7 Africa-Focused Startups That Pitched At Y Combinator’s Demo Day

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
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Seven Africa-focused startups pitched at a demo day organized by tech incubator Y Combinator, one of the world’s most powerful startup accelerator programs.

The seven startups were among 189 companies that participated in the incubator’s winter 2019 demo day on March 18 and 19.

The Silicon Valley-based incubator has backed 25 companies based in Africa, and another 10 with products that focus on African users, Y Combinator spokesperson Lindsay Amos told Techcrunch.

Y Combinator has helped accelerate several well-known African tech startups including PayStackKobo360,ReleafCowryRise,TizetiFlutterwave and Helium Health from Nigeria, as well as OMG Digital from Ghana and Morocco’s WaystoCap.


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The demo days often attract around 450 of the world’s top investors, so the few minutes that startup founders have to address the audience is very valuable.

Startups often go on to raise funding based on those presentations and the discussions continue once the startups return home from Silicon Valley.

Y Combinator will likely remain in close contact with the African tech founders after they return to Nigeria, Tanzania and the U.K., and may even interact with investors on behalf of the startups.

Here are the seven Africa-focused startups that pitched at Y Combinator’s recent Demo Day.

Schoolable

Nigerian fintech startup Schoolable is focused on enabling both sides of the private education funding model through technology. It assists schools in Africa to grow their revenue by helping them to collect fees from parents in a timely manner. The platform provided by Schoolable also assists parents in their efforts to save money to pay for schooling, while offering access to loans for the purpose of paying for their children’s education, according to Ventureburn.

Y Combinator
Schoolable was one of seven African-focused startups pitching at Y Combinator’s demo day. Photo – Schoolable

Nala

Benjamin Fernandes, the first Tanzanian to attend Stanford University’s School of Business, created fintech platform Nala. It is a mobile app that allows its users to make fast and safe money transactions without needing internet access. Since its launch in 2017, Nala has won the Ecobank Fintech Challenge, the Disruptive Innovation AppsAfrica Award and the Tanzanian leg of the Seedstars competition, according to AfrikaNews.

Y Combinator
Nala’s Benjamin Fernandes doing research in the field. Photo – Nala

Wallet.ng

Nigeria’s Wallet.ng is a fintech firm providing a digital payments product that allows users to make payments, transfer funds, pay bills and withdraw from ATMs using their mobile phone number. The mobile platform makes transactions fast, convenient, reliable and accessible for both businesses and consumers. The startup took part in last year’s Nigerian leg of the Seedstars World competition for seed-stage startups in emerging markets. Wallet.ng was on of three African fintech firms named among the most innovative in the world in a 2018 list produced by auditors KPMG and H2 Ventures, according to Pulse.

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CredPal

The ability to pay for things via credit is incredibly important for many people. Nigerian startup CredPal provides a platform that enables consumers to make purchases across various online and offline merchants and pay for them in monthly instalments. The Lagos-based startup was founded in 2017 by COO Olorunfemi Jegede and CEO Fehintolu Olaogun, according to the company.

Y Combinator
Founders of Nigerian fintech startup CredPal, Fehintolu Olaogun and Olorunfemi Jegede. Photo – CredPal

Thrive Agric

Thrive Agric is an agribusiness startup platform that helps middle-class Nigerians to invest in agriculture. This assists smallholder farmers and agricultural sector in the country while providing a means for individuals to build wealth through investing. The company was selected as one of the 12 tech startups that took part in the first-ever Google Africa Launchpad Accelerator in 2018. The company has worked with 14,000 farmers to date, with plans to reach 1,000,000 farmers across Africa by 2022, according to Techcrunch.

Y Combinator
Thrive Agric is a fintech firm working within the agricultural sector. Photo – Thrive Agric

54Gene

54gene is Africa’s answer to popular DNA genetic testing and analysis company 23andMe. Data from Africa is still fairly limited in this regard, and as such, the company aims to detect and identify DNA markers that are yet to command the necessary focus and study. The startup was founded in 2018 by CTO Ogochukwu Francis Osifo, CPO Gatumi Aliyu, Damilola Oni and CEO Abasi Ene-Obong, who has a PhD in cancer biology from the University of London, according to LinkedIn.

Y Combinator
Dr Abasi Ene-Obong is the CEO of 54gene. Photo – 54gene

VertoFX

U.K.-based VertoFX is a business to business currency exchange platform for international businesses that offers access to 18 currencies. They help companies pay suppliers abroad, collect payments from customers, and make foreign currency transactions globally. The company’s founders are Nigerian ex-bankers Anthony Oduwole and Ola Oyetayo. VertoFX was one of five winning startups from the Demo Africa 2018 event in Casablanca, according to Techweez.

Nigerian naira currency at a bureau de change, in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo - AP - Sunday Alamba
VertoFX gives Nigerian businesses access to international currencies. Photo – AP – Sunday Alamba