“It Is An Exciting Time To Be A Woman Entrepreneur, Especially In Tech” – Odunayo Eweniyi, Co-Founder of PiggyBank.ng Speaks to the AWP Network

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Odunayo Eweniyi, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer of Piggybank.ng, a company that securely makes saving money possible by combining discipline plus flexibility to enable customers grow and reach their savings target. Prior to starting PiggyBank.Ng, Eweniyi along with her co-founders founded PushCV.com, a platform that connects verified employers in Nigeria with pre-screened candidates. In this interview with Mary Olushoga, Founder of the AWP Network – Eweniyi talks more about what inspired her to start her business, and shares her plans for the future.

What do women entrepreneurs need to know about finding investors and securing investment deals?

It is an exciting time to be a woman entrepreneur, especially in tech. There are not that many women in leadership roles within the Nigerian tech ecosystem, but this is slowly changing and there is a growing number of investors who value what female leaders are contributing to economy and society at large. I want to encourage women entrepreneurs to build their network and be their loudest cheerleaders – the more you talk to people about who you are and the problem you are solving, eventually the right investor will hear about you.

Who inspired you to start this business?

It all started with a tweet. In 2015, a Twitter user shared a picture of her savings box and she talked about how she saved NGN365,000 by putting aside N1,000 (Naira) everyday. This conversation then progressed into how to automate the piggy bank concept, as the original concept requires a substantial amount of discipline. In addition, the security and the safety of the box is not guaranteed. This is what inspired us to start the business and this is how Piggybank.ng was born – out of the cons list of a wooden box.

How did you meet your co-founders?

I met my co-founders Somto Ifezue and Joshua Chibueze at Covenant University, where I studied Computer Engineering. Prior to this, we founded another successful company, pushcv.com, a platform that connects verified employers to pre-screened candidates.

How did you come up with your business name?

Piggybank.ng is an automated savings platform where savers manage their finances by depositing small amounts of money on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, depending on their saving target. We wanted a business name that would instantly identify our brand – who we are and what we do – and what better way to be easily identified than to name the business after the traditional, popular coin container, piggy bank. The majority of people who hear Piggybank.ng will instantly know that we are a Nigerian tech company that deals with savings.

Who is your target market?

Low to middle-income savers in Nigeria. Over 60 percent of our users are millennials, so we are focused on that demographic. We want PiggybankNG to be available to anyone who wants to save money.

How have you financed your business?

For the past two years we have bootstrapped, using our own savings and small amounts of angel investment funds. We are now fortunate to have attracted $1.1m in seed funding from predominantly local investors led by Olumide Soyombo – Founder of LeadPath Nigeria; along with Village Capital and Ventures Platform.

What is your competitive edge? What sets you apart?

What sets us apart from our competitors is that we provide clarity and transparency to our user’s finances; there are no hidden charges, as the Piggybank platform enables users to track their transactions. Another way we are different from our competitors, who are predominantly banks, is that we provide financial discipline. When opening a savings account with a bank, customers are typically given ATM cards, withdrawal slips and more, this encourages spending. Our platform restricts withdrawal until an agreed date and drawings outside of the agreed day attracts a 5 percent early withdrawal fee. This encourages the user to think twice and evaluate whether their early withdrawal is a necessity, which in most cases, it is not.

 What is the long-term plan for your business?

We recognize that we cannot offer every financial service that meets the needs of our users, however we are committed to ensuring that they have access to these services. For the future, we would like to create sustainable partnerships with other credible fintech service providers, such as the lending and insurance sectors, so that our customers can get the best available terms. We also want to scale across the country; so far, we have over 50,000 users – we want to see our numbers grow very quickly.

What challenges do you face or have you faced thus far?

As a fintech startup operating in Nigeria, gaining the trust of our prospective users was a challenge that we had to overcome. Coming in as ‘new kids on the block’, we had to convince people to give Piggybank.ng a try without proof that the platform works and is secure. Because we have proven to be credible and trustworthy by providing transparency and clarity to our users’ finances, we have garnered over 53,000 registered users who are willing to share their Piggybank.ng experience with our referral program – Piggybank Stories.

What key things have you learned since starting this idea?

  1. To let our customers lead us, this has helped my team and I to develop the product that they want, not the one we imagine they want.
  2. To show grit in the face of everything – we need to move forward, so we just move, against all odds. If you haven’t quit, then you have not failed.
  3. To focus more on our customers than the competition – the customers almost always lets us know what our competitors are up to.
  4. Entrepreneurship without personal development is a disaster – I have learned that if you lose yourself in the process, your company will suffer.
  5. Be adaptable – many times we have had to completely scrap a roadmap and change our destination, but that’s okay. Just don’t stop.

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

Unfortunately, it is difficult to start a business idea with no funds, however my advice is to never let your idea die. It would be an absolute shame to see someone execute an idea you once had, all because you did not follow through. If an entrepreneur is looking to launch a business, I would say that their first point of contact should be family and friends. If that is not feasible, I suggest putting aside some money until you reach your target. We have users who are saving to start or invest in a business; although challenging, there are ways to go about it.

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

By promoting our challenges and successes, as well as encouraging one another. It is also important that as youths and millennials, we should encourage collaboration with one another. Piggybank.ng was co-founded by university friends – if we decided to ‘go it alone’, who knows where Piggybank.ng and its founders would be today.

How many jobs have you created so far?

We have created 11 jobs so far, across programming, product strategy, marketing, customer experience, finance design and business development. We are keen on keeping a lean team and hiring for only the most essential of positions. However, we are sure that Piggybank as a platform will indirectly create even more jobs by enabling some of our users to start their own companies eventually hiring staff, and by helping businesses better manage their finances.

How has technology enhanced your business idea?

Piggybank.ng is built on tech. We have taken a well-known traditional concept and have automated it using tech. We are using tech to cultivate a savings culture in Nigeria, and we are harnessing the power of Africa’s most popular tool, the mobile phone, to give access to financial empowerment.

How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?

We can support and improve innovation in Africa by embracing tech. Africa has a young demographic who are tech-savvy; we have only just scratched the surface when it comes to how we are using tech to innovate.

Twitter: PiggyBank 

Instagram: PiggyBank 

Facebook: PiggyBank 

Website: PiggyBank 

Phone: +234 [0] 8093719000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Society for Africans in the Diaspora (SAiD) to Host the 8th Annual African Diaspora Awards: Nominate Now

Applause Africa has formally announced its transition from an internationally renowned media platform to an educational institution and network-based non-profit organization, which will now be called Society for Africans in the Diaspora (SAiD). Moving forward, the organization will provide insight, generate ideas, and promote collaboration across the fields of business, culture, arts, education, and policy to address present challenges and create a shared future for the African continent. It will also foster U.S.-Africa friendship and cross-cultural exchange through select tours in Africa and the US as well as lectures, conferences, awards and other events on both sides of the Atlantic.

The African Diaspora Awards is set to take place on December 1, 2018, is SAiD’s groundbreaking effort to celebrate exemplary individuals who have made a significant difference in the African community in the United States. ADA aims to recognize notable Africans in the Diaspora that have excelled in various spheres of life and honor civic leaders who have contributed to the advancement of Africans both on the continent and abroad.

Under the theme, “African Renaissance: Choose your Tribe,” the 2018 ADA will inspire our fellow diaspora leaders, innovators and influencers to choose who they will surround themselves with, who they will invest in, and who will invest in them.

Nominate here: SAiD ADA 

RSVP for ADA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

African Startup Winning! CEO of Sosai Renewable Energies, Habiba Ali Wins UN SDG WE Empower Challenge

The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge is the first of its kind global business competition for women entrepreneurs who are advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals and inspiring entire communities to act to create the world we want by 2030.  The WE Empower Challenge honors five women entrepreneurs, one from each of the five UN regions, who are advancing the SDGs through their business practices. The opportunity recognizes their innovative work, provides capacity-building training sessions and high-level advocacy opportunities to the awardees and ignites awareness about the valuable contribution women entrepreneurs can make toward the SDGs.

The WE Empower Challenges Awardees will convene in New York City during the week of the UN General Assembly on September 24 – 29.  The awardees will attend high-level events, such as the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit, a dialogue with the Council of Women World Leaders (CWWL), the We the People Summit, the G5 Collective Dinner and the Global Citizen Summit. Awardees will also participate in a dynamic pitch competition hosted by fashion designer, activist and Vital Voices Board Member Diane von Furstenberg, to present their business for the opportunity to receive a $20,000 grant.

The Winners are:

Habiba Ali, Founder, Sosai Renewable Energies (Nigeria),

Marta Del Rio Villanueva, Founder, Wasi Organic (Peru),

Hadeel Mustafa Anabtawi, Founder, The Alchemist Lab (Jordan),

Shimrit Perkol-Finkel, Co-Founder, ECOncrete Tech Limited (Isreal),

Marijana Savic, Founder, Atina and Bagel Bejgl Shop (Serbia)

 

Congratulations! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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