solve this.” Ena, co-founder and president of Plentywaka.

In addition to this and the new capital from Techstars, Plentywaka is looking to scale its platform across Africa and North America. Akumah says this global expansion plan will start with a city in Canada, most likely Toronto, on or before Q4 2021.

Sunil Sharma, the managing director of Techstars Toronto, confirmed this to TechCrunch. According to Sharma, Techstars is backing the Nigerian mobility startup because it’s solving a massive problem in Nigeria that can be likened to urban transportation challenges in other populated cities worldwide.

He said, “We know that Western cities have legacy transportation systems. However, there are many transportation challenges, even in a city like Toronto,”

“And we think that Plentywaka’s technology and approach in improving the lives of citizens and their daily commute needs can be brought over to cities in the West just as they are in Africa.

“Cities and towns here should have bus connectivity, but they quite simply don’t have it, and my view is that the arrival of Plentywaka will be an immediate option to the status quo. It will also resonate with people as a way to supplement existing transportation options,”

Techstars’ relationship with Akumah also proved crucial in Plentywaka’s acceptance into the accelerator. A second-time Techstars-backed founder, Akumah co-founded Farmcrowdy, a Nigerian digital agriculture platform in 2016.

Having gone through the accelerator’s Atlanta program four years ago with the agritech startup, Akumah is doing the same with Plentywaka. He doubles as CEO at both companies.

The serial founder said the relationship with Techstars is one reason the company is expanding to Canada instead of neighbouring African countries.

“If the opportunity we have in Toronto right now to expand was similar to what we had in Ghana or South Africa, of course we’ll be having those conversations already. But when we have the support system from Techstars, Sunil, and regulators in Toronto without even putting feet on the ground, I mean that makes it exciting for us to expand to Canada,” the CEO remarked.

Nigerian or African startups, in general, rarely make their way into Canada. Plentywaka is on the verge of doing so, and it will be looking to close a seed round from investors to carry out these expansion plans and further improve its technology.

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E-commerce

eCommerce Payment Transactions to Exceed $7.5 Trillion Globally by 2026, as Omnichannel Retail Momentum Accelerates

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E-commerce - Investors King

A new study from Juniper Research has found that the value of global eCommerce payment transactions will exceed $7.5 trillion by 2026, from $4.9 trillion in 2021. This growth rate of 55% over the next five years will be driven by retailers offering compelling omnichannel retail experiences that increase user eCommerce spend. Omnichannel retail is a model that provides end users with the ability to access retail services, including sales and customer support, via multiple channels.

The new research, eCommerce Payments: Emerging Trends, Opportunities & Market Forecasts 2022-2026, predicts that these channels, including online, mobile and physical retail locations, will be instrumental for future success. This is because users expect the same services to be available irrespective of the channel. Additionally, it found that there are increasing appetites for new payment methods within eCommerce checkouts, including Open Banking-facilitated payments and digital wallet one-click checkout buttons. Accordingly, it recommends that merchants ensure payment options match changing user expectations, or they will be rapidly left behind.

For more insights, download the free whitepaper: Omnichannel and the New eCommerce Payments Experience

Platforms Must Emulate China’s eCommerce Success

The research found that by 2026, China will account for over 37% of global eCommerce payments by transaction value, owing to its established and extensive eCommerce and payments landscape that provides greater convenience for users via easily accessible alternative payment methods.

Additionally, the research recommends prioritising digital wallets, Open Banking facilitated payments and cryptocurrencies to emulate the eCommerce success experienced in China. To do so, it recommends that platform providers partner with specialists in these specific emerging payment areas to keep pace with changing merchant expectations around acceptance types.

Physical Goods Dominate eCommerce Spend

The research forecasts that physical goods will account for 82% of the global eCommerce payments transaction value by 2026. It urges payment providers to support BNPL, an alternative payment method that integrates fixed instalment plans and flexible credit in eCommerce checkout options, to capitalise on the continuing growth of eCommerce due to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.

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Technology

Africa Records Over 1,600 Weekly Cyber Attacks

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An average of 1,615 cyber-attacks has been said to affect organisations in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and other African countries, making the continent the highest victims of the attacks, cybersecurity solutions provider, CheckPoint Software Technologies (CST) says.

The breaches in Africa, according to CST, represent a 15 percent increase from 2020. The firm also disclosed that 2021 recorded a 50 percent rise in overall attacks per week on corporate networks globally, compared to the year before. CST noted that Asia Pacific (APAC) comes second place, with an average of 1,299 weekly attacks per organisation (20 per cent increase), followed by Latin America with an average of 1,117 attacks weekly (37 per cent increase), Europe with 665 (65 per cent increase) and North America with 497 (57 per cent increase).

The sectors which recorded the highest number of cyber-attacks were Education/Research with an average of 1,468 attacks per organisation, each week (increase of 60 per cent from 2020), followed by Government/Military with 1,082 (40 per cent increase) and Healthcare with 752 (55 per cent increase).

CheckPoint stated that one major attack was botnet, launched in 2021. The cybersecurity firm explained that botnet is a network of malware-infected computers that can be wholly-controlled by a single command and control centre operated by a cybercriminal. the network itself, which can be composed of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of computers, is then used to further spread the malware and increase the size of the network.

“The malware type that impacts organisations the most in 2021 is the botnet with an average of over eight per cent organisations being impacted weekly (a nine per cent decrease from 2020), followed by banking malware at 4.6 per cent (a 26 per cent increase) and cryptominer at 4.2 per cent (a 22 per cent decrease), ransomware 1.9 per cent and mobile 1.2 per cent,” CheckPoint said.

Warning organisations, CheckPoint claimed that the increase in multi-vector attacks designed to infect multiple components of an IT infrastructure in 2021, is alarming, adding that such attacks are the biggest challenge facing security practitioners, requiring effective measures to be put in place, such as preventing the attacks before they happen and employing a security architecture that enables and facilitates a single, cohesive protection

The firm advised that all attack surfaces and vectors in the business must be secured via a single solution that provides broad cyber security coverage, particularly in today’s multi-hybrid environment where the perimeter is now everywhere. Organisations are also to segment their networks, and apply strong firewall and intrusion prevention safeguards between the network segments. This, CheckPoint advised, contains infections from propagating across the entire network.

It further stressed that, “While there isn’t a single silver-bullet technology that can protect organisations from all threats and all threat vectors, there are many great technologies available, such as machine learning, sandboxing, anomaly detection, content disarmament, and many more. Each of these technologies can be highly effective in specific scenarios, covering specific file types or attack vectors.”

The cybersecurity experts noted that two important components to consider are threat extraction (file sanitisation) and threat emulation (advanced sandboxing), explaining that each element provides distinct protection. When used together, the threat extraction and emulation offer a comprehensive solution for protection against unknown malware at the network level and directly on endpoint devices.

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Fund Raising

SeamlessHR, Nigerian HR-Tech Startup Secures $10M in Series A Funding Round

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SeamlessHR, a Nigerian-based HR-Tech startup announced it has secured $10 million in a Series A funding round to expand operations to East African countries and surrounding markets.

The funding round was led by TLcom Capital. Other participants are Capria Ventures, Lateral Capital, Enza Capital, Ingressive Capital, and some private investors.

According to the company, the secured fund will take SeamlessHR closer to achieving its vision of helping African businesses become more productive and successful through its cloud-based human resources (HR) and payroll software.

The company also intends to launch products with functionalities around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Human Resources (HR) Data Analytics, this will strengthen the company’s position as Africa’s leading cloud HR and payroll platform.

SeamlessHR CEO, Emmanuel Okeleji said, “We are fanatical about customer success, and this funding will enable us to invest in the continuous optimisation of customer experience across all touchpoints, adding new features and functionalities to empower our customers even more.

Speaking on the new funding and SeamlessHR operations, Andreata Muforo, Partner at TLcom Capital said, “over the last few years, SeamlessHR has consistently demonstrated its ability to deliver a robust HR and payroll platform for Africa’s medium and large businesses”.

“The strong execution shown by Emmanuel and his team is a vital ingredient required to build a successful business, and as they expand their products to include embedded finance and launch their solutions to new markets, we’re proud to partner alongside them and strengthen their push to unlock more value within Africa’s B2B space.

“At TLcom, we believe SeamlessHR can be the preferred platform for businesses to digitise workplaces and support their personnel.”

Will Poole,  co-founder &  managing partner at Capria said, “SeamlessHR is addressing the needs of African enterprises in ways that the global giants can’t compete with by building customer-centric SaaS designed from the ground-up to address complexity unique to the continent.

“Now that they’ve proven they can address the needs of disparate countries across Africa, we are confident that they will be the solution provider of choice to support their customers that are expanding globally.”

SeamlessHR was founded in 2018 by Emmanuel Okeleji (CEO) and Deji Lana (CTO), the company presently has presence in Nigeria and Kenya.

Speaking on future plans, the CEO, Emmanuel Okeleji said, “we are building software solutions to optimize HR now, but in the future, we’ll go to other areas beyond HR. And we are positioned to build a global SaaS company because SaaS products can travel the world faster than, say, fintech. We’re beating global players in our local market and while we are not distracting ourselves now, we know we can play this game globally.”

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