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In today’s edition
Events: Building from Ground Up
Quick Fire 🔥
Saving African languages from extinction
Ask an Investor: Capria Ventures
TC Insights: Funding Tracker
EVENTS: BUILDING FROM GROUND UP
QUICK FIRE 🔥 WITH IBRAHIM BASHIR
Ibrahim Bashir is the CEO and co-founder of dillali, an income and expense management tool for SMEs. He is a problem solver with more than 20 years experience in business development and strategy. Ibrahim is also an amateur photographer.
Explain your job to a five-year-old
I am the class captain who makes sure everything is in order.
What’s something you wish you knew earlier in your career/life?
The power of NO—not to accept everything that comes my way. I wish I could have said no and just drawn the line on several propositions rather than try to please everyone.
What (singular) achievement are you most proud of?
When I first got paid for building a website as a “freelancer” in 1996, when the internet was relatively new in Nigeria. The feeling of getting paid as a teenager is a major achievement I will forever cherish.
What’s something you love doing that you’re terrible at? And what’s something you really do not like doing that you’re great at?
I love tech tools and gadgets, but I suck at using them. I don’t like cooking, but whenever I do, the food is always great.
What strategies can startups and SMEs use to maximise growth and expansion?
The power of networks and contacts to leverage in reaching the right target customers. Startups and SMEs need to have a solid yet flexible plan that can change based on the realities of the market. The power of focusing on one thing at a time (which is very hard to do). Discipline—financially and professionally—by prioritising the important and letting go of frivolous excesses.
What lies in the future for tech in Africa?
Tech will continue to reshape lives in Africa positively as we build more solutions that address the gaps in society from education to healthcare, among others. As more people come into tech in Africa, we will see even more disruptive startups across all sectors on the continent.
What’s one thing you’re looking forward to trying next year?
The National Geographic Society says a language dies every two weeks. In Africa alone, at least 52 known languages have experienced either linguicide—the death of a language due to natural or political reasons—or glottophagy, which happens when a smaller language is absorbed in or replaced by a major language.
In another disturbing report, UNESCO data indicates that if no efforts are made to conserve them, half of the languages currently spoken today will be extinct by the end of the 21st century. How can this be avoided, especially for African languages?
Backstory: Some young Africans living and schooling in America are taking the lead in answering this question through their startup called Mandla, an app that helps people learn African languages.
Co-founders Wenitte Apiou and Bolaji Odufuwa live the reality of many young Africans, especially those who have parents of diverse ethnic backgrounds. They speak their nation’s official languages—usually English or French—but have no serviceable knowledge of the African languages their parents speak.
Realising this, both founders used the time afforded them by the lockdown to solve the problem for themselves and millions of young people in America and across the world. They also brought in three more hands, Emeka Ezike, Kwesi Afrifa and Delanyo Mensah, creating a diverse team to help build a diverse solution.
Speaking into existence
Mandla, a Zulu and Xhosa word that means power, is an innovative e-learning language app created for those who seek to strengthen their connection with their African roots. The app combines education with gamification to create an enjoyable and effective experience. With the help of predictive AI, Mandla is able to personalise language lessons for all of its users.
“…we’re obviously looking at the key performance indicators (KPIs) of the company; how the company is performing against these. Are they delivering on what they said they’re going to deliver? How are they performing compared to their forecast?“
When it was time to pick a name for their investment company, Jack Knellinger, Dave Richards, and Will Poole knew it had to be one that’d always be relevant to what they do. So, after a bit of back and forth, they arrived at “Capria”, which means capital flow. A befitting name considering that their goal was to ensure that capital flowed from investors to fund managers and startups in need of funding.
The story of Capria Ventures dates back to Knellinger’s transition from being a software developer to exploring what else was out there. He eventually joined Ashoka, which sparked his interest in impact entrepreneurship and building sustainable solutions. At Ashoka, Knellinger learnt how leading entrepreneurs in emerging markets were solving the challenges in their markets while also generating profit and returns for their investors. This experience was his own version of an MBA programme.
Over the next few years, he worked with a couple of acceleration programmes, and that was how met his eventual partners at Capria Ventures—Richards and Poole.
The trio worked together on a couple of projects in the early-stage startup scene over a space of five years before launching Capria Ventures together.
“While I was consulting with startups in the US, Will and Dave, co-founders of the Unitus Seed Fund, a $23 million impact investment seed fund focused on India, reached out saying there was growing interest and activity from startups in emerging markets around the world,” Knellinger said. “We got a sense of this from some early-stage investment funds in India but felt that there were more opportunities beyond India.”
In 2015, they partnered to start Capria Ventures to tackle the issue of unlocking capital for founders across emerging markets. Today, Capria Ventures has investment activity in about 50 countries with $650 million worth of current assets under management.
The year may be coming to an end, but it doesn’t look like startups are slowing down at all when it comes to funding deals, as this week, TradeDepot, a Nigerian B2B eCommerce platform, received $110 million in a Series B equity and debt round.
IFC returned as an investor and led the equity round, with participation from Novastar, Sahel Capital, CDC Group, Endeavor Catalyst and existing investors, Partech and MSA Capital. The debt funding was led by Arcadia Funds.
Here are the other deals for this week:
Nigerian edtech uLesson secured $15 million in Series B funding from Nielsen Ventures and Tencent, as well as existing investors: Owl Ventures, TLcom Capital, and Founder Collective.
Kenyan fintech Kwara raised a $4 million seed round to further develop its neobank app ahead of its upcoming release. The round was led by Breega with the inclusion of SoftBank Vision Fund Emerge, Finca Ventures, New General Market Partners, Globivest, Do Good Invest, Rabacap, Launch Africa, Norrsken Impact Accelerator, Future Africa, Samurai Incubate and DOB Equity, as well as several fintech executives, including founders of Meltwater, The Flex Company and ComplyAdvantage, as well as executives from Salesforce and PayPal.
CinetPay, an Ivory Coast-based fintech, got $2.4 million in seed funding from 4DX Ventures, and Flutterwave.
Egyptian home services marketplace Filkhedma secured an undisclosed bridge round of funding from Cairo Angels.
Nigerian fintech Flex Finance, raised a six-figure US dollar pre-seed funding round from Gumroad CEO Sahil Lavingia, LoftyInc Capital Management, Berrywood Capital, Paradox Capital, Kairos Angels, Brett Kopf, Julian Shapiro, Maneesh Arora, and others.
Quidax is an African-founded cryptocurrency exchange that makes it easy for you to access Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. They also make it possible for Fintech companies to offer cryptocurrency services to their customers.
Are you more interested in reading about fundraising, or reading about digital nomads? Do you prefer to spend your mornings reading about the newest startups, or listening to Twitter Spaces on how to build better products? Frankly, we don’t know—we can’t read minds yet.
That’s why we’ve created a quick survey to learn more about you and create better content that matches your interests. Think of it as an investment.