Verily, African startups and entrepreneurs are as capable as their western counterparts; they are making huge strides in upturning stereotypes and gradually eroding the narrative of consumer-central economics. If you’ve been dreaming of working in a top startup organization, this is where to start. This article projects the persistent African entrepreneurial spirit and a celebration of its ingenuity and leaps in establishing sustainable businesses.
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It is most people’s dream — well, those averse to entrepreneurship – to work with prosperous organizations, do meaningful work, and create solutions that transcend borders. I like to believe that Africa—through many of its indigenous startup companies — is gradually eliciting a neo-economic and social renaissance. They are contributing to the growth of economies and fostering social inclusiveness and public welfare via the creation of jobs, bolstered food production, and access to Medicare in poor communities.
It’s amazing how just an impulse of thought, made concrete by a dint of effort can impact lives on an epic scale. Indeed, it is the smallest, negligible things that exact the biggest impact.
Just as startups in America and Europe have garnered critical acclaim for addressing real-world challenges and at the same time, rendering quite a number of people deadbeat and unproductive—from spending many their waking hours endlessly scrolling Instagram and sharing boring jokes and steeped in sensationalism. At any rate, irrespective of the business model, whether aiming for the moon or corralling a gaggle of “artists” to fool themselves on TikTok, these companies have raised millions in investments and are valued at billions of dollars.
However, African startups are on the ascent and quite a number of them have raised significant funding, albeit not necessarily spreading to other geographies yet, have caught the world’s attention.
Startup companies in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, to those in South Africa and North Africa are creating disruptive businesses, steadily waxing in capability and inspiring new and innovative services to run our lives and business more efficiently with minimal or zero hassle. They’re making living generally more enjoyable and improving standards.
So if you aspire to work with a billion-dollar organization, here is a good place to start. We’ve put together a list of flush startups that’s seen an infusion of top dollar to grow into real businesses and stand toe-to-toe with counterparts from other parts of the globe.
In this article, we profile briefly African startups that have raised significant funding and are on track to becoming unicorns and rewriting the African narrative.
These African tech startups crossed the $1 billion mark in funding:
Flutterwave is a Nigerian fintech company that provides a payment infrastructure for global merchants and payment service providers across the continent. The company was founded in 2016 by Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Olugbenga Agboola, and Adeleke Adekoya and is headquartered in San Francisco, California with operations in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, and seven other African countries.
In 2021, Flutterwave raised a US$170 million Series C funding round. At the time, this was the largest amount ever secured by an African tech startup and gave it a valuation of over US$1 billion, making Flutterwave a unicorn. Investors in Flutterwave include Y- Combinator, Visa Ventures, Mastercard, Avenir Growth Capital, and Tiger Global Management. Also, in 2022, Flutterwave raised a US$250 million Series D funding round at over US$3 billion valuation. Flutterwave and Paystack are industry buddies and are arguably the hottest and the most acclaimed African startups. So you definitely should keep an eye on them.
Clickatell Ltd, headquartered in Redwood City, California, USA, provides mobile messaging and transaction services. The company enables customers to connect, interact, and transact with their business partners and communities on mobile phones. Clickatell serves enterprise, government, medium, and small business customers worldwide.
Clickatell focuses on a global mobile messaging API for mobile engagement and payments. The organization was founded in 2000 in a tiny apartment in Cape Town, South Africa by the CEO Pieter de Villiers, his twin brother Casper, and two friends Danie du Toit and Patrick Lawson. They embarked on creating an application programming interface between cellphones and computers.
Their latest funding was raised on Feb 22, 2022, from a Series C round. Clickatell is funded by 7 investors. Arrowroot Capital Management and Endeavor Catalyst are the most recent investors. Their total funding comes to $109M.
Reliance Health uses technology to make quality healthcare more affordable and accessible in emerging markets. It uses software, data science, and telemedicine to make health insurance delightful, affordable, and easier to access. The organization was founded in 2016 by Nigerian entrepreneurs: Femi Kuti, Matthew Mayaki, Opeyemi Olumekun and is headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria. Reliance Health raised $40M series B funding in February 2022 and the total funding raised comes to $48.3M.
MarketForce provides a unified digital commerce marketplace to facilitate trade among Africa's informal merchants and leading consumer brands. Co-founded in 2018 by Tesh Mbaabu and Mesongo Sibuti. MarketForce is a B2B retail marketplace that empowers informal merchants in Africa to source, order, and pay for inventory digitally and conveniently. Marketforce also allows merchants access financing, collect digital payments and make extra money by reselling digital financial services such as airtime, electricity tokens, and bill payments.
It raised US$40 million Series A funding in February 2022. The round was led by V8 Capital Partners, a London and Lagos-based African-focused investment vehicle, with participation from Ten13 VC, SOSV Select Fund, Vu Ventures, and Vastly Valuable Ventures. MarketForce is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya and the total funding raised is $42.7M.
Metro Africa Express (MAX) addresses the last-mile delivery and online-retail problems by using mobile and web platforms. They developed a mobile application designed to make motto-taxis safe, affordable, and accessible to underserved communities in Africa. The company's application facilitates motorcycle-taxi ride-hailing and last-mile delivery services, enabling commuters to access safe and affordable on-demand motorcycle-transport service.
Max was co-founded in 2015 by its CEO Adetayo Bamiduro and its Chief Growth Officer, Chinedu Azodoh. The startup recently secured a $31M funding co-led by global private equity platform, Lightrock, which is making its first investment in the African mobility space, and UAE-based international venture capital firm, Global Ventures.
Others that also took part in the round are existing investors Novastar Ventures and Proparco, the French development finance institution, through their Digital Africa initiative. MAX’s total funding comes to $57.4M and is headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria.
Stitch is an API fintech company that enables businesses to build, optimize, and scale financial products across Africa more quickly and easily. It offers data and payments solutions that dramatically reduce the effort required for businesses to connect to their users’ financial accounts and enable bank-to-bank payments without leaving the existing app interface.
Their infrastructure-led approach supports a number of use cases, including KYC & onboarding, personal and business financial management, lending, wallet top-ups, e-commerce checkouts, and more. Stitch launched in February 2021 and has offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, and Lagos, Nigeria.
The startup recently raised a $21 million Series A funding round to scale its operations. The round was led by The Spruce House Partnership with participation from PayPal Ventures, TrueLayer, firstminute capital, The Raba Partnership, CRE Venture Capital, Village Global, Zinal Growth (the investment vehicle of Checkout.com founder Guillaume Pousaz), and others, including founders of Chipper Cash, Quovo and Unit.
Its data centers is a Pan-African provider of cloud- and carrier-neutral colocation data center services and is headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. PAIX is the acronym for “Pan African Internet Exchange data centers”. The organization was founded in 2016 by a team of data center, telecom industry, and investment professionals with a track record in the African market.
In its data center operations, it aims to offer a leading global quality service level to its national and international customer base across the African continent. The startup recently secured a $20M equity investment from Africa50, an investment vehicle in a Series B round, and will be used to fund the company’s data center capacity expansion and growth into new markets.
Thndr is a financial services company that operates an app-based investment platform. It comes with 0% commission, no account minimum, access to market data, easy account setup, and funding processes. Users can also get access to the latest news, market data, and other educational tools. Ahmad Hammouda and Seif Amr established the company in 2020 in Cairo, Al Qahirah, Egypt.
Tiger Global, Dubai-based early-stage VC BECO Capital and Prosus Ventures co-led the Series A investment of $20M. Other investors in Thndr’s Series A round include Base Capital, firstminute and existing investors Endure Capital, 4DX Ventures, Raba Partnerships and JIMCO. Thndr has raised a total of $22 million in funding to date. The Series A investment will go toward product development and expanding its presence across the Middle East and North Africa.
Jambo, a Congo-based startup building Africa’s web3 user acquisition portal through “learn, play, earn” and democratizing access to crypto-based income-generation opportunities, has raised $7.5 million in seed funding. The mix of positives, such as a fast-growing population — the youngest globally — solid smartphone penetration and increasing crypto adoption, and negatives like low GDP per capita across the board and unemployment makes Africa the next ripe ground for web3.
And a few companies, such as Jambo, are positioning themselves for this next boom. According to James Zhang, its co-founder, and CEO, Jambo wants to onboard millions of users to web3 in Africa through its applications. He founded the company with his sister — both Congo-born Chinese — in November 2021 after noticing the opportunity to duplicate the success of web3 projects in Southeast Asia across Africa.
Investors include Coinbase Ventures, Three Arrows Capital (3AC), Alameda Research, Tiger Global, Delphi Ventures, AllianceDAO, DeFiance Capital, Yield Guild Games and Polygon Studios, and several angel investors from the web3 ecosystem, like Polygon co-founder and CEO Sandeep Nailwal; ex-ParaFi partner Santiago R Santos; Terraform Labs co-founder and CEO Do Kwon; and partner at Delphi Digital, Piers Kicks.
Nestcoin builds, operates, and invests in crypto native products for everyday people in frontier markets. The startup was founded in November 2021 by Yele Badamosi and Taiwo Orilogbon, who lead the charge at Bundle Africa, one of the continent’s well-known crypto-trading platforms.
Nestcoin primarily builds, invests, and operates web3 and non-custodial products that are more accessible for everyday people in frontier markets. Nestcoin’s products cut across Decentralized Finance (Defi), media, digital art, and gaming.
Nestcoin also hopes to introduce its Defi projects by Q2 this year. In addition to that, the company will be exploring ways in which content creators on the platform can earn crypto while educating its 6,000 subscribers with structured learning paths. The company’s pre-seed round of $6.45M, the second-largest in Africa and largest in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa right now, will provide it with the firepower to build these products and several others in its pipeline.
BasiGo is an e-mobility start-up looking to revolutionize the public transportation sector by providing public transport bus owners with a cost-effective electric alternative to diesel. Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. The startup was founded in 2021 by cofounders Jit Bhattacharya and Jonathan Green. BasiGo closed $4.3 million in seed funding led by Novastar Ventures, with participation from a number of existing and new Silicon Valley investors, including Moxxie Ventures, Nimble Partners, Spring Ventures, Climate Capital, and Third Derivative.
In conclusion, the African startups' scene is growing in leaps and bounds and is making huge progress within the supportive capitalist provisions of most African economies. The future appears bright and promising for African startups, and if things continue in this fashion, the African continent would be better for it.
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