Afridigest Week in Review: Fintech building blocs
+Wave layoffs, Duplo's pulled term sheet +3 of top 10 crypto owning countries are in Africa +Problems with VC (virtual cards) +How Coinbase operates efficiently at scale +Questions for Edmund?
The Afridigest Week in Review is a must-read weekly recap for Africa-focused founders, executives, and investors, as well as interested observers.
Welcome back, friends! The most clicked link last week was the Coatue investor presentation (PDF).
Also, I bit the bullet and launched a newsletter on LinkedIn — it’s not at all focused on the African startup ecosystem so YMMV, but if you’re interested in quick, actionable ideas for becoming a better business leader, it’s worth a look. The first piece is here, and the next piece should come later this week.
If you’re new, welcome 🙌🏽 — you’ll receive a weekly digest like this on Mondays usually and, sometimes (but not always), an original essay/article on Saturdays. For past essays and digests, visit the archive.
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Week 28 2022: July 10 - 16
📰 Deal of the Week
Bloc, a Nigerian all-in-one fintech infrastructure and banking-as-a-service provider, announced its acquisition of Nigerian payments orchestration company Orchestrate for an undisclosed amount in cash 💰 and stock.
About Bloc: Formerly TechAdvance, Bloc began its journey in 2009 as a provider of solutions for utility payments in Nigeria before branching out to focus on payment infrastructure in general then becoming a full-service fintech infrastructure provider. After acquiring requisite licenses and certifications, it released a suite of aggregated fintech APIs and rebranded to Bloc to mirror its new focus on building global infrastructure blocks for the African fintech ecosystem.
The company currently operates under two verticals: Banking-as-a-Service (under which it provides APIs for bill payments and wallet management, float as a service, the provision of physical and virtual cards, and more) and FinTech-as-a-Service (where it focuses on providing agency banking solutions, money transfer APIs, and now payments orchestration via the new Orchestrate by Bloc). Bloc has processed over $30M in the past year through its bill payments API alone.
About Orchestrate: Orchestrate was founded in 2021 as GetWallets, a wallets-as-a-service provider that helped businesses integrate wallets into their applications.
“The general idea was to make building a wallet into any application seamless.” — Jerry Enebeli
But after noticing demand from customers for an underlying solution to easily access and switch between multiple payment providers (e.g., in the case of service failures), the company pivoted to payment orchestration and launched the new brand Orchestrate at the end of May 2022.
Going forward: The Orchestrate team joins Bloc and “Orchestrate by Bloc” will continue as a separate platform within the Bloc umbrella — led by CEO & founder Jerry Enebeli who also becomes CTO of the combined Bloc Group.
Bloc will focus on its core BaaS expertise while Orchestrate will lead the charge in the company’s FTaaS vertical.
How the deal came together: Details forthcoming, but it seems RaliCap still has a strong claim to best in helpfulness.
Benjamindada.com | Premium tech blog @dadabenblog🤝 @BuildwithBloc has acquired Getwallets, the wallets-as-a-service provider that has now pivoted to a payments orchestration company, @OrchestrateHQ. https://t.co/7BH3jkNyxN
Edmund Olotu, Bloc Founder & Chief Innovation Officer
Jerry Enebeli, Orchestrate Founder & CEO
Hayden Simmons, RaliCap Founder & General Partner
In the Founder’s words: “Jerry and his team have built an incredible platform that is a great fit with what we were looking to add to our suite of services so it made sense to acquire their proven expertise rather than building our own platform from scratch. This is an exciting evolution for both businesses as we look to grow and build even more solutions that ultimately supports the growth of African tech businesses in the coming years.” — Edmund Olotu
Action item: I should talk to Edmund from Bloc later this week if all goes right — send me any questions you have.
🔦 Other deals
OTHER FUNDRAISES ACROSS THE CONTINENT
🇳🇬 Zazuu, a British/Nigerian cross-border remittance aggregation platform raised a $2M venture round from Launch Africa, Founders Factory Africa, HoaQ Club, ODBA, Jonomi Ventures, and others
🇳🇬 Stakefair (formerly BetDemand), a Nigerian DeFi-powered no loss betting platform and yield generation protocol, raised a $670K pre-seed from Adaverse, Nestcoin, Kepple Africa Ventures, Canza Finance, Voltron Capital, Echo VC, Saturn Blockchain Ventures, Thrive Africa Syndicate, and others — Thrive Africa’s investment was previously shared in Week 15 2022’s Week in Review
🇳🇬 Swipe, a Nigerian BNPL-focused credit-cards-as-a-service platform, announced a $500K pre-seed
🇲🇦 AZA Petrosolutions, a Moroccan provider of tech-enabled solutions for the oil & gas industry, raised a ~$296K (MAD 3M) pre-seed from the Maroc Numeric Fund II
🇿🇦 DigsConnect, a South African student housing marketplace, raised an undisclosed “multi-million rand” (minimum ~$100K) Pre-Series A from Launch Africa, Goodwater Capital, Five35 Ventures, and Delta Ventures
🇲🇦 Smartprof, a Moroccan tutoring platform that connects K-12 students with tutors enrolled in higher education, raised $50K
Wingcopter, a German manufacturer of fixed-wing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and provider of drone delivery services, raised a $42M Series A extension — the company has so far been focused on medical supply delivery and plans to deploy over 12,000 drones across Africa over the next five years
CrossBoundary Energy, a Kenya-based owner & operator of renewable power plants that sells electricity to commercial and industrial (C&I) customers across Africa, raised $40M from Norfund, the Norwegian government’s investment fund for developing countries, and pension fund KLP
Egyptian-born shared mobility platform Swvl (NASDAQ: SWVL) acquired Mexican mass transit tech platform Urbvan in an ~$82M all-stock deal — According to Swvl, the deal will contribute to Swvl being cash flow positive in 2023; Urbvan joins other recently acquired companies in the Swvl ecosystem: Volt Lines, door2door, Viapool and Shotl
African Leadership International announced its acquisition of Holberton, a Silicon Valley-founded software engineering school, for an undisclosed amount — Holberton’s technology platform will fold into the ALX online learning platform and Hoberton’s 20+ physical locations will get spun out as a stand-alone business
Read Fred Swaniker’s Africa comes to Silicon Valley!
Technology investment holding company Hyperclear acquired South African data and analytics software platform Principa for an undisclosed amount from Apex Partners Holdings
Mirova, a French management company, announced the 100% acquisition of Kenyan solar energy financier SunFunder for an undisclosed amount
Moove, a Nigerian 'mobility fintech' platform offering vehicle financing solutions primarily to ride-hailing drivers, announced that it secured a $20M financing facility from South Africa’s Absa Corporate and Investment Banking
Switzerland-based companies Ringier and Sportradar (NASDAQ: SRAD) announced a joint venture to support Pulse Sports in its ambition to create the leading sports information and entertainment experience provider for African audiences — Ringier will be the majority owner of the joint venture and will contribute the media expertise of its portfolio company, pan-African media platform Pulse, while Sportradar will contribute its sports data and product portfolio offerings
Response Architects, operators of direct-to-consumer liveshopping platform ShopEX, announced an exclusive agreement with Alibaba Cloud, the digital technology and intelligence arm of Alibaba Group, to launch an African livestream shopping infrastructure platform, Penda, in major markets including Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya
Persistent Energy, an Africa-focused climate venture builder and investor, raised a $10M Series C led by Kyuden International Corporation and Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Africa, with participation from BK Ventures BV, DPI Energy Ventures, and others — The Persistent portfolio includes Oolu, BBOX, Rensource, and Solar Taxi
Tunisia-based Smart Capital, the manager of the Anava fund of funds, invested $5.2M in the Badia Impact Squared Fund (BIF2) — BFI2 is a Jordan-based fund whose mandate is to invest primarily in early-stage technology companies in Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Lebanon, with a principal focus on Series A rounds in Jordanian and Egyptian companies
Catalyst Fund received a $3.5M investment from FSD Africa
📰 News of the week
THE LOCAL IMPACT OF THE GLOBAL MARKET DOWNTURN
Last week, the broader (Anglophone) African startup ecosystem became aware of layoffs at Senegalese/American mobile money unicorn Wave.
Details: Nearly 300 employees (or almost 15% of the company’s workforce) were let go at the end of June — primarily across the company’s new markets: Burkina Faso, Mali, and Uganda.
Rationale: Letters received by Wave staff, at least those in Mali, mentioned “unfavorable global conditions such as high inflation and rising interest rates that have led to turbulence in financial markets, limiting [Wave’s] capacity to deploy capital...to maintain our growth plans”
Distortions: Media platforms across Francophone Africa generally published the news first, but several media houses reported that this signified Wave’s complete exit from Mali, Burkina Faso, and Uganda — an error that the company was quick to clarify: “we’re more than ever determined to remain in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Uganda over the long term to continue to advance financial inclusion”
Context: Wave was last valued at $1.7B after it announced a $200M Series A — the largest of its kind in Africa; last week, in Week 27, the company also announced a €90M syndicated loan arranged by the IFC
Critiques: The company’s business model and competitive approach has received its fair share of criticism — for example, the CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa put forth in April that Wave’s VC-financed model destroyed 20,000 jobs in Senegal and this recent news is likely to result in renewed reprovals
Human impact: Peter & the Oui Capital team are creating a database to help those affected find their next role
While the ultimate impact the global market downturn will have on the African startup ecosystem is still being debated, Wave is the latest startup to announce layoffs in Africa, joining Egypt’s Vezeeta and Egypt-born Swvl.
But while layoffs are one highly visible indicator of the current environment, others like pulled term sheets are also quietly occurring, becoming public only occasionally.
This week, for example, The Information reported that large American VC/PE firm Insight Partners pulled the plug on its signed offer to lead Nigerian B2B payments platform Duplo’s seed round. And there are murmurs of multiple similar occurrences across the ecosystem.
Interesting times ahead in H2.
📚 Quick hits
FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE
How to kickstart and scale a consumer business — Good read from Lenny Rachitsky on “how 50 of today’s most successful consumer businesses originally came up with their startup idea.”
Crypto primitives — Ayo Omojola, SVP of Product at Carbon Health, on use cases for crypto and DeFi: “Prior to the existence of cryptocurrency, it was (and still is) fairly common for wealthy individuals in poor countries to hold foreign currency as a mechanism for savings… Governments hate this because it creates natural selling pressure for their home currency, but a fiat-backed stablecoin pegged to the US Dollar or Euro (with real assets under management) that is permissionless and effectively beyond the ability of the government to stop you from buying, is simply a digital asset substitute for a real use case that exists.”
Operating efficiently at scale — Recommended read from Coinbase CEO & Co-Founder Brian Armstrong on changes the company is making to “maintain an insurgent mindset” and succeed at scale
Narrative capital — Blume Ventures’ Sajith Pai: “Narrative Capital is my term for a trend that has accelerated lately in venture capital; one where media creators purveying tech and startup content have raised funds/vehicles to invest in startups. Effectively, they are leveraging their large and growing fanbase of followers and consumers to launch an investment vehicle… What explains/underpins the rise of Narrative Capital, and what implications does it hold for venture capital’s future?”
This is water: Revisiting social constructs — Index Ventures’ Rex Woodbury on social norms and companies leading change: “Huge swaths of modern life are manmade—simply made up… We don’t tend to think about how things came to be the way they are; we just accept them as everyday parts of life. We take things that are made-up (and that may make little sense) as gospel… [But] the world is changing at an alarming speed, and foundational parts of our everyday lives will soon become extinct.”
Financial plan model template — a template and explainer from German VC Creandum’s Peter Specht and Maximilian Grohmann
How to thrive in the coming startup acquisition wave — Cathay Innovation’s Alex Lazarow on “the key rationales for acquisitions, as well as crucial strategies to make them successful.”
Startup Markets, Summer 2022 Edition — Elad Gil’s take and predictions on the current startup/tech financing environment: “The reality is that relative to historical norms, we are not into truly tough times yet for the tech ecosystem”
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👀 Visual of the Week
Did you know? According to recent analysis from the United Nations Conference On Trade And Development, the African continent is home to three of the world’s top ten countries by crypto ownership percentage as of 2021.
Also: Fifteen of the top twenty countries in crypto ownership percentage were in emerging market and developing economies.
Quotable: “There are two main reasons for the increased use of cryptocurrencies in developing countries during the pandemic. First, the use of cryptocurrencies was an attractive channel, in terms of price and speed, through which to send remittances. During the pandemic, the already high costs of traditional remittance services rose even higher during lockdown periods due to related disruptions.
Second, cryptocurrencies, as part of financial investments and speculation, are mainly held by middle-income individuals in developing countries and, particularly in countries facing currency depreciation and rising inflation (triggered or accentuated by the COVID-19 crisis), cryptocurrencies have been perceived as a way to protect household savings.”
🕵️♀️ In case you missed it
NEWS & ANNOUNCEMENTS
The South African antitrust regulator Competition Commission shared the initial findings of its anticompetitive review: Apple, Google, UberEats, Airbnb, Booking.com, Mr Delivery, Takealot, Cars.co.za, & others are operating in ways that impede competition
The Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) court ruled that the seven-month Twitter ban by Nigerian authorities in 2021 was unlawful and inconsistent with the African Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
ESSAYS & REPORTS
Alison Collier, Managing Director of Endeavor South Africa, writes ‘Why some South African businesses are succeeding despite the odds’
Dr. Mark Nasila, Chief Analytics Officer in the FNB Chief Risk Office, writes ‘Artificial intelligence will transform healthcare services in Africa’
Uber promised South Africans better lives but knew drivers risked debt and danger (The Washington Post) ← interesting read
The African music artists backing startups (Techcrunch)
Tablets from Kenya’s failed digital literacy program are now being sold in Uganda’s black market (Quartz)
The WhatsApp group helping Nigerian women with fertility issues (Al Jazeera)
Interest-free ‘buy now, pay later’ takes hold in Africa (bird/Mail & Guardian)
South Africa is building its own ‘silicon valley’ – and companies ranging from Amazon to startups are hiring (BusinessTech)
Why has AfCFTA not created the promised trade empire? (TechCabal)
🐤 Tweets of the Week
Jason Njoku, Founder/CEO of subscription video platform Iroko, share some thoughts on monetizing early — what’s the downside?
Benjamin Dada, Nigeria Country Manager at API fintech company Stitch, highlights a fintech paradox:
Rohit Mittal, CEO of immigrant-focused lending platform Stilt, calls out the dearth of venture debt for emerging markets:
🗣️ Community Corner, Opportunities, & Suggestions
⭐ Afridigest is a media partner of the 2022 Nigeria Fintech Forum being held on August 3rd in Lagos — Register here & hear from a number of Afridigest readers who’ll be speaking
Congrats to Maya Horgan Famodu & the team on Ingressive Capital’s 5th anniversary celebration & what I hear was a solid celebration event event
Congrats to Yinka Adegoke and the Rest of World team on a successful Future of Tech event in Nairobi
Congrats to Russell Southwood on the publication of his new book, Africa 2.0 — get the paperback, hardcover, or e-book version → here ←
Congrats to AJ Okereke on the new role at Insight Partners
Google is hiring a Nairobi-based Product Manager for the Next Billion Users team
The Lateral Frontiers team is hiring a Lagos-based Investment Principal
Chris Maclay and the Jobtech Alliance are hiring Venture Building Managers and other roles in Lagos and Nairobi
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