South African ecommerce outfit uAfrica has closed a US$1.5-million funding round led by online auction site Bidorbuy and the company’s own managing director, Andy Higgins.
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The service was founded in 2004 and, in its current guise, provides cloud-based ecommerce services to small and medium-sized businesses across Africa. Prior to 2012 however, it was known as Jump Shopping and functioned as an online comparative shopping service.
The name change came about after Higgins joined the business and saw its offerings expand to include a consultancy providing advice to ecommerce businesses, as well as ecommerce research and training.
Higgins, a well known player in the South African space, previously helped found Bid or Buy and sits on the boards of a number of ecommerce properties across the country, including Bidorbuy, Payfast, a company specialising in online payments for South Africa and Privateproperty, a leading South African property portal.
Under Higgins’s leadership, Bidorbuy was one of the earliest South African internet properties to receive funding from Tiger Global, a multi-billion dollar US-based hedge fund that also invested substantial sums of money in the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn.
“Over the last two years, a substantial portion of locally established online South African eCommerce companies have benefited from an influx of global investment,” Higgins says.
“This increase is testament to the opportunity the South African market has to offer these investors both from a return perspective and the growth in the number of local skilled experts working on IT and application developments,” he says.
Bidorbuy CEO Jaco Jonker says the decision to invest in uAfrica was made so that it could boost its own ecommerce capabilities, especially as an increasing number of retailers in the space start operating in more than one channel.
“We made the business decision to partner with the leading eCommerce experts uAfrica.com,” says Jonker, “in order to help deliver these specialised services, including multiple channels, to online retailers. This is also fundamental to the future ecommerce growth within the Bidorbuy channel”.
Higgins will remain at the uAfrica helm alongside Director of Technology Jaco Roux. The company, they say, will focus on ecommerce facilities that speak to the South African market and meet the local need.
“Too often international products offer services that aren’t always applicable to a very local audience — we plan to shift the paradigm as we take international best practices and add relevant localisation giving merchants and consumers the best of both worlds,” says Higgins.
At this stage, it’s unclear how much extra equity in uAfrica the investment will net Higgins and what percentage of the company now belongs to Bidorbuy. Ventureburn is however in the process of reaching out to both parties and will add details to the story as they emerge.
While the investment is clearly closely to tied to Higgins, it will come as some relief to the South African ecommerce space, which was rocked by the decision by media and internet giant Naspers to close a number of its own ecommerce properties earlier this year, including 5Rooms, Style 36 and SA Camera.