VIBRA, the Africa-focused crypto platform co-founded by Vincent Li—co-founder of web3 accelerator Adaverse—has shut down in all three of its markets, not just Nigeria.

TechCabal has confirmed that the crypto platform founded by Africa Blockchain Labs has shut down in its three markets—Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya—not just Nigeria, as we previously reported. Vincent Li, the co-founder of the African Blockchain Lab, which received $6 million in VC funding from investors like Lateral Frontiers and Everest Ventures for VIBRA, told TechCabal that the business is currently undergoing a pivot. But reliable sources, including former employees who resigned from their jobs, have stated otherwise.

“In July, we were given the option to resign or be fired,” a former employee told TechCabal. At the time, the over-10-person team led by Hailey Yang had learned that the company was facing existential difficulties. The same month, the company emailed users that it would discontinue services by July 15. Li told TechCabal that the discontinuation was only for Nigerian users—its largest market—but the messages on the Telegram group named “VIBRA Africa” suggest that the closure was not regional.

The shutdown was effected three weeks after another Asian-owned startup, Pillow, shut down in Africa and months after Lazerpay closed shop too. Web3 startups were reeling from the impact of the persisting bear market and the crash of popular crypto exchange FTX. User engagement on the app, which allowed people to swap, send, receive, save, and spend cryptocurrencies, was waning. The company’s website says that VIBRA had over 100,000 agents in the three markets, but it is unclear how many users the company had at the time. “There were not many users,” an ex-employee said. They declined to state an exact figure or range but confirmed that user activity on the app fell, and consequently, the startup’s revenue from charges made from transactions plummeted.

“The company may have also closed because they could not work out how to get commensurate turnover from the user education we were doing,” an ex-employee told TechCabal. When Africa Blockchain Lab announced that it had raised $6 million for VIBRA, it said it would “drive the mass adoption of digital assets and blockchain technologies in Africa.” The startup had an education initiative, #VIBRAinClass, where experts could earn money for teaching Africans about blockchain. Tutors could earn up to $400 or $100 per class in four months. Students could also earn up to ₦1,000 in each class. However, it appears the downtime in the crypto sector discouraged new adopters.

Aside from education, the incentive-driven customer acquisition typical of blockchain startups proved to be very expensive for the startup. “Nigerians are very crypto-curious and are willing to try new ways to earn money, but they also have huge expectations of crypto companies,” said a former employee. Even influencers know this and often make costly demands of crypto-related service providers looking to advertise through them. “Nigerians see cryptocurrencies as a path to quick wealth creation. You need to be able to fly ten people out to Dubai to impress them,” the former employee said, referencing the expensive promotion tactics employed by popular exchanges like Binance in Nigeria.

VIBRA’s co-founder, Li, has declined to comment. 

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