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  •  New Digital Commerce Accelerator for Ghana MSEs launches 

    The new Catalyst Fund Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator aims to support the digitisation of micro and small businesses (MSEs) in the African country. 

    The fund is worth $4.3-million and aims to digitise informal micro and small enterprises in Ghana

    Established by the Catalyst Fund, managed by BFA Global, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), the $4.3-million fund aims to improve the livelihoods and financial status of informal MSEs impacted by Covid-19. 

    Maelis Carraro, managing director at Catalyst Fund comments on the importance of supportive micro and small businesses in Ghana and assisting them in transitioning into the digital eCommerce space.  

    “We’re thrilled to announce the first Catalyst Fund expansion program, which builds on lessons learned on supporting inclusive fintech companies in emerging markets over the last five years. Through the Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator, we aim to impact informal MSEs in Ghana who, particularly in light of the COVID-19 crisis, lack access to a financial safety net and find their livelihoods impacted when physical commerce suffers. Along with support and deep local expertise from the Mastercard Foundation and MEST, we aim to enable companies who are already tackling distinct problems in the digital commerce space to better reach informal MSEs so they can leverage digital rails to improve their financial resilience for the future.” 

    The programme 

    The two-year programme will upscale six selected digital commerce and innovative companies that can enable informal MSEs to access and reap the benefits of the digital commerce sphere. 

    Participants will be selected by an expert Investment Advisory Committee. Selection is based on market research carried out to identify barriers and opportunities for expanding inclusive digital commerce in Ghana. 

    To apply for the programme visit the online application portal.

    Selected participants will be provided the following: 

    • Flexible grant capital of up to US$120,000 per company
    • Deep, bespoke, expert-led venture acceleration support
    • Portfolio meet-ups and curated cohort-based workshop sessions with local expertise and operational support by MEST
    • A commitment to sharing best practices, toolkits, learnings, and insights with the digital commerce sector
    • Connections and access to Catalyst Fund’s growing global Circle of Investors (65+) and Circle of Corporate Innovators and
    • Ecosystem acceleration to create a more enabling investment and business environment in which digital commerce companies can prosper.

    The importance of MSEs 

    Surveys conducted by BFA Global and by Ghana Statistical Service found that MSEs, in particular, are suffering as a result of the pandemic. A BFA Global survey of low and middle-income individuals found that 44% of self-employed people had lost their jobs or could not find work. 

    A recent tracker from the Ghana Statistical Service found that microenterprises are suffering more compared to large and small enterprises; among open businesses, 92.2% of microenterprises report decreased sales (compared to 89% of small and medium enterprises, and 45% of large enterprises), noting that sales have fallen 60.9% relative to last April. 

    Nathalie Akon Gabala, regional head for Western, Central, and Northern Africa, at the Mastercard Foundation, points out that in order to generate the local economy, MSEs must be supported and provided the necessary assistance. 

    “Micro and small enterprises are the bedrock of Ghana’s economy. They are also the most impacted by COVID-19, putting livelihoods and economic gains made over the years at risk. Accelerating access to markets through digitization and e-commerce platforms provides MSEs the opportunity not only to scale but to strengthen their resilience at the other side of the pandemic.”

    Read more: Catalyst Fund welcomes four African investors into its exclusive fintech fold
    Read more: Catalyst Fund selects three African fintech startups for accelerator programme

    Featured image: Supplied 

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  • Cape Town-based insurance platform receives multi-million rand investment 

    SixThirty, a US-based tech venture fund has invested in Cape Town-based InsureTech company, Click2Sure

    This is the first time the US-based venture fund has invested in an African company

    With the reported, yet undisclosed amount of investment funding, Click2Sure will be able to further develop its product offering.

    In addition, it will assist in the promotion of Click2Sure’s focus on ensuring businesses that offer insurance take advantage of the benefits of digitisation with an overall reduction in admin costs, real-time reporting data, and further insight. 

     Daniel Guasco, co-founder of Click2Sure explains that the investment has allowed the tech startup to possibly branch into new international markets 

    “Another reason we are thrilled to have SixThirty onboard blue-chipGo-To-Market Summer programme, where we were introduced to key individuals, Executives and other Founders well placed in the US market within blue chip companies, to help us get a foot in the door, and mentor us on what the US market and stakeholders expect to see from a startup and technology partner.” 

    The US-based venture fund, SixThirty invests globally in early-stage Fintech, Insuretech, and cybersecurity tech-based companies. 

    SixThirty was prompted to invest in Click2Sure due to the rapid movement towards digitisation in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

    In an official press statement, Click2Sure explains the motivation behind the investment. 

    “SixThirty’s investment in Click2Sure  was motivated by a recognition of the surprisingly low penetration of digital distribution in the insurance industry. Along with the forced digitalisation ushered in by COVID-19, SixThirty found Click2Sure’s exclusive focus as an enabler of digital distribution a key differentiator that can help it scale into new sectors and markets.”

    Click2Sure  

    Founded in 2016 by Daniel Guasco and Jacques Van Niekerk, the Insurtech company’s platform allows retailers, service providers, distributors, and brokers to offer a wide selection of developed insurance products at the point of sale. 

    Guasco provides insight into the functions of the tech-based company. 

    Click2Sure doesn’t sell insurance. We provide our clients who sell insurance with a comprehensive cloud-based, a digital platform for the distribution, management, and purchasing of insurance at the point of sale,” explains Guasco.

    Through the process of digisation, clients are able to save time on filing or undertaking insurance or policy applications. The unique service allows Click2Sure clientele of insurers to speed up the process of marketing new products developed and increase their revenue stream. 

    Customers are able to purchase insurance via any digital channel, depending on their preference. Some of these channels include WhatsApp, SMS, eCommerce, and QR Codes. Customers of insurers can access immediate insurance cover on their purchased goods or asset via an easy-to-use mobile app. 

    Guasco points out the benefits of their product for customers and insurers. 

    “Digitisation has many benefits for consumers; being able to use digital channels increases accessibility for the under- and uninsured, enables customisation of insurance cover, and assists customers in getting the most affordable insurance cover.”

    Read more: SA insurance platform Click2Sure secures investment from Greenlight Re
    Read more: A guide to understanding fintech business funding options

    Featured image:  Daniel Guasco, co-founder and managing director of Click2Sure (Supplied) 

    The post Cape Town-based insurance platform receives multi-million rand investment  appeared first on Ventureburn.

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  • New capital fund of $30-million launches for Southern Africa SMEs

    Secha Capital, a Southern African investment impact firm that provides long-term capital to established SMEs, has announced the closure of its second fund worth $30-million (R400-million) to support established SMEs in the region.

    The fund adopts an impact investment model and aims to accelerate the growth of the selected SMEs, fostering economic growth within the small business sector

    Rushil Vallabh, a co-founder and managing director of Secha Capital comments on the launch of a second fund in supporting SMEs.

    “Fund one was always proof of concept: Can we complement growth capital with human capital to solve SME pain points and accelerate growth? Our portfolio data is a resounding yes. It is now time to replicate and scale this investment model across Africa. We need to grow the Secha team to help more SMEs.”

    Titled Secha Capital Impact, it is a Southern Africa early-stage operations-focused impact private equity fund. This is the second round of funding launched from the investment firm and will invest up to R12-million into established Southern African SMEs.

    The fund adopts an impact investment model and aims to accelerate the growth of the selected SMEs, fostering economic growth within the small business sector.

    Secha Capital Fund I resulted in the overall success of the selected participating SMEs.

    Nombuso Nkambule, the co-founder of Secha Capital, points out that the fund made a concerted impact on the SME sector and increased business growth, and facilitated the creation of employment opportunities.

    “Our first fund, which established proof of concept, invested in a range of African businesses, from plant-based haircare brand, nativechild, to networking marketing company, WUKINA, which empowers women to start their own businesses selling high-quality wigs. These companies have grown over 10x and created over 100 jobs since we invested.”

    Secha Capital

    Unlike other investment firms, Secha Capital has established itself as a company that supports SMEs as operators and not as investors.

    “We find and fund SMEs that others do not. We write smaller, but more impactful checks and then get Africa’s best and brightest to actually join the SME team,” explains Vallabh.

    Secha Capital’s team works with selected entrepreneurs to upscale their SME efficiently, increasing overall revenue, sales, and employment opportunities as a result.

    With smaller funds, the model adopted at Secha is unique as it aims to invest in a deeper pipeline of established SMEs in large, fragmented sectors that have been founded by previously ignored entrepreneurs.

    Secha provides operational support, channel access, and enhanced technical capabilities to selected SMEs.

    Secha Capital II expects a final close in October 2021.

    Read more: New Venture Capital firm for African tech startups launches
    Read more: Carscan secures funding from leading SA VC investors

    Featured image: Cytonn Photography via Unsplash 

    The post New capital fund of $30-million launches for Southern Africa SMEs appeared first on Ventureburn.

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  • New free edtech app developed by local entrepreneurs

    Two young South African entrepreneurs have developed a free-to-download edtech app for local learners.

     Titled Spongein, the app functions to assist grade 10, 11, and 12 learners in revising for their upcoming exams and will be free until the end of 2020

    Founded and established by two young local entrepreneurs, Tsepo Sehona ( age 28)and Lebone Segolodi (27), Spongein allows learners to watch lessons and revise content in seven subjects.

    The subjects available to revise on the app include maths, maths lit, English, Afrikaans, Zulu, lif science, and physical science.

    With the impacts of the pandemic shifting methods of learning, local students have had to adapt to learning via technological tools, and this ‘Netflix’ for learners, as the founders termed it, aims to be a useful resource in empowering young minds.

    Segolodi, co-founder of Spongein explains that currently the app is focusing on matriculant students but plans to expand its offering to both grade 10 and 11 learners.

    “We currently aim to make learning easier for grade 10, 11, and 12 students from the comfort of their homes, launching with Term 3 content for the aforesaid grades. For this time period, we are only focusing on matriculants and they can access the app for free.”

    Not only does the app offer revision for learners but it also encourages students to explore various career paths in a range of industries, with inspirational videos and insightful content from business-man Thebe Ikalafeng, musician Cassper Nyovest and more.

    Sehona, co-founder of Spongein highlights the multifunction’s of the edtech platform and app.

    “We also believe that learning is not limited to just the classroom and have provided additional inspiring content that will highlight leaders from different industries that students could possibly venture into as a career path. We position ourselves as a platform that aims to empower South African individuals.”

    Spongein is available for download on both Google Play and the Apple Store.

    Read more: SA tech company creates new affordable edtech solution
    Read more: SA edtech startup receives $7-million investment

    Featured image: NESA by Makers via Unsplash 

    The post New free edtech app developed by local entrepreneurs appeared first on Ventureburn.

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  • Six tips for SMEs to succeed in the eCommerce space [Opinion] 

    Karl Westvig, CEO and founder of Retail Capital, shares six tips of advice for SMEs on how to take advantage of the eCommerce space and how to successfully generate revenue from this digital tool. 

    Corporate C-suites have been talking about the need for digital transformation for years, developing endless strategies and roadmaps for the future.

    Covid-19 came along, tore up their roadmaps, and thrust everyone, ready or not, into the middle of the 4IR (fourth industrial revolution).

    Karl Westvig, CEO of Retail Capital, which provides funding for SMEs, outlines that SME’s are in a unique position to utilise the eCommerce space to grow their business and overall revenue.

    ‘Unlike corporates, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are uniquely poised to take advantage of this with the agility and speed that makes them a dangerous proposition because the digital world allows anyone, no matter their size, to compete with the biggest and most established entities.”

    eCommerce is no longer a nice-to-have, and it represents an important part of the modern retail market – especially in a post-pandemic world.

    “The signs of a new digital era of retail have been written on the walls of our economy for some time. According to Statista, there are currently 21.9-million South Africans shopping online, with R62-billion in revenue forecast for 2020, and with COVID-19 considered, these figures are expected to rise by 10% over the next four years,” explains Westvig.

    While eCommerce has become increasingly user-friendly, Westvig says there are many more layers to consider that aren’t necessarily part of the traditional brick and mortar setup. 

    “This includes things such as cybersecurity, logistics and warehouse management, digital payment gateways, and more,” he adds. 

    There is no doubt eCommerce presents a massive opportunity for SMEs to regain their lost ground and catapult themselves into new prosperity.

     Six tips to take advantage of the eCommerce opportunity

    1.Choose the right eCommerce platform

    Digitisation has enabled businesses to lean on off-the-shelf platforms that are packed with capabilities that would take months or even years to develop and perfect. “There are a number of online store platforms out there – use them,” says Westvig. “Once you have a clear vision of scale, then you can invest in tailoring them for your business.”

    2.Choose the right payment gateway and consider value-added options

    “You need your money, you need it to be secure, and you need your customer to trust using their card on your website,” says Westvig. There are established and trusted names that plug into an existing website and work seamlessly.

    “If you are trying to build a profile or are targeting customers that are feeling the pinch, there are also payment platforms that enable the customer to pay off goods over a period of time, while the platform carries that risk and settles your account.”

    3.Invest in security

    “Secure your online store the way you would secure a physical store,” says Westvig. Instead of installing gates and burglar bars, you need to ensure you have a secure site with an SSL certificate and have measures in place to block cybercriminals, whether they are human or nasty bots.

    An online store is available 24/7, says Westvig, so ensure you have a competent support team on standby to ensure all cybersecurity protocols are in place and up to date.

    4.Systematically manage your stock and returns

    Cloud-based solutions have allowed for a paperless and automated environment. If your business has not made the shift to a paperless environment you are setting yourself up for failure, says Westvig. “Let your digital solution do its job,” he says.

    “Trust the tech,” he says. “Digitise and automise as much as possible. Ultimately this will allow you to free up your time focusing on customer service and quality products.”

    The next step is investing in software that controls and tracks your inventory, so you can stay ahead of the curve on which products are in most demand. As organisations become larger, they should be looking at warehouse management software.

    Then, be sure to price the average cost of returns into your business, says Westvig, as customers are more likely to spend more if they know they can return goods.

    5.Find the right logistics partner

    “You could start out doing the delivery job in-house, but this will limit the areas you can service and hold back your growth. If your business scales rapidly it could land you in serious trouble,” says Westvig.

    The online environment is more competitive than ever, and it is all about customer experience. Find the right partners that can service a customer base that increasingly seeks instant gratification.

    6.Market your online store

    “From social media and influencer campaigns to content marketing, SEO and email campaigns – all these digital elements have an important role to play in the sales process and it is imperative that you invest in a solid strategy or partner to ensure you have the best possible toolkit for your business,” says Westvig.

    The eCommerce opportunity opens up an entirely new world. Once your strategy is in place, sourcing business funding to scale appropriately can ensure that all the elements that make for a successful online store are in place.

    Westwig points out that Retail Capital has created a tailored programme to help SMEs transition into the eCommerce space. 

    “We believe a lot of traditional business owners are struggling to adapt to a digital market and we have created an eCommerce #Gameplan that explains how businesses in any sector or industry can make the move to online, or at least incorporate an aspect of it into their day-to-day operations. Once all the elements are in place, you are poised to take advantage of events such as Black Friday and run all sorts of promotions to lure online visitors and turn them into return customers,” concludes Westvig.

    This article was written by Karl Westvig, CEO and founder of Retail Capital, a company focused on providing funding and assistance to local SMEs. 

    Featured image: Karl Westvig, CEO and founder of Retail Capital (Supplied)

    The post Six tips for SMEs to succeed in the eCommerce space [Opinion]  appeared first on Ventureburn.

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