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Versus Africa Raises $850k in Pre-seed Round to Encourage African Entry for Businesses

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Africa presents a $2.1 trillion consumer spending market for businesses seeking to explore new opportunities for their products and services. Enabling businesses to enter the continent is Versus Africa, a consumer insights platform, that has today announced a $850k pre-seed capital fundraise as it scales operations to support companies in Africa and around the world as they launch their products and services across Africa. 

A Techstars 2019 cohort start-up, Versus Africa helps brands get closer to their consumers by obtaining key insights and helping them make better business decisions. Versus combines online and offline consumer data to give brands actionable and competitive insights for the African market. Versus counts brands such as Pizza Hut, Vodacom among others and has partnered with several global agencies including R/GA to support their campaigns.

The Versus Africa platform improves the go-to market strategy and approach of businesses selling in the continent. Through their unique African language sentiment analysis, the technology captures consumer insights using online (social listening and online brand tracking) and offline data trends (conducting in-person surveys through several thousand local scouts) to help brands inform, engage and adapt their product and service strategies. They ‘listen’ (for sentiment, trends and feedback) and then ‘ask’ (for opinions, about behaviours and motivations) to offer a complete insights package for businesses.

Kemdi Ebi, CEO and Co-Founder of Versus commented: “We’ve purposely built our tool to help businesses “’listen” and ”ask” the African consumer to get true engagement and actionable insights. We’re helping them make sense of the thoughts and opinions of African consumers from varying backgrounds. For those who speak in different African languages and slang, we’re able to accurately identify sentiment, trends and opportunities when we “listen” online. With real-time market research and unique patented tools that translate the complexity of local languages and cultures, Versus offers actionable insights to businesses that want to make their African market entry or continuing existence a success.”

The complex nature of the continent with multiple languages, varying socio-political communities and cultural nuances means it has long been difficult for companies to be successful across multiple countries. Versus Africa offers a fresh lens into the market opportunity with their unique and dynamic research approach.

“We have blended technology with boots on the ground to offer the purest insights to companies using Versus Africa. For the first time, businesses near and far are able to make better decisions on their product strategy in the continent. We are particularly excited because as we scale further, we are in pole position to be the go-to homegrown solution for easy, flexible and accurate research for the plethora of new local businesses cropping up across the continent” added Kemdi Ebi.

Commenting on investing in Versus Africa, the MD of Techstars London Eamonn Carey said: “For the longest time, it’s been apparent that there is huge potential in markets throughout Africa – but one of the big challenges has always been getting real, detailed, granular data about users, habits, opinions and more. The Versus Africa platform helps local, regional and global brands get real, meaningful answers to their questions – helping them launch, grow and scale more effectively across the continent. I was incredibly impressed by the team, the tech and the vision they had to use a combo of tech and people to gather an incredible dataset for their customers.”

Various global research businesses have reported on Africa’s macro trends and geo-political events. Before Versus, there have been few that have achieved true regional and local market insights for businesses to make informed decisions.

“How many Africans own and operate research in Africa? Not many. Africa deserves a local intelligence research edge born from within. There have been international research agencies and insights tools that have tried to explore Africa but only from a distant and macro lens, now, for the first time businesses will get true local insights to help them enter key markets across the continent. I hope our launch and growth propels more like-minded tech-focussed Africans to help grow this research industry” concluded Kemdi Ebi.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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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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Fund Raising

Bolt Secures $711M To Expand Transport and Food Delivery Operations, Valuation Hits $8.4 Billion

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Bolt, Estonia ride-hailing startup, has secured $711 million or €628 million funds from investors to expand its transportation and food delivery operations. The new funding pushes Bolt’s valuation to $8.4 billion or €7.4 billion from over $4.5 million or €4 billion it was valued in August 2020 when it raised $679 million or €600 million in funding.

According to the company, the secured fund will be used to expand operations to new cities/countries, onboard more customers on its super app and new line businesses such as its 15 minutes grocery delivery options.

Participants of the fund round are, Sequoia Capital, Fidelity Management and Research Company LLC, Whale Rock, Owl Rock (a division of Blue Owl), D1, G Squared, Tekne, Ghisallo, and other unnamed backers investors.

Markus Villig, the founder and CEO of Bolt in an interview, said, “we are expanding all the five product lines extremely quickly, developing product R&D and rolling out in new cities”. He affirmed that all the company’s business units are growing, the ride-hailing business “is seeing double-digit growth,” and the new businesses are growing even faster.

Compared to 75 million customers reported in August, Bolt now has more than 100 million customers in over 400 cities in 49 countries subscribed to its services.

Speaking on the challenges the company faced at the advent of COVID-19, Markus said there were “short-term fluctuations” in demand, however, Bolt launched a strategy to attract and keep drivers by focusing on better commission between 10 percent and 20 percent better than competitors.

“There is a massive lack of supply on these platforms, so we have focused on taking the most partner-friendly lowest commission,” he said.

Speaking on the company’s expansion to developed countries, Markus said, “We started off in Eastern Europe and Africa because those markets had a bigger need. They had lower car ownership, higher unemployment [making for a market with many freelance drivers], It made sense. But now we’ve learned that this model works everywhere, and it’s actually easier to grow in Western Europe because they are developed markets. We found if you can make this model work in really cheap, frugal markets, then once you go to London or Stockholm, it’s materially easier. And the unit economics are definitely better because the prices are higher.”

Andrew Reed, a partner at Sequoia said, “We’re excited to deepen our partnership with Markus and Bolt to further their mission to make urban travel affordable, sustainable and safe. At Sequoia, we believe in the global potential for technology and entrepreneurship and have been inspired by Bolt’s growth from Tallinn, Estonia to over 400 cities and 100 million customers across Europe and Africa. We’re eager to help them expand their footprint, increase their product offering and improve the quality of life in cities for the long term.”

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Fund Raising

Nigerian Debt Recovery Startup, Bfree Raises 1.7M Pre-Series A Funding To Drive Growth and Expansion

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Bfree, a Nigerian Debt Recovery startup that leverages ethics and technology to lead customers out of debt has secured $1.7 million in Pre-seed funding to drive growth and expand operations across Africa and other continents.

4Di Capital, Octerra Capital, VestedWorld, Voltron Capital, Logos Ventures, and other angel investors participated in the Pre-series A fund round. So far, Bfree has raised a total sum of $2.5 million in funding, this included the $800,000 raised in a seed round in May 2021.

According to the company, the unsatisfied approach on the credit collection options and constant humiliation of customers is one of the problems Bfree is solving. The company’s co-founder and CEO Julian Flosbach said, “inefficiency and lack of transparency of collections are not unique challenges to digital lenders and also not peculiar to Nigeria. We see significant use cases among other customer verticals with digital products such as commercial and microfinance banks, embedded finance solutions, like buy-now-pay-later, credit cards, and even tax payments at some point. Basically, everywhere where value is owed, our solutions can be deployed. Here, we also don’t just build a solution for Nigeria, but a solution that can be potentially used in every emerging market with a challenging infrastructure for collections”.

Bfree was founded in 2020 by Juliana Flosbach Co-founder/CEO, Chukwudi Enyi co-founder/COO, and Moses Nmor co-founder/CPO.

Following the fund raised, Bfree plans to embark on massive recruitment as it expands to new markets in Ghana, India, Uganda, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Russia, Poland, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

Speaking on the company’s expansion, Julian said, “We are going into markets with large populations, credit deepening and an underdeveloped regulatory environment, where a behavioral collection approach is likely to work.

“We saw that there was like a little bit of a breach in the value proposition of lenders — they are good at giving out loans, but the aftersales services of the credit market didn’t work as collections processes were inefficient and not user friendly.”

Bfree currently handles over 800,000 customers compared to 300,000 customers the company reported in May 2021.

Yohan Theatre, Bfree head of decision sciences & financial engineering said, “Lenders in the U.S. or in Europe have the opportunity to sell significant chunks of their debt portfolios to third parties. This means they only carry a portion of the risk of the loans they issue. In emerging markets, this is typically not the case. Lenders have to carry the entire credit risk on their own. A key driver for this difference lies in higher transaction costs and contractual uncertainties.

“The arrival of DeFi (decentralized finance) is a game-changer: transaction costs can be slashed while contractual certainty is increased by smart contracts. These are some of the risk-sharing instruments that we are now actively providing to lenders and borrowers”.

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