5 of the Leading Fintech Startups Supported by Techstars

Financial technology, commonly referred to as fintech, has the power to boost African economies. The continent, as of 2015, still runs predominantly on a cash system. However, the growing use of mobile devices, which far surpasses the number of existing bank accounts, opens up opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop a payment service. Such a service could address challenges, like sending money to relatives, and also make it convenient to do so from any location and at any time of day.

In support of the fintech movement, Techstars launched its partnership with Barclays Accelerator in Cape Town in 2016. Unlike other opportunities that focus a great deal on South African startups, the 13-week program welcomed applicants from all over Africa. The following are among those that made the first cohort:

1. Social Lender

social lender logoAn extension of Sterling Bank and serving members only within the financial institution’s social media communities, Nigeria-based Social Lender evaluates a person’s social reputation score to determine eligibility for lending quick cash. Scores, determined by social credit officers, represent the length of time a person has been actively involved in the bank’s social network and the quantity of information he or she shares on social media platforms, among other factors. Members can request funds through the Social Lender Platform, which is supported by Facebook and Twitter. Depending on the person, requests upwards of 10,000 Naira are obtainable, though transaction fees do apply. If approved, he or she will receive funds through their existing banking channels. Repayments are equally as easy: the amount must be returned within 30 days. Social Lender eases the process by accepting multiple types of payment options, including mobile money transfers and transactions made at a brick-and-mortar financial institution.

2. iNuka Pap

Headquartered in Kenya, iNuka Pap was named a Spark* Changemaker in 2015 and a Sinapis Fast Track Fellow in 2014. The organization, led by chief executive officer and insurance sales veteran Waweru Kuria, offers financial support to savings and credit cooperative (SACCO) members and microfinance institutions. The company serves those in need of funds to cover hardships. The microloans, available as cash advances, are accessible through the company’s mobile app, but require a daily minimum contribution of $0.02 by its users. In addition to iNuka Pap cash advances, the startup helps people gain access to emergency power and airtime advances as well as micro-insurance services. All are available instantly.

3. bimaAFYA

bimAFYA logoCatering to the underserved population, Tanzanian company bimaAFYA leverages its relationship with EdgePoint to help people obtain micro-health insurance. Its company operates solely over mobile devices and uses automated systems to walk people through steps, such as registering for services, paying insurance premiums, adding dependents, and selecting coverage options. The self-serve approach begins with a call to the company at *150*57#. After successfully registering, the insured will receive a bimaAFYA number through short message service (SMS), also known as text messaging. From there, the number must be presented at health care facilities accepting bimaAFYA insurance, along with a formal identification card bearing the person’s name and photo, to receive service. The health care provider is responsible for verifying insurance, providing care, and sending billing information to the company to obtain payment.

4. WizzPass

Easing entry and exit to parking garages throughout South Africa, WizzPass is a mobile app that eliminates the need for tickets, access cards, and biometrics. Instead, tenant parking management companies use the app to give people codes that must be entered each time they access or leave a facility. The app does not require an Internet connection and instead uses Bluetooth technology. The result is a more secure and user-friendly system that saves management companies money while delivering real-time visitor and tenant data. WizzPass also expects its service, which is a form of cashless payment that charges fees directly to a credit card rather than requiring a person to input money, to alleviate parking pains for tenants and business professionals as well as consumers heading to a shopping mall to buy goods. Its CEO, Bradley Hornby, aims to expand the cashless service into other areas, like gas stations and vending machines, in the future.

5. SimbaPay

simbapay logoOperating on a mobile app, SimbaPay is available through the Apple and Android app stores. The DigiCert-secure app is a registered party in the European Union, and the company is considered a payment institution by the Financial Conduct Authority and maintains membership with the Association of UK Payment Institutions. It has been recognized by notable media organizations, including Forbes, the BBC, Daily Nation, and Business Day.

SimbaPay enables people to make instant deposits into mobile money and bank accounts in Kenya and Nigeria. Mobile money transactions require M-PESA, a mobile money transfer service that serves millions of people. Money transfers are available between 10 to 5,000 pounds at no cost, and identification processes are completed entirely through the app. Users do not have to worry about their information being stored, as SimbaPay’s policy is never to keep credit or debit card data on its servers.

sales pitch

How to Perfect a Startup Pitch

A pitch is a critical step in garnering financial backing for a startup. An effective pitch must be concise, easy to understand, passionate, and well rehearsed. However, you may receive only three minutes to share your concept, depending on the platform. Make the most of your time by considering these factors when building your pitch:

Know Your Audience

vinyl recordsFight the urge to talk about yourself at the beginning. Despite being the brains and leader behind your startup, investors are looking to be sold to and convinced that your business model is worth their time and money. In that respect, kick off your pitch by talking to audiences about your venture and how it solves a consumer problem. Share the critical nature of your business product or service and why it is worth an investment. Anticipate their questions and prepare answers that they will respond to positively.

Do not forget to include the logistics of how you intend to deliver your product or service to a specific demographic, as well as the type of consumers you wish to reach. For example, if you sell shirts displaying “nerdy” messages and graphics, your pitch should highlight a consumer profile that includes people ranging in age from 13 to 50, fans of science fiction and comic books, and people with limited discretionary funds.

Create a Value Proposition

Investors wants to know the main point of your business, so you must develop a compelling value proposition. A value proposition tells the public what product or service you provide and how it is unique compared to others of similar nature. To build an effective value proposition, Forbes recommends defining the issue you intend to solve and making sure it is worth the effort, then determining if your solution is gripping enough to draw in investors. You will know it is if your product or service shows innovation, creates a competitive advantage, and yields significant returns that can scale a business.

You also want to take into consideration how user friendly your product or service is. The goal is to have the amount of gain, which includes revenue, cost savings, and time invested, outweigh the pain of purchasing and using your product and service. Ideally, the gain should outweigh pain by 10 times.

With this information, develop a value proposition to explain why your company beats competitors. Answer for who the product or service is for, which competitors are not meeting consumer needs, what your product or service is, how it answers buyers’ problems, and what alternative will not effectively achieve the same results.

Talk about Traction

shoppingWhile there were once many websites similar to Groupon, the latter earned millions in support by venture capitalists because it demonstrated solid traction. Traction is a good indication of how your product or service will perform in its respective market. In a perfect scenario, you will be able to show that there is high consumer demand for your particular offering. For online traction, you should develop a strong brand that attracts attention. Make a video that explains your product or service and how it works. This can be touted across the Internet, making the public more aware of your startup.

Gain media attention by becoming an expert in your field and presenting yourself as such. Early research can help you identify a trend that reporters may find interesting. Pitch the trend to them. If selected for an article, leverage the opportunity to highlight your company with a quote. Be careful, however, that the topic is applicable to a wide audience; reporters are more likely to invest media efforts in a story that appeals to more people.

More traditional ways of sharing traction are reports indicating financial gains and company growth. Provide potential investors with information about your consumers, partnerships made, quantities of retailers selling your product or service, and consumer conversions. You can also share details about the evolution of your company and how you took a product or service from alpha testing to launch.

Highlight Your Support Team

Investors want to know about the talent behind your company. Build a solid management team and workforce that can support the business’ growth. Be selective in who you choose, so when you are ready to pitch your concept to venture capitalists you can proudly share their backgrounds, along with how they have improved and will benefit your startup. It is important to convince others of good team chemistry.

Discussion of your team should also include information about endorsements. Endorsements from others, such as advisors, illustrates credibility and legitimacy. Further, promoting existing financial support will establish your business’ solidity. As a whole, being able to explain the success of your startup, thus far, with the team and support you have in place will make investors believe in your value as a business owner, recruiter, and salesperson.


9 of the Most Notable Female Entrepreneurs in Africa

Considered “change makers” by Lionesses of Africa, an organization supporting and showcasing the talents of female business owners, these nine entrepreneurs are dedicated to positively influencing the lives of African citizens.

Achenyo Idachaba

Achenyo Idachaba
Image courtesy Ted Conference | Flickr

The founder of MitiMeth, Achenyo Idachaba rids Nigerian waterways of hyacinth plants, a weed that plagues more than 20 states and disrupts ecosystems. Through MitiMeth, the plants, as well as other “agro-waste” and “non-timber” resources, are harvested by artisans to handcraft functional home products.

The items, which include tissue holders, ottomans, dinnerware, baskets, and vases, are then sold. In addition to creating more job opportunities in Africa, her company ensures present and future generations can enjoy undisturbed local waterways.

Sue Barnes

Sue Barnes established Subz, a company that supplies washable sanitary pads and undergarments to girls and young women throughout South Africa. She started the venture following a request to donate her products to females in an underserved area. Since founding Subz and patenting the idea, she has made it possible for girls to continue their education during menstruation, rather than missing up to three months of schooling each year.

Her product, which consists of panties with clips that make it easy to switch out sanitary pads, lasts five years and is given free of charge to recipients. Sue Barnes also uses her product to disburse valuable information on the female reproductive organs.

Judith Owigar

A recipient of the Anita Borg Change Agent Award, Judith Owigar was more recently named an International Focus Fellow. In an effort to grow women’s presence in the technology sector, she founded Akirachix in Kenya. The non-profit organization offers outreach programs as well as kid camps and community-building platforms that encourage more female participation in tech-related professions.

Additionally, Judith Owigar’s organization hosts training programs for women in Nairobi. Targeting those from underserved areas, the course admits 30 participants annually and educates women about programming, design, and entrepreneurship. Mentorship and internships are included.

Lydia Hakizimana

Owner of Drakkar Ltd, Lydia Hakizimana focuses on increasing literacy rates in the country of Rwanda. She founded the company in 2006 and works to establish libraries in health care and educational institutions that provide free books to children. Lydia Hakizimana’s non-profit partners with textbook distributor Pearson to supply books at the nursery, primary, secondary, and higher education levels.

Additionally, the company sells school laboratory equipment to support science programs. Among services offered through Drakkar Ltd are teacher trainings and Drakkar Creativity Boost, an initiative that utilizes creative exercises and games to enhance critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Christie Peacock

Sidai Africa founder Christie Peacock leveraged her expertise in agriculture and livestock research and development into a service that helps Kenyan pastoralists and farmers maximize the care of their animals. This allows them to have a stable form of income and feed their families. Her company forms Sidai centers throughout Kenya.

The centers, a franchise, are staffed by livestock technicians, veterinarians, and other professionals in the agricultural sector to educate farmers about raising animals and to provide farmers with products to support their animals’ health. Christie Peacock has a goal of introducing additional products and services, which will consist of diagnostic tests, livestock insurance, vaccines, and feeds, in the future.

Juanita van der Merwe

In 2011, Juanita van der Merwe registered Little Green Number as a business. The marketing arm of Waste2Wow, the company promotes recycling billboards made of PVC and non-degradable material into fashionable and functional products. Juanita van der Merwe’s goal is to eliminate waste to preserve the planet’s health, all while creating jobs and reducing poverty among black women. With a goal of becoming a profitable commercial brand, Juanita van der Merwe and her team look to sell funky purses and bags worldwide as a registered exporter.

Shona McDonald

With history dating back to 1992, Shonaquip is led by Shona McDonald. Ms. McDonald is the first woman to establish and head a wheelchair business in Africa. Winner of the Cape Chamber of Commerce Exporter of the Year Award, she helps people with disabilities gain mobility through the use of wheelchairs and posture management systems. As a result, their quality of life is improved.

To ensure her products products meet the needs of users, she provides professional assessments, fittings, customizations, outreach clinics, and technical support and maintenance. Additionally, Shona McDonald established The Uhambo Foundation to provide a place to connect with support groups and obtain valuable resources that empower families and children living with disabilities.

Dr. Victoria Kisyombe

Recognized by the World Economic Forum and the World Bank, Dr. Victoria Kisyombe makes it possible for entrepreneurs, specifically female widows and girl business owners, to launch ventures throughout Tanzania. Through Sero Lease and Finance Ltd (SELFINA), a company she founded in 2002, she leverages micro-leasing to help others acquire land and assets, thus improving borrowers’ creditworthiness.

She supports lessees with the leasing of livestock, catering equipment, bicycles, and sewing machines, among other tangible items. Further, qualified lessees may obtain financial leases and be eligible for a sales and leaseback program, which allows a recurring customer to sell items back to SELFINA and lease them again over time. As of 2016, Dr. Victoria Kisyombe has positively influenced the livelihoods of more than 440,000 people, of whom nearly half no longer live in poverty.

Winnifred Selby

Along with her colleague and co-founder Bernice Dapaah, Winnifred Selby created Afrocentric Bamboo. The company offers a form of affordable and reliable transportation that can withstand the rough and high terrains of Ghana. Ms. Selby designed the bamboo bikes as a single structure to give strength and stability to her product. Priced at $100, the bikes give owners a viable solution for traveling to work, help create jobs, and reduce harmful emissions entering the earth’s atmosphere.

Cape Town

7 of the Best Angel Investors Funding African Startups

Offering a supportive community for startups, Africa has become a hub for entrepreneurs to launch their businesses. In fact, the number of startups created in the past five years has exceeded the quantity just five years prior. Individuals looking to start their business here should mull over the following list of angel investors, who are eager to fund enterprises.

Angel Investment Network

angel investment networkLocated in South Africa, the Angel Investment Network is comprised of domestic and international investors. More than 114,000 investors have joined the network since its inception and nearly 498,000 entrepreneurs have benefitted from their support. The organization, which has in excess of 612,000 registered members, has raised 4 billion rand, which equates to over $263 million in US currency. Offering more value to entrepreneurs, the Angel Investment Network launched AIN Labs. A startup accelerator, the program provides an environment that helps new businesses excel. Those accepted into the program become a part of an entrepreneurial community that receives mentorship and office space, as well as access to investors to fund their ideas.

Adlevo Capital

adlevo logoA Mauritius private equity firm investing in technology ventures, Adlevo Capital works with portfolio companies to support sub-Saharan African businesses. The firm evaluates investments on market opportunity, solid management, and business growth based on consumerism. Additionally, Adlevo Capital considers social impact. Startups demonstrating care of community health, integration into the global economy, poverty reduction, environmentalism, and special skills development improve their chance in receiving financial backing. In recent years, the firm has made second round investment in Rancard, a mobile content discovery software provider, and led investments in SOLO, a Nigerian venture targeting emerging markets with digital content and smartphone devices.

Invenfin Venture Capital

invenfinlogoInvenfin Venture Capital, a subsidiary of Remgro (Pty) Ltd, supports the commercialization of intellectual property. The firm offers startup capital that helps business owners scale their products and services internationally. Investment periods range from one to three years. For a minority stake of up to 49 percent in a company, a venture gains access to the capital as well as marketing, branding, product development, global distribution, and legal services. This is made possible by its collaboration with Remgro. Presently, the venture capitalist focuses its efforts in the technology and food and beverage industries. The firm has made technology investments in Ad Dynamo, HealthQ, Le Bonbon, and Orso by PressureRite. Its food and beverage division, InvenfinFoods, considers early stage and established businesses for financial backing. An ideal company has an interesting story to go along with a flavorful product.

East Africa Capital Partners

eacp logoOverseeing ATMT Fund 1, LLC, which is made up of $100 million used to back information and communications technology (ICT) investments, East Africa Capital Partners supports ventures that offer a solution for infrastructure blockages. The firm’s portfolio includes East African media and technology companies as well as telecommunications ventures. Among the companies are Zuku, the Wananchi Group, and SimbaNET, a fiber and data service provider catering to corporate customers in Tanzania and Kenya. Lion Cable Television Network and Kenya’s Trucking Systems also receive support from East Africa Capital Partners.

Africa Media Ventures Fund

Africa Media Ventures Fund is supported by veteran entrepreneurs. Primarily funding startups in Kenya and Ghana, the organization and its investors extend financial support and services to ventures throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Africa Media Ventures Fund offers up to $200,000 in backing and has contributed to the success of Paygate Ltd, Shimba Technologies, and Explainer DC. It looks for promising businesses in the media and information sectors that heavily utilize online and mobile applications to reach consumers. Companies, both early- and late-stage startups, must demonstrate the ability to earn revenue and add value in a specific area as well as replicate its model in other countries. Further, the firm requires ventures to have a clear exit strategy. This information must be outlined in a comprehensive business plan.

eVentures Africa Fund

eva fundAlso known as the eVA Fund, eVentures Africa Fund concentrates on small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) that tackle digital media. A thriving sector, digital media consists of broadband and mobile Internet access for the purpose of content delivery, communication, and business transactions. The fund, founded in 2010 by Brian Hirman and Vincent Kouwenhoven, leverages experience and investments from Europe and the Netherlands to help African ventures solidify business models, thus creating job and income opportunities in the sub-Saharan. The success of the enterprises also increases financial returns for investors. Eligible applicants must seek up to $1 million in funding and have been in business for a minimum of two years, but no more than five. E-commerce businesses, solution providers, and companies promoting an Internet or mobile application are considered.

TBL Mirror Fund

tbllogoAlso focused on SMEs is the TBL Mirror Fund. Partnering with international investors with backgrounds leading large multinational organizations, the fund supports businesses in growth markets. It upholds “the mirror principle,” which involves a hands-on approach by investors to help entrepreneurs establish and reach business goals as well as integrate best practices in corporate governance. Additionally, the fund holds sustainability in high regard, ensuring all investments maintain environmental, social, and governance integrity. The TBL Mirror Fund does not focus on a specific industry, but history has indicated success in consumer goods, ICT, and health care. Presently, it supports enterprises such as Cellulant Limited and Highlands Mineral Water Limited.