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Eight Kenyan fintech startups to keep an eye on
With the 2007 launch of mobile-money transfer service M-Pesa by Vodacom for Safaricom, Kenya has led the world in mobile money.
Inspired by this revolutionary fintech solution — which is used by 30 million users in 10 countries — a crop of expats and Kenyan fintech innovators have picked up the baton and have founded startups that are developing products that promise to democratise financial services on the continent.
Of the 16 startups that operate on the continent that were selected for the Inclusive Fintech 50 Inclusive Fintech 50 initiative, seven are from or conduct business in Kenya (see this story). These include Acre Africa, Apollo Agriculture, Kwara, Pezesha, Pula, Mosabi and Tulaa.
With the passing of Safaricom’s CEO Bob Collymore on Monday (1 July) (see this story), Ventureburn takes a look at eight Kenyan fintech startups to watch. Here they are:
Nairobi-based fintech platform Tulaa in July last year closed a $627 000 seed round led by Canadian impact investor AHL Venture Partners (see this story). The funding is to bankroll Tulaa’s expansion in Kenya.
Tulaa, which was founded by CEO Hillary Miller-Wise in July last year, provides smallholder farmers in Kenya with access to inputs, credit and markets.
The startup — which is a spin-off of Esoko a Ghanaian information and communication service for agricultural markets — won 2017’s Facebook Africa Innovation Challenge.
FarmDrive in February announced that it had received a new investment from Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB Canada) (see this story). The startup was founded in 2014 by Peris Bosire and Rita Kimani (pictured above, from left to right).
Using a combination of agriculturally relevant data, Know Your Customer data, and advanced behavioural analytics, FarmDrive has developed a proprietary lending engine to extend loans to smallholder farmers.
EWB Canada said at the time that the investment will allow the startup to scale to $13 million of loan originations this year. It said at the time that the startup is positioned to reach three million smallholder farmers in Kenya in the next five years.
The latest investment follows a $50 000 investment the startup received from EWB Canada and others in 2016 and an undisclosed investment by Safaricom’s Spark Venture Fund in 2017.
While EWB Canada did not disclose the size of the latest investment in FarmDrive, the startup’s co-founder Peris Bosire told Ventureburn at the time that FarmDrive had raised “$500 000 in convertible notes from investors so far”.
FarmDrive’s Bosire said at the time that the startup intends to create shared value by increasing agriculture portfolios in Africa from its current four percent of total lending to 25% and onwards.
Nairobi-based fintech Lendable announced in August last year that it had secured a $450 000 convertible grant from Dutch development bank FMO (see this story).
FMO said the grant will provide a “first loss” backstop that is expected to unlock an additional $4.5-million from commercial investors.
Lendable was founded in 2014 by CEO Daniel Goldfarb (pictured above, standing), CIO Arjun Batra, and CTO Dylan Fried.
The startup, which also has an office in New York, aims to bridge the gap between institutional debt investors and high growth alternative lenders in Africa. It does this by providing alternative lenders upfront capital against their loan book receivables.
Currently the startup provides structured finance facilities to seven alternative lenders across the continent. These include off-grid energy companies, small business lenders and asset finance companies.
The startup’s platform Maestor allows for alternative lenders to get data on loan portfolio analysis and cash flow predictions. The platform also provides portfolio management information to alternative lenders and investors in Lendable’s special-purpose vehicle.
When questioned at the time by Ventureburn, the PR representative for FMO would not reveal who these seven alternative lenders are, saying only that the names of clients “are private”.
Kenyan peer-to-peer micro lending marketplace Pezesha was last month crowned the winner of this year’s Seedstars Nairobi pitching competition.
In a post on Facebook Seedstars said Pezesha would receive flight tickets to the Seedstars Summit Africa.
Pezesha was founded in 2016 by CEO Hilda Moraa (pictured above). The fintech startup connects lenders with high-quality under-served low income borrowers.
Last month, Pezesha was one of the 16 fintech startups from sub-Saharan Africa that made the list for the Inclusive Fintech 50 initiative (see this story). In March last year, Pezesha was one of 12 startups selected to join the first cohort of Google’s Launchpad Accelerator Africa (see this story).
In June 2017, US fintech incubator Digital Financial Services Lab (DFS Lab) announced in a statement that it would invest $250 000 in four startups including Penzesha.
Bluewave Insurance Agency
Bluewave Insurance Agency has a range of micro-insurance offerings aimed at low-income users in Kenya, that include motor, health and life cover. In June, the startup partnered with Jubilee Insurance for its fourth product, Imarisha Jamii, which covers hospital expenses, disability and death.
In addition, Bluewave has full API integration with Kenyan mobile network operator Safaricom with the startup’s Imarisha Jamii offering currently only available to subscribers of Safaricom’s M-Pesa.
The startup — which was founded in 2015 by CEO Adelaide Odhiambo (pictured above) — uses a USSD platform to sign on clients. This enables the company to serve those with the simplest mobile devices.
Nairobi-based insurtech startup Bluewave Insurance Agency has come out tops at last year’s Seedstars Nairobi pitch event.
The insurtech startup was placed first ahead of salesforce automation platform Optimetriks and edtech company Angaza Elimu, which came in second and third, respectively.
Founded in 2013 by CEO Elizabeth Rossiello (pictured above), BitPesa is a digital foreign exchange and payment platform that uses blockchain settlement to significantly lower the cost and increase the speed of business payments to and from frontier markets.
According to a listing from Traxn.com, BitPesa has raised $16-million as of February this year — from Sompo Holdings, Greycroft Partners, Plug and Play Tech Center and 11 other investors.
Last year the startup launched in Ghana, enabling Ghanaians to settle global payments in their local currency, the Cedi (see this story).
BitPesa, in February last year, announced that it had acquired a Spanish international money transfer service TransferZero (see this story).
Later that year in June, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has named BitPesa along with CarePay, as part of its 2018 Technology Pioneers cohort (see this story).
Award winning fintech CarePay was founded in 2014 by Michiel Slootweg and CEO Kees van Lede (pictured above). Through its M-Tiba platform, the startup enables patients to pay and save for healthcare, while providers are able to send their invoices to healthcare insurers using the service.
The startup was first established in Kenya with an initial investment from the M-Pesa Foundation (funded by M-Pesa) and the Investment Funds for Health In Africa (IFHA). It’s other investors include the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ELMA Philanthropies.
CarePay’s headquarters are in Amsterdam, and the startup has offices in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania.
Some of the accolades CarePay has racked up include the 2017 FTC/IFC Transformational Business Award (for achievement in sustainable development, with a focus on health and wellness and disease prevention), the 2017 Loerie Awards and inclusion in the WEF’s 2018 Technology Pioneers cohort.
Last month, CNBCAfrica reported that CarePay raised a €40-million Series-A round to expand operations in Nigeria and Tanzania.
Nairobi-based Alternative Circle was founded in 2016 by CEO Kevin Mutiso (pictured above) and Anthony Kariuki. The startup has developed the Shika app, a solution that enables its users to get affordable loans from curated lenders via M-Pesa.
In 2017 the startup closed a $1.1-million seed round from Icelandic credit bureau and information services group CreditInfo to scale operations (see this story).
Read more: Sub-Sahara Africa is top market for those that made Inclusive Fintech 50 list
*Ventureburn editor Stephen Timm and writer Daniel Mpala both contributed to this piece.