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Dutch-South African Travel Tech Startup, Conservation Club, Secures Six-Figure Pre-Seed Funding

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Dutch-South African startup Co-Founders; Bas Hochstenbach, Lara Dendy Young, Justin Rijnberg (Source: Conservation Club website)

Dutch-South African startup, Conservation Club, is pleased to officially announce the close of USD $200,000 in its first capital investment raise since the business was founded in May 2020. Experienced Dutch angel investor, Annelies van der Vorm, provided the investment and is slated to join the young company’s advisory board as they gear up for expansion over the next few months. This funding will be used to hire key team members, as well as further develop their online platform’s tech systems for optimal performance.

Conservation Club Co-Founder, Lara Dendy Young, says: ‘Annelies brings to the table a wealth of experience that will set a strong foundation for our organization as we build for the future.”

Other company Co-Founder, Justin Rijnberg, adds: “We’re not only impressed by the decades of work she’s done with social enterprises and other key players in the tourism sector, but also her complete alignment with our business’ core values. Our team is excited to have her on board as we work to transform the future of travel in Africa.’

Impact Investor and Nuarro Lodge Co-Owner, Annelies van der Vorm, says: ‘It is a privilege to be part of this fantastic new initiative which is led by the next generation of entrepreneurs who are committed to building a sustainable Africa.’

The company, which officially launched its operations in February of this year, is an online platform that facilitates direct bookings to a selection of curated accommodation offerings and multi-day travel experiences across South Africa. Conservation Club is on a mission to bring together a community of like-minded local and international travellers who are keen on enjoying and contributing to conservation efforts on the continent.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to the travel and tourism industry, slowing down conservation efforts, and exposing some of the key flaws in need of addressing within the sector. One such problem is the lack of local travel and residents’ participation in conservation. The focus on international tourists has meant seasonal to no sales at all, due to the strict travel restrictions implemented in the wake of the Coronavirus. Conservation Club offers a much welcome approach – honing in on exciting experiences that give a new outlook to conservation, while creating access to top destinations for residents to connect with the vast beauty that lies right at their doorsteps.

For now, Conservation Club is positioning itself for expansion into other African regions during the second half of the year. This is in a bid to make their mark as Africa’s backstage travel pass.

 

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Investment

Chaka secures $1.5M pre-seed round to power digital investments and wealth management opportunities across Africa

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Chaka CEO, Tosin Osibodu at a press briefing (Image & Press Release: Chaka)

Chaka is thrilled to announce its $1.5M pre-seed funding round led by Breyer Capital, a global venture firm focused on catalyzing growth in high-impact companies like Spotify, Facebook, and now, Chaka. Other participants in the round are 4DX Ventures, Golden Palm Investments, Future Africa, Seedstars, and Musha Ventures.

Chaka is a technology solutions company on a mission to enable every business and person in Africa to access borderless digital investment and wealth management opportunities. The team combines investment expertise and best-in-class technology to provide reliable digital Investing, trading and wealth management solutions that are easy-to-use and easy-to-integrate.

Their mission is to enable digital border-less investing for African businesses and individuals. They’re powering the digital investment landscape in Africa through partnerships with asset managers, financial technology firms, and regulators with whom we have a shared mission. We achieve this by providing trading solutions that are easy to use and easy to integrate.

With this capital, they will focus on the goals to build a roster of formidable partners and accelerate expansion to other markets within West Africa. This investment also enables them to hire top talent and integrate more advanced functionalities into our investment and wealth management solutions.

Jim Breyer, CEO of Breyer Capital, shared his view on this investment and it illustrates their shared vision: “We are proud to align ourselves with a company that is leveling the investment playing field for Nigerians (and Africans at large). We’re confident in the value Chaka provides through its digital tools, and we look forward to playing our part in supporting Tosin, Bo, Olaolu, and the Chaka team.”

This is a significant milestone for Chaka and could not have come this far without their users, partners, early investors, and a talented, achieving team of Champions.

They see digital investments as a means to boost economic transformation in Africa, and we’re very keen to bring this vision to life.

 

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elmenus, Egypt’s Leading Food App Secures $10M Pre-Series C from Fawry, Luxor Capital and Marakez

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Co-Founders (Image: elmenus)

elmenus and Fawry to co-develop innovative solutions for restaurants and customers

Luxor Capital’s first investment in the MENA region, previous investments include the biggest food ordering platforms globally, such as Zomato, Deliveryhero and Glovo

elmenus, Egypt’s biggest food discovery and ordering platform, has secured new funding from three new investors, based in the MENA region and North America. Fawry Group, the renowned digital transformation and e-payment platform is leading the investment from Egypt. The investment follows Fawry’s new strategy to take minority stakes in fast-growing, Egyptian, technology businesses. As well as investing, Fawry will work closely with elmenus to develop innovative solutions to benefit restaurants and consumers. Also investing is Marakez, a leading Egyptian real estate developer.

Ashraf Sabry, CEO of Fawry, said: “Fawry is looking forward to its journey with elmenus, working closely with the executive team and entering many ventures together.  By this investment, we show our desire to not only be a payment catalyst but to be a strategic partner to elmenus, its customers, restaurants and their riders. The Egyptian food space has high growth potential, with technology disrupting the status quo, as customers’ needs in food service provision rapidly change.”

From North America, investment has also been received from New York-based hedge fund, Luxor Capital Group, which has $11 billion of assets under management. elmenus is its first investment in the MENA region testament to its’ growth track record and market opportunity in Egypt. Luxor has a long history of successfully investing in food technology companies around the world.

Amir Allam, CEO of elmenus, commented: “Attracting new investment from Fawry, Luxor Capital and Marakez – following the endorsement of industry veteran, David Buttress, earlier this year – validates elmenus’ unique strategy. We are accelerating the adoption of online ordering by users, while enabling restaurants with new verticals – to help them scale. This funding demonstrates the investors’ strong belief in our position in Egypt, and our capability to dominate the market.”

elmenus, which now has over 1.5 million monthly users, is the most comprehensive platform for restaurant information and food discovery in Egypt, and its aim is to personalize food recommendations at a dish level. elmenus continues to expand rapidly, and today’s announcement follows the investment and board appointment of David Buttress – the former CEO of global food ordering firm, JustEat – announced earlier this year.

By the end of 2021, elmenus expects to empower 12,000 restaurants with new data and tool offerings to help them scale their businesses, across 20 Egyptian cities. Its cutting-edge digital solutions will also drive its existing database of several million users, to switch to online ordering.

 

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MarketForce secures $2M Pre-Series A round, plans to launch in Nigeria and scale up RejaReja in East Africa

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MarketForce Co-founders, Tesh Mbaabu (Left) and Mesongo Sibuti (Right) (Image & Release: MarketForce)

Kenyan-based MarketForce, a B2B platform for retail distribution of consumer goods and digital financial services in Africa, announces a $2 million Pre-Series A round, bringing total funding to-date to $2.5 million. With this fresh round of funding, MarketForce has brought on V8 Capital, Future Africa, Greenhouse Capital, Launch Africa, Rebel Fund, Remapped Ventures, and a couple of strategic angel investors as new investors. They joined Y Combinator and existing investor P1 Ventures, who also participated in the oversubscribed round.

In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 90% of household retail transactions are in cash, and delivered through a network of about 100 million MSMEs, with 42 million in Nigeria alone. Retail payments on the continent are expected to top $2.1 trillion by 2025, and MarketForce aims to digitize a large portion of these offline transactions.

Co-founded in 2018 by Tesh Mbaabu and Mesongo Sibuti, MarketForce uniquely combines a field sales automation SaaS solution with it’s “RejaReja” B2B marketplace to digitize how informal retail merchants buy and sell FMCGs and digital financial services. RejaReja helps these corner shops, commonly referred to as ‘dukas’ in Kenya, get better service, assortment, and access to new revenue opportunities, outfitting them with the technology and support they need to transform themselves from simple FMCG outlets to comprehensive financial service hubs for the continent’s last-mile communities. Currently available in Kenya, RejaReja offers informal retailers next-day delivery for hundreds of SKUs from the leading FMCG brands.

Last month, MarketForce announced the strategic acquisition of Digiduka, which was formed and funded during the inaugural cohort of the Antler programme in Nairobi. This was a huge fintech step forward as RejaReja now provides a wallet that allows retailers to collect mobile money and bank payments via mobile app, WhatsApp bot or USSD shortcode, eliminating the high mobile money transaction fees and enabling merchants accept digital payments, access working credit and earn more by acting as distribution agents for popular financial services such as airtime, bills, utilities, and even insurance.

With this round of funding, MarketForce plans to launch in Nigeria and to scale up RejaReja to more towns in East Africa.

“We are seeing significant demand for our radically improved way for companies to distribute their goods and services in Africa, and we’re thrilled to get a boost from returning and new investors at this crucial time,” said Tesh Mbaabu, Co-founder and CEO of MarketForce. “The combination of our technology with the offline distribution network that we are building is essential to creating maximum output and impact in African retail distribution. Our goal is to create income growth opportunities for a million retailers and independent sales agents across Africa within the next five years.” 

“Our clients and partners understand MarketForce’s power to increase sales performance and productivity across markets and industries,” said Co-founder and CTO Mesongo. “We are building the operating system for retail distribution in Africa, and we have the right combination of technology and team to make our Pan-African vision a reality.” 

Today, MarketForce clients are able to gain access to both our software and the RejaReja marketplace, which has garnered over 15,000 retail customers, processing thousands of orders daily, and we are experiencing double digit revenue growth month over month. The MarketForce SaaS product on the other hand has garnered over 10,000 monthly active users, with over 300,000 transactions worth over 500 Million USD processed to date through the platform in 3 key markets; Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Clients and partners include Safaricom, Pepsi, Grain Industries, Fort Beverages, Madison Insurance, Platinum Credit, Momentum Credit, Letshego, Pezesha and Lami.

A happy RejaReja customer in Nairobi (MarketForce)

“We are glad to be backing MarketForce in this round of funding, given their ability to build a differentiated, powerful and all-inclusive digital commerce platform for informal retailers in Africa. Similar to Paystack, another successful African YC company who targets merchants selling online, RejaReja targets the millions of underserved informal merchants who are still offline when it comes to business automation and payments,” said Tobi Oke, Managing Partner at V8 Capital Partners. 

“We are proud to back MarketForce to build the future of retail in Africa and help catalyze the digitization of the African retail market, which is highly informal, fragmented and undigitized, but holds a lot of untapped potential to improve incomes and enable millions of African retailers to grow their businesses. MarketForce sits in a place that enables them to generate a lot of value and empower every single participant in the massive retail industry,” said Adenike Sheriff, Principal at Future Africa. 

“We are excited to strengthen our partnership with MarketForce,” said Mikael Hajjar, Managing Partner at P1 Ventures. “MarketForce is one of the fastest-growing African leaders in sales and distribution automation technology. We’ve witnessed the pain point that MarketForce’s product addresses and how its customers realize major productivity gains over substitutes.” 

“I have known Mesongo and Tesh for over two years and MarketForce has proven that they know how to leverage the entire retail supply chain as a gateway for digital payments. Their organic as well as acquisition-driven growth & expansion strategy thus far has proven that their understanding of unit economics and marginal customer acquisition costs is solid. As a pan-African fintech company, they are very well positioned to tap into the $700 billion that gets transacted in this space every year,” said Zachariah George, Managing Partner at Launch Africa. 

 

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