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SBI Holdings commits $80 million to Novastar Ventures
GIF source: Zikoko Memes
Novastar Ventures, an Africa-focused investment firm, has entered a partnership with Japanese venture capital firm SBI Holdings. The partnership will see SBI Holdings commit $80 million to Novastar across future funds.
Per Novastar co-founder and managing partner Steve Beck, “Together with SBI, we see an opportunity to harness Africa’s development path to planet-positive, inclusive business models that leapfrog the polluting practices of the past and set us on track towards a sustainable and just future. Realising this opportunity requires the capital, technology and long-term mindset of corporate Japan and other mature economies.”
Launched in 2014, Novastar Ventures invests in early-stage startups in Africa. Its portfolio includes Nigerian fintech Moniepoint, electric mobility startup BasiGo, and healthtech mPharma. The venture firm has successfully secured over $200 million from global institutional investors since its launch.
With the investment, SBI Holdings aims to attract other Japanese investors to invest in Novastar’s funds, and in return, Novastar will offer SBI Holdings the opportunity to co-invest in startups and provide valuable market insights.
Lights out: The Novastar and SBI Holdings partnership is a win-win for both sides. Novastar gets access to SBI’s capital and expertise, while SBI gets exposure to Africa’s fast-growing startup ecosystem.
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Egypt’s MNT-Halan raises $130 million debt funding
Image source: MNT-Halan
Egyptian fintech unicorn MNT-Halan has raised $130 million through a bond issuance this week. This brings its total raise this year to $530 million.
In February, the company raised $400 million in equity and debt financing from Chimera Investments and other investors. At the time, MNT-Halan was also valued at $1 billion, giving it its unicorn status. It also announced plans to raise $600 million this year, and it looks like it’s achieving that goal with this recent raise. The fintech is also reportedly targeting another $150 million by year-end.
More investors: Its more recent $130 million raise was led by investment bank CI Capital.
Launched in 2018, MNT-Halan offers digital banking, payments, and e-commerce services to the unbanked. With more than 1.5 million quarterly active users across small and micro business lending, payments, consumer finance, and e-commerce. The fintech has served more than seven million customers in Egypt.
“We are seeing very strong demand for off-balance sheet funding as we enter 2024. This is primarily a result of the high quality of our underwriting,” CEO Mounir Nakhla said, commenting on the recent raise.
Zoom out: MNT-Halan has raised most of its funding this year through its loan portfolio, which is now worth $650 million and growing by 4–5% per month, according to Nakhla.
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Elon Musk announces new “fun” AI bot
GIF source: Tenor
Move over ChatGPT, there’s a new bot in town.
Yesterday, chief twit Elon Musk announced a new artificial intelligence service, Grok which is “intended to answer almost anything”.
According to the X announcement, Grok is “is designed to answer questions with a bit of wit and has a rebellious streak, so please don’t use it if you hate humour!”
It’ll mock you, just like Musk: To demonstrate how much of a hard guy Grok is, Musk, in a tweet, asked Grok to draw up the recipe for cocaine, and Grok responded, “Just a moment while I pull up the recipe for homemade cocaine. You know, because I’m totally going to help you with that.”
Hold your funny bones though, Grok isn’t available for use just yet. Like many of Musk’s social plans, the bot is premature. It’s still in its early stages of growth, only has two months of training and will only be available to a select few. If you’re interested in testing out Grok, you can sign up for the waitlist here (caveat, only verified users on X can join the waitlist).
Per Musk, Grok will become a feature exclusive to X Premium, allowing users to access the chatbot for a monthly fee of $16. This underscores Musk’s commitment to maximising X’s profitability by monetising every aspect.
The big picture: AI services are the new NFTs, but ones that are actually useful. After ChatGPT’s launch in November 2022 saw a quick rise in users—about 100 million within two months to be exact—several other companies like Google and Microsoft have also launched their AIs. Now, an estimated 1.5 billion people across the world are using one AI chatbot or the other.
And the AI space is only getting bigger. Yesterday, at its first developer conference, OpenAI announced plans for a custom GPT Builder feature. The ChatGPT parent company is creating a tool that will let users create and manage custom AI agents, and it will even pay the creators of these agents depending on how much their services are used.
On the financial side, these chatbots are expensive to run. Research and consulting firm SemiAnalysis estimated that ChatGPT was costing OpenAI a remarkable $700,000 per day in computing costs alone. 🤯
Twitter is selling inactive handles for $50,000
GIF source: Zikoko Memes
Speaking of Musk and monetising Twitter/X, the billionaire and his team have reportedly devised a new way to make money: selling inactive usernames.
Yesterday, Forbes revealed that X is rolling out a programme that will see the company create a marketplace where old handles will be sold off.
Per the publication, a team within the company known as the “Handle Team” is working on the guidelines, process and fees for this programme. The team has also reportedly started reaching out to potential buyers requesting a flat fee of $50,000 for the handles.
This comes six months after Elon Musk originally announced that Twitter would free up usernames by purging itself of inactive or defunct accounts.
Zoom out: For now though, we’re all still stuck with our usernames. X isn’t officially releasing any usernames yet. If you want to avoid getting your username reassigned though, X’s username policy advises users to log in at least once every thirty days.
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The World Wide Web3
* Data as of 06:35 AM WAT, November 7, 2023.
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Over the weekend, hackers stole $1.8 million worth of bitcoin via a mishap on the Microsoft store. CoinTelegraph reports that the hacker gained access to several wallets via a fake Ledger Live app—a crypto exchange platform—that was uploaded onto the Microsoft App Store. Users unwittingly downloaded and logged into the app crypto platform and fell victim to the scammer. The scammer also stole $180,000 worth of ether and BSC.
- Applications for the New Venture Competition by the HBS African Business Club is now open. The competition is aimed at fostering and supporting innovative businesses on the African continent. Ten semi-finalists will be invited to pitch their business in front of over 1,000 attendees at the conference, and the three top companies will receive non-dilutive cash prizes of $30,000, $15,000, and $10,000. Apply by November 15.
- Applications are open for the Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa: Doctoral Dissertation Research fellowship 2024(up to $15,000). The Social Science Research Council offers fellowships to support the completion of doctoral degrees and to promote next-generation social science research in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. The fellowships support dissertation research on peace, security, and development topics. Apply by February 11, 2024.
- The citizens of Commonwealth countries in Africa can now apply for the Commonwealth Africa Cyber Fellowship Programme 2024. Selected experts will serve as fellows for a year, and get exclusive access to academic research opportunities, networking events and annual conferences, with a focus on enhancing cybersecurity policies and institutions across Commonwealth countries in Africa. Apply by December 10.
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