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Nigerian Health Startup, MDaaS Global Raises $2.3M Seed Extension



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Nigerian health startup, MDaaS Global announced the launch of a new health-tech product, SentinelX, and also closed a seed extension round of $2.3 million to scale across Nigeria.

MDaaS, an abbreviation for medical devices-as-a-service, started back in 2016. It operates a network of tech-enabled diagnostic centers across Nigeria. Two years ago, it raised a million-dollar seed round. And in addition to the other investments secured over the last five years, the health-tech startup has raised a total of $3.7 million.

The investors in the round include lead Newtown Partners, who invested via its Imperial Venture Fund, CRI Foundation, and return investors FINCA Ventures, Techstars, and Future Africa.

The idea for MDaaS came when co-founder and CEO Oluwasoga Oni was tasked alongside his classmates at an MIT class to develop an idea that could impact a billion lives. Coming from a medical background, he chose the one he could relate to.

“I wanted to solve the problem close to me and my dad in my early years. He had a 30-bed hospital and struggled so hard to find medical equipment that was good for him and also at a good rate,” he said to TechCrunch.

Oni started MDaaS with Opeyemi Ologun, Genevieve Barnard Oni, and Joseph McCord. With their connections in the U.S., the founders began connecting secondary medical equipment marketplace in the U.S. to Nigeria.

MDaaS diagnostic centers offer a wide range of services. First, there are imaging services such as digital x-ray and ultrasound, cardiac services such as ECG and echo. Then the lab services ranging from chemistry analysis and immunoassay to hematology.

Oni explained how did SentinelX come about, he said it was during the COVID-19 pandemic last year. As MDaaS helped out with testing for COVID in patients, it was also taking time to screen for underlying health conditions.

“We didn’t really find a lot of people that had COVID, but what we found was that a lot of people had underlying conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol that they didn’t know about. So we were really shocked about that.”

So far, MDaaS, the healthcare startup has provided diagnostic services to over 40,000 patients in underserved communities. It has also performed over 80,000 diagnostics tests across cardiology, radiology, neurology, laboratory, and general health checks. Over 750 clinicians use its referral network, and it has locked partnerships with more than 500 health facilities and 10 HMO networks.

Therefore, building SentinelX on the infrastructure already put in place serves as an opportunity to provide more customer-centric products for its users. The platform acts as a personalized care program where patients pay a one-time fee of N35k (~$70) and access a doctor all year round.

At the moment, users can run through a series of tests ranging from 60 or 70 biomarkers to assess individual risk for a wide range of diseases, including cancers, diabetes, kidney disease, and heart diseases. Clinical and family history and demographic data are also taken into consideration as part of the comprehensive analysis. Meanwhile, MDaaS creates a care plan unique to customers should they have health concerns after screening.

SentinelX is currently in private beta. However, the plan is to go live in September 2021. One would argue that $70 for a year might be cheap for this kind of service, Oni concurs but says it’s all about the long game for MDaaS.

“What we’re trying to solve is non-consumption. Most people in Nigeria don’t go for annual screening, which is something meant to be routinely done. Instead, what we tend to have in Nigeria is that people wait till they get sick before going for checkups. By that time, it costs so much money to solve the problem,” Oni echoes on the lackadaisical effort some Nigerians place on their health.

“We have had to get very creative in the way we build things because we target low to middle-income patients. As a result, we’ve needed to customize our diagnostic infrastructure, especially as it relates to costs for the people we serve,” Oni added.

The economic recession has also affected one of MDaaS’ most priced assets: doctors. Brain drain is a major challenge facing the Nigerian health system right now. It has led to a dramatic reduction in the number of Nigerian doctors who leave for a better quality of life and pay, with some reports estimating that over 2,000 doctors leave annually.

“When you hear about it in the news, it seems like a theoretical thing. But for us, it is real because we have staff leaving to go abroad,” the CEO remarked. MDaaS tries to approach the situation by training younger doctors and deploying them to its centers. Still, there’s some commitment play as both parties agree on a period of time the doctor would work with the company.

Per application of funds, MDaaS wants to scale its physical footprint across Nigeria by adding six more diagnostic centers this year. According to Oni, the health-tech startup wants to become one of Nigeria’s three largest diagnostic centers. The CEO also said MDaaS would consider a pan-African expansion to similar countries like Nigeria, although he gave no timeline. But by 2025, the company aims to operate 100 centers across the continent and serve a million patients per year.

Speaking on the news, the managing partner at Newtown Partners, Llew Claasen, said, “Most consumers in sub-Saharan Africa receive suboptimal medical care because of infrastructure gaps, low physician density, delays in diagnostics, and a lack of health data visibility. We think the physical diagnostic infrastructure that MDaaS is building out, coupled with the means to collect data and deliver value-added software services, has the potential to completely change the way that physicians, clinicians, and pharmacists do their jobs and lead to better health outcomes for a huge number of previously underserved consumers.”

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Bank of America, Coinbase Ventures Invested in Paxos’ $300M Funding Round



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Paxos – a provider of blockchain infrastructure – said Bank of America, crypto exchange FTX, Founders Fund and Coinbase Ventures were among a heavyweight list of investors in its $300 million Series D funding round, the firm disclosed on Thursday.

Oak HC/FT led the funding round, which the nine-year-old company announced in late April at a valuation of $2.4 billion. The round also included PayPal Ventures and Mithril Capital, among others. The firm has raised more than $540 million over multiple funding rounds.

The company noted that Bank of America joined the Paxos Settlement Service earlier this year. The platform uses blockchain technology to achieve the same-day settlement of stock trades.

“We’re defining this space and are excited to grow our enterprise solutions besides these market leaders,” Paxos CEO and co-founder Charles Cascarilla said in a press release.

Paxos started providing infrastructure for PayPal’s crypto service last year, which has extended to PayPal’s Venmo payments app. Credit Suisse, fintech Revolut and Societe Generale are among other customers.

In an April interview with CoinDesk, Cascarilla called the latest funding round “confidence capital” that would give customers certainty that Paxos would “be around for the next five to 10 years.”

In a statement, Founders Fund partner Napoleon Ta called Paxos “a trusted operator in blockchain-based financial market infrastructure,” highlighting “its commitment to regulation, reliability and security for enterprises entering digital asset markets.”

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African e-Wallet Startup PayQin Closes €300k Seed Investment Round, Plans To Expand in Africa



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PayQin, a cross-border payment startup that operates a comprehensive e-wallet service for the underbanked in West Africa, is announcing a new €300,000 seed investment round that takes the company’s funding up to $1 million. The company aims to reach one million daily transactions in a year and envisions a single payment area for the West African countries.

PayQin is among the alumni of the Estonia-founded Startup Wise Guys accelerator’s first fintech batch powered by Swedbank. The company is also backed by several business angels and VC companies from the Baltic countries (United Angels VC, Startup Wise Guys), and venture capitalist investors from the US and Africa, including Planet42 co-founder Eerik Oja; and Jānis Krūms, the founder of PlanGrid (acquired by AutoDesk).

Founded in 2017 by Fabrice Amalaman and Pierre-Antoine Sesque, PayQin is driving financial inclusion in Africa’s vast underbanked markets, where the mobile phone penetration is twice the rate of banking access.

PayQin’s customers can store mobile money, use cross-border debit cards, make payments, and manage crypto transactions from a single app.

Launched in the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Senegal, and Mali, which together represent over 22 percent of the people in West Africa, PayQin is moving towards developing a single payment area for West African countries, home to 400 million people. PayQin is the first company in the West-African francophone countries to offer crypto for cross-border payments. The company currently has plans to open the platform to remittances from Europe, making for a large inflow of transactions that totaled $48 billion in Sub-Saharan Africa alone in 2019.

The company is working with Producement, a product engineering company founded by Wise alumni, to enhance the quality of the PayQin platform to a world-class level. The founders have gathered a tight circle of advisers to foster their ambitions. For their growth strategy, the company is advised by Iliana Björling Lindeberg, the head of marketing for Jumia Food and Jumia Travel Africa.

“The Sub-Saharan market is really one of a kind with leapfrogging technology such as mobile money and a young population eager to explore what companies like PayQin have to offer. Since PayQin fills an interesting gap in this space, I’m excited to be a part of their journey. Concepts like this are giving the banks a good run for their money,” Lindeberg commented.

The company is giving out free virtual cards in strategic partnership with Africa’s largest fintech company, Flutterwave, to open small local business owners up to the world of online ads to promote their products and services for increased sales. “We are building a safe and secure environment for online transactions, giving the unbanked access to products and online services that are not available locally,” said Fabrice Amalaman, PayQin cofounder and CEO.

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Seplat Energy’s Subsidiary Westport Oil Raises US$50 Million Offtake Facility



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Seplat Energy Plc, a leading Nigerian independent oil company listed on both Nigerian Exchange Limited and the London Stock Exchange, announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Westport Oil Limited, has successfully raised a US$50 million offtake facility due April 2027.

The oil company disclosed in a statement signed by Mr. Emeka Onwuka, the Chief Financial Officer, Seplate Energy Plc.

According to the company, the US$50 million (offtake facility) is subordinated to the US$100 million senior reserve-based lending facility (the “RBL”).

The initial interest on the offtake facility is Libor + 10.5 percent payable semi-annually and the repayment is scheduled to commence in March 2023.

“The statement reads, Seplat Energy Plc (“Seplat” or the “Company”), a leading Nigerian independent energy company listed on both the Nigerian Exchange Limited and the London Stock Exchange, announces that its wholly owned subsidiary, Westport Oil Limited, has successfully raised a US$50 million offtake linked reserved based lending facility due April 2027 (the “Offtake Facility”).

“The Offtake Facility is subordinated to the US$110 million senior reserve-based lending facility (the “RBL”). The Offtake Facility carries an initial interest of Libor + 10.5% payable semi-annually and is scheduled to commence repayment from March 2023.”

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