African genomics startup 54gene has secured $25M in a Series B round, led by Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund. The round also included participation from Adjuvant Capital, KdT Ventures, Plexo Capital, Endeavor Capital, Ingressive Capital and others. This round brings the company’s total investment to date to more than $45M since being founded in 2019.
The new capital raised will be deployed to expand 54gene’s capabilities in sequencing, target identification and validation, and precision medicine clinical trials enabling drug discovery in Africa for both Africans and the global population. The new capital will also enable the company to begin its expansion across the African continent.
Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, CEO, 54gene, commented: “It’s truly incredible to witness the impact of African scientists in global research, and it is critical to global health that this continues. We want to scale our contribution to global drug discovery by extensively developing life science capabilities on the continent, and this additional capital will catalyse our endeavours.”
Dr Ene-Obong continued: “In this round, we have brought in partners that keep us true to our mission of equalising healthcare and who can help us replicate our success throughout Africa. We believe the world will benefit from an African global drug discovery company that leverages the deep insights found in genomics research in diverse populations and ensures true equity for the African population. It’s exciting to see our company shift into the next gear as it targets becoming one of the top global companies in genomics research.”
54gene will also be expanding its genomics and molecular diagnostics division across Africa, ensuring that African patients get access to accurate diagnostics and enabling the application of precision medicine in the clinical setting throughout the continent. To lead this new business unit, the company has brought in Michelle Ephraim as General Manager Diagnostics Pan-Africa. Michelle has held various sales leadership roles across Africa for Leica Biosystems, PerkinElmer, and Merck Millipore.
Yassine Oussaifi, Partner at Cathay AfricInvest, commented: “As a pioneer in genomics and precision medicine in Nigeria, 54gene has built a unique health technology platform leveraging African resources to unlock scientific discoveries for the benefit of African and global communities. At Cathay AfricInvest Innovation, we’re dedicated to backing innovative, inclusive solutions that connect African technology and research with global innovation ecosystems to help them scale. 54gene works across drug discovery, molecular diagnostics and clinical trials, boosting access and affordability of various healthcare solutions that will positively impact worldwide. We look forward to working with the 54gene team on their development on the continent and beyond.”
Wicrypt, Nigerian Wi-Fi Sharing Startup Secures $1.5M Funding For Expansion
A Nigerian blockchain-based Wi-Fi sharing startup, Wicrypt, has raised US$1.5 million in a strategic funding round to help it expand operations into new countries.
Wicrypt is a decentralized mobile internet sharing and monetization network that allows anyone to earn money by sharing their Wi-Fi with others. Users can either download the Wicrypt software and deliver Wi-Fi from their mobile device or purchase a one-of-a-kind Wicrypt Hotspot Creator device.
Wi-Fi providers can customize their customers’ experiences using the Wicrypt dashboard, which includes surveys, ads, and data collection. Wicrypt-enabled devices are all represented by one-of-a-kind NFTs linked to the blockchain. While users using WiFi pay Wicrypt hosts, Wicrypt also rewards hosts with its native coin, $WNT, for having high device uptime.
In 2018, the startup launched in Africa, signing an exclusive agreement to supply internet service to the inhabitants of Enugu, Nigeria. It became profitable in 2020 after being bootstrapped by its founder, and it has now acquired US$1.5 million in investment to help it go even further.
The round was led by AU21 Capital, with participation from Polygon founder Sandeep Nailwal, Inclusion Capital, Outlier Ventures, Chain Capital, Pluto Digital Assets, Onega Ventures, N7 Labs, Cardano and PolkaFoundary.
“While we have formed substantial business partnerships in Africa, this funding allows us to grow into new countries by increasing our marketing efforts,” said Ugochukwu Aronu, chief executive officer (CEO) of Wicrypt.
“Wicrypt is providing last-mile internet to people of the world who need it while leveraging the blockchain by having hosts stake $WNT to become a part of the Wicrypt Network. This ensures overall security of the network and that host do not perform malicious actions while providing internet connections to clients.”
Wicrypt is offering people the option to access the internet in locations where Wi-Fi can be highly expensive and unattainable for many people, according to Nailwal, who added that investing in a profitable company was unusual in the blockchain world.
“By empowering people to share their Wi-Fi and make money, they are making this a win-win situation for all involved, particularly in remote regions where large internet companies are not incentivised to provide coverage,” he said.
E-commerce Startup Sendbox Raises $1.8M to Digitise Deliveries for African SMEs
Sendbox, the Nigeria-based e-commerce fulfilment platform for merchants in Africa, has announced the completion of a $1.8 million seed round from investors, including 4DX Ventures, Enza Capital, FJLabs and Golden Palm Investments.
With participation from Flexport and YC Combinator as part of its 2021 winter cohort, Sendbox’s total investment raised has now reached $2 million following a pre-seed round from Microtraction and 4DX Ventures in 2018.
Starting with logistics and fulfilment, Sendbox is building the operating system for e-commerce in Africa. Launched in 2018, the company provides affordable access to local and international delivery options for small-scale merchants selling on e-commerce and social media platforms. Accessible to iOS and Android users, via the web application, on Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram and other e-commerce platforms, and through developer APIs, Sendbox is providing a single location to manage both local deliveries and international shipments to the EU, UK, US and Canada.
To date, over 10,000 Nigerian SMEs have sent 200,000 products through Sendbox, saving on average 30-40 percent per item by eliminating the need to work with separate logistics providers. Through its delivery management platform, which aggregates logistics providers and enables tracking, the company also offers a solution for merchants who lack the high volumes required to attract discounted delivery fees.
The next stage of the company’s growth will see a move towards financing & payments, followed by e-commerce & marketplace integrations across West Africa and further afield. According to the company, the new funding will be used to expand the company’s operations in other countries across West Africa, bolster the development of its product range, and hire new talent.
Commenting on Sendbox’s fundraise and growth ambitions, Emotu Balogun, CEO and Co-Founder of Sendbox said, “No matter where in the world customers are, we want African SMEs to be able to reach them.” He continues, “Deliveries in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Ibadan have made up a large proportion of business for our domestic merchants. On top of that, affordable access to the UK, EU, US, and Canada has created an opportunity to sell products to hundreds of millions of previously unreachable buyers. With this fund, we aim to support more and more SMEs and help them grow both locally and internationally, scaling alongside them as we connect African merchants with a global community of consumers.”
“African e-commerce is accelerating faster than anybody could have imagined a decade ago, and it needs smart solutions to ensure that logistics and fulfilment capacity doesn’t lag behind,” said Walter Baddoo, Co-Founder and General Partner at 4DX Ventures. “Not only were we impressed by Sendbox’s 300 percent year-on-year growth since launch, but we’re seeing the market potential balloon with over 40 million Nigerian SMEs and a projected industry value for social and e-commerce reaching $45 billion on the continent by 2025.”
Prolific mobile penetration on the continent, the rise of social media and knock-on impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted additional momentum towards e-commerce and social commerce, doubling monthly revenues for Sendbox since March 2020.
Made in Africa products are now in higher demand across local and international markets. With 200 million Instagram users and 1 million Instagram businesses in Nigeria alone, Sendbox is well-positioned to serve this growing market and multiply its merchant count over the coming months.
Flutterwave Eyes $3 Billion Valuation Ahead of Another Fundraising
Flutterwave, one of Nigeria’s tech unicorns, is presently in talks to raise an additional fund at a valuation of $3 billion or even more, according to a Bloomberg post.
The figure would triple Flutterwave’s last valuation of $1 billion.
Operating from both Lagos, Nigeria and San Francisco, US, Flutterwave held discussions with potential investors recently, the people familiar with the ongoing discussions stated. They explained that terms of funding are yet to be finalised and that it is likely to change.
The talks were led by the company Chief Executive Officer Olugbenga Agboola. In March, the company announced it has hits unicorn status after raising $170 million in a round led by Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger Global Management LLC. Other investors were DST Global, Greycroft, Insight Partners and Salesforce Ventures.
In the same March, the company announced a partnership with Paypal Inc. to enable its global customers to pay African merchants using Flutterwave’s platform.
Founded in 2016, Flutterwave facilitates cross-border transactions across Africa for companies including Facebook Inc., Uber Technologies Inc. and Booking.com. As of March, the startup said it had processed more than 140 million transactions worth over $9 billion in aggregate and that its revenue had risen at a compound annual growth rate of 225 percent between 2018 and 2020.
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