Merrill Lynch, Royal Bafokeng awards R4m to four black fintech startups

Four black-owned SA fintech startups have each won R1-million at a pitching event held earlier this week by AlphaCode, a Rand Merchant Investments (RMI) Holdings fintech initiative.

The pitching event, held in Monday evening, was run by Merrill Lynch South Africa and Royal Bafokeng Holdings and sought to identify and reward high potential black-owned SA fintech entrepreneurs.

The winning startups are:

  • Commuscore — an alternate credit-scoring provider founded by Philile Mkhize and Priya Mistry. The startup captures payment and lending behaviour of consumers and micro-lenders in the informal sector. It also provides an informal saving scheme administration and management tool that is able to build a credit profile based on various data points.
  • Investsure — provides fraud insurance to shareholders against losses in share price caused by actual or perceived deception committed by management. Their fraud insurance product operates on trading platforms and is targeted at individuals investing in the JSE and asset managers. Founders are Mbulelo Mpofana, Ignatious Nkwinika and Shane Curran.
  • Cascade — founded last year by two actuaries, Mutoda Mahamba and Gavin Waldeck, the startup uses technology and digital marketing, to reduce the cost of insurance. It gives the savings back to the consumer through an insurance savings product. The startup’s product is the equivalent of a medical aid savings account within the short-term insurance market.
  • Everest Ventures — founded by Neo Ratau, the startup provides small businesses with finance advisory services and investment management. It’s the meeting point of large and small businesses and provides access to funding and opportunities.

In addition to each taking away R1-million, the four startups will also will become members of AlphaCode’s BEE Centre of Excellence and will receive additional business support services including free office space at a prime Sandton location.

Alphacode has disbursed R13-million so far to 15 black fintech startups over the past two years

To date, the programme has disbursed R13-million in grant funding to 15 businesses over the past two years (ranging from R500 000 to R1-million per business).

The judging panel included RMI Holdings senior investment executive Dominique Collett, Merrill Lynch SA head of investment banking Justin Bothner, Royal Bafokeng Holdings CEO Albertina Kekana, Remgro investment executive Raymond Ndlovu.

Previous successes of the initiative include Isazi Consulting, a machine learning business which used the funds received in 2015 to build a data visualisation tool and made a 266% return on the investment.

AlphaCode’s head of ecosystem development Chipo Mushwana said when startup Livestock Wealth joined the programme, they had sold only 10 cows — but that with the funds received in 2015 and increased marketing efforts, they were able to increase sales to more than 1000 cows and attract additional funding as well as a global audience.

Featured image: From left to right) Merrill Lynch SA head of investment banking Justin Bothner, Everest Ventures Neo Ratau, Investsure co-founder Mbulelo Mpofana, Co-founder Cascade Insurance Mutoda Mahamba, Co-founder CommuScore Priya Mistry, Merrill Lynch’s regional executive of operations and corporate affairs head Julia Benadie, Royal Bafokeng Holdings CEO Albertina Kekana.



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