Leading risk management and data intelligence firm, Towntalk Solutions has recently launched its flagship product Area! to provide on-demand security and insurance for its customers. Towntalk is a data intelligence company that uses a range of in-house tools to gather location-based and behavioural data across Africa, beginning with Nigeria. They analyse this data using advanced technologies including artificial intelligence, to protect businesses from risk. Towntalk also makes Goods In Transit (GIT) insurance affordable and less risky for insurance companies. They recently participated in the first, ARM Labs Lagos Techstars Accelerator Programme and launched their new security product Area! Protect.
Area! Protect is a platform that allows customers to purchase affordable security and insurance services on demand. The product leverages Towntalk’s data infrastructure of over 300K data points to offer its users personalised security reports that improve their operational efficiency, and other services such as affordable Goods-in-Transit insurance for financial protection in partnership with Amarante, a security advisory firm headquartered in France and a range of insurance providers.
After participating in this TechStars accelerator programme, I caught up with the founders of Towntalk, Folake Edun (CEO), Oladisun Vera-Cruz (COO), and Dr. Erinosho Tomiwa (CTO) to discuss their business so far, expectations after this accelerator, and how they’re harnessing data and technology to change the Nigerian economy and overall public safety.
Folake Edun, Chief Executive Officer, Towntalk Solutions
Before founding Towntalk Solutions, Folake Edun worked in risk management consulting at Deloitte UK and also held positions at Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) and Chapel Hill Denham. As a woman in Nigeria, security is a priority for her and this desire to create safety solutions led her to collaborate with her two co-founders to start Towntalk Solutions, to help businesses and individuals safe.
Uma: Techstars’ accelerators offer mentorship to prestigious startups from Africa to North America, what would you say prompted this acceptance of Towntalk Solutions into this programme?
Folake: Towntalk’s acceptance into the program is a testament to the potential of our product and the team’s ability to execute our vision. We have considered accelerators in the past, but the combination of timing and also the fact this is the first on-the-ground African programme was a huge selling point for us. It meant the connections made would be directly applicable to the initial market we are playing in. We differ a lot from most of the other companies in the cohort, which are fintechs and prop-techs and we are a data intelligence company whose data is being used to add value to the insurance sector at the moment.
Uma: What gaps in the ecosystem led to this pivot to your flagship product, Area!?
Folake: We started in security and the pivot to Area! by Towntalk, was a natural progression for us. Understanding what is going on around you is one thing, but the next step, once you have that knowledge, is to actually manage the risk. Logistics and FMCG companies are limited in their ability to mitigate the impact of the operational and financial risks caused by incidents they face en route simply because of a lack of data. In most more developed countries, a very effective tool to manage such risks is insurance, but unfortunately, in this part of the world insurance is considered an expensive cost item, with very opaque pricing strategies. With our data and our solutions, we are able to provide clarity to the logistic companies on how exactly they can behave and the tools they can employ to access more favourable insurance terms. We’re still in the business of security and we recently launched a partnership with a French security company, Amarante, to help build our data pipeline while they leverage our technology to push out real-time location-specific alerts and reports directly to their clients.
Uma: What is the future of Towntalk Solutions post-accelerator and what do you hope to achieve with your participation in this programme?
Folake: We are beyond excited about the future of Towntalk post-accelerator. Techstars has been an amazing opportunity, particularly in keeping us both focussed on the problem (i.e. the data gap), whilst also expanding our minds into the many potential applications of our data. We’re excited to really penetrate the logistics insurance market. We’re even more excited about all the different solutions and products that we are going to develop in that space to essentially provide very active end-to-end protection to these companies as they transport goods and other assets from point A to B.
Uma: Are there other products in the works? What expansions can we expect from Towntalk Solutions in the future?
Folake: Where do I even begin? We are just beginning and at the moment, we are focused on our solution for the logistics insurance market, namely providing them with de-risking measures to enable access to more affordable GIT insurance. But we know our data has limitless potential within logistics and also other industries across Africa. Lack of access to location and behaviour data affects businesses in almost all sectors across the continent. We have plans to eventually go into route optimisation further supporting the logistics and transportation sector in reducing costs as well as carbon emissions. We’ll provide asset financing for banks to help predict trends in different locations, helping to evaluate investments, and we have so much more in the long run.
Oladisun Vera-Cruz, Chief Operating Officer, Towntalk Solutions
Oladisun has an MA in Conflict, Security, and Development and a BA in Philosophy, Economics, and Political Science. He’s passionate about researching, uncovering, and mitigating risk. Before co-founding Towntalk, Oladisun worked at Control Risks, a global specialist risk consultancy firm. He is interested in data intelligence and technology innovations in security.
Uma: What inspired Towntalk Solutions and what problems did you set out to solve?
Oladisun: At Towntalk, we set out to bridge the data gap across Africa. While working as an analyst for a global risk management firm, I was responsible for helping Fortune 500 companies manage and secure their operations and growth across the continent. However, simple data like the events that were happening in various locations to make them resilient against local risks such as election-related violence, the impact of weather on their operations, and much more was lacking. We knew that building a data infrastructure that provided these insights would be valuable across several sectors.
Uma: What has been the response to Towntalk Solutions so far and how do you anticipate the response to Area! will be?
Oladisun: Over the last couple of years, Towntalk’s data infrastructure has been successfully used for security mapping, asset monitoring, and journey planning by industry leaders either as clients or partners. The company has experienced significant growth in client base and datasets since its launch. As for Area! by Towntalk, it is still relatively new and is already acquiring GIT Insurance clients across e-commerce, e-logistics, and FMCGs
Uma: Does Towntalk Solutions provide insurance directly or is this a service in partnership with other providers?
Oladisun: We offer insurance as one of many options for companies to protect their people, assets, operations and finances through our platform. Our insurance product is delivered through partnerships with reputable insurance providers.
Uma: Nigeria is a rather unstable country with bad roads and insecurity plaguing most logistics businesses. What drove the founders of Towntalk Solutions to provide coverage for logistics in this type of environment and how are you using data intelligence to solve these problems?
Oladisun: We were aware of the difficult operations faced by logistics companies in Nigeria due to poor roads, instability, and other factors and this is what led us to Towntalk Solutions. Despite the economic crisis in Nigeria, the country is still catching the attention of investors, especially with modern, technology-centred solutions. But, insecurity remains a challenge. To deliver effective and trustworthy logistics solutions, we harnessed data intelligence to help logistics companies overcome, navigate, and mitigate these risks. To streamline operations, speed up delivery, and boost customer happiness, the company builds products that leverage artificial intelligence to optimise the operations of logistics companies.
Uma: How do you handle KYE requirements and verify identity?
Oladisun: Our unique value proposition is our ability to harness data from multiple sources into one integrated infrastructure that collectively addresses clients’ needs. For example, we conduct driver KYC using multiple sources and use that information to ultimately provide our end users with affordable insurance in order to remain compliant and ensure our clients are adequately protected. We also have a bimodal verification process that requires the driver to provide basic details to corroborate our findings.
Dr. ErinoshoTomiwa, Chief Technical Officer, Towntalk Solutions
Erinosho previously held the position of Senior Research Associate at the University of Bristol, designing computational models for predicting the failure in stainless steels used for nuclear energy applications.
He has interests in risk management and data science and he also owns the patent for an Automated Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) level monitoring system.
Uma: How does Towntalk Solutions work and how do you leverage behavioural data to provide businesses with operational and financial security?
Erinosho: Towntalk is a company that leverages vast amounts of location data and Artificial Intelligence to support its partners such as insurance and security companies. Through our data, our partners can provide personalised services and prices to their customers. Ultimately, the beneficiaries of our products are those logistics, FMCGs, and other companies that have lots of field operations.
Uma: What kind of emergency response do you provide for registered businesses Towntalk?
Erinosho: As I mentioned earlier, Towntalk has a robust data infrastructure that includes location-specific security data, weather data, traffic data, and other personalised datasets. In addition, we have arguably the most robust emergency response database in Nigeria comprising over 10,000 of both public services such as hospitals and police, to private ones such as vulcanisers and mechanics. All these are curated by location.
Uma: What do you anticipate is the biggest challenge ahead for you with the launch of Area!?
Erinosho: The biggest challenge will be that our customers will wonder why they’ve lived this long without Area! Data is life and we believe that our data will radically change the way security and insurance companies deliver their services to their customers. It will be more personalised and more affordable.