Afridigest Week in Review: Are online high schools the future?

+Building proofs of concept on WhatsApp +Interswitch is back in the venture game +Mitchell Elegbe interview +Mdundo's ad-based revenue model +Facebook's new office +Some clarity on Cars45/Autochek

The Afridigest Week in Review is a must-read weekly recap for Africa-focused founders, executives, and investors, as well as interested observers.

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Week 38 2020

Crucial business learnings amidst a global crisis | The Network
📰 Deal of the week

Valenture Institute, a South-Africa based online education startup, raised $7 million from GSV Ventures.

Founded in 2019 by Robert Paddock, Valenture Institute is a ‘global private online high school’ that offers a curriculum recognized by a number of the world’s leading universities; according to Valenture, it “embeds the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals into its curriculum.”

💡 Why it’s the deal of the week: Digital education, like e-commerce & video-conferencing, is one of the sectors that has been accelerated by the pandemic. Valenture, less than one year after its launch, has already attracted students in South Africa, Australia, South Korea and the UAE, and is well positioned to benefit from any long-term shift and increase in the acceptance of online education. It aims to be teaching 100,000 students worldwide by 2030 and is led by an experienced founder who now joins forces with an investor with unique expertise. Are online high schools the future? 🤔

⛏️ Go deeper:

  • Founder & CEO Robert Paddock is referred to by some as the 'Elon Musk of Education' after having co-founded & sold the online learning platform GetSmarter in 2017 to Nasdaq-listed 2U for $103 million in cash (plus an earn-out provision of $20 million).

  • GSV Ventures, is a specialist, digital education-focused VC that counts some of the most impactful companies in the digital learning space among its portfolio companies, including Coursera, Masterclass, and ClassDojo — Andela is in the GSV Ventures portfolio as well.

  • Valenture is moving towards a hybrid model and part of the funding will be used to roll out ‘boutique campuses’ where virtual learning will be combined with in-person support and experiences with classmates.

    • Valenture plans to open three South African boutique campuses in January 2021, and it’s also eyeing London, Boston, and New York as future locations

  • Hear directly from Founder & CEO Rob Paddock about Valenture & how “technology has an incredible ability to impact the efficacity of the education model” in this short video:

🔦 Other deals
  • Elves, an Egyptian concierge app, raised $2 million from Sawari Ventures and other existing investors

    • Founded in 2017, Elves enables users to chat with human assistants called ‘elves’ to book trips/transport, reserve restaurant tables, run errands, pay bills, send someone flowers, etc.

  • Rology, an Egyptian on-demand teleradiology platform, raised an $860k pre-Series A round

    • Founded in 2017, Rology uses artificial intelligence to match hospitals and other healthcare providers with radiologists based on sub-specialization and expertise.

  • Mono, a Nigerian financial services API platform, raised a $500k pre-seed round from Lateral Capital, Ventures Platform, Golden Palm Investments, Rally Capital, and angel investors including Idris Bello and Olumide Soyombo

    • Founded just months ago in 2020, Mono is building a Plaid-like platform that lets companies and developers access historical and real-time customer financial information such as transactions, balances, bank statements, credits, and spending patterns.

  • Anubis Gaming, an Egyptian esports team, raised a $300k seed round from a ‘regional e-commerce group’

    • Founded in 2015, Anubis is Egypt’s first esports team and one of the leading professional esports organizations in the MENA region — it participates in competitive video game tournaments at the regional and international levels.

  • Food Supply Network, a South African B2B food marketplace, raised an undisclosed amount from Naspers Foundry

    • Food Supply Networks connects food buyers (restaurants, hotels, caterers, retailers, etc.), distributors, and brand owners with its platform, thereby integrating and digitizing the local food supply chain.

  • Big Cabal Media, a Nigerian digital media publisher, raised an undisclosed amount from Platform Capital

    • Founded in 2014, Big Cabal Media publishes TechCabal, a brand that provides insight into technology in Africa to a global audience, and Zikoko, a brand that creates shareable, high-engagement content around Nigerian and West African culture.

  • Syked, a South African online wellness platform, raised an undisclosed amount in a seed round led by HaloCare, a South African managed care organization.

    • Founded in 2019, Syked connects patients with social workers, registered counsellors, psychologists, etc. for secure video consultation & counselling sessions via its platform.

  • Malian on-demand motorcycle taxi service Teliman, Madagascan AI SaaS platform SmartPredict, and Madagascan renewable energy company Jiro-Ve were selected into the I&P Acceleration Technologies program

  • Okuhle Media, a South African media production company, sold a majority stake to Trace Group, the French multimedia entertainment corporation — the transaction value was undisclosed

    • The acquisition follows Trace’s 2019 acquisition of Kenyan radio station Qwetu Radio (now Trace Radio) and its 2016 acquisition of Kenyan video-on-demand service

🌏 Asia Read of the Week

WhatsApp Messenger is ubiquitous in Indian and African markets; in fact, WhatsApp is the most popular free Android app in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, and elsewhere across the continent. (See, for example, ‘Africa's most popular apps & the insights they reveal.’) Here, the author looks at how Indian startups like Dunzo and Digi-Prex have leveraged WhatsApp’s distribution to launch proofs of concepts that serve as precursors to more feature-rich apps.

“WhatsApp has what all startups serving consumers & small businesses (SMEs) need: distribution… So let’s investigate…how companies in India are using WhatsApp to test ideas… Similar to what WeChat is in China, I believe WhatsApp will be for the rest of the emerging markets… It is already happening in India & slowly beginning in Brazil. It is no coincidence that Facebook is testing WhatsApp Pay in both countries.”

💡 “Leveraging WhatsApp for Proof Of Concept (POC)” by Ububele Kopo

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🕵️‍♀️ In case you missed it

💼 Job Opportunities of the Week

Mastercard is hiring a Nairobi-based Vice President / Head of Nairobi Lab, Mastercard Labs.


Bolt is hiring a Johannesburg-based Country Manager - Bolt Food.


Okra is hiring a Lagos-based Data Scientist (Machine Learning Engineer).


BuyCoins is hiring a Lagos-based Research Assistant - Crypto.


The UK-Nigeria Tech Hub is hiring a Lagos-based Operations Manager.


Afrilabs is hiring three Abuja-based Associates (Social Media, Design, & Admin/Engagement).


Naspers Foundry is hiring a Capetown-based Investment Associate.


To submit a job opportunity to be featured here, email:

🗣️ A final word

I recently deleted my Instagram and Snapchat apps in the name of productivity and so far so good. At the same time, I recently discovered these two apps/desktop services that I’d highly recommend:

  • Radio Garden — explore live radio stations from around the world in one click (I’d recommend the radio stations in Spain)

  • — this is a very good AI-assisted voice transcription service (I imagine there are many uses cases for this, but I tend to record thoughts on mobile when I can’t/don’t want to access my laptop, then I copy the transcription to an essay or memo via the desktop site when convenient)


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