Category: africa

June 11, 2019 Off

Uber rival Bolt returns to London 21 months after a TfL investigation shut it down

By Jill T Frey

Bolt, the Uber rival formerly known as Taxify, is taking a significant step this week in its effort to build out its transportation-on-demand business across the biggest cities in Europe and Africa, which currently covers 25 million users in 30 countries and 100 cities: it’s finally opening for business again in London, the biggest ride-hailing market in Europe.

“Finally” and “again” are the operative words here: the Tallinn-based company had launched in London as far back as September 2017 — nearly two years ago — only to shut down its services after three days, when Transport for London, the city’s transportation regulator, started to investigate the terms of its license.

It turned out that not all was right in the state of Estonia . To roll out its services more quickly, Taxify (as it was then known) had acquired a London firm with a license valid until … Read the rest

June 7, 2019 Off

Fintech platform Synapse raises $33M to build ‘the AWS of banking’

By Jill T Frey

Synapse, a San Francisco-based startup that operates a platform enabling banks and fintech companies to easily develop financial services, has closed a $33 million Series B to develop new products and go after international expansion.

The investment was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from existing backers Trinity Ventures and Core Innovation Capital . Synapse — which recently rebranded (slightly) from “SynapseFi” — announced a $17 million Series A back in September 2018, so this deal takes it to $50 million raised to date.

The startup was founded in 2014 by Bryan Keltner and India-born CEO Sankaet Pathak, who came to the U.S. to study but grew frustrated at the difficulty of opening a bank account without U.S. social security history. Inspired by his struggles, Synapse, which operated under the radar prior to that Series A deal, is focused on democratizing financial services.

Its approach to doing that is … Read the rest

June 5, 2019 Off

Google offers new treasure trove of air quality data to researchers

By Jill T Frey

Google has employed its network of street-view vehicles to also measure street-level air quality in recent years, through an initiative it calls “Project Air View.” Today, it’s making available to scientists and researcher organizations more of the resulting data from that ongoing initiative. The company is releasing an updated version of its air quality data set that includes information collected with partner Aclima’s environmental sensors gathered between 2017 and 2018.

The combined data cache includes info from the SF Bay and San Joaquin Valley area, originally starting in 2016, along with the additional two years’ worth of data for those areas as well as for other parts of California, and other major cities, including Houston, Salt Lake City, Copenhagen, London and Amsterdam.

All told, Google’s mapping data set for air quality now includes info covering more than 140,000 miles and 7,000 hours of combined driving time spanning 2016 through 2018. … Read the rest

May 31, 2019 Off

Diving deep into Africa’s blossoming tech scene

By Jill T Frey

Jumia may be the first startup you’ve heard of from Africa. But the e-commerce venture that recently listed on the NYSE is definitely not the first or last word in African tech.

The continent has an expansive digital innovation scene, the components of which are intersecting rapidly across Africa’s 54 countries and 1.2 billion people.

When measured by monetary values, Africa’s tech ecosystem is tiny by Shenzen or Silicon Valley standards.

But when you look at volumes and year over year expansion in VC, startup formation, and tech hubs, it’s one of the fastest growing tech markets in the world. In 2017, the continent also saw the largest global increase in internet users—20 percent.

If you’re a VC or founder in London, Bangalore, or San Francisco, you’ll likely interact with some part of Africa’s tech landscape for the first time—or more—in the near future.

That’s why TechCrunch put together … Read the rest

May 24, 2019 Off

Nigeria’s Gokada raises $5.3M round for its motorcycle ride-hail biz

By Jill T Frey

In many large cities across Africa, motorcycle taxis are as common as yellow cabs in New York.

That includes Lagos, Nigeria, where ride-hail startup Gokada has raised a $5.3 million Series A round to grow its two-wheel transit business.

Gokada has trained and on-boarded more than 1,000 motorcycles and their pilots on its app that connects commuters to moto-taxis and the company’s signature green, DOT– approved helmets.

The startup has completed nearly 1 million rides since it was co-founded in 2018 by Fahim Saleh — a Bangladeshi entrepreneur who previously founded and exited Pathao, a motorcycle, bicycle and car transportation company.

For Gokada’s Series A, Rise Capital led the investment, joined by Adventure Capital, IC Global Partners and Illinois-based First MidWest Group. Coinciding with the round, Nigerian investor and Jobberman founder Ayodeji Adewunmi will join Gokada as co-CEO.

Gokada will use the financing to increase its … Read the rest

May 22, 2019 Off

These startups are locating in SF and Africa to win in global fintech

By Jill T Frey

To become a global fintech player, locate your company in San Francisco and Africa.

That’s the approach of payments company Flutterwave, digital lending startup Mines, and mobile-money venture Chipper Cash—Africa-founded ventures that maintain headquarters in San Francisco and operations in Africa to tap the best of both worlds in VC, developers, clients, and the frontier of digital finance.

This arrangement wasn’t exactly coordinated across the ventures, but TechCrunch coverage picked up the trend and some common motives among these rising fintech firms.

Founded in 2016 by Nigerians Iyinoluwa Aboyeji and Olugbenga Agboola, Flutterwave has positioned itself as a global B2B payments solutions platform for companies in Africa to pay other companies on the continent and abroad.

Clients can tap its APIs and work with Flutterwave developers to customize payments applications. Existing customers include Uber,  Booking.com and African e-commerce unicorn Jumia.com.

The Y-Combinator backed company is headquartered in … Read the rest

May 17, 2019 Off

Zipline’s new $190 million funding means it’s the newest billion dollar contender in the game of drones

By Jill T Frey

With a valuation of over $1 billion and $190 million in new financing, Zipline has become the latest contender to be the leader in the game of drones.

The competition to be a leading vendor of delivery drone services is fierce, but Zipline has already built its billion-dollar business selling its hardware and services as a supplier of medical supplies across emerging markets. It may be among the most tested drone delivery services in the world.

Zipline said it will use the new funds to expand its medical supply delivery services across Africa, the Americas, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. The company said it aims to serve 700 million people with its drones within the next five years.

“There is a growing feeling around the world that technology is not benefitting the vast majority of people, said Zipline chief executive Keller Rinaudo in a statement. “The old conventional wisdom has … Read the rest

May 6, 2019 Off

Thunes raises $10M to make financial services more accessible in emerging markets

By Jill T Frey

Cross-border fintech continues to be an area of interest for venture capitalists. The latest deal sees GGV Capital — the U.S-China firm that’s backed Xiaomi, Airbnb, Square and others — lead a $10 million investment in Singapore-based startup Thunes.

Other investors in the Series A round are not being disclosed at this point.

Thunes — which is slang for money in French and is pronounced ‘tunes’ — is not your typical startup. Its service is a b2b play that provides payment solutions for companies and services that deal with consumers and need new features, increased interoperability and flexibility for users. It makes money on a fee basis per transaction and, in the case of cross border, a small markup on exchange rates using mid-market rates for reference.

The company was founded in February of this year when TransferTo, a company that provided services like mobile top-up cross-border split … Read the rest

May 2, 2019 Off

Africa Roundup: Jumia’s IPO, DHL launches Africa e-Shop, Cathay’s $168M VC fund, ConnectMed acquired

By Jill T Frey

The biggest news in a month of weighty African headlines was Jumia listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

After filing SEC IPO docs in March, the Pan-African e-commerce company’s shares began trading on the NYSE April 12, opening at $14.50 under ticker symbol JMIA. Jumia stock rose north of 70 percent on its first day of trading and started this week at $46.

With the public listing, Jumia became the first startup from Africa to list on a major global exchange. The IPO raised over $200 million for the internet venture.

The listing created another milestone for Jumia.  In 2016 the company became the first African startup unicorn, achieving a $1 billion valuation after a funding round that included Goldman Sachs and MTN.

Founded in Lagos in 2012 with Rocket Internet backing, Jumia now operates multiple online verticals in 14 African countries—from consumer retail to travel bookings.… Read the rest