Bankly, a fintech startup that focused on digitizing cash for the Nigerian unbanked population, announced it has raised $2 million in a seed round.
“The first phase is building agent networks which is good but that’s not the goal,” CEO Adejana stated. “Just in the same way mobile inclusion happened, you need to then focus on acquiring customers who, after transferring cash to their mobile accounts, use it to buy airtime or make payments. We call that the three-phase process. The distribution first, then focusing on the consumer, after that full digitization. This is how we reach financial inclusion.”The fintech startup operates like a traditional bank with fewer revenue, assets, customers and operational costs. However, because Bankly does not spend a lot on acquiring customers and building physical presences like Kuda Bank, it can pass those costs to customers as interest and still report decent margins going forward.
The company presently has 15,000 agents across the country, up from 2,000 in 2020.
Speaking on finding investors, Adejana said “We’ve had to be patient to make sure that we were talking to people who deeply understand the problem and are passionate about solving it and are not about getting returns as soon as possible,” she said.
The seed round was led by Vault, the holding company of VANSO, a fintech that was sold to Interswitch in 2016, Plug and Play Ventures, Rising Tide Africa and Chrysalis Capital.
“Given our over twenty years experience in Nigeria’s fintech industry and previous exits, we strongly believe that Bankly understands the nuanced needs of this market — not to mention the team, strategy, and technology — to succeed in bringing affordable financial services to the unbanked. We are delighted to participate in this financing round as Bankly moves into its next growth stage,” Idris Alubankudi Saliu, partner at Vault said.
According to Adejana, the startup plans to grow its customer base to 2 million unbanked Nigerians in the next three years. She explained that the goal is to deepen the Central Bank of Nigeria’s goal of increasing people in the financial system from 60 percent to 80 percent by 2025.
“We’re thrilled to have closed this milestone fundraise and to have such seasoned fintech investors who understand the market join us on this journey to bank Nigeria’s unbanked. Now we have built the agent network and are poised to serve customers directly via offline and online channels. Partnerships, collaboration, and a deep understanding of the needs of the unbanked will be vital to our success,” said Adejana.
Agricorp Raises $17.5M To Boost Africa Food System
Nigerian startup Agricorp, which is utilizing technology in a bid to become the largest spices exporter on the continent, has raised US$17.5 million in Series A funding to help it increase its production capacity to 7,000 metric tonnes.
Founded in 2018 by Kenneth Obiajulu and Wale Omotimirin, Agricorp has so far supported over 5,000 smallholder farmers with inputs and training on good agronomic practices and built a 0.5MT/hour spice processing plant in Kaduna that produces value-added products for the export market.
The startup has developed proprietary technology, Farmbase, that registers, aggregates, and pays farmers for produce sold. In a market where farmers are largely undocumented and unbanked, Agricorp collates data that can help provide detailed analysis for stakeholders to make informed agricultural decisions and also helps with traceability of all farmer activities from the need for farm input to disbursement to sales of products and, eventually, payment. Financial institutions can also use this information to provide loans, credit facilities, and insurance to interested parties.
It is now seeking greater scale and impact and has therefore raised a US$17.5 million Series A round. The Nigeria-based Vami led the funding round with US$11.5 million in equity, while One Capital LLC and AFEX provided working capital financing for the company.
The funding will be used to expand Agricorp’s spices processing capacity to hit 7,000MT per annum, set up regional sales operations in South Africa and East Africa, acquire certifications for food safety and hygiene, increase staff strength to meet growing demand, and improve marketing efforts.
“We believe that by increasing our capacity to 7,000MT, we will maximise the potential to boost Nigeria’s forex earnings through export, contribute our quota to improving the Nigerian GDP from agriculture, and serve as a worthy model to African youths who aspire to be agribusiness owners. We want to show them it is possible and very rewarding as well,” said Obiajulu, Agricorp’s chief executive officer (CEO).
AgriCorp’s founders raised US$330,000 in seed capital back in 2018 to get the company started, and One Capital has previously invested an undisclosed amount in convertible notes to help it scale operations. The company has also raised several debt notes to meet its working capital requirements for buying raw materials from farmers within its network.
Since its launch – less than 3 years – the company has supported over 5,000 smallholder farmers. The company also says it has grown its revenue by over 585% to service global clients in the food processing and pharmaceutical industry.
Obiajulu, who is also the co-founder of One Capital, said Agricorp was intentional about choosing the right funding partners for this round.
“We wanted strategic partners that would allow us to grow our business and impact, not just see us as a portfolio in their investment mix.” He added.
According to Lead Investors, Vami Nigeria, they led the funding round because they saw in the startup a clear growth path, strong social impact, solid financials, and global collaborations with key partners. Most importantly, “the unrivaled depth of knowledge, passion, and resilience of the Agricorp team.”
“We have transacted with Agricorp on several occasions and have seen the business grow over time. Now, we are committed to providing the working capital they require, through our investment arm, to scale their operations at any level,” Samirah Ade-Adebiyi, Managing Director at AFEX, said in a statement.
Investors Flock Ibadan, Pours $10.5M Into Ecommerce Startup Alerzo
The majority of startup investments in Nigeria are centered in Lagos, the country’s main commercial hub. However, investors appear to be increasing trust in Nigeria’s other cities, following the relative success of firms such as Safeboda and Gokada, among others, after they were pursued from Lagos in the now-famous ban on bike-hailing activities. The new investment in Alerzo, a B2B e-commerce retail startup based in Ibadan, Nigeria, has further confirmed reality.
Alerzo has announced that it has raised $10.5 million in a Series A round led by Nosara Capital of London. The round also included FJ Labs and various family offices from the United States, Europe, and Asia, including Michael Novogratz’s.
“Growing up in Ibadan, I watched my mother operate two informal retail stores to raise my three siblings and me. Seeing the many challenges she faced running her stores, and I decided to start a business that uniquely catered to the needs of retailers just like her,” said Adewale Opaleye, founder and CEO of Alerzo.
Alerzo has raised more than $20 million in total since its inception. The Baobab Network, a London-based Africa-focused accelerator, and Signal Hill, a Singapore-based fund manager that invested in the company’s $5.5 million seed round last year, are among the early investors. In order to better serve its customers, the company has also announced the closing of a $2.5 million working capital facility.
Alerzo claims to have a network of up to 100,000 small enterprises, 90 percent of which are run by women. Ibadan, Ekiti, and Abeokuta, to name a few, are among the tier-2 to tier-4 cities in Southwest Nigeria that the company serves solely. It connects retailers with consumer brands including Unilever, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Dangote, and PZ, as well as local and multinational distributors.
Also, Approximately one-third of Alerzo’s total retailers use the platform on a monthly basis. Retailers may order products via SMS, phone, or WhatsApp, and have them delivered to their stores in less than 10 hours, according to the company’s website. The startup also claims to have processed over 1 million orders in 2020.
Alerzo was launched in 2018 by Adewale Opaleye as a last-mile distribution network that assists shops in receiving merchandise directly from producers. Its mission, which began in 2019, is to assist street sellers and retailers in Nigeria’s south-western cities in obtaining household products more quickly and efficiently.
According to the founder, Ibadan was the best location for the company’s headquarters because informal shops in the region face more obstacles than those in Lagos.
To process these orders, Alerzo owns and controls its full-stack tech-driven supply chain and logistics. Suppliers can use the company for warehousing and fulfillment, and informal retailers can use it for storefront delivery. To serve its hundreds of customers, it currently possesses approximately 200 cars and 20 warehouses.
SoftBank Makes First Africa Bet on OPay at $2B Valuation After 400M Funding
SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led a $400 million funding round for OPay, valuing the Nigerian mobile payments platform at $2 billion and marking the investment vehicle’s first bet in Africa.
Also participating in the round were Sequoia Capital China, DragonBall Capital, the venture arm of Chinese food-delivery giant Meituan, Redpoint China, Source Code Capital, SoftBank Ventures Asia and 3W Capital, according to OPay.
“We want to be the power that helps emerging markets reach a faster economic development,” OPay Chief Executive Officer Yahui Zhou said in an emailed statement.
The company’s technology is designed to replace cash and other legacy payment methods, helping local governments “improve financial and information security,” according to OPay. Founded in 2018, the company’s monthly transaction volumes exceed $3 billion. In addition to expanding in other African countries, OPay is focused on the Middle East as well, it said.
“We believe our investment will help the company extend its offering to adjacent markets and replicate its successful business model in Egypt and other countries in the region,” said Kentaro Matsui, a SoftBank Group Corp. managing director and former managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, which oversees Vision Fund and Vision Fund 2.
OPay previously counted ride-hailing and logistics services as part of its offerings. Last year, OPay closed its ride-hailing and bike-sharing businesses following a government ban and the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Norway’s Opera Ltd., which counts Zhou as its chairman and co-CEO, said in June that it sold 29% of its stake in OPay, recording a $31.1 million gain. Zhou is the billionaire founder of Kunlun Tech Co., which last year sold dating app Grindr under U.S. regulatory pressure due to national-security concerns.
Earlier this month, SoftBank’s billionaire founder Masayoshi Son said he’d begin to invest personally alongside Vision Fund 2, to which SoftBank has committed $40 billion.
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