Startup News Updates
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PayQin, a cross-border payment startup that operates a comprehensive e-wallet service for the underbanked in West Africa, is announcing a new 300K seed investment round that takes the company's funding up to $1 million. The company aims to reach one million daily transactions in a year and envisions a single payment area for the West African countries. PayQin is among the alumni of the Estonia-founded startup Wise Guys accelerator's first fintech batch powered by Swedbank, the Nordics' largest bank. The company is also backed by several business angels and VC companies from the Baltic countries (United Angels VC, startup Wise Guys), and venture capitalist investors from the US and Africa, including Planet42 co-founder Eerik Oja;and Janis Krums, the founder of PlanGrid (acquired by AutoDesk). Founded in 2017 by Fabrice Amalaman and Pierre-Antoine Sesque, PayQin is driving financial inclusion in Africa's vast underbanked markets, where the mobile phone penetration is twice the rate of banking access. PayQins customers can store mobile money, use cross-border debit cards, make payments, and manage crypto transactions from a single app. Launched in the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Senegal, and Mali, which together represent over 22% of the people in West Africa, PayQin is moving towards developing a single payment area for West African countries, home to 400 million people. PayQin is the first company in the West-African francophone countries to offer crypto for cross-border payments. The company currently has plans to open the platform to remittances from Europe, making for a large inflow of transactions that totaled $48 billion in Sub-Saharan Africa alone in 2019. The company is working with Producement, a product engineering company founded by Wise alumni, to enhance the quality of the PayQin platform to a world-class level. The founders have gathered a tight circle of advisers to foster their ambitions. For their growth strategy, the company is advised by Iliana Bjrling Lindeberg, the head of marketing for Jumia Food and Jumia Travel Africa. The Sub-Saharan market is really one of a kind with leapfrogging technology such as mobile money and a young population eager to explore what companies like PayQin have to offer. Since PayQin fills an interesting gap in this space, I'm excited to be a part of their journey. Concepts like this are giving the banks a good run for their money, Lindeberg commented. The company is giving out free virtual cards in strategic partnership with Africas largest fintech company, Flutterwave, to open small local business owners up to the world of online ads to promote their products and services for increased sales. We are building a safe and secure environment for online transactions, giving the unbanked access to products and online services that are not available locally, said Fabrice Amalaman, PayQin co-founder and CEO.
Global inclusive tech accelerator Catalyst Fund , managed by BFA Global , today announced its ninth cohort of fintech companies that are building solutions designed to improve the resilience of underserved customers and communities. In addition, the Catalyst Fund Inclusive Fintech program welcomes PayPal as a new supporter as it explores the role digital finance can play in enabling climate resilience with select companies over the next two cohorts. PayPal joins existing supporters UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and JPMorgan Chase Co. We are extremely excited to welcome PayPal as the latest supporter of the Catalyst Fund, and to announce an additional focus on digital finance solutions for climate resilience, said Maelis Carraro, managing director, Catalyst Fund. Climate change is already severely impacting low-income populations in emerging markets, who lack financial safety nets to cope with these additional shocks. Digital finance can be a game changer in enabling climate resilience solutions to better reach vulnerable populations, as weve already seen the ways in which it can enhance the breadth, depth, and affordability of solutions across industries. We look forward to exploring this space and continuing to build the resilience of vulnerable populations across emerging markets via fintech innovation, with the invaluable support of PayPal, JPMorgan Chase, and FCDO. The companies joining the ninth Inclusive Fintech cohort are: ? Crop2Cash [Nigeria]: Unlocks affordable financing for smallholder farmers and provides digital finance solutions along the agriculture value chain, increasing efficiency and productivity. ? HealthDart [South Africa]: Offers easy and affordable access to medication and primary health services via pharmacies, to patients in low-income areas. ? Kazi [Kenya]: Connects skilled and casual informal workers with jobs on demand and provides them with access to business advisory and financial services such as digital payments and tools leasing. ? Ohm Mobility [India]: Offers affordable financing for informal workers to purchase electric and ICE three-wheel vehicles via a pay-as-you-go (PAYGo) model. ? PocketFin [India]: Enables access to digital financial services (savings and insurance) for nearly one million people in tier 2-4+ cities via a network of 4,500+ women agents. ? Verqor [Mexico]: Offers affordable agro-financing and access to agricultural inputs via a digital platform catered to smallholder farmers. These companies will join Catalyst Funds existing portfolio of 45 companies and receive catalytic capital, bespoke and expert-led venture building support from BFA Global, and direct connections with investors and corporate innovators that can help them scale. Catalyst Fund will begin to explore the opportunity for inclusive fintech innovators to enhance the climate resilience of vulnerable populations with select members of this and the following cohorts, to create more resilient and sustainable economies. At PayPal, we believe that financial technology can help underserved individuals and communities build resilience to climate-related disasters and capture economic opportunities in the global climate transition, said Franz Paasche, chief corporate affairs officer, PayPal. We are proud to partner with Catalyst Fund to support these innovative startups at the forefront of developing new tools and technologies focused on the intersection of financial inclusion and climate resilience. Underserved communities in emerging markets are the most vulnerable and exposed to the impact of climate change , though they contribute the least to harmful emissions. These populations tend to rely on the physical environment for their livelihoods and domestic food consumption, are more likely to live in climate disaster-prone areas, and have more of their wealth in physical assets prone to destruction during climate-related disasters. These populations are also most likely to be excluded from formal financial services and lack social or financial safeguards. Worsening climate change impacts can therefore push households and small businesses further back into poverty and exacerbate their vulnerability. Investing in digital solutions for climate resilience is essential to building a greener, more inclusive future for African economies, said Kim Bromley, head of financial services, UK FCDO. Catalyst Fund support will help fintech companies deliver more sustainable outcomes - increasing their customers resilience to the impact of climate change. In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, this new accelerator cohort has unique potential to transform the financial lives of people in hard-hit communities across the world, said Sarah Willis Ertur, director of fin
5 startups took part in the 1st Demo day of the NINJA accelerator in Kenya. The startups are Kwara , ZanaAfrica , Sokowatch , Cinch Markets , and Amitruck. They all had an opportunity to showcase their disruptive businesses. This is the 1st cohort of the Japanese-led acceleration program and is powered by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and powered by Double Feather Partners, Deloitte Tohmatsu Financial Advisory, Deloitte Tohmatsu Venture Support, and GrowthAfrica. A 12-week intensive acceleration program preceded the demo day that redesigned a virtual experience aimed at minimizing health risks that prioritize participant's safety during the pandemic. Organizers announced that the 2nd cohort will remain open to applications from August 8th to September 5th. An online information session was also held on August 23rd. Viewers worldwide tuned in to watch 5 startups pitch their businesses on the first day of the NINJA Accelerator in Kenya. The virtually held event gave attendees a chance to network, and visit each other startup's virtual booth that contained videos, institutional profiles, contacts, brochures, and investor-friendly information. The participating startups were Sokowatch an e-commerce and logistics startup allowing merchants to restock products while giving free same-day delivery and financing. Kwara is a digital banking platform that converts savings cooperatives into digital banks. Cinch Markets helps aggregate smallholder farmland into commercial agriculture providing greater revenue streams for farmers. Amitruck is a digital marketplace connecting clients to truck drivers on secure, convenient, and transparent platforms. ZanaAfrica is a venture addressing the unmet needs of the menstruation industry through Nia (a feminine hygiene product). Moving forward JICA is looking to support the growth journey of all participating startups. Keiji Katai, the Senior Director of Private Sector Development at JICA said she was " pleased " with the outcomes and has learned a lot from the first cohort. The knowledge will help improve the quality of future programs.
Swvl , a ride-hailing service based in Dubai, plans to go public through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The MENA company will merge with an SPAC, Queen's Gambit Growth Capital, that was created by a team of female executives. The transaction will result in gross proceeds of $445 million to the public company, including an upsized $100 million common share PIPE led by global strategic and financial investors Luxor Capital Group, Agility, and Zain. The two companies have entered into an agreement where Swvl will be publicly listed on NASDAQ, and trade under the ticket symbol 'SWVL'. Swvl is the second MENA company to use the SPAC route to public markets. The first was Anghami which merged with Vistas Media Acquisition Company. Bloomberg describes SPACs as blank cheque companies that go public despite having no real business. The idea is to raise money from investors and then buy into a private company. This is Egypt's first tech startup to be listed on the NASDAQ. Fawry , was Egypt's first startup to enlist domestically and emerge as the first unicorn in North Africa. Queen's Gambit is mainly fixated on disruptive, high-potential technology platforms. The team is led by Victoria Grace (CEO), Betsy Atkins (Senior Operating Advisor), and Anastasia Nyrkovskaya (CFO). As part of the deal, Swvl and Queen's Gambit will establish an advisory committee that focuses on the diversity and inclusion of the company. In 2017 Swvl was founded by Mostafa Kandil (CEO), Mahmoud Nouh, and Ahmed Sabbah as a bus-hailing service across Egypt. Users within the city can book seats on Swvl exclusive vehicles that run on fixed routes. Users can also book seats on long-distance buses either exclusive on Swvl's platform or on buses marketed through Swvl. The startup later expanded its services to Pakistan and Kenya, before moving the headquarter to Dubai. A corporate shuttle service has also opened in Saudi Arabia. The investor deck shows it operates in 6 countries across 10 cities and enjoys a Gross Revenue per user of 23%. The company made a post-Covid recovery last year to hit gross revenues worth US$79 million in December. The mobility tech startup has set an ambitious goal of earning $1 trillion in revenues by 2025 - where incomes from consumers and Taas evenly split. In addition, the company is looking to operate in 20 countries spread across the 5 continents while maintaining a 30-40% gross margin and over 15% adjusted EBITDA.
Naspers has announced it will invest R34 million in startup Ctrl, a short-term insurance marketplace digital platform that connects clients, brokers, and insurers. The South African multinational company announced the investment on 21 July. It forms part of Naspers' R1.4 billion commitment to help early-stage tech companies via its Naspers Foundry investment vehicle. Ctrl is a great example of how innovations in technology can improve upon traditional business models that we use in our everyday lives," Naspers CEO Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa said in a statement. "We seek to partner with phenomenal local entrepreneurs so that together, we can build technology-led companies that help to make peoples everyday lives better." Pieter Erasmus, Pieter Venter, and Francois Venter founded Ctrl in 2017. The mobile app lets insurance brokers offer advice digitally. Clients can compare quotes, accept coverage, and manage their policies. The app also lets consumer-facing businesses enter the insurance advice industry and offer solutions to their clients. Ctrl insurance partners include Santam, ABSA, Bryte, King Price, Old Mutual Insure, and MiWay. The app is available to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Since its launch, Ctrl has received awards such as MTN App of the Year: Best Financial Solution in 2018. It also received Best Social Impact at the 2019 SA startup Awards. We are ecstatic about Naspers Foundrys investment given their vast experience in growing tech start-ups," Pieter Venter said. "We believe that we are now in the best position to grow our business, and we are excited about Ctrls future as we transform the insurance industry."
Lahore-headquartered healthtech Marham has raised $1 million in a seed round led by Pakistan-focused Indus Valley Capital, it told MENAbytes today. The round also includes the participation of Weihan Liew, an angel investor from Southeast Asia. Founded in 2015 by Ehsan Imam and Asma Omer, Marham started as a doctor booking platform, enabling patients to book appointments with doctors at different hospitals across Pakistan. It has since evolved into a healthcare platfrom that also allows users to book online consultations (with doctors) and lab tests, and order medicines, through its website or mobile apps. In the last six years, the startup has expanded its network to have 20,000 doctors from 67 cities of Pakistan. It claims to have served 10 million patients since its launch who visited its website to read doctor reviews, book appointments with them, took online consultations, or asked questions in their free-to-use Q A forum. What's interesting is that they've achieved all these milestones while bootstrapping the company. Marham has been profitable almost from the beginning which has allowed them to grow without raising any money. This investment round is the first external investment raised by the healthcare startup. But why raise money when you're growing by investing company's profits back into the busines? "There is a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure faster care and better experience for patients. We know our solution is a long-term play for the industry. Considering its impact on human lives, the sensitive nature of the healthtech industry makes scaling much more difficult than in other tech sectors. We have put a lot of care into our team, product, and processes to deliver a higher level of service. As evidenced by our numbers and organic growth, the foundation we have established to make this a thriving business is strong. Now it's time to accelerate our growth and bring more of our vision to life," explained Marham's co-founder and CEO Ehsan Imam, in a conversation with MENAbytes . Aatif Awan, the founder and Managing Partner of Indus Valley Capital, said, "We are excited to partner with Marham on their journey to provide affordable, quality healthcare to everyone in Pakistan. The founders' passion is inspiring, and the progress they've already made while bootstrapping is impressive. We look forward to working with them to accelerate Marham's growth." About half of Marham's business today comes from tele-consultations. The startup expects its share to continue growing as more Pakistanis start using online services. With the latest funds, Marham plans to add more offerings to its 'healthcare superapp' and expand its services to smaller cities and rural areas of Pakistan, "Our vision is to build a healthcare ecosystem, for patients, doctors and hospitals to ensure faster care and better experience via technology, processes, and telemedicine-enabled micro-clinics across Pakistan," noted Ehsan in a statement. Asma Omer, co-founder and COO of Marham thinks that that Marham' will be a fortune-changer for a developing country like Pakistan by making healthcare more accessible and affordable for the masses, "[It] will save millions of lives, for years to come, with patients getting quality healthcare from qualified doctors without having to leave their home." Marham was the first platform in Pakistan to enable patients to find doctors online and book appointments with them but in the last five years, at least five other notable players have entered the space and raised VC to grow their companies. Speaking about the increasing competition, Ehsan said, "It's refreshing to see more startups venturing into this space. It tells us something about how ready this market is for change. Marham has the first mover advantage. 20,000 doctors have signed up on our platform from 67 cities in Pakistan and due to our high traction and experience, we've optimized our processes to deliver the services with best quality processes with risk mitigation. In an industry like ours, there are many competitors who can offer the same service; what matters the most is who delivers the best quality of service." The startup currently has a team of over 80 employees, with plans to hire new members in different functions over the next few months.
Egyptian ecommerce logistics startup Bosta has appointed Fetchr's co-founder Omar Yaghmour as its Chief Growth Officer. Omar had co-founded Fetchr about nine years ago and served as its Chief Operating Officer until April 2020. He has helped build and scale a few other startups and ecommerce companies as well. Prior to Fetchr, Omar was an executive manager at MarkaVIP, one of the first ecommerce platforms of the region, where he led the efforts to overhaul entire company operations. This announcement comes on the heels of Bostas press conference last week where the company laid out its plans to enter the Saudi market by early 2022 and further expansion targets in the GCC and Africa in the next three to five years, with a vision of securing a formidable market share in both regions. Bosta had raised $6.7 million in a Series A round earlier this year to fuel its expansion plans.Omar is now expected to play a pivotal role in the execution of those plans. Mohamed Ezzat, co-founder and CEO of Bosta commented, Omar is an excellent addition to our powerful team. It will help us accelerate our growth and expand and cover the GCC and Africa in the next three years." In a statement, Omar said, "Bosta is equipped with all that is needed to disrupt the industry, whether it is the experienced team which comes from different backgrounds, the top-notch technology Bosta has, and the clear vision of what needs to be done to help the entire ecommerce industry grow and deliver excellence." He also explained that Bosta is building solutions to offer a one-hour delivery option for its clients, "Next-day delivery is already becoming too late of an option. Bosta is here to disrupt the disruptors."
The following is a listing of tool providers in the CI/CD space, along with a brief description of their offerings. Bitrise : is a cloud-based, secure, and scalable CI/CD solution, specifically designed for mobile app development. The companys mission is to help their customers all around the world create better apps, faster. With customers ranging from centuries-old enterprises, to some of the youngest, most innovative new startups and mobile unicorns, applications built, tested, and deployed through Bitrise have made their way to billions of end users around the world. HCL Software : Deploy anything, anywhere with HCL Launch, a versatile, enterprise-level continuous delivery solution. From mainframe to microservices and everything in between, HCL Launch is engineered to handle the most complex deployment situations with push-button automation and controlled auditing needed in regulated and technically diverse enterprises. Atlassian : Bitbucket Pipelines is a modern cloud-based continuous delivery service thats built right into Atlassians version control system, Bitbucket Cloud. Bitbucket Pipelines automates the code from test to production. Bamboo is Atlassians on-premises option with first-class support for the delivery aspect of Continuous Delivery, tying automated builds, tests and releases together in a single workflow. CA Technologies , A Broadcom Company: CA Technologies solutions address the wide range of capabilities necessary to minimize friction in the pipeline to achieve business agility and compete in todays marketplace. These solutions include everything from application life cycle management to release automation to continuous testing to application monitoringand much more. Chef : Chef Automate, the leader in Continuous Automation, provides a platform that enables you to build, deploy and manage your infrastructure and applications collaboratively. Chef Automate works with Chefs three open-source projects; Chef for infrastructure automation, Habitat for application automation, and Inspec for compliance automation, as well as associated tools. CloudBees : The CloudBees Suite builds on continuous integration and continuous delivery automation, adding a layer of governance, visibility and insights necessary to achieve optimum efficiency and control new risks. This automated software delivery system is becoming the most mission-critical business system in the modern enterprise. Cloud Foundry : Cloud Foundry is promoted for continuous delivery as it supports the full application development lifecycle, from initial development through all testing stages to deployment. Cloud Foundrys container-based architecture runs apps in any programming language over a variety of cloud service providers. This multi-cloud environment allows developers to use the cloud platform that suits specific application workloads and move those workloads as necessary within minutes with no changes to the application. Digital.ai : The company's Deploy product helps organizations automate and standardize complex, enterprise-scale application deployments to any environment — from mainframes and middleware to containers and the cloud. Speed up deployments with increased reliability. Enable self-service deployment while maintaining governance and control. Liquibase : Liquibase, formerly Datical, brings Agile and DevOps to the database to radically improve and simplify the application release process. Liquibase solutions deliver the database release automation capabilities IT teams need to bring applications to market faster while eliminating the security vulnerabilities, costly errors and downtime often associated with todays application release process. GitLab : GitLab allows Product, Development, QA, Security, and Operations teams to work concurrently on the same project. GitLabs built-in continuous integration and continuous deployment offerings enable developers to easily monitor the progress of tests and build pipelines, then deploy with the confidence across multiple environments — with minimal human interaction. IBM : UrbanCode Deploy accelerates delivery of software change to any platform from containers on cloud to mainframe in data center. Manage build configurations and build infrastructures at scale. Release interdependent applications with pipelines of pipelines, plan release events, orchestrate simultaneous deployments of multiple applications. Improve DevOps performance with value stream analytics. Use as a stand-alone solution or integrate with other CI/CD tools such as Jenkins. JetBrains : TeamCity is a continuous integration and continuous delivery server that takes moments to set up, shows your build results on-the-fly, and works out of the box. TeamCity integrates with all major development frameworks, version control systems, issue trackers, IDEs, and cloud services. Microsoft : Microsofts Azure DevOps Services solution is a suite of DevOps tools designed to help teams collaborate to deliver high
SimpliFi, a Cards as a Service platform for Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan has announced its launch. The Dubai-headquartered startup had been operating in stealth mode until now. It has also closed a seed round led by Saudi's Raed Ventures with the participation of Rally Cap Ventures, and Riyadh-based Sukna Ventures. The deal that was closed earlier this year also included the participation of angel investors; Chris Adelsbach, Idris Bello, Osama AlRaee, Abdullah Mohammed Al-Dosari, and current and former executives at Facebook, Careem, Plaid, and Remitly. Founded in 2020 by Ali Sattar who was previously the Head of Careem Pay, SimpliFi wants to democratize card issuance in the region through its APIs and easy-to-use portal. It enables any business - including a fintech, gig platform, an SME, or even a corporate to issue virtual or physical cards, for different use cases almost instantly and manage the entire program from SimpliFi's online portal. Technology businesses with engineering teams can use its APIs to build and launch products (e.g. enable customers to get a card through their own mobile app) with little coding. But those that don't have a tech team e.g. an SME can use its portal to issue cards. It can be used by anyone to access similar capabilities without any technology or payments background. The fintech takes care of the entire end-to-end process - from managing the partners like banks, card schemes, processors, identity verification to card fulfillment and delivery, "In addition to providing a purpose-built tech stack, SimpliFi handles day to day card operations and compliance functions so businesses can focus on their core strengths while leveraging the capabilities and scale of SimpliFi," noted the startup in a statement. Ali came up with the idea of SimpliFi when he was at Careem and they were looking to issue cards (apparently for their captains to provide them quick payouts). He quickly realized that it was fairly difficult even for a technology company like Careem (that had a lot of resources) to set up such a program. Launching cards even in one market was very challenging so it wasn't going to be possible to scale the offering across multiple markets given how fragmented the payments ecosystem in the region is. With SimpliFi, he set out to change card issuance in the region, "Prepaid cards are highly versatile with a host of use cases allowing businesses to streamline operations, generate new revenue streams and drive loyalty. Until now banks have had the exclusivity in issuing cards. We are changing that by empowering every business to become a payments company and participating in the benefits from financial ownership, without the underlying complexities and hassle. The massive impact this can create on the financial services ecosystem in the region inspires us to wake up every day," said Ali in a statement. He is also a founding limited partner at Rally Cap Ventures and has been investing in fintechs across emerging markets through the firm. Wael Nafee who led Raed Ventures' investment in SimpliFi has previously worked with Ali at Careem. He was the VP of Product at the company at the time. Commenting on the investment, he said, "Investing in SimpliFi was an easy decision given the problem it is solving, the vision and experience of the team, and the early traction they have had. We see card issuance being a common need and a major pain point for a number of businesses we speak to and are excited to be supporting SimpliFi as they build the payments infrastructure to enable companies in the region to build and scale." SimpliFi's currently has a team of over 15 employees who have previously worked at companies like Grab, Gojek, Uber, Careem, PayPal, Marqeta, Facebook, and Network International. Abu Dhabi-headquartered NymCard is another player that's active in this space. Mareqeta, the leading global card issuing platform has recently gone public and currently has a market cap of over $14 billion.
Organizations building and delivering mobile applications using DevOps techniques and tooling will find there are important differences in how their processes are applied. Viktor Benei is CTO and co-founder of Bitrise, a company that offers solutions for mobile DevOps, and when asked if there were differences developing apps for mobile devices as opposed to on-premises servers or the cloud, he responded: "Lots of things some big, some small." "You cant fully automate the continuous deployment process for mobile, as releases have to go through the app stores," he said. This means organizations should still optimize how frequently they deploy their applications. As Benei noted, "Users also expect frequent updates, but not too frequent , so around once per week." He went on to say that testing and monitoring also differ. For testing, for example, you have to run emulators for UI testing. You also inherently work with a monolith you cant just release parts of the app separately like you can with microservices. The app stores themselves inhibit continuous deployment, Benei said. "You can employ some tricks like releasing only to certain countries, doing something like a canary release, but you cant do full continuous deployment." Benei suggested still having iterations ready for deployment frequently, "but things like feature flagging are even more important for code integration from multiple teams and so you can release every week or so," he said. "You also have to double down on automated testing, running tests on a wide variety of virtual and physical devices." Benei offered that automation is a key best practice for mobile DevOps. " Automate as much as possible reduce manual steps and processes. Focus heavily on testing, as you cant do rollbacks and you cant just push a fix as quickly as you can for a web service. Also, benchmark your app as much as possible for example, benchmark the size and the startup time of your app as you can lose a lot of customers if your app is too large or loads slowly.