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SA fintech startup takes second place at Techcrunch Startup Battlefield Africa

Ahead of its expected launch to market next year, SA fintech startup Bettr last week scored a major victory — by being placed second at TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa.

The event — which was held in Lagos, Nigeria last Tuesday (11 December) — saw 15 startups square off against each other in a pitching session (see this Techcrunch story for more).

The pitch was won by Ugandan startup M-SCAN who took home a $25 000 equity-free cash prize and a trip for two to TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco 2019.

M-SCAN has invented a mobile ultrasound that is portable and compatible with basic devices, including a cellphone. 

SA fintech Bettr, which aims to launch its community-built financial ecosystem next year, was placed second at the TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa

Bettr in June reported that it had launched the alpha version of its community-built financial ecosystem and said in a statement last week, in which it announced its second place at the Techcrunch event, that it plans to launch its offering to market next year.

On its website, Bettr claims it will offer a low cost account and app powered by a debit card. “It works like a bank, but with additional features and benefits. Bettr is not a fully licensed bank, meaning we do not lend out your deposits. We make use of a sponsoring bank to keep your money safe,” it says.

Via an app, Bettr will offer users access to a financial graph that connects them to a variety of financial products and services such as car or home purchases, or insurance.

‘Intense selection process’

After the success of the 2017 event in Nairobi, Kenya, the Lagos event was the second TechCrunch Startup Battlefield to take place in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This time around, the organisers reviewed hundreds of African startups to arrive at a list of 15 semi-finalists. With TechCrunch Startup Battlefield’s two percent acceptance rate, it was stated by one of the organisers that it is easier to get into Harvard.

The other startups pitching were Apollo Agriculture, Sudpay, LabTech: UriSAF by LabTECH, Complete Farmer, FoodHubs, Honey Flow Africa, Agripredict, MAX, CodeLn, Bankly, Powerstove Energy, Pineapple and Trend Solar.

Bettr co-founder and chief innovation officer Tobie van Zyl in a statement last week called the process of preparing for the pitch “intense”.

“The level of performance required to compete I’d compare to the training of an Olympic Athlete. Every company at this event deserved to win. They are world-class innovators solving real human problems.

“We came as competitors, and we have left with friends from 15 different countries, Lagos contacts and a community that wants to see us expand here next,” said Van Zyl. 

Each company was given six minutes to pitch and share a live demo to a sold-out venue and panel of judges.

In his presentation Van Zyl — who started the company in late 2015 along with advisors Marc Herson and Zulfiq Isaacs (Stempowski joined in September 2016 as co-founder) — commented on the shortcomings of the traditional banking industry and how Bettr aims to reinvent what he called a “broken system”.

The startup’s chief technical officer and co-founder Andrzej Stempowski conducted a live demonstration, showcasing how users can open an account using just their South African ID.

The pitch impressed the judges, resulting in Bettr being selected as one of the five finalists.

The startups delivered their same pitches a second time to a new panel of judges, followed by a thorough Q&A.

The final-round judges included Dapo Olagunju, head of West Africa JP Morgan and Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, director of developer platforms and programmes for Facebook.

Read more: First speakers confirmed for TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa
Read more: SA fintech Bettr launches alpha version of ‘financial ecosystem’ at MoneyConf event [Updated]

Featured image (from left to right): Bettr’s Tobie van Zyl and Andrzej Stempowski (Supplied)


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