15 Jun

Taxify, Uber’s biggest rival in Africa, is now worth $1 billion

Taxify battle to win the ride-hailing market in Africa and Europe has received a major shot in the arm.

The five-year old Estonian startup has raised $175 million in a funding round which values it at more than $1 billion—the coveted unicorn status. The round is led by German car giant Daimler, Europe-based Korelya Capital, and Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder of fintech company TransferWise. The round also saw participation from Didi Chuxing, the ride-hailing giant in China known for backing Uber’s rivals around the globe.

The investment is Daimler’s latest foray into the ride-hailing transport business after prior investments in European car transport companies, including Flinc, the German carpooling startup. As part of the deal, Daimler will join Taxify’s board and could also offer it access to Moovel, its transport-booking app, with a user base of 2.5 million.

Taxify currently operates in 40 cities—11 of which are in Africa—and is expected to use the new funding to power an expansion into more cities. Its expansion strategy will likely target only cities where the ride-hailing business has been “proven,” as CEO Markus Villing told Bloomberg last year.

Read more: Quartz Africa

12 Jun

Ethiopia’s tech startups are confident change is coming

Word that Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed is looking to loosen his country’s tight grip on strategic assets like its fast-growing airline and its long-term telecom monopoly has sparked interest from international investors and regional corporations.

It’s easy to see why: Ethiopia, with a population of 100 million, has had one of the world’s fastest-growing economies for the past decade. It’s also had a successful top-down implementation of various infrastructure initiatives in transportation and construction.

Still, Ethiopia’s also been called a “sleeping giant” because of its closed markets. Decades after last socialist government, it still has a heavily regulated business environment. Things were changing even before Abiy’s appointment and as the country’s tense politics led to a state of emergency after ethnic-led protests and fatal clashes with security forces.

At the Afrobytes tech conference in Paris, an Ethiopian delegation of 12 local startups attended to show off some the not-often-seen initiatives. Zekarias Amsalu, founder of investment advisory firm Ibex Frontier, who led the startup group, says he coined the moniker “Sheba Valley” to describe one of Addis Ababa main startup hubs.

Amsalu has long been a champion for Ethiopia’s potential, saying it’s not about “emotion, but logic.” The accountant, who splits his time between London, Washington DC and Addis, explains: “We just want our story to be told.

We have 250,000 university graduates every year, about 70% of them are in STEM subjects, there’s so much potential.” Sheba Valley is now recognized as a leading hub for AI technology on the continent led by Icog Labs, the Addis research team.

“You have to be smarter than the machines than you’re using,” says Betelhem Dessie, who at 18 is already a project manager for Icog, while still a student at the University of Addis Ababa.

There are several other hubs, including Ice Addis and Bluemoon and more established tech-led ventures including Gebeya, an online marketplace for talent.

To read the full article, click here.

11 Oct

Capitalising on the continent’s mobile marketing opportunity

Justpalm is a South Africa-based mobile and web marketing agency, with regional offices in Nairobi, Kinshasa and soon Abuja. The business works with clients to integrate a mobile aspect into their marketing strategy.

The company has also released products like ChiChi Sponsored Call, which allows brands to sponsor customers’ phone calls in return for 15-seconds advertising time prior to the call connecting. Another solution is mBongo Recharge, a mobile marketing platform that offers consumers mobile money and airtime as a reward for their engagement.

“Africa is the fastest-growing continent in terms of mobile-phone penetration. The majority of the African population is made up of young people discovering the world for the first time through their mobile handsets. So, there’s a remarkable opportunity for a mobile marketing agency like ours to help brands better utilise mobile phone technologies to connect and engage with African consumers and convert them to customers,” remarked Patrick Palmi, the founder of Justpalm.

Palmi answered How we made it in Africa’s questions.

1. How did you finance your start-up?

My father and elder brother lent me an initial sum of US$20,000 when I started back in 2009. But that first business failed due to lack of experience. Four years later, I self-funded a brand new start for the business with personal savings, and have since grown the business into a $1.5m asset with a presence and blue-chip customers across Africa.

2. If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?

Building a stronger local presence across more countries in Africa. We believe there’s a huge demand from big brands for our type of services, and African consumers are ready to start engaging brands on their mobile devices. So, we must just unlock this huge potential with a strong local presence in the top-10 African markets for a start.

Read more: Start-up snapshot: Capitalising on the continent’s mobile marketing opportunity

21 Sep

Startup snapshot: Moroccan platform aiming to ‘Uberise’ healthcare

DabaDoc is a Morocco-based startup that allows users in the country, as well as Tunisia, Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa, to book appointments with medical professionals – from doctors to dentists. Patients can use DabaDoc for free, however, doctors pay a fee to be featured on the platform.

According to the founders, brother-and-sister team Zineb Drissi Kaitouni and Driss Drissi Kaitouni, their business has already facilitated over three million leads between patients and doctors. The duo briefed How we made it in Africa on how they financed their business and the biggest risks facing the company.

1. How did you finance your start-up?

The company has been bootstrapped.

2. If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?

Despite quadrupling or quintupling in size each year since launch, we still have lots of growth to do. We would continue hiring exceptionally talented people and expanding our footprint into exciting markets.

3. What risks does your business face?

We have established DabaDoc as a leading brand with over 5,000 active doctors and millions of patients. Our risks mainly lie in being able to execute our growth plan in our current markets and future markets we enter. We have substantially de-risked the business as it stands, as we are leading by far in our core markets and our repeat users are great promoters of the platform.

We always keep a very close eye on our market fundamentals to make sure we are proactive and not reactive to any important changes. It’s also very helpful for us to have raised capital from local strategic partners who help accelerate our growth with much more than just capital.

4. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

Our users are our best growth channel. Both doctors and patients love our product, we score very high on NPS.

Read more: Start-up snapshot: Moroccan platform aiming to ‘Uberise’ healthcare