As if to balance out the major directions on a compass in representation, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa have the most funded startups on the African continent. Kenya is set apart, however, by a number of attributes. Be it the post-election violence or the era of mobile phones and the internet fibre cables, these have sparked some of the most impactful innovations like Ushahidi and M-Pesa in the Swahili speaking nation.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, in the 2015 State of the Nation address referred to Kenya as ‘a startup nation’. In the same year, the Kenyan government hosted the first-ever ICT Innovation Forum which is dedicated to encouraging engagement and interaction across the reach of the business and innovation ecosystem. As of now, we are also watching and in wait of the highly anticipated Konza Technopolis, a world-class technology hub to foster technology growth. This is all a reflection of their support to the tech progression.
Nairobi is one of the oldest and most developed startup ecosystems in Africa and also the second-biggest hub for Impact Investors after Johannesburg according to Allied Crowds. Considered the economic, commercial, financial and logistics hub of East Africa, it's market-based economy has been successful in attracting investors. As time progressed, startups have moved to other cities like Mombassa, Nakuru, Kisumu and Eldoret. Digest Africa data records over 500 startups, with an estimated $400M disclosed venture funding raised over a period of time. Though the teams leading these companies are diverse in terms of race and gender, many founders are white.
In 2018, a widely circulated infographic sparked controversy siting a significant number of founders being white. This made some doubt the qualification of these startups as Kenyan. However, these companies identify as ‘African’, Kenyan and are focused on serving the African markets.
Based on the Digest Africa methodology, we ranked 12 companies we deem as Kenyan, as the most funded that have collectively raised funding amounting to $293M across 32 rounds. Still, on the topic of diversity, 3 out of the 12 companies are co-founded by women (AZA Group - Elizabeth Rosellio, Sendy - Malaika Judd and Copia Global - Tracy Turner.)
Other key takeaways:
- Fintech has the most representation (Cellulant, CarePay, AZA Group and Kopo Kopo) and the highest amount raised ($121.3M) followed by Energy and Environment Resources (M-Kopa and Powerhive) with $80M and E-Commerce (Twiga Foods and Copia Global) with $33.3M.
- Overtime, Kenya has maintained one in the top 3 positions in attracting the most venture funding in Africa, year on year, as per various reports.
- More than half of the startups below were founded in years 2011-2013. None was founded beyond 2016.
- The highest amount to be raised in a single round was $47.5M by Cellulant in a Series C.
This digital payments platform is among Africas’ 10 Most Funded Fintech startups, per our previous brief. Cellulant recently launched its multi-function consumer super app Tingg, which serves as a solution to the fragmentation in the African digital payments space by merging payment, commerce and financial services into a single platform. The company was also named the recipient of the Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award for building a platform that allows critical sectors like Agriculture and Retail Distribution among others to access financial services at the very point where they need them. Since it was founded in 2004, Cellulant has raised $55M across 3 rounds with Rise Fund as a notable investor.
Another of Fintech’s most funded in Africa is Nairobi-headquartered CarePay, an e-health enterprise with an ambition to drive healthcare inclusion across Africa. From a Series A round, the company raised $45M with PharmAccess Group and ELMA Investments as the notable investors. In a bid to improve the M-TIBA platform, the company is looking into implementing blockchain, AI and Machine Learning technologies. Carepay was launched in 2015.
Twiga Foods is a mobile-based food delivery firm that links farmers and vendors to fair, trusted, modern markets. Across 3 rounds, the firm raised $44.6M with International Finance Corporation (IFC), TLCom Capital, Google Launchpad Accelerator and Wamda among the notable investors. Since it was founded in 2014 by Grant Brooke, Twiga now works with 17,000 farmers and daily and is looking to expand within and outside Kenya.
Earlier this year Powerhive raised $9.3M in a Series B round led by Toyota Tsusho Corporation, This brings the total funding raised by this energy solutions startup to $41.3M across 2 rounds. Since it was founded in 2011 by Chris Hornor, the company has powered millions of households with clean energy.
Despite raising the highest of the group in total funding ($152M), M-Kopa has $38M in venture capital from 3 rounds. CDC Group, Generation Investment Management, DOB Equity and LGT Venture Philanthropy as some of its notable investors. This clean-energy startup has used its PAYG platform to provide low-income homes with affordable asset financing for connected solar technology and other life-changing products and services. For 9 years since its inception, M-Kopa has also unlocked nearly a quarter a billion dollars in micro-loans for low-income customers across East Africa.
Acclaimed as the world’s largest farmer-to-farmer digital network, WeFarm connects small scale farmers to solve problems, share ideas and spread innovation all without needing to access the internet. Since the company was started in 2015 by founder Kenny Ewan it has grown to have 1.9 million farmers using the platform who share more than 1.5 million Qs and A’s in a month alone. Across three rounds, the company has raised $19.6M with True Ventures, Local Globe, Norrsken Foundation and Wayra as some of the notable investors.
AZA Group (formerly BitPesa) has raised $15M across 5 rounds with Greycroft, Draper Associates and Sompo Holdings as some of its notable investors. Elizabeth Rossellio founded this fintech in 2013, the first blockchain company to be licensed by UK’s Financial Conduct Authority. This digital foreign exchange and payment platform leverage blockchain to significantly lower the cost and increase the speed of business payments to and from frontier markets and the rest of the world.
With the latest being a Series A $8.7M investment according to SEC Filing, Lori Systems has raised venture funding to the tune of $14.9M across a total of 2 rounds, with FJ Labs as one of their notable investors. Lori enables logistics space to operate at an order of magnitude and more efficiently aimed to drive costs down. It has been in operation since 2016.
Sendy was launched in 2014 and has built partnerships and unlocked opportunities for Kenyans through its delivery platform that connects businesses and drivers of all vehicle types for deliveries. Across 4 rounds, this e-logistics platform has raised a total of $12M in funding, the latest being a Series B a few days ago. DOB Equity, Safaricom and Goodwell Investments are some of its notable investors.
Co-founders Sam Gikandi and Eston Kimani started Africa’s Talking in 2010, which is now a go-to platform that simplifies access to telco infrastructure that allows developers to use their SMS, USSD, Voice, Airtime and Payments API’s to bring their ideas to life. In Seed and Series A rounds, the company has raised funding amounting to $8.6M with IFC, Orange Digital Ventures, Social Capital and Better Ventures as their investors.
Incorporated in Delaware, USA, Kopo Kopo is a world-class platform that enables small and medium businesses to accept mobile payments and build relationships with their customers. The company was launched in 2012 and has partnered with a number of companies including Safaricom as well as other aggregators and mobile money partners with the ultimate goal to help businesses leverage payments. So far the company has raised $5.5M across 3 rounds with Javelin Venture Partners, Accion Venture Lab, Khosla Impact and First Light Ventures as some of its notable investors.
Nairobi-headquartered Copia has raised $6M across 2 rounds with DOB Equity as their lead investor. With a team led by founder Tracy Turner, the company provides a “state-of-the-art” shopping experience that brings goods and services to your doorstep all with advanced levels of customer service.