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Last night (18 October), Rand Merchant Investment Holdings (RMI), through AlphaCode, awarded entrepreneurial packages valued at R16-million to eight of South Africa’s most promising financial services startups.
The entrepreneurial packages consist of R1-million in grant funding and R1-million in support, which includes mentorship, monthly expert-led sessions, exclusive office space in Sandton, marketing, legal and other business support services as well as access to the broader RMI network.
The AlphaCode Incubate initiative, in partnership with Merrill Lynch South Africa and Royal Bafokeng Holdings, identifies South African financial services entrepreneurs with extraordinary ideas and businesses that could impact the financial services industry.
More than 200 startups applied to participate. Of these, 16 made it to the final pitch event — held last night in Sandton — where the eight recipients were selected. The eight winning startups and their founders are:
Akiba Digital (Tebogo Mokwena and Kamogelo Kekana)
Akiba Digital is a gamified mobile app that makes it easier and more rewarding to set, manage and meet savings goals.
ISpani Group (Prince Nwadeyi, Khathazile Moroe, Patrick Machekera and Louis Buys)
This startup provides access for insurers into traditionally under insured communities through prepaid vouchers and USSD sold by a network of spaza shop vendors.
Jamii (Adrian Taylor, Marc Maasdorp and Bartek Dutkowski)
Jamii de-risks tenant rent default through offering tenants incentive-based discounts on food and transport and bolt-on retrenchment cover.
Nisa Finance (Thando Hlongwane, Tekane Ledimo and Sinqobile Mashalaba)
Nisa Finance is an invoice financing platform that enables financiers to issue invoice-backed loans to small businesses quickly and affordably by fully-automating the application and invoice verification through Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system integration.
Pago (Philip Mngadi and Noel Lynch)
Pago is a low-cost mobile micro payments platform for the informal sector. The startup aims to enable an inclusive economy by digitising remittances through the use of blockchain technology.
Prospa (Dhanyal Davidson and Carl Ngwenya)
Prospa is a mobile savings wallet for low-income earning South Africans that makes it easy to save small amounts infrequently using prepaid vouchers.
SELFsure (Proud Chitumba, Amos Mugova and Tshepiso Shamane)
This startup enables millennials to significantly reduce car insurance premiums by self-insuring part of the risk via peer to peer lending.
Yalu (Nkazi Sokhulu, Tlalane Ntuli, Steve Goeieman and Life Mhlanga)
Yalu is a self-service credit life insurance platform which replaces a customer’s current policy with a more affordable, simpler and rewarding policy.
The programme has disbursed R13-million in funding to 15 black-owned financial services businesses since it began three years ago.
“Some have experienced exponential growth and we have been amazed at the level of traction they have received locally and internationally.
“The intention behind AlphaCode’s Explore, Incubate and Accelerate programmes is for RMI to discover the next OUTsurance or Discovery; we want to identify, partner and grow the future of financial services in South Africa,” says Dominique Collett, head of AlphaCode and a RMI senior investments executive.
During the event, contestants had just three minutes to pitch their businesses, with a couple of minutes set aside for questions from a formidable panel of judges.
These included: Sigma Capital CEO Phuti Mahanyele, Remgro investment executive Raymond Ndlovu, Royal Bafokeng Holdings finance director Nakedi Ramaphakela, Merrill Lynch South Africa managing director for investment banking Anthony Knox, as well as Collett.
Julie Benadie, regional executive of operations and corporate affairs at Merrill Lynch explained: “We believe in supporting disruptive ideas so that creative fintech solutions will emerge to address the challenges that South Africa faces. We want South Africa to become a fintech centre of excellence with its already advanced financial services infrastructure.”
“AlphaCode is also now also seeking additional fintech entrepreneurs for our Explore programme. This offers a 12-month data science and business skills programme for 20 aspirant South African fintech entrepreneurs in conjunction with The Explore Data Science Academy,” Collett added.
Candidates will go through an intensive six-month data science-training programme, where they will learn how to design a 10X business along with the core digital skills needed to build a fintech organisation.
This will be followed by three months of business skills training. Interested fintech entrepreneurs should apply here by 30 October.
In addition, AlphaCode recently selected four more established fintech businesses for its Accelerate programme: Entersekt, Livestock Wealth, Click2Sure and Invoice Worx. This R2-million scale-up accelerator offers mentorship, expert guidance and support services to help these more established businesses to scale and create jobs.