How This Egyptian Entrepreneur Is Tackling The Talent Problem In The Cybersecurity Industry

Nzekwe Henry August 22

Heard about the Australian kid who got a bite off the Apple? Well, here’s a dose of reality; just a few days back, Australian newspaper, The Age, covered a story about a 16-year-old boy from Melbourne who for the better parts of a year had apparently been strutting his way in and out of the private servers of the world’s first trillion-dollar public company: Apple. Yes, you got that right; Apple!

Now, this is not one of those “kid-caught-with-hands-in-the-cookie-jar” moments; this is much bigger. The teen, whose name is being withheld for legal reasons, is reported to have retrieved over 90 GB of private information over the course a year after he somehow managed to bypass the company’s security protocols; a move that granted him wanton access into the company’s internal file systems and information that is believed to be classified. It appears he did all of it for fun, though, as he is quoted as saying he  “dreams of working for Apple as he is a big fan of the company.” Lucky break for Apple as opined in some circles.

Although the activities of this precocious hacker have since been detected by Apple who eventually shut him out before alerting the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who subsequently signaled the Australian Federal Police (AFP) – a move that resulted in the discovery of materials tying him to the server breach and arraignment before the Children’s Court where he has since pled guilty and is now awaiting sentencing – it really does call for concern. During the hack, the schoolboy is reported to have successfully accessed “authorized keys” that are believed to be “extremely secure.”

Reality Check: How Secure Is “Extremely Secure”? The whole Apple teen hack scenario just begs the big question. If a Fortune-500 technology giant like Apple with all its cutting-edge systems and high-caliber personnel can have a teen sneak in under the radar, breach its defenses, and cart away valuable information right from under its noses, how about a full-blown hack attack on perhaps a government server holding tons of sensitive information?  Is it really far-fetched to assert that there might be no such thing as unbreachable and invulnerable? Well, now you get the idea: the web is not the impregnable fortress we thought it to be, we need cybersecurity professionals to keep it secure, and one Egyptian entrepreneur is on a mission to unearth and engage some of the best of them.

Such has been the reach of technology and the internet that both elements virtually now have control over very vital aspects of our daily lives. For enthusiasts, neutrals, and even naysayers alike, the power the web that now wields in almost every facet of life is all-encompassing and undeniable.

It has been something akin to an invasion of our world by otherworldly elements – only that this time, we are not talking aliens, robots, or cyborgs. These days, it is about gadgets, and gizmos, and the intricately-connected nexus which forms the labyrinth of fiber-optic internet cables that drives them. And this time around, it is not really an invasion; it is more like innovation that has unfolded right before our eyes and under our very noses, mostly out of our own creation.

Image result for cybertalents

Winners Of The 2018 Egypt National Cybersecurity CTF Competition Organized By CyberTalents

Image Source: Seekurity

The web is now something of a go-to repository for all kinds of information and knowledge. And why wouldn’t it be when its capacity is limitless and its reach boundless?! From classified government records (information that can potentially make or mar the current world order), through sensitive company data, to even information on social media platforms (which a large chunk of the 7 billion people on the planet already have their digital footprints on); the web can be considered to have several terabytes of vital human data locked away in some kind of digital vault – one that is not impregnable.

Yes, that last phrase may come across as eerie and pessimistic but it does hold water to some extent, especially when thought is given to the idea that no man-made system can be classified as utterly infallible. Humans created the web and put in place measures to impart a reasonable degree of security. The keyword here is ‘reasonable degree of security,’ which is a long way off from ‘absolute security.’ And that’s just for starters.

For every data storage system that is regarded as iron-clad unbreachable, there is always a good chance that there is an ingenious hacker somewhere trying to exploit the half-chance that there is a backdoor or trapdoor through which they can gain unrestricted access and wreak various shades of havoc.

Even the much-talked-about decentralized blockchain system which governs bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, for all its promises of security, impregnability, and immutability, is not without flaws and certainly not immune to the occasional breach – as is highlighted by the infamous 2016 hacking incident in which Bitfinex; one of the largest U.S dollar bitcoin exchanges, announced that it had lost as much as USD 69 Mn in one day after the platform’s firewalls, fool-proofs, and fail-safes were overridden by some extraordinary hacking – an incident which resulted in a drop in bitcoin’s market rate by as much as 20 percent and amounted to huge losses for so many people in the aftermath.

And how about the well-documented Careem hacking incident which happened earlier this year? A cyber attack that reportedly resulted in the data of over 14 million customers and captains getting compromised and leaked? Sure looks like there is a myriad of ways in which this could get worse.

Even though the cryptocurrency and the ride-hailing service has since recovered somewhat, the whole scenario further underlines the untold damage that can be orchestrated when the power held by the web and all its data storage systems is wielded by the wrong people. Data is power, the internet has tons of it – perhaps, even too much of it – and in the wrong hands, the devastation could get a lot worse than losing millions of dollars and having data leaked.

This informs the need for gatekeepers; sentries to hold down the data fort that we have inadvertently built. We may never be able to completely stop the activities of unethical hackers, but the one thing we can certainly do is make their job several geometric progressions harder and virtually impossible. And one man is making it his business to groom outstanding talents to effectively neutralize every rogue genius.

Moataz Salah is an Egyptian entrepreneur who has made it his mission to keep the security of web and cloud data storage systems intact. With over a decade of experience in the field of cybersecurity under his belt while working directly with multinational companies like Intel and Valeo, it is quite fitting that he is the Founder and CEO of CyberTalents; a leading platform for top talents in the world of cybersecurity.

Since coming into inception in 2017, the startup has made significant strides in the aspect of unearthing some of the finest talents when it comes to cybersecurity and molding them into world-beaters that can hold their own against the craftiest and slipperiest of hackers. This it does by ranking cybersecurity professionals across the globe through Capture-The-Flag (CTF) contests, with a view to getting them snapped up by the top recruiters of cybersecurity talent.

Moataz’s creation was inspired by an apparent dearth in the global cybersecurity workforce. As indicated in an earlier publication by WeeTracker, when the CEO pitched the idea behind CyberTalents as one of ten startups that were graduated in the first cycle of EG Bank’s MINT Incubator which was concluded earlier this year, he pointed out that there was a shortage of personnel in the industry and there was an ever-growing need for highly-skilled cybersecurity talents; a point that is echoed by a global report which places the deficit in personnel at somewhere around 2 million. He also implied that with menacing and prowling hackers always on the clock and without enough cybersecurity talents to keep them at bay, the world was sitting on a tinderbox as it is. Thus, CyberTalents was birthed as his answer to question marks over cybersecurity; a way of beefing up the cavalry to keep the intruders away.

“We are on a mission to discover the young cybersecurity talents in this region, provide them with job opportunities, and help in closing the skills gap shortage that is hitting the cybersecurity market now with nearly 2 million job positions unfilled; a figure that is expected to reach 3.5 million by 2021 if the current trend is not checked,” the CEO offered in a conversation with WeeTracker.

He further revealed; “The cybersecurity market is growing tremendously. It is expected to reach USD 200 Bn by the year 2021, and it currently boasts a 10% Year-on-Year growth. With the continuous hacking stories on different businesses, enterprises, and government entities, the need for cybersecurity talents is increasing exponentially.”

And Moataz is looking to leverage the market opportunity while contributing his own quota towards solving a pressing global problem. By virtue of its business model, CyberTalents puts together CTF contests as a central feature of the platform, and these competitions are powered by large tech companies; ones whose interests are best served by the talents discovered in such contests.

CyberTalents CTF contests are all geared towards providing flawless solutions to very tough cybersecurity challenges, some of which might require several hours for a breakthrough. The startup ranks the cybersecurity professionals who participate in these competitions on the basis of how long it took to resolve a given problem and the results achieved by the solution. This information is, thus, used by large tech companies as a talent acquisition tool for recruitment purposes. The startup’s earnings come by way of commissions accumulated for all hires that take place via its platform.

“Africa and the Middle East hold a huge amount of potential in different fields including cybersecurity. Many top talents are in need of the opportunity to showcase their skills and become gainfully employed. We hope to achieve this through CyberTalents,” Moataz commented.

On the subject of funding, the CEO revealed to WeeTracker; “We launched a crowdfunding campaign during our initial stages so as to be able to validate the idea and launch the platform. Later, we were accepted into a local incubator. Currently, we are in the process of concluding our seed investment round.”

Moataz, however, cited the reactive, rather than proactive stance, which most firms assume on the issue of cybersecurity as a challenge to the business’ growth and expansion. According to him, companies are more likely to pay attention to the subject only in the aftermath of an actual attack – an apparent case of prevention being better than the cure for all things but this.

“Although a lot of hacking incidents like Careem and others have happened in the region lately, cybersecurity is still an emerging field in the MENA region. People would like to fix the problem after they have been hit by an attack, and not before it. Companies need to be proactive, not reactive, and that’s what we hope to make our customers understand.” It would appear the startup has its work cut out for it in the area of creating awareness on the need to constantly reinforce security protocols with up-to-date practices; a task which CyberTalents seems to be taking on with aplomb.

So far, Moataz has led many activities related to such matters as cybersecurity awareness, knowledge transfer, and building the cybersecurity community within Egypt and the rest of the MENA region. In 2010, he founded the Cairo Security Camp Conference, which could be considered one of the most valuable cybersecurity conferences in Egypt and the MENA region; an annual event that has discovered some remarkable talents and still runs to date. In 2011, the aforementioned conference held its first ever CTF competition for security professionals in the region. Most recently, Moataz and the rest of the Team at CyberTalents also received accolades from Abeer Khedr, Information Security Director at the National Bank of Egypt (NBE) for their role in putting together a remarkable Arab Regional Cybersecurity Capture-The-Flag Competition which came to a conclusion about a week ago via a LinkedIn post – in which she thanked the team for “organizing such challenging and motivating competitions to uncover hidden exceptional talents in the Arab world.” Currently, CyberTalents boasts a remarkable growth rate by way of talents discovered and revenue realized, with an average of 20% Month-on-Month since its official launch in March 2017.

Abeer Khedr At The Just-Concluded 2018 Arab Regional Cybersecurity  CTF Competition
Image via LinkedIn

“All talents login to our platform and go through four steps: practice, compete, get ranked and get hired. Every talent will get points for solving hands-on cybersecurity challenges in different categories and with different levels,” the CEO told WeeTracker. “Categories vary between web security, network security, mobile security, malware analysis, digital forensics, cryptography, and others. Best talents are ranked in their countries or across the world based on their skills. On the other hand, companies will be able to recruit the best talents who have showcased their cybersecurity skills to the fullest extent.”

Moataz Salah (First-Left) Alongside Winners & Stakeholders At The 2018 Arab Regional Cybersecurity CTF Competition
Image via LinkedIn

With this two-pronged approach which incorporates discovering talents and connecting them with employers, the platform truly stands out. CyberTalents is poised to bridge the apparent disconnect that exists between the talent pool and the companies that require such talents across the globe by serving up an automated medium which will enhance the creation of CTF contests and provide it as a service to unearth the best talents, rank them across the globe, and bring them into the big time.

The company’s vision is to build the largest cybersecurity community in the world so as to be able to tackle problems that exist in the form of a shortage of human resources in the field, as well as future problems that could arise in the world of cybersecurity.

Egypt’s Nawah Scientific Gets USD 1 Mn Funding Boost From Endure Capital

Nzekwe Henry December 10

Egyptian research startup, Nawah Scientific, has secured an investment worth USD 1 Mn in a pre-Series A round led by Endure Capital, with 500 Startups, Averroes Ventures, Egypt Ventures, and angel investor, Dr. A. Abdelhamid, also joining the funding round. This is the first time the startup is raising external investment.

Nawah Scientific is a Cairo-based startup that appears to be carving a niche for itself in the area of scientific research. The startup which was founded in 2015 by Dr. Omar Sakr; a PhD holder in the field of Pharmaceutical Sciences, boasts a collection of advanced equipment that is suited to the research and development needs of both natural and medical sciences.

Nawah Scientific helps scientists and universities who do not have access to sophisticated equipment and facilities carry out critical research tests that would be otherwise improbable or too much to ask.

The startup goes about this by receiving experiment requests via its online platform. Through a courier, the test samples are moved under prime conditions from the address of the client that made the request to premises of the startup.

A team of competent in-house scientists then take the reins from that point onwards as the required tests are carried out and the test results are relayed to the client via the startup’s online platform. Through this simple but effective mode of operation, Nawah Scientific is able to cater for the needs of researchers as it affords scientists access to top-notch research facilities, whilst fostering scientific research in both Egypt and beyond.

Having been established barely three years prior, Nawah Scientific claims to have offered its services to clients within and outside Egypt. So far, the startup claims to have analyzed as many as 15,000 samples from 32 universities. But the services of the startup do not stop at scientists and academia as it also carries out complicated research projects and simple analysis for chemical and pharmaceutical companies.

Commenting on the development, Dr. Omar Sakr, Founder and CEO of Nawah Scientific, tethered his motivation for establishing the startup to the need to make access to cutting-edge research and high-tech equipment more available.

He also noted that a lot of time that should otherwise be put into meaningful work is spent by scientists shuttling between cities and universities to have their samples tested. And in the process, yielding unreliable research projects that are shallow at best. According to the CEO, this has put a strain on the trust between industry and academia resulting in a poor ‘research-to-product’ conversion rate. He, however, believes that the startup is now better poised to fix these problems.

With the latest development, Nawah Scientific has now become one of the first life sciences startups in the MENA region that has achieved success in raising significant investment. Since its inception, the startup has posted an impressive year-on-year growth and this can be thought to have gone some way towards attracting and closing the investment deal. And this bodes well for other science-based startups in the region as the company appears to have broken the proverbial glass ceiling.

Speaking with regards to the investment, Tarek Fahim, Managing Partner of Endure Capital, opined that biotech startups share a lot in common with software startups before AWS and rapid development tools. He also stressed the importance of infrastructure players who can push boundaries to the growth and sustainability of biotech enterprises, stating that they can help “lower cost for starting and increase the speed of prototyping.”

Egypt Ventures; a VC that was launched recently by Egypt’s Ministry of Investment, is believed to be the biggest investor in this round. Hema Ali, Managing Director of the newly launched VC, expressed the company’s excitement at being part of the startup’s journey as it looks to scale its offerings and expand into new markets.

It was this time last year when Nawah Scientific clinched the grand prize in the pitch competition at the 2017 RiseUp Summit. Having emerged winners of the competition, the startup roped in a USD 50 K cash prize.

Now, barely a year on from that night of blitz, the startup appears to be holding its own quite well, and the latest investment worth USD 1 Mn (which is quite substantial given that the startup is raising external capital for the first time) is a testament that Nawah Scientific is on the right track, as this connotes investor confidence.

Plans related to expanding the startup’s services and growing its marketing activities outside of Egypt are expected to get most of the attention with the latest capital injection.

 

 

Feature image CourtesyNawah Scientific

Egyptian Healthtech Startup Vezeeta Raises Investment From IFC

Nzekwe Henry December 10

Egyptian healthtech startup, Vezeeta, has secured an undisclosed amount of investment from World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC). This development sees Vezeeta become the first Egyptian technology company to bag a direct investment from the IFC.

Vezeeta is one of the leading healthtech startups in the MENA region and the latest investment from IFC into the Cairo-based company follows a previous announcement which saw the startup close a Series-C round worth USD 12 Mn. That round was led by STV; a Saudi-based investment firm.

Vezeeta was launched in 2012 by Amir Barsoum. The startup makes it possible for patients to search, compare, book, and consult with doctors in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Lebanon. Vezeeta also assists medical personnel with practice management solutions that help in better management of medical appointments and patient data.

Up to 2 million appointments are believed to be facilitated by the platform on a yearly basis, and that’s according to the startup. More so, Vezeeta claims to have over 10,000 healthcare providers signed on to the platform, providing services to at least 2.5 million patients in the region.

With regards to the development, Amir Barsoum, Founder and CEO of Vezeeta, offered that the investment from a “global power” like the IFC will help accelerate the growth of the startup, as well as buoy its plans of building a formidable global network.

Chief Executive Officer of the IFC, Philippe Le Houerou, also commented on the development expressing his confidence in the ability of Vezeeta to drive innovation in the MENA region. The CEO also expressed delight at the prospect of African entrepreneurs harnessing their creativity and drive with the power of novel technologies to address some of the continent’s most pressing problems.

Vezeeta’s Chief Technology Officer, Adel Khalil, also rendered his voice in support of the development reiterating its importance in helping the startup keep up with its mandate of empowering millions of patients in the region, and making sure patients and healthcare providers are seamlessly connected by leveraging data and new products in healthcare.

Mohammad Elmougi echoed, Vezeeta’s VP North Africa, echoed the thoughts of the CTO when he hinted at the commitment of the startup to pulling down all accessibility barriers and improving the quality of healthcare experienced by patients in the region through the elimination of all the bottlenecks that currently bedevil quality healthcare service accessibility.

While this is undoubtedly the IFC’s very first direct investment in an Egyptian technology venture, it would, however, not be the first this investment arm of the World Bank Group is throwing about its financial weight in the MENA region. Over the course of the past few years,  the IFC is known to have made funding commitments worth over USD 100 Mn in startups, venture funds, and accelerators across the Middle East and North Africa, including such Egyptian ventures as Flat6Labs and Algebra Ventures.

 

Feature image courtesyMENAbytes

Ugandan Startup Swipe2pay Swipes Away USD 40K At BRIDGE East Africa Startup Pitch

Kevin Gachiri December 10

Swipe2pay, a Ugandan startup was picked as the winner of BRIDGE East Africa Startup pitch and secured USD 40K at Weetracker’s first flagship conference event held at Crowne Plaza on 7th December in Nairobi. The announcement was made by Takuma Terakubo the CEO of Leapfrog Ventures whose joint partnership with Weetracker made the event possible. Leapfrog Ventures will add Swipe2pay to its roster of startups, it is funding in East Africa. Other startups that took part in the pitch included Yusudi, Talklift, Zumi and Asilimia.

The Selection of Swipe2pay came as a surprise considering that each of the 5 startups had delivered convincing pitches in front of the panel that comprised Japanese investors on tour in Africa, some for the first time. Solomon Kitumba, CEO Swipe2pay, had come from pitching at #slush18 in Helsinki arriving in time to make his pitch as the last participant for the day. Swipe2pay makes it possible for informal businesses that accept cash from customers to be able to accept digital payments as well as credit card transactions. The startup which was founded in 2017, is already integrated with Visa and Mastercard.

In an interview with Weetracker, Solomon intimated that “We are already active in Uganda with a majority of our customers coming from Mbarara and Jinja. We have built a regular customer base of 550 regular users on our  platform with transactions sometimes growing upto 3,500 per day when we get very busy.”

According to their website, the solution they provide to customers also includes their provision of daily, weekly and monthly reports. The fintech startup has integration with Kenya’s MPESA making it possible for them to venture into the local Kenyan market as well.

Solomon is assisted by a team of six who play different roles in driving the business forward and the funding they have received will go into product development as well as strengthening its talent pool which would be necessary for looking at how the product can be polished, refined or extend its features. Having grown in rural Uganda, Solomon had observed how informal market traders mostly women fail to access finance since they don’t keep records or any form of payments they receive from clients.  This makes it difficult to get credit reference. The need to accept funds from clients who wish to pay by cards also means that they usually turn away clients from this customer segment. Swipe2pay, therefore, helps in attracting more customers.  It is this discovery that made Solomon devise a method of bringing a better solution to these informal traders.

Weetracker’s BRIDGE East Africa, held in Kenya drew a substantial crowd of investors from Japan as well as attendance of local investors, venture capitalists and seasoned entrepreneurs. The event hosted startup pitches that were held in between the panel discussions and fireside chats with selected guests. Leapfrog Ventures announced at the event that it is looking at making 200 investments in Africa in the coming 3 years.

What You Should Know About Google Hangouts’ Rumored Shutdown

Andrew Christian December 9

Sources familiar with the tech giant’s product’s internal roadmap have reported that 2019 will be the last year for Google Hangouts, as the company plans to shut it down by the year 2020. The development, to nearly no one’s surprise, is a reiteration which accompanies the company’s apparent decision to hold off on further developments on the app more than a year ago.

Google had previously announced its pivot for the Hangouts brand for enterprise use scenarios with Hangout Chat and Hangout Meet, so it has been telling for a while that the consumer app would soon cease to exist. With the abandonment of Google Hangouts concerning development and its presumed final extinction, many entrepreneurs have begun charting a course away from the app, even though it will remain a prominent official chat option in Gmail on the web – continuing on the Google Play Store even now. In line with recent reviews, the app has shown signs of ageing which are evident in its display of bugs and performance glitches.

Hangout as a brand will remain with G Suite’s Hangout Chat and Hangouts Meet, with the former tailored for Slack app-comparable team communication and the latter as a video meetings platform. In the same line, Google Voice calling, which was initially independent and then integrated into Hangouts, was restored to its own redesigned app earlier this year.

Worthy of interest is that in spite of its inevitable axing, Hangouts was one of the few apps to receive early support for Android Auto’s new MMS and RCS functionality, alongside Whatsapp and Android Messages.

Nonetheless, Google’s Scott Johnson has chimed in on this development and denied any decision being made about the timeline of legacy Hangouts’ shutdown. He did confirm that users of consumer Hangouts will somehow be upgraded to Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet, both of which have been presented as enterprise-focused products that fill different needs. Scott also confirmed rather explicitly that Hangouts Classic, which is the subject of this development, will eventually be “shutting down’. Meanwhile, there are sources which corroborate the initial report, informing that decisions have been made for the depreciation of legacy Hangouts.

Most of us consider the Chat and Meet to be more business-focused products, and these plans make the situation seem as though they could have more of a consumer-facing component in the future. For entrepreneurs who have continued to use Hangouts, and who are now coming to rely on Slack or Discord style at-mentions, having such features in Hangouts may be somewhat snazzy. If the rumour of Hangouts’ death or transition are true or have been exaggerated, it wouldn’t matter so much if the new upgrades come with those new features.

Meanwhile, another source reports that Google provided an update on its current efforts, and now focuses moving towards a simpler communication experience. Starting on the consumer front, Google has “decided to stop supporting Allo to focus on Messages.” In April this year, Google only noted that it was “holding off investment” on Allo, but the tech giant confirmed that the service is about to get the sunset. Allo will be available until March 2019, with the service continuing to work until then; disregarding today’s downtime. Google has furnished us with details on how users can export existing conversation history from the app.

Google Hangouts, for as long as it has been in use, hasn’t disappointed entrepreneurs, as it can be a great asset to a company of any size – even more ideal for smaller businesses and startups. The app allows you to connect with employees easily, business colleagues and clients via calls and video chat making it seamless for those who travel or work from home. Hangouts also afford companies the flexibility of connection form virtually any smart device. Users can also, during chats, share files via Google Drive, stream live broadcast, participate in webinars and hold staff meetings amongst many more.

As customers will be able to review your business as an accessible one that cares about customer satisfaction, using Google Hangouts is a marketing strategy with all the makings of greatness. With weekly/monthly question and answer sessions, customer chats and feedback reception, you can not only appeal to customers but receive immediate interactions that can help you develop a more robust marketing strategy. Taylor Swift hosted a Google+ Hangout to announce her new album, and with the medium, she was able to reach fans from all over the world – making her song hit number one right after its release.

This goes to say that Hangouts is a great way to make business announcements such as funding rounds, product launches, expansion or any other news that customers may be interested in. The app is also useful in holding online staff meetings, and conference calls with important clients even while you are in transit.

We are yet to find out the actual features that will come with the storied Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet as replacements to the authority-building, customer-gathering, engaging, and collaborative Google Hangouts. 2020 is more than a year from now, so while Sundar Pichai and his team of techies decide the fate of this G Suite member, we still have no less than 12 months to enjoy the existing chat room app.

Nigeria’s Logistics Startup Kobo360 Raises USD 6 Mn From World Bank’s IFC

Andrew Christian December 7

Nigeria’s Uber-like trucking logistics startup Kobo360 has raised USD 6 Mn in its second investment round this year. The equity financing which was gained from World Bank ’s sister organization IFC, will help the company upgrade its e-logistics platform and spread its tentacles to Ghana, Togo and Ivory Coast.

This recent investment for Kobo360, which also involved efforts from other platforms such as TLom Capital and Y Combinator, will be used by the startup to become more than just a transit app. The founder, Obi Ozor, told Techcrunch that the company broke into the logistics market as an app that connects truckers and companies with freight needs, but now looks to build a global logistics operating system and become a full-fledged platform.

While bridging the gap between truckers, producers and distributors, Kobo360 is now chomping at bit to build the platform that will offer supply chain management tools for enterprise customers. In a statement, Ozor revealed that large firms are now demanding for movement, tracking and sales-related specific features, which is why the startup is looking to leverage two options – integrate other services such as SAP into Kobo or building the solutions directly into the e-logistics platform.

With this new investment round, the startup will sally forth with the said upgrade by developing its API and opening it up to for the use to large enterprise customers. With the intent for clients to use Kobo360’s dashboard for everything from moving goods, tracking, sales and accounting, the platform wishes to tackle the challenges faced by its customers.

It is also reported that the company will forge a more physical Nigerian presence in order to serve its customers better. Concerned about truck movements and monitoring, helping operation’s collect proof of delivery and accessing trucker owners more closely for inspection and training purposes, Kobo360 is poised to launch 100 hubs before the end of 2019, according to its founder.

The startup, remaining “aggressively” focused on reducing logistics friction for large enterprises and SMEs alike, alongside connecting new markets and unlock better community wellbeing, will add more warehousing capabilities to support its reverse logistics business. By matching trucks with return freight after they drop their loads, Kobo360 will bring down prices and eliminate the return-empty challenge facing its customers.

In a statement, the IFC enthused that the company currently has over 5000 trucks empanelled on its platform, from more than 600 small fleet owners, serving some of the largest enterprises in Nigeria. Kobo360 told Techcrunch in January that it is looking to add 20,000 trucks to its platform and latch on to the expansion which is now made possible by its USD 6 Mn raise. According to the founder, the expansion, which is scheduled to take off in 2019, will be with existing customers – one in the port operations business, another in FMCG and the last in agriculture.

As a matter of strategic priority, the funding, which was announced by both parties on the eve of the opening of the IFC’s Next 100 African Startups Initiative, will be used by the startup to also expand programs and services for its driver members. Along this line, Ozor remarked that neglecting drivers would crumble the company to a pile of issues while iterating that the same loophole hinders ride-hailing companies from becoming trillion-dollar enterprises.

Because owning trucks may be too cumbersome to handle, Ozor opines that the best scalable model is to aggregate trucks, while handling more volume at cheaper prices to leverage the startup’s asset-free digital platform and business model to outpace traditional long-haul 3PL providers in Nigeria.

According to a Weetracker report, Kobo360 raised USD 1.2 Mn in June this year from U.S venture capital firm Western Technology Investment and became a Y-Combinator cohort, while receiving USD 120 K equity investment from the seed fund. The logistics startup, which has served 900 businesses, aggregated a fleet of 8000 drivers and moved 155 million kilograms, is welcoming IFC’s regional head for Africa, Wale Ayeni and TLcom’s senior partner Omobola Johnson to take seats at its board.

Kobo360 also offers training and programs on insurance, discount petrol and vehicle financing to its drivers. The startup has also created an HMO for drivers, alongside an incentive-based program to afford education, which is monikered as KoboCare. The company’s top clients include Honeywell, Dangote, Unilever, Olam and DHL.

 

Featured Image Courtesy: Macktrucks

Powered by Calculate Your BMI