A brief on early-stage startup investment
in partnership with FLUTTERWAVE 27.07.2020
Hello there, Welcome to TC Daily! In today's digest: a government-owned logistics service provider tries to regulate competitors, Orange plans to launch a bank, and a brief on early-stage investments in the startup world. Please take a moment to subscribe to our newsletter if this email was forwarded to you.
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LOGISTICAL BLUNDER

In an ill-advised move last week, the Nigerian Postal Service attempted to grant itself preference in Nigeria's courier and logistics space. A memo by the NIPOST CEO declared a new licensing regime for six categories of courier service deliverers. Licenses range from ₦20 million ($52,000) for international operations to ₦250,000 ($650) for a "Special SME" category. This surprising announcement has been halted after much outrage. Isa Pantami, Nigeria's Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, denied having authorized the directive contradicting NIPOST's statement which suggested the Minister had consented. Pantami says the increase in license fee was not part of new regulations he approved for the agency, asking that implementation be put on hold. It's a temporary relief but the obvious questions then are: what was approved? And why is NIPOST, a government-owned and government-operated for-profit service provider, empowered to regulate its private-sector competitors? The fees may not be taking effect but the agency has attracted scrutiny to its history of snafus. Many Nigerians dug up memories of painful experiences, of broken seals and lost items. Even if there have been efforts in recent years to improve NIPOST's quality of service - they have a decent address mobile app - this was not the best way to reintroduce the agency to an annoyed public. Logistics service companies - including former motorcycle-hailing companies like Gokada and MAX - will remain on high alert to see what new regulatory regime the Minister approves. We could have another moment of mass repulsion, depending.

MOBILE BANKING

Orange, the mobile network operator notably present in Francophone Africa, will launch a bank in partnership with NSIA Group, a company known for providing insurance products by collaborating with banking institutions. When active, Orange Bank - as the new venture will be called - will provide savings and small loans to borrowers. Users can access these services from their mobile devices, the company says. The bank will first launch in Abidjan, spread to other parts of the Ivory Coast, and then will be expanded to Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso.

BLOCKCHAIN FOR HOUSING

Since its launch in 2018, HouseAfrica has been building a reputation as a potentially exciting real-world application of blockchain technology. By using the technology to create an immutable digital record for real estate, the Nigerian startup brings a genuine innovation into an industry with protracted problems. It has now caught the attention of a reputable organisation with government connections. Last week, it was announced that the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC) and HouseAfrica will be involved in a partnership to deploy the latter's digital title verification and authentication system called Propvat.com NMRC, a private-sector company, carries out mortgage financing by raising money from Nigeria's capital markets. Licensed by Nigeria's central bank, NMRC's capital base is over N13 billion (>$30 million) and is partly-owned by no less than five Nigerian banks and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority. While not a stamp of success, it is a sizeable coup for HouseAfrica. It is also a signal to the potential to be unlocked when blockchain is applied in other sectors.

TC INSIGHTS

In the movie The Social Network, there's an iconic scene where Mark Zuckerburg heard Peter Thiel say he was going to invest $500,000 into Facebook, the startup's first major check. Here’s how Reid Hoffman, also an early Facebook investor, describes Mark Zuckerburg in the early days on the 11th episode of his podcast, Masters of Scale: "We weren't blown away by Mark Zuckerberg's pitch, as we recalled. He's grown into his articulateness. He's very articulate now, but back then there was a lot of staring at the desk, not saying anything." Hoffman described Zuckerburg as painfully quiet and awkward during important meetings. But they did bet on him, regardless. In 2012, Thiel sold the majority of his stake for almost $1 billion in cash. For many founders, the pitch for their first check makes all the difference. It goes a long way to determine whether they get a check and ultimately whether their startups die or live. In Africa, while the number of early-stage investors, especially local ones, has increased, there's still a dearth of capital for entrepreneurs. Only 5% of the total amount of VC money invested between 2014 - 2019 was seed investment. Investors have little regulatory incentive to set-up funds locally and often say they have a hard time finding quality startups. For founders without an international education degree, it's very difficult to access the networks necessary to get that first check. Solving the pipeline issue and introducing policies that incentivize VCs to set-up funds and invest locally will go a long way in encouraging more early-stage deals. It will ultimately boost the success of tech entrepreneurship across the continent. If you are a founder in Africa, please fill our investor list here to let us know who gave you your first check. Get TechCabal's reports and send us your custom research requests here.

WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
A fruitful week to you,

See you tomorrow.
- Alexander

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