The seven Africa-focused companies that presented as part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2019 class of 200 startups may seem like a small percentage for such a large class, but it represents the growing significance of African ventures in YC’s universe.
Since 2016, the Silicon Valley accelerator — which provides seed funds and mentorship for early-stage startups — has backed 25 companies located in Africa, and another 10 with an Africa product focus, according to YC spokesperson Lindsay Amos.
Of the seven Africa-oriented YC class that presented at Demo Day 2019, five originated in Nigeria and one in Tanzania. Six are fintech ventures, with products targeted across currency trading, agriculture, healthcare and education.
Here’s the skinny on the Africa-focused startups that presented at Demo Day 2019.
Nala (Tanzania): A fintech service building internet-free mobile payments for Africa, Nala lets users pay bills, do P2P payments and purchase cell phone minutes without an internet connection. The startup’s app is one of Google PlayStore’s Top Free Finance Apps in Tanzania, according to founder Benjamin Fernandes. Nala plans to leverage the seed funding and exposure from YC participation to raise additional capital to close its first seed round, he told TechCrunch.
54gene (Nigeria): 54gene aims to be the 23andMe for Africa. The company says that competitor data is limited because their users are mostly white. By focusing on Africa, the company can help detect and identify DNA markers that might otherwise go overlooked. Co-founder Abasi Ene-Obong has a PhD in cancer biology from the University of London.
VertoFX (UK): VertoFX is a B2B currency marketplace and international payment provider for frontier markets with an initial target market of Africa. The platform allows businesses to gain easy access to foreign currencies and make international payments seamlessly, providing clients with real-time and cheaper exchange rates, liquidity and faster settlement periods. VertoFX’s founders are ex-bankers Anthony Oduwole and Ola Oyetayo. In an email to TechCrunch, Oduu said there are currently 18 currencies on the platform and the ability to settle in 120 countries, including China and the U.S.
Thrive Agric (Nigeria): The company helps smallholder farmers in Nigeria access crowdfunded loans to help grow their crops, as well as help them sell their produce. The company has worked with 14,000 farmers to date, with plans to reach 1,000,000 farmers across Africa by 2022 in what it says is a $54 billion market opportunity.
CredPal (Nigeria): A credit card company that allows consumers in Africa to make purchases across online and offline merchants and pay in fixed monthly installments, CredPal touts it cards as having the convenience of a credit card and the simplicity of fixed monthly repayments. The purpose is reducing the financial pressure faced by consumers in Africa and also improving their standard of living. The scope is Africa and it is currently operational in Nigeria. Founders are Fehintolu Olaogun and Olorunfemi Jegede.
Schoolable (Nigeria): Schoolable provides simple finance solutions for schools in Africa. There are 65 million students in Africa attending private schools, but tuition payments can be a pain point for parents paying for their child’s education. That’s because tuition payments are often due upfront and it’s more difficult than it should be for schools to keep track of payments. Schoolable is creating an invoicing app that helps ensure parents make payments on time, while also using the app to save directly for tuition.
Wallet.NG (Nigeria): A fintech app that allows people to send money to friends or family and pay bills with only the recipient’s phone number, Wallet helps users keep track of their spending through financial reporting available on the app.