African Startup Winning! Mines Secures $13M Series A to Grow Digital Credit Platform for Emerging Markets

Mines started out as a research project on high performance artificial intelligence led by Kunle Olukotun, a professor of computer engineering at Stanford University. It came to life after a chance meeting with Ekechi Nwokah, a computer scientist working on big data projects at Amazon Web Services, after which they teamed up to direct the technology towards solving the grand challenge of financial access. Both founders grew up in Africa and understand the challenges facing technology companies trying to solve problems in emerging markets without a deep respect for the complexities of local culture, knowing they need to take a different approach. They have been joined by VP Commercial Adia Sowho, who has successfully scaled several digital financial services at one of Nigeria’s largest mobile operators, to grow the business.

Mines, a fintech startup re-inventing credit in emerging markets, has closed a Series A round of $13M led by The Rise Fund, a global fund managed by TPG Growth. Also participating are Velocity Capital, Western Technology Investments, First Ally Capital, X/Seed Capital, NYCA Partners, Persistent Capital, Singularity Investments, Trans Sahara Investments, and the Bank of Industry. Mines plans to use its investment for talent acquisition, continued growth in Africa, and expansion to South America and South-East Asia.

Mines provides a Credit-as-a-Service digital platform that enables institutions in emerging markets to offer credit products to their customers; no smartphone is required. Leveraging their own data sets, domestic institutions are able to serve loans to customers ignored by available credit systems and open up entirely new revenue opportunities.

By mining high-volume data like phone records, bank records, and payment transactions in real-time, Mines can instantly assess credit risk in markets that lack robust credit bureau infrastructure. It then integrates its risk models with identity, origination, payments, loan lifecycle management, and customer service to form a holistic platform. The net result is a seamless user experience where partners’ customers can apply for and receive a loan in less than 60 seconds or make instant purchases with virtual or physical credit cards.

The company has hardened its proprietary technology in Nigeria where it has been used by over 1 million customers since launching in 2017. It is now the leading provider of consumer credit in the country, counting mobile operators 9mobile and Airtel, payment processors Interswitch and NIBSS, along with several banks amongst its partners.

 

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Introducing the 9 Female-Led Startups Accepted for the GreenHouse Lab Accelerator Program in Lagos

 

Venture Garden Group and GreenHouse Capital have launched GreenHouse Lab, a female-focused tech accelerator program and Africa’s first “Powered by Google” accelerator. GreenHouse Lab was founded by GreenHouse Capital – a venture capital firm based in Lagos and is “Powered by Google” – the only accelerator program in Africa with this distinction. After going through over 100 applications from 8 countries and interviewing 20 of these companies, we selected 9 companies to be a part of the GreenHouse Lab accelerator program.

Bankly, a goal based digital savings and peer-to-peer transfer product which uses a recharge to save model similar to mobile top-up used by mobile networks.

Xigma, generates off-grid energy using multiple smart zero emission energy sources such as conformal solar cells, Airstream turbine, and electromagnetic waves in the radio frequency.

Social Lender, is a lending solution based on social reputation on mobile, online and social community platforms.

Versus, collects online and offline data for the African market and provides consumer insights to global brands planning to enter into the emerging market.

Allpro, provides an end-to-end lending platforms for schools in Nigeria.

Nicademia, is a video-streaming and content distribution animation company for promoting the culture and languages of Nigeria and other African countries.

BitMama, is a crypto-fiat exchange that allows customers and traders to buy and sell Bitcoins, Ethereum, and other digital currencies in Africa.

Kozzi Homes, is a one stop center for all housing needs ranging from land and homes to plumbing and home furnitures.

AMPZ. tv, is an online media platform that connects the African sports ecosystem from grassroots using mobile and web technology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finalists Announced for the MIT (Zambezi) Prize for Innovation in Financial Inclusion

The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation just announced the finalists of the 2018 edition of the Zambezi Prize for Innovation in Financial Inclusion. The prestigious competition, awarding a total of $200,000 in prizes, was established in 2015 to discover Africa’s most promising and innovative early-stage startups that promote and advance financial inclusion on the continent.

The selected companies are:

The finalists will join leaders from the MIT and African tech ecosystems on August 28th and 29th at the 2018 MIT Open Mic Africa Summit in Nairobi, Kenya.

The two-day event will include a VIP reception followed by the award ceremony at Strathmore University where the Grand Prize Winner will be awarded $100,000. Two runners-up will each receive $30,000 while the seven remaining finalists will each receive $5,000 in cash prizes. Additionally, the Legatum Center will award $5,000 to an African entrepreneur who demonstrated great leadership qualities to unify Africa’s tech ecosystem. All finalists will participate in cohort-building and mentoring activities with MIT leaders and Zambezi alumni companies during the event.

The winners will be invited to attend the Zambezi boot camp during the MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge (IIC) gala on the MIT campus in Boston on November 5th-9th, 2018. They also will be fast-tracked to the IIC global grand prize with up to $1 million available in funding for the winner. The IIC event is part of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and, along with the MIT Legatum Center’s initiatives, exemplifies MIT’s global commitment to the future of work.

Past Zambezi finalists have included Kifiya, PlusPeople, MFS Africa, Tugende, Chamasoft, Nomanini, FirstAccess, AgriLife, MChanga, and mJara. The Grand Prize Winner, Umati Capital received funding from Accion Venture Lab, Blue Haven Initiative, and Lundin Foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finalists Announced for the 2018 Ecobank Fintech Challenge

 

Ecobank has announced the finalists for the 2nd edition of the annual Ecobank Fintech Challenge, a competition for Africa-focused technology startups. The list includes eleven (11) fintech startups from across the continent and beyond. The startups are:

  • Wallet.ng (Nigeria),
  • Nala (Tanzania),
  • Litee (Benin),
  • SESO Global (South Africa),
  • InvestED (Sierra Leone),
  • Eversend (France),
  • Secapay (Nigeria),
  • Virtual Identity (South Africa),
  • MojiPay (Togo),
  • Awamo (Germany),
  • Lypa (Kenya).

An Innovation Fair & Awards ceremony will honour the startups on August 30, 2018 at the global headquarters of Ecobank in Lomé, Togo.

At the ceremony, the startups will exhibit and pitch their products to a jury for the Ecobank Africa Fintech Prize, which will be awarded the top innovator and two runners-up. The top three (3) innovators will win cash prizes worth US$10,000, US$7,000, and US$5,000 respectively.

After the Awards ceremony, Ecobank will enroll all eleven finalists into the Ecobank Fintech Fellowship. The Fellowship will run for six-months during which Ecobank Fintech Fellows will benefit from an opportunity to further explore partnerships with the Ecobank Group that includes:

  • Multinational product roll-out support: for the startups deemed commercially viable to grow their businesses across any of Ecobank’s 33 markets in Africa;
  • Service provider & ecosystem partner deals: for startups with deep capabilities to become product partners within Ecobank’s ecosystem;
  • Technical & mentoring support: during the six months fellowship period, fellows will benefit from technical support from Ecobank’s global network of technology leaders, fintech experts, investors and management coaches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Startups in Lagos Could Receive a $25,000 Investment from the Honeywell Group

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Honeywell Group has launched a new accelerator and investment vehicle, Itanna. Led by Tomi Otudeko, Head, Innovation and Sustainability for Honeywell Group and Director of the new venture, Itanna will roll out a four-month innovation program for tech-enabled Nigerian startups from its newly built Enterprise Factory in Lagos; with its pilot cohort of startups receiving USD $25,000 each in investment from Honeywell Group.

Itanna launched with four (4) cohort companies – Accounteer – providers of online accounting services for SMEs across Africa; KoloPay  – a cashless target savings mobile and web application, Tradebuza – an online platform for managing and brokering commodities sourcing and outgrower scheme, and PowerCube – providers of affordable power supply using renewable energy. Chosen from over 200 applications, each startup will receive training and mentoring from leading industry experts, as well as the opportunity to pitch to Honeywell Group’s network of local and international investors at the company’s inaugural Demo Day, which will take place towards the end of 2018.

Through the program, Itanna will support and invest in tech-enabled for-profit startups with an existing Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Startups accepted into the accelerator will need to demonstrate traction through customer growth or partnerships with customer acquisition enablers, have a clear vision as well as technical capability, sector knowledge and the desire to scale.

The launch of Itanna comes as part of Honeywell Group’s mission to connect technology and innovation by transferring knowledge in business-building and entrepreneurship, as the company looks to cement its position as a facilitator and impactor of growth in key sectors, including tech within Nigeria and across Africa.

Itanna will also be investing in more developed tech startups looking for growth capital. Through the direct investment scheme, the Itanna team will support investee companies to scale by leveraging on Honeywell Group’s network and industry expertise.

Tomi Otudeko, Head, Innovation and Sustainability for Honeywell Group and Director of Itanna concludes, “Itanna was conceived to be a place where Africa’s top talent can bring their ideas, visions, expertise and resources to create a new wave of businesses that will ignite and stimulate economic growth across the country and the continent. We are thrilled to be joining an already busy and vibrant tech ecosystem, whilst adding our stamp and sharing decades of business experience. Itanna is a critical element of Honeywell Group’s innovation strategy, and is well placed as we look towards building this future of tech-enabled businesses. The calibre of startups who applied to Itanna was striking; and we’re now excited to begin work with our inaugural cohorts.”

Operating from the Enterprise Factory located in Iganmu, the heart of industrial Lagos where businesses are built, the new state of the art 627 square metre collaborative space boasts work spaces, offices, meeting rooms and a conference space.

ENGIE to Build 8 Hybrid Solar Power Plants in Gabon

ENGIE has signed an agreement with CDC, the Gabonese financial institution Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, to deploy eight (8) hybrid solar power plants in Gabon, representing a combined capacity of 2.2 MW.

The implemented solution was developed by ENGIE’s subsidiary, Ausar Energy in collaboration with CDC, the Gabonese Ministry of Energy, and the Gabonese energy and water company Société d’Énergie et d’Eau du Gabon (SEEG) and means that solar energy can be used in eight locations that are currently supplied by oil-fired thermal power stations.

With construction set to begin in a few weeks, this project will contribute to the Gabonese Republic’s proactive policy of using renewable energy – solar and hydropower – to increase the country’s energy capacities. The project will save the country 1 million litres of fuel oil per year, or 2,600 tonnes of CO2, and reduce generation costs by 30%.

Ausar Energy offers the African continent a hybrid solar power plant solution, with or without storage facilities, with capacities ranging from 50 kW to 2.5 MW. This solution is in line with ENGIE Group’s strategy of promoting decentralised generation and distribution of electricity from renewable sources. This strategic priority is designed to ensure continuous access to energy in isolated areas that are not and cannot be connected to grids, as well as to limit the consumption of fuel oil, manage costs and reduce pollution.

Learn more: ENGIE Africa 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Innovation in Africa Will Thrive Whether People Support It Or Not,” Founder of cMapIT Nigeria Speaks to the AWP Network

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Niyi Abiri is passionate about using open mobile mapping technology to capture citizen-related concerns about government and governance, infrastructure projects, and areas vulnerable to conflict in Nigeria. His company, cMapIT has received global recognition and awards from institutions like MongoDB and Open Data Institute. The AWP Network connects with Abiri to learn more about his company and his plans for the future.

How did you come up with your business name?

cMapIT means crowd-mapping technology. The initial idea of cMapIT was to create an open mobile mapping technology platform that could help capture all citizen-related concerns about government and governance, infrastructure projects, and areas vulnerable to conflict. My team and I did that fairly well at the start and we ended up with a different open access platform while using this tool.

Some of our early focus was on road infrastructure, health and sanitation, while we also worked around establishing a mapping system that helps interested parties to understand what supply and distribution means. Some of the results include the capture of over 5000 potholes on Nigerian roads across the country, easily parsed through API and could be used to develop innovative ideas around road safety. We also tracked millennium development goal (MDGs) projects across Nigeria.

What inspired you to start this business?

What inspired the project was the need to close the gap between citizens and government using mobile technology as a resource. Citizen engagement is the most crucial aspect of civic tech. The other part of the project was to ensure that we captured information that could help innovators and the government through open data on failed infrastructure projects or ineffective aspects of governance.

Who is your target market?

Currently, we have pivoted to data visualization tools and we intend to play in the same space with companies like Tableau, CARTO, map box, ESRI, and power BI. At this time, we are researching and building simple tools to help solve data visualization problems.  It is our aim to get rid of the technicality many researchers may have in creating visualization and graphs from large datasets. My team and I are working to respond to demands by university researchers, individuals burdened with creating daily reports, or even students working on their thesis. We have a B2B and a B2C business model; the sky is the limit for us.

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What is the long-term plan for this idea?

We are a team of problem-solvers. The long-term plan is to interface with our potential users and interact with them daily to figure out what their needs are and to provide solutions to the said problem in real-time.

What challenges do you face?

The big challenge is growing the market. Data visualization is applicable to all fields. Our map engine for instance, can help farmers track their assets while banks can also use the map engine as a way to validate physical properties (i.e. land) when used as collateral. These are extremely important needs but we need to raise the awareness before we can sell in the volume that we need. This will take some time.

What key things have you learned since starting this idea?

  1. The role of liquidity is overrated when you are still trying to prove the concept.
  2. Get the proof of concept before you get a team.
  3. Interface with your potential customers as much as possible.
  4. Be patient.
  5. Build for your consumers.

What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say ‘there is no money’?

If you believe in your idea and are convinced that it will work, then start a side hustle to get some income for your basic needs and then spend the other part of your time building out the idea.

How do you think African youths can continue to support each other?

African youths can support each other through patronage. This however needs to be a matter of personal principle NOT government policy. This will also allow the producers of the product to receive some feedback, hopefully with the intention to build better products. Communication among young Africans is key.

How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?

Innovation in Africa will thrive whether people support it or not. Africa is a consumer continent therefore, we are subject to global trends in innovation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Venture Garden Group and GreenHouse Capital to Launch Female-Focused Tech Accelerator Program in Lagos

On Tuesday, August 14, 2018 – Venture Garden Group and GreenHouse Capital will launch GreenHouse Lab, a female-focused tech accelerator program and Africa’s first “Powered by Google” accelerator. The event is set to take place at Vibranium Valley in Ikeja. GreenHouse Lab was founded by GreenHouse Capital – a venture capital firm based in Lagos and is “Powered by Google” – the only accelerator program in Africa with this distinction.

 

 

 

 

Facebook and Google Help to Establish the African Master’s in Machine Intelligence

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) has announced the launch of a one-year intensive African Master’s in Machine Intelligence (AMMI) in partnership with Facebook and Google. The master’s program will begin this September at the AIMS-Rwanda campus in Kigali.

The goal of the initiative is to train a generation of young scientists who will bring a fresh perspective to machine intelligence research and contribute to advancing its development across Africa, for the benefit of its society. We hope to replicate AMMI in other African countries, creating a pan-African network of centres for training and research of the highest international quality. ”

AIMS, together with its partners, believe in creating an effective, globally connected community of Machine Intelligence practitioners in Africa will reduce the technology gap, strengthen Africa’s economies and enable better governance.

The AMMI program will provide brilliant young Africans with state-of-the-art training in machine learning and its applications. Every course on AMMI will be lectured by leading experts from prestigious African and international institutions, providing the AMMI students the best possible foundation.

Learn more here: African Machine Intelligence 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nigerian Startup ScholarX Joins Wise Accelerator and Injini Incubator

Founded by Bola Lawal and Maxwell Ogunfuyi, ScholarX was recently accepted into Injini’s five (5) months edtech incubator program. The program is all expense paid, plus a $50,000 investment during the program. In addition to this, ScholarX is one of five (5) initiatives selected for the 2018-19 WISE Accelerator. The WISE Accelerator will support the five selected edtech initiatives through mentoring and an international network of education stakeholders.

 

Congratulations to the ScholarX team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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