Afridigest Week in Review: B2B e-commerce is booming
+Spotlight on Jumia +Media matters +Key Big 4 Metrics +M&A moves +Startup Wise Guys enter the fray +Essays galore +Powerful podcasts +And much more
The Afridigest Week in Review is a must-read weekly recap for Africa-focused founders, executives, and investors, as well as interested observers. Share it liberally. 😊
Welcome back, friends! The most clicked link from last week was the piece on the myth of exponential hypergrowth and the elephant curve. And in case you missed it, on Saturday we published 'three insights from the hierarchy of venture opportunities in Africa.'
This week’s newsletter is even longer than usual, and I hope you’ll find it as interesting to read as I did to write. If you enjoy it, let me know by sharing it across your social networks and with your colleagues. Thanks in advance. And with that said, let’s get into Week 11.
If you’re new, welcome 🙌 — you’ll receive a weekly digest like this one every Monday and, generally (but not always), an original essay/article on Saturdays. For past essays and digests, visit the archive.
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Week 11 2022: March 13 - 19
📰 Deal of the Week
BIG BUCKS FOR B2B E-COMMERCE
Wasoko (formerly Sokowatch), a Kenyan B2B e-commerce procurement & logistics platform, raised a $125M Series B at a valuation of $625M co-led by Tiger Global and Avenir Growth. VNV Global, Quona Capital, 4DX Ventures, JAM Fund, Golden Palm Investments, and others also participated.
Active in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Côte d'Ivoire, and Senegal, the company allows informal retailers to order products via SMS or mobile app for same-day delivery via its logistics network.
💡 Why it’s the deal of the week: In the Trend Watching section of last year’s Wk 36 Week in Review, we highlighted the attention paid by innovators and investors worldwide to bringing offline retail online, writing: “The race to digitize informal retail is on across emerging markets… Across Africa, there’s an increasingly long list [of players in the space] with real scale underway.”
Sokowatch/Wasoko is one of the most notable players in that group and, indeed, real scale is underway. Since its 2016 launch, the company has delivered 2.5M orders and currently processes 50,000 orders monthly at an annualized revenue run rate of $300M.
In terms of fundraising, this is the continent’s second largest round of the year (after Flutterwave’s $250M Series D), and it makes four mega-rounds so far this year. Also notable: Wasoko is Tiger Global’s first African investment outside of fintech in the current era. (After a 2011/2012 investment in Nigeria’s SVOD space, Tiger Global abstained from Africa for the next decade or so.)
⛏️ Go deeper:
Pivoting pays off: Sokowatch began life as what Founder and CEO Daniel Yu calls “asset-light backend distribution software” that connected retailers and suppliers, but relied on third-party logistics.
Finding challenges with the model (e.g., unreliable partners, lack of visibility), the team pivoted into an asset-heavy model that offered it more control and more vectors for value creation.
Today it manages its own logistics network, including operating ~40 warehouses across its markets. “Somebody has to create and operate the infrastructure in Africa. This is the fundamental bottleneck.” — Daniel Yu
On the rebrand from Sokowatch to Wasoko: The company recently entered Francophone markets Côte d'Ivoire & Senegal and decided “to come up with a simpler name that will be easy to pronounce and spell across markets, but … still reflects our East African roots,” according to Yu. Wasoko is Swahili for ‘people of the market.’
On saying no to Nigeria: Among the list of countries Wasoko is active in—Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Côte d'Ivoire, and Senegal—Nigeria is a noticeable omission; whereas some might be drawn prematurely to the market’s potential, for Yu and the Wasoko team, “[In] Nigeria, the reality is that growth has been volatile and in some years, in fact, negative. And on top of that, you have a lot of challenges…when it comes to the economy, currency and regulations.”
A look back: Watch this 2016 sit-down Sokowatch pitch from Founder and CEO Daniel Yu. (A stand up pitch from the same event is available here)
🥈 Deal of the Week Runner-Up
Our friends at Big Cabal Media, publishers of digital media platforms TechCabal and Zikoko, raised a $2.3M seed round led by MaC Venture Capital, with participation from Luminate, Unicorn Group, Future Africa, and others.
TechCabal, the company’s tech-focused publication, reaches over 200,000K montly readers via its website and ~40,000 subscribers via its daily newsletter. Overall, Big Cabal Media has grown revenue 225% (CAGR) over the last four years.
💡 Why it deserves a special call out: Well, friends, I’m biased. And not (just) because I’m a fan of BCM—both the team and their brands—but because I think media really matters.
In previous pieces, I’ve put forth that the African startup ecosystem taking center stage in global media was the most important trend of 2021 — with Tage and Annie at Techcrunch, Abubakar at Rest of World, Alex at Quartz, more African tech coverage from Bloomberg, and more. I’ve opined for a while now that Africa's innovation economy deserves to be talked about seriously and taken seriously as part of the global tech debate, and it’s quite significant that seeds are being planted here.
That’s the lens through which I view the BCM fundraise, and it’s likely to have an impact on the African tech/innovation media landscape, my view of which is below:
Thoughts are certainly welcome. But it seems to me that TechCabal is preparing or already in the midst of a more aggressive push from the left to the center, while Briter seems to have an interest in moving to the center as well.
For us at Afridigest, we think of what we do as helping smart readers around the world get smarter about Africa's innovation economy, and we’ll be more active in pursuing that goal in the months to come — if you’re interested in collaborating, exploring ideas here or helping shape this, reply to this newsletter or email me here 🙌🏽
🔦 Other deals
OTHER FUNDRAISES ACROSS THE CONTINENT
Moove, a Nigerian 'mobility fintech' platform offering vehicle financing primarily to ride-hailing drivers, raised a $105M ($65M equity, $40M debt) Series A2 led by existing investors Speedinvest, Left Lane Capital and thelatest.ventures, with participation from new investors AfricInvest, MUFG Innovation Partners, Latitude, Kreos Capital, and others — Moove-financed vehicles have completed over 3 million rides since it launched two years ago; the company is now in the select group of ‘Africa to the world’ startups as it targets expansion to seven new markets across Asia, MENA, and Europe over the next six months
4G Capital, a Kenyan credit-led neobank providing SMEs with unsecured business loans, raised an $18.5M Series C from Lightrock — Launched in 2013, 4G Capital has extended over $230M worth of credit to over 1.75M micro-businesees since inception
Hence Technologies, a Rwandan AI-powered platform that connects in-house legal teams with external legal service providers, raised a $1.8M seed round from Daybreak Partners, Broad Creek Capital, and others — The startup, which operates out of Kigali, completed successful pilots with American and British companies; it seems it’s now targeting larger corporations across various developed markets
Chargel, a Senegalese trucking logistics platform, raised a $750K pre-seed (unspecified mix of equity and debt) from Century Oak Capital, Logos Ventures, and others — Chargel’s founding team has experience at mobile money unicorn Wave and sold a previous company to HotelOnline
Spleet, a Nigerian proptech platform building financial services, facility management, and automation infrastructure for renters and landlords, raised a $625K pre-seed led by MetaProp VC, with participation from Future Africa, VFD Group, Moonshot VC, and others — The company began as a marketplace connecting people with short-term living spaces and has since pivoted to become a fintech-oriented platform
The following startups announced their participation in Y Combinator’s W22 batch — this takes the number of African startups in the batch to 23
Digitech, an Ivorian digital insurance platform, raised a ~$330K (€300K) seed round led by Bamboo Capital’s BLOC Smart Africa Fund, with participation from Launch Africa Ventures — One of the companies products, a SaaS platform optimizing operations between insurers and reinsurers, has hundreds of insurance companies actively using it to process over 40M transactions annually across 14 countries
Guichet.com, a Moroccan digital ticketing e-commerce platform, raised ~$310K (MAD 3M) from 212 Founders — Launched in 2019, Guichet.com is the leading platform in Morocco for online movies and theater ticket booking with has over 12 million users
Welnes, an Egyptian community fitness platform, raised a $300K seed round led by Flat6labs, with participation from Samurai Incubate, UI Investments, and others — Founded in 2020, Welnes has served over 15,000 users to date
The following startups are participating in the first batch of Startup Wise Guys’ new African B2B digital SaaS accelerator program — they’ll each receive $72K (€65K) in exchange for an up to 12% equity stake and other benefits
T40, a Nigerian mobility-tech solutions provider; Zofi Cash, a Ugandan pay-on-demand/earned wage access platform; KiotaPay, a Kenyan property management platform; Nigenius, a Nigerian edtech platform for teacher resources; Dukapepe, a Kenyan platform digitizing informal retailers/dukas; Cylon Accounting, a Namibian provider of SME-focused accounting software; FloodGates, a Ghanaian provider of digital identity solutions; FXKudi, a Ghanaian offline, no-fee cross-border money transfer network; and Scrapays a Nigerian B2B on-demand waste disposal platform
Bosta, an Egyptian provider of logistics solutions for e-commerce, raised an undisclosed pre-Series B led by Khwarizmi Ventures — Since its 2017 launch, Bosta has delivered over 10 million shipments
Aisiki, Nigerian food distribution platform, announced that it raised an undisclosed amount from unnamed corporate investors — The startup delivers fresh food items straight from farmers to all sizes and types of retailers in Benin City
SupPlant, an Israeli smart irrigation systems provider operational in Kenya and Morocco, raised $27M led by Red Dot Capital, with participation from the Menomadin Foundation, Smart-Agro Fund, the Deshpande Foundation, Pioneer Bancorp, Maor Investments, and others — In Kenya, the company provided data-driven irrigation recommendations to 500,000 female maize farmers in recent farming seasons using its sensorless API technology
d.Light, an American provider of distributed solar energy solutions across Africa and worldwide, raised $7M in from Finnfund — Since its 2006 founding, d.light has provided solar energy solutions to more than 125M people across 70 countries; the company has raised over $230M in debt and equity to date
Meaningful Gigs, an American platform connecting freelance designers in Africa with global brands, raised a $6M seed round led by Stage 2 Capital with participation from Rethink Education, Authentic Ventures, Reach Capital, and others — The company has 40 brands currently registered including Coca-Cola, Audi, Vans, and IDEO
Leaf Global, an American/East-African blockchain-powered provider of mobile & USSD-based wallets in Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya, was acquired by NYSE-listed IDT Corporation for an undisclosed amount — Leaf helps traders, refugees and other vulnerable populations store value and conduct financial transactions by leveraging the Stellar blockchain network
Yoco, the South African payments soonicorn, acquired Nona Digital, a South African fintech and Web3 software development agency, for an undisclosed amount — This is the latest example of the Yoco acquisition playbook; it’s the company’s third (and largest) acquisition of a software development agency and comes after Cobi Interactive (2019) and Dado (2021). Nona’s CEO & Co-Founder joins Yoco as the Head of Product Partnerships and Web3
DilenyTech, an Egyptian provider of AI-powered radiology solutions, was acquired for an undisclosed amount by US-based imaging-guided therapy provider Astute Imaging — DilenyTech’s founder joins Astute Imagining’s founding team
Startup Wise Guys announced the first close of its $9.3M (€8.5M) Wise Guys Africa Fund I — SWG manages accelerator programs across Europe and has made over 235 investments with five significant exits; The WGA Fund will invest in a minimum of 30 African startups in 2022 and 2023
Disruptech, an Egyptian fintech-focused VC firm, received a $5M investment from the IFC — In week 51 last year, we noted the IFC’s consideration of this investment and it’s now come to fruition; the Disruptech portfolio includes fintech-focused Egyptian super app MNT-Halan, Egyptian social-commerce & agent distribution platform Brimore, Egyptian mobile banking platform Khazna, and Egyptian financial identity & credit scoring platform Cassbana
[Debt] The AfricaGoGreen Fund, an Africa-focused fund providing debt instruments to Africa-focused businesses in the fields of e-mobility, green buildings, and battery energy storage, received $20M from the African Development Bank and the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa — This is in addition to $11.5M AGG received from the Nordic Development Fund in December; The AGG Fund is managed by Lion’s Head and its portfolio includes AktivCo and BBOXX
[Impact/Clean Cooking] The Spark+ Africa Fund, an impact fund financing clean and modern cooking solutions in developing markets, announced a $40M first close of a targeted $70M — LPs participating include the African Development Bank's Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA), Denmark's Investment Fund for Developing Countries (IFU), the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO), Ceniarth, Osprey Foundation, Fundacion Netri, and the Ashden Trust
A MESSAGE FROM INTELLENCE
It’s time to go beyond the press release.
Traditional event- and campaign-driven PR is important but insufficient. Especially as markets mature.
Over the long-term, results are driven by a holistic approach to content that captures attention, boosts credibility & trust, and positions companies as the go-to authorities in their fields.
Long-term value creation comes from differentiation. That’s where we come in. We deliver tailored, high-quality content marketing—led by insights and thought leadership—that sustainably differentiates companies, startups, and VC firms from their peers over the long term.
📚 Quick Hits
FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE
How to develop product sense — “Product sense is the skill of consistently being able to craft products (or make changes to existing products) that have the intended impact on their users… [There are] four practices for building product sense: observe people interacting with products, deconstruct everyday products, learn from great product thinkers, and be curious about changes in technology and your domain”
10 lessons from great businesses — Another gem from Mario. “What makes a business great? If there is a central, unifying question at the heart of The Generalist’s pieces, this is it. Where is the magic in this machine? What makes it special? … [Here are] the ten most impactful lessons I’ve learned.”
What matters most: How we develop conviction at seed — Equal Ventures’ Rick Zullo shares how he thinks about the invest-or-pass decision at a company’s earliest stages. “While…our process for evaluating [every company] is unique to that company, uniformly there are four things we like to see prior to investing: 1) moat trajectory, 2) proximity to product-market fit, 3) why now? and 4) team.”
I love backing ‘mission-driven’ founders but here’s where they struggle as startup CEOs — Homebrew’s Hunter Walk: “Ten years of venture investing, seeing thousands and thousands of startups, suggests, at least anecdotally, that mission-driven founders more often experience the following challenges: an assumption that everyone ‘understands’ the problem like they do; too much reliance on belief, not enough trust in data; and hiring too slowly because of mission purity tests”
3 steps to understanding and unlocking your product’s international growth loops — Phil Carter, Senior Director of Growth at edtech unicorn Quizlet: “By building a dynamic international growth model that analyzes how a product grows in each country and identifies important constraints, companies can build market-specific playbooks to unlock local growth. This involves three steps: mapping your growth loops, building a quantitative growth model, and developing market-specific playbooks”
What the history of fintech can tell us about the future of healthtech — Very interesting read, but mostly US-focused. “The healthcare and financial services industries share many similarities. Both have legacy traditional institutions… Then there’s the systems’ complexity... And both industries have low customer satisfaction for clear reasons… There are clear similarities between what’s unlocking the healthtech ecosystem today and what unlocked fintech three to five years ago”
Substack’s ideology — Really enjoyed this #longread on Substack but seems it’s now behind a paywall. If you’re interested ping me by mail and I’ll forward it to you.
Nathan Baschez: “This to me is the key to understanding Substack: a delicate balance between growth-driven pragmatism and ideology-driven constraint. Both motivations are present, and they’re doing their best to harmonize them, even though there is some degree of inherent, inescapable conflict. If you don’t understand this dynamic, Substack’s product decisions may seem hard to understand.”
🧐 Spotlight on Africa's first unicorn
While Africa’s B2B retail/e-commerce market is booming as evidenced by the traction experienced by Wasoko and others, there remain challenges in B2C e-commerce, especially with the traditional Western model.
Almost exactly six years ago, pan-African e-commerce player Jumia announced a ~$325 million Series C round from MTN, Rocket Internet, and Goldman Sachs that valued the company at $1.2 billion — making it the continent’s first unicorn.
The company would go on to list on the New York Stock Exchange three years later, enjoying an impressive first day of trading that saw the stock price close up 75% and its market cap soar to ~$3.3 billion.
Today, Jumia is no longer a unicorn. For one, as a public company it no longer qualifies, but more importantly—as the company nears its tenth birthday—the company’s market cap has fallen to approximately $860M as of Friday, March 18th.
While there’s been a continued downturn in tech stocks as of late, Jumia’s woes in the public market predate this, going back to February 2021. Since reaching highs of over $60 that month, the company’s share price has steadily fallen to under $10 today. On Tuesday the 15th, its shares closed under $6.50, reaching a new 52-week low.
Across the continent, a number of voices have long been critical of the company for a variety of reasons — most notable among them: the company’s business model, strategy, and operational practices.
Time will tell what the future holds for Jumia. Still, I’m reminded of the words from investment analyst Olivier Marz about the company’s perception in the West: “The truth is they failed at scaling the platform…the Western investor is misled by the Jumia story.”
"What was secret is revealed in the marketplace." — Igbo proverb
Pair this with: Why hasn't B2C e-commerce scaled across Africa yet?
🙈 Visual of the week
BIG FOUR: COMPARISON OF A FEW KEY METRICS
Another reminder that 1) markets aren’t monolithic and 2) despite the rapid growth of fintech in Nigeria in particular, there remains a significant wave to ride in terms of internet penetration, smartphone adoption, and financial inclusion in years to come.
Pair with: FinTech in Africa — FT Partners
🕵️♀️ In case you missed it
NEWS & ANNOUNCEMENTS
Bank of Ghana orders Dash App to cease operations immediately (cached version, original has since been deleted)
Bitange Ndemo, Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Nairobi writes ‘The role of cryptocurrencies in sub-Saharan Africa’
Nicole Dunn, Accelerator Lead at Founders Factory Africa writes ‘Busting the African startup bubble myth’
Lateral Frontiers’ Bryan Njuguna writes ‘DAOs and the future of chamas in Africa’
Clara Wanjiku Odero, CEO of CredRails, writes ‘Africa's next cohort of billion-dollar startups’
Tito Cookey-Gam and the Global Ventures team write ‘Why we invested: Remedial Health — Optimizing pharma procurement in Sub-Saharan Africa’
Juliet Anammah, Chairwoman of Jumia Nigeria writes ‘What role will e-commerce play in Africa’s near future?’
The UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) released the report ‘Towards a flourishing digital economy for all – a spotlight on Africa’
PODCASTS & VIDEO
Ham Serunjogi, Founder & CEO, spoke with Dan Kimerling, Managing Partner at Deciens, about building Chipper Cash [Video]
Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, M-Pesa CEO, joins the Fintech Insider podcast (Timestamp 4m0s to 15m10s)
Daniel Yu, Co-founder & CEO of Wasoko (formerly Sokowatch) joins the Chini ya Maji podcast
Bankole and Olumide discuss South Africa’s Vodacom on the Afrobility podcast
Hugo Obi, Founder & CEO of mobile gaming studio Maliyo Games, spoke about the gaming ecosystem in Africa on the Elite Game Developers podcast
6 African women CEOs discuss how they raised more than $1M in 2021 (Techcrunch)
Investments flood into Africa’s B2B e-commerce startups (Rest of World)
Tiger Global is earning its stripes in Africa (TechCrunch)
Africa’s tech media are plotting to be as influential as the startups they cover (Quartz)
The untold story of how ThriveAgric survived a turbulent 2020 (TechCabal)
A fantastic February for African tech: Here’s what matters (TechCabal)
🗣️ Community Corner and Opportunities
I see you, friends!
Our friends at Mercy Corps Ventures and GreenHouse Capital are running a 3-day virtual investment readiness workshop starting on March 29th for early-stage female-founded startups operating out of Francophone Africa
And speaking of Mercy Corps Ventures, they’re also offering $25K-$100K equity-free for startups, SMEs, & social enterprises piloting DeFi/blockchain solutions for financial inclusion — Crypto for Good applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until April 15th
And for founders in Nigeria: applications are now open for the Lagos market-creating innovation bootcamp from MIT’s Legatum Center and the Clayton Christensen Institute. Apply before April 1st to learn about creating new markets in emerging economies directly from Efosa Ojomo with support from the Ventures Platform team
And moving from West to East Africa, congrats to Selam Kebede & co. from Antler East Africa on the fundraise announced last week and also on today’s kickoff of the 6th Antler EA cohort. Future Africa’s Iyin Aboyeji is set to give the keynote on building African unicorns tomorrow (Tuesday) and you’re invited — register to watch it on Zoom here
Are you a founder with thoughts on how VCs in Africa can create value for portfolio companies beyond capital? Please fill out this survey and share it with your founder friends
Thanks for reading 🙌🏽 Send me your news, comments, questions, etc. via Whatsapp, Twitter DM, or email, and feel free to reach out if you just want to chat. 🙏🏽
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