These Young Entrepreneurs Are Revolutionizing Ghana’s Financials ‘Unscathed’

Andrew Christian September 20

A few years ago, two young minds met in the Presbyterian Boys Senior High School (PRESEC) in Ghana, where they were classmates and buddies sometime after. Amidst books and classroom lectures, the duo soon found that they had their minds set on a set of similar things. In what was the beginning of a memorable run for both youngsters, Kofi Genfi and Nii Osae Osae Dade began a foray down the path of technology and business. Kofi studied the sciences, but always was drawn by seemingly spelled ties to business. Nii, on the other hand, had a knack for gizmos and pretty much everything that was made from tech. Finding interest in the dreams of each other, Kofi and Nii became partners at a very early stage, but soon went their separate ways to study at the university. Nii attended the University of Ghana to study Computer Science, while Kofi read Business Administration in Ashesi University – a switch he said was inspired by his interest in business.

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From left to right – Kofi Genfi, Nii Osae Osae and David 

During senior high school, the pair while collaborating with David – a classmate of theirs, launched an operating system that would make phones more useful in Ghana, which eventually turned out to be unsuccessful. I guess every entrepreneur has his or her failure stories. Buttressing the long emphasized habit of not giving up, they came up with another idea, which has now turned into a full-fledged business that makes it possible and easy to send cash to people across all networks.

Kofi and Nii are the co-founders of Mazzuma, a mobile payments system that allows developers to send and receive money from all across the world. Starting from what is described as a narrowing of concentration, Kofi and Nii, alongside David built something Ghanaians seemed to be eagerly have been waiting for – the payment system that will introduce interoperability among telecommunication companies – Creative Young Smart Technologies (CYST). Out of CYST, Mazzuma was born as the first product, which has now become a flagship project that offers unique services which the founders say their competitors do not. This platform allows users to transfer money from one network to another, with zero charges applied. Mazzuma is also tailored to make it possible for customers to purchase airtime and pay bills, using the application which can be installed and downloaded on both IOS and Android. In an interview with Weetracker, Kofi Genfi disclosed that the company has since inception processed payments worth USD 3 Mn. But, the company snags its cash from selling the software to other companies.

CYST is an AI-first software innovation company that is committed to challenging conventions, aiming to bring about viable solutions to everyday problems with the use of technology. CYST’s operations are value-centered and geared towards the redefinition of the African stereotype. The team behind this strongly holds on to the simple philosophy that it needs to be the best at what it does – building technology that is relevant to local markets while complying with international standards. In what was described by the founders as a relentless drive and passion, the platform has been able to enable people to empower change through technology. The brainchild of Kofi and Nii with efforts from the rest of the team, through CYST, is Mazzuma a platform that is tailored to assist in the achievement of financial inclusion that successive governments have all included in their development agenda. With a view of making Mazzuma become the preferred payment platform in future, the two Ghanaian gentlemen are working on projects to make the platform even more encompassing.

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Nii, who is in his early 20s and the central IT brain behind the company, told Weetracker that the Mazzuma platform had been simplified to an easy three-step process through which one can send money to another person on a completely different network. Kofi, who is spoken-word and public enthusiast, also informed that the company has recently added cryptocurrency to the platform, as a result of international customer demands – a move he says had been well received by people from all over the world. Nii, an Artificial Intelligence researcher, and Software Engineer, is the one who integrates APIs to the Telcos, ensuring that each idea the Mazzuma team comes up with is very well implemented into the system. This crypto inclusion is called the Mazzuma Token, will be the crucial payment medium in the platform’s ecosystem. Offering services that are free of transaction fees and with light-speed transactions, Mazzuma is being used by Kofi and Nii to revolutionize the payment industry with instant cross-border payments.

The Team 

A team of seven young Ghanaians runs Mazzuma. Kofi Genfi, the co-founder (of CYST) and Director of Strategy, who is in his 20s, and he seeks to deepen his affection for innovative business strategies. His contribution to his filed has garnered several recognitions, including Forbes 30 Under 30 Technology category. At as 2015-held International Speaking Competition which took place in London, Kofi was the only competitor from Ghana to make it through to the finals. Kofi, who is an aspiring free-runner, is also a member of the Thiel Fellowship Network which was founded by the technology billionaire Peter Thiel. Then there’s Nii Osae Dade, Co-founder and the Director of Software Engineer of the company CYST. Nii won the IBM/Airtel Mini Mobile Innovation Competition that was held to develop smart innovations using telecommunication. He is a devoted reader, violinist, chess player and a mental athlete who has interests in astrophysics and cosmology while being a member of the Astronomical Society of Ghana.

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The team which has young energy in all spheres of its operations; has the 17-year-old prodigy in the crypto world, Elisha Owusu Akyaw, as the Cryptocurrency Marketing Advisor of Mazzuma. According to a story earlier published by Weetracker, Elisha is also the CEO of BlockXAfrica – a platform that helps companies that accept crypto as their form of payment in marketing. The reports say that this kid has helped startups raise USD 40 Mn in Initial Coin Offering (ICO).

Challenges
For these young entrepreneurs in Ghana, there are a lot of obstacles in the way of using Mazzuma to change the financials of the world. Chief amongst them is what appears to be a banning spree on cryptocurrencies by different countries. Upon been asked what these developments in places such as Zimbabwe means for Mazzuma, Kofi Genfi told Weetracker that: “These governments place bans of crypto as a result of fear, uncertainty and lack of real information. They do not know what digital coins hold in store, and as such come to hasty conclusions to remove it from their countries’ systems. According to him, these are more of trends because we have seen some back and forth movements in this regard. “Some of these countries ban crypto, then come back to say they are going to look into it and provide guidelines to facilitate the use process. Mazzuma is not afraid of these bans, because we believe at the end of the day, because crypto is being reconsidered for its employment creation, this tech is a digital asset/token that has come to stay”.

Speaking at length, Kofi said that “The claim ‘crypto is a scam’ shows lack of understanding, naivety, and unwillingness to learn. It is true that some people have been victims of this “scam,” but most of them fell prey to it because they didn’t follow the small rules to protect their wallet IDs and passwords. More often than not, just like leaving your checkbook signed and lying around, most of these mishaps that occur in the crypto space are the fault of users. If people stick with the basic rules of the technology, these accidents will cease to happen and crypto will continue to bring value to the world in ways we have never imagined. Crypto marks the first time that value is so easily transferable through a digital medium, and simple economic principles around it are applied. There are scam projects, yes, but at the same time some of them, such as social engineering tactics can be curbed by proper cryptocurrency education. So, crypto is not a scam, so we should just give it time to flourish”.

The CEO of the company also disclosed that another of the issues faced in the business is adoption. “Customer acquisition costs are quite high, especially for new products, so adoption is a bit of a problem. But we have out good marketing tactics that we put in place, and we execute them more as time goes on, and it will get better”. The CEO expressed hopes that the space is friendlier than it used to be in the past, especially in Ghana where the Ministry of Finance is trying to open up a more robust digital economy, partnering with fintech companies to make the idea a reality. “So there is so much good than bad, and we are excited about it.” Also, the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Ghana is not a quick and seamless as it is in the West, and this is a micro-economic factor that doesn’t allow processes to be much faster and easier in our operations. “But generally, things have never been better, and we are on the lookout for more improvement,” said Kofi.

Turning Points

Mazzuma and its flagship company have had various turning points, and the most prominent of them was the launch of the Mazzuma platform. The Vice President of Ghana attended the occasion, and he congratulated the team about the development. Another huge for the team came by when the company got good feedback from their advertising campaigns. People started signing in to Mazzuma, and it was really looking promising. “At some point, our transaction volumes began to skyrocket, and we became one of the most promising companies in the Ghana region,” Kofi remarked.

As for CYST, in particular, the company has gained prominence in the Ghanaian region, as it is now competing with the space’s best and being recognized by the government of Ghana. “We were recently invited by the Ministry of Finance to discuss the path forward with regards to how fintech companies can contribute to the development of Ghana’s digital economy. This was an exciting one for us, as it showed that our company meant a lot in the country”.

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Another huge turning point for the company was when it was listed in the Forbes 30 Under 30 technology category. “The accolades were given to the company, and with it, we received a pat on the back as we have come a very long way from where we started, and it was a monumental achievement for us,” said Kofi.

The Way Forward
“It is quite ambitious to plan five years ahead for a tech company because things seem too fast.” But Mazzuma has an in-the-pipeline three-year target that dwells heavily on the blockchain. The team is looking to use this technology to develop more applications atop the Mazzuma ecosystem and improve and input more AI into the platform to make it stronger and robust. “We also want to take our products to other parts of the world and use them to testify about how much blockchain has come to enable us.”

Incubators vs Accelerators: Identifying Which Is Right For Your Startup

Nzekwe Henry December 12

As an individual who just came aboard the entrepreneurship train and is still learning the ropes, it might take some time to get with the program. And a crucial part of getting with the program is having a good command of the business lingo.

Well, unless you can lay claim to some kind of background in finance, however rudimentary, it might take some doing to keep up with what those business-type folks are yammering about when they begin to spill all the jargons associated with startup vernacular.

Be honest; how many times have you been in that awkward situation where you falsely nod your head in affirmation during some business conversation even though you haven’t the slightest idea what some other person is talking about? Well, if it’s any consolation, you’re not the only one.

So here’s the thing; it is not uncommon for startup founders who are venturing into an industry for the first time to get somewhat bamboozled by the barrage of terminologies associated with that venture.

Getting comfortable with a whole new set of terms – say from angel investor to crowdfunding, seed funding, venture capital, pre-seed funding, Series-A, and a host of others – is not exactly a cake walk. And most people with no prior background in business or finance will struggle somewhat initially – at least, I know I did.

Moving on to the crux of the matter; there’s something of an unspoken debate on the subject of incubators and accelerators with regards to what they are all about and which is best suited to the needs of startups at certain stages.

Although this gets very little attention as most people tend to just sweep it under the carpet as a ‘no-problem’ and use both terms interchangeably as synonyms that can replace each other without raising eyebrows, it takes nothing away from the fact that this is an awful misconception. And many early-stage startup founders can be found wanting with respect to this unlawful marriage of these two distinctly different aspects of the startup business.

Of course, both programs are of immense benefits as they provide guidance to startups, as well as help refine their business models and strategies into sellable ones. Clearly, both incubators and accelerators play vital roles in grooming startups into profitable ventures that can garner investor interest. But it would be utterly misguided to conclude that both are one and the same as obvious differences exist between them.

The differences between incubators and accelerators are well and truly brought to the fore when their respective selection and investment processes are put into perspective. If you are an early-stage startup founder who is having a hard time getting to grips with both terms or deciding which is ideal for your startup, then this x-ray of their different features should come in handy.

Incubators vs Accelerators: Purpose

For incubators, the focus is on startups that have just entered the initial stages of building their company. Incubators are best suited to startups that posses an idea that can cut it in the marketplace, but with no business model and direction through which those “lightbulb moments” can be brought to life in the form of an actually profitable venture.

The key function of an accelerator, on the other hand, is to speed up or advance the growth of a company that is already in existence and it is pretty much functioning with a business model in place. That is to say, accelerators are tailored for startups that have already hit the ground running per se.

An accelerator program functions to consolidate the startup’s position and build on its foundations with a view to propelling them high enough for investors and key influencers to spot them and be wowed and wooed in equal measure.

Incubators vs Accelerators: Duration

In terms of duration, an open-ended timeline is the most likely case for an incubator. Incubators are sort of in for the long haul; they place more emphasis on the longevity of the startup as against its speed of growth. It is quite common for startups to be mentored by incubators for a period spanning up to a year and a half, or even more.

As their name implies, accelerators are all about speed. They are all about putting one’s feet down on the gas and so they don’t take as much time as their opposite number – typically lasting anywhere between three to four months.

Accelerators operate on a set time-frame and it is during that period that startups improve on their products and offerings with the support of mentors, as well as capital made available by the accelerator. And there is also an interesting bit in that startups get to pitch their businesses to investors upon the completion of accelerator programs and who knows what doors could crack open.

Incubators vs Accelerators: Application Process

Incubators are designed for the long route. In these programs, a significant amount of time and resources are devoted to advancing local startups. Incubators generally prove their worth in creating employment opportunities or making moves to license intellectual property. And startups do serve up a path through which both can be accomplished.

Incubators are not fixated on delivering startups that can develop and proliferate fast, especially as advancing the development of local startups forms the bulk of their offering. With that in mind, it is not uncommon for many seemingly slow-growing or evidently less-scalable businesses to find their way into an incubator program.

On the other hand, accelerators place a premium on scalability, investment-worthiness, and high growth potential. That is, only startups that check all these boxes can even begin to fancy their chances of getting in.

Accelerator programs are pretty competitive; seeing applications from a good number of startups and having to select only those adjudged to have the most potential. Hence, such programs use a more traditional and formal model for entry as interested startups have to apply for a specific number of slots in the program.

Incubators vs Accelerators: Environment

This is one aspect where both programs share similarities to a large extent. An environment of collaboration and mentorship is on the cards with both programs and this does a good job of bringing startups together, having them share a space, and affording them access to resources and peer feedback. And all these are known to be vital to the advancement of startups.

Accelerators and incubators also afford startups the opportunity to pick the brains of seasoned business experts and successful entrepreneurs who have been there and done that, and whose experiences can serve up invaluable business lessons.

Incubators vs Accelerators: Investment Capital

It is quite common for incubators to be sponsored by universities or organizations that are focused on economic development, and as such, it is not usually the practice for an incubator to provide capital to startups. And in a similar regard, equity stakes are not usually taken by incubators in the startups they support.

It’s kind of a whole different ball game for accelerators as such programs are known to usually invest a specific amount of capital in startups for an agreed amount of equity. Thus, in some circles, accelerators are assumed to play a greater role in startup success by virtue of this financial commitment. However, this takes nothing away from the importance of incubators.

It’s not really a matter of hopping on the bandwagon of any program that sounds like music to your ears, it’s about identifying what’s right for your startup and acting accordingly. In truth, even though an accelerator program does have some perks which make it seem more appealing, an incubator could do actually do more of a solid to most startups than an accelerator.

Incubators are associated with startups that are still in their formative stages, do not necessarily require investment, and are already part of a local startup community. Although it may require a longer route to commercialization, an incubator is the best bet if a startup’s business model and some other essentials are yet to be resolved.

Through expansive national calls, application processes, and other formalities which would typically involve screenings and vettings, accelerators select their participants. These participating startups are expected to prove themselves investible, rapidly scalable, and also reflect a willingness to migrate to the location of the accelerator for the duration of the program at the very least if need be. Accelerators usually provide funding to startups, typically becoming the company’s first external investor in many cases.

Both programs can undoubtedly be of immense benefits to startups but their obvious distinctions should never be muddled up such that they are considered one and the same. For entrepreneurs and startup owners, the trick lies in identifying which of these programs is best suited to the needs of their respective businesses at their present stages of development. And this can only be achieved through critical reflection.

Egypt’s Buseet Gets Seed Round Extension From Saudi-Based Vision Ventures

Nzekwe Henry December 12

It appears to be raining dollar bills for Egyptian transport-tech startups as the sector has witnessed a flurry of investment activity in the past few weeks and yet again, another transport-tech startup in Egypt has gotten in on the act.

This time around, it is Buseet; a bus-booking platform, that has roped in an undisclosed amount of funding from Saudi-based Vision Ventures. It would be recalled that the startup raised a seed round in September from 500 Startups, Cairo Angels, and some other angel investors. Following from that, the latest investment appears to be an extension of that seed round.

Buseet was established last year by a trio of Founders including Amr El-Sawy, Khaled Moawad, and Mohamed Abdel Aziz. The platform provides a means through which commuters can book modern and convenient minibuses at rates that are significantly lower than regular ride-hailing options while serving up luxury and comfort that is not afforded by public transport options.

The startup’s bus-hailing services are currently available on some fixed routes in parts of Cairo and Alexandria. After its initial launch, the startup’s services were only available through its web-based platform but improvements have since been made and Buseet now boasts mobile apps for both Android and iOS.

Speaking with regards to the development, Kais Al-Essa, Founding Partner at Vision Ventures, enthused that Buseet is unique in that it offers a simple and no fuss solution to a worrying problem by affording commuters an easy, clean, comfortable and cost-effective option which trumps public transport and personalized solutions. He also expressed confidence in the ability of the startup to assist in solving the transportation conundrum in cities with dense population.

The timing of this latest investment could be thought to be quite interesting as it appears to be coinciding with a number of recent developments which have seen Uber and Careem launch bus services of their own in Cairo.

Buseet’s latest investment is also coming at a time when another bus-hailing startup, Swvl, has announced raising “tens of millions” in its Series-B at a valuation that is believed to be on the threshold of USD 100 Mn, with expansion into Southeast Asia also on the cards for the startup. But that appears to be no cause for worry for Buseet’s latest investors who seem to be unfazed by these parallel developments and only poised to grab a significant market share.

Al-Essa also revealed his awareness of the Uber and Careem situation but is taking it in good stride. He referred to the development as being more than anything else, a reflection of the size of the market and the opportunities on offer. He also expressed convictions in the startup’s ability to deliver when he stated that the efficiency of Buseet’s operations compared to its competitors puts in better stead.

While it remains to be known exactly how much funding has been raised by Buseet so far, it is hard to look past the fact that it is probably a long way off from the amount of financial power its competitors have been able to summon in recent times.

And even though the startup may have to reload its financial arsenal pretty soon, it sure looks like Egypt’s bus-hailing segment is about to get a hell of a lot more competitive. If anything, that bodes well for the customers of the service.

 

This development was first covered in a publication by MENAbytes.

 

Image CourtesyMENAbytes

Egypt’s Sawari Ventures Scores USD 35 Mn In First Tranche Of Its New Fund For North Africa

Nzekwe Henry December 12

Egyptian VC, Sawari Ventures, has announced a first closing of USD 35 Mn for its latest fund called Sawari Ventures North Africa Fund I (SVNFI). This development is coming in the wake of reports from earlier this year which suggested that the company will be launching a fund worth USD 70 Mn, and this latest investment is coming as a first tranche.

Technology and knowledge-driven companies in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, are expected to benefit from this latest fund from Sawari Ventures.

A number of global financial institutions including the European Investment Bank (EIB), UK-based CDC, Proparco; the private sector financing arm of the French Development Agency, as well as Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF); a fund managed by Triple Jump, are all listed as investors in the fund.

Plans to announce the closing of another ‘Egypt-only’ fund by Sawari Ventures is also believed to be actively in progress. When launched, this fund will run simultaneously with the SVNFI so as to boost the company’s investments in Egyptian startups.

Some of the largest public sector banks, as well as governmental bodies such as National Bank of Egypt, Banque du Caire, and Egypt’s Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA), are believed to be the lead investors in this fund which will be exclusive to Egyptian companies.

“We are creating the first of a kind VC vehicle to combine top-tier international and local institutional investors to cement VC as an asset class in Egypt; we are initiating a sustainable Egyptian VC industry to ensure availability of funding for future entrepreneurs,” said Wael Amin, Partner at Sawari Ventures.

Such areas ICT, deep technology, fintech, education technologies, healthtech, and renewable/green energy, are expected to form the list of sectors targeted by the fund which aimed at making investments in 25 growth stage companies across those sectors with an average ticket size of USD 1.5 Mn.

“Investment appetite in Africa is growing aggressively, with an abundance of high-growth opportunities waiting for the right funding, and the right partners,” said Amin. “At Sawari Ventures, we have been building knowledge economy companies in this part of the world for years, and our role today will be to channel the available capital to the right entrepreneurs.

Sawari Ventures Partners, Ahmed El Alfi, Wael Amin, and Hany Al-Sonbaty, were all present at the signing ceremony which took place on the sidelines of the 2018 Africa Business Forum which was held at the Sharm El Sheikh International Congress Center. Representatives from both the local and international investors in the fund were also in attendance.

According to one of such investor representatives – Milena Messori; Head of Intermediated Finance for MSMEs at EIB, SVNFI will be used to assist early and growth stage innovative SMEs that have the potential to scale rapidly and grow regionally.

She also expressed her confidence in the ability of the fund to boost the local tech ecosystem, while also stressing that the support to local SMEs and dynamic startups afforded by the new fund will do a solid to economic growth, private sector development and job creation for the young generation.

 

 

Image Courtesy: Wamda

Google Free Wi-Fi Station Launched In Abuja

Andrew Christian December 11

In a move to foster internet connection in Nigeria, Google, in partnership with Nigeria’s Backbone Connectivity Network, has launched a free, high-speed and public Wi-Fi hotspot in Abuja, on the backs of its Google Station Initiative for Nigeria.

The station, which was launched last week, was the kickoff of Google’s intention to rollout free internet service in Northern Nigeria, as it was launched in three strategic parts of the FCT, including Wuse Market, Enab Plaza, and Banex Plaza.

Google Nigeria’s Head of Partnerships for Next Billion Users, Saidu Abdullahi, reported the program as a move to provide high-quality Wi-Fi hotspots across the country, and a simple tool-set to bring Nigerians closer to the internet in busy locations such as bus stations, airports, shopping malls, and public transit points. According to him, partners have leveraged Google Station’s business model to enable venues, system integrators, businesses, and ISPs to access fiber setup, maintain and monetize their internet hotspots.

Because numerous venues with public Wi-Fi need to stitch custom solutions together for separate locations, the internet services are cumbersome to use as log-in processes are one-off, connections are slow, and an abundance of networks can be porous security-wise. Venues usually encounter hurdles in the aspects of providing extensive networks, enabling high-quality service for users, as well as monetizing its usage.

Bringing a solution to the series of challenges facing the ISP industry in Nigeria, Google Station offers a platform on which the providers, venues and hardware partners can work to reduce deployment costs, operations and ongoing support. In a speech delivered at the inauguration of the station in Abuja, Saidu Abdullahi said that residents of the FCT can now experience top-drawer internet connections in airports, malls, and universities.

In an interview, Backbone Connectivity Network – an Abuja-based integrated communications and data management company – told Weetracker of the reception of the newly launched Station a Wuse Market. The CEO of BCN, Ibrahim Dikko, visited a part of Wuse market prior to the launch of the WiFi Station and interacted with a young boy who was pushing his wheelbarrow. He took time to ask the boy if he knew what the base stations accommodating the Wi-Fi access points were, alongside their functions, finally announcing to the boy that through them BCN was making the Internet freely accessible. In the twinkle of an eye, the boy informed others like him and there was a crowd browsing the Internet for various communication needs.

“That great desire to get online with their phones was clearly visible, and it was heartwarming to see that the work BCN is doing with Google – bringing Wi-Fi to many – has a great societal impact, one that touches lives and can touch many more, and even further transform the way we do business”, BCN reported.

BCN also told Weetracker concerning the future of the Abuja Station, revealing that there are definite plans to extend the Wi-Fi service to many more sites in Abuja, which would be done in phases and completed in 2019.

“It has recently been reported that Nigeria has about 100 million people yet to access the Internet. The future is a digital one, and BCN is proving the requisite fiber network infrastructure to support the Wi-Fi Station that can enhance Digital Inclusion and grow Digital Economies”, the company enthused.

In May, Google announced its plans to establish 200 Google Station locations to millions of Nigerians, and fulfilling that promise; it commenced the project by launching the free service at 11 venues in Lagos in July – making Nigeria the first West African country to have Google Station. While Abuja is the second city to receive the initiative, Google reaffirms its commitment to providing prime internet connections to citizens of the country.

Prior to the launch of the Station, connectivity Abuja was relatively available considering that internet connection is provided by different Service Providers. BCN, however, reported having been in the lead in the F.C.T when it comes to providing the best of Internet Connectivity services leveraging on its vast Optic Fibre Network Infrastructure which spans over 500Km and relied on by Telcos, ISP’s and Enterprise Organizations for Connectivity and Quality Service.

“We strive to bridge access gaps by providing the requisite infrastructure, one that can yield the quality of service the customer desires and one that enhances Digital Inclusion”, said BCN.

At the launch of the Station, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo remarked the event’s incredibleness as places including Wuse Market can now enjoy free Wi-Fi facilities in effectuation of Google’s pledge months ago. He affirmed that the initiative is essential because of Nigeria’s policy to ensure the democratization of access in assorted ways in order for the common Nigerian to access services available to other people. Citing developments in Nigeria’s tech space, Osinbajo alluded to the shops in Sabon Gari market being powered by solar panels and biofuels. He also mentioned Ariaria Market’s solar plant in Abia State and Sura Market’s gas-fired initiative in Lagos, among other markets in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s Vice President revealed that the reason for these tech developments is the need for economic sites to powered and availed similar success as that of larger industries. He reiterated the need for the bottom pyramid and street people to have access to the same free Wi-Fi as urban residents. He pointed out that the free Wi-Fi initiative is anticipated to spawn more economic opportunities for Nigerians by bridging societal gaps and providing free internet access to the underprivileged to have more access to information, educational tools, improved businesses, job opportunities, and ramifying expansions.

Featured Image: NaijaTechGuide

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

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