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March 23, 2019
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Nigerian fintech startup OneFi acquires payment company Amplify

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Lagos based online lending startup OneFi is buying Nigerian payment solutions company Amplify for an undisclosed amount.

OneFi will take over Amplify’s IP, team, and client network of over 1000 merchants to which Amplify provides payment processing services, OneFi CEO Chijioke Dozie told TechCrunch.

The move comes as fintech has become one of Africa’s most active investment sectors and startup acquisitions—which have been rare—are picking up across the continent.

The purchase of Amplify caps off a busy period for OneFi. Over the last seven months the Nigerian venture secured a $5 million lending facility from Lendable, announced a payment partnership with Visa, and became one of first (known) African startups to receive a global credit rating. OneFi is also dropping the name of its signature product, Paylater, and will simply go by OneFi (for now).

Collectively, these moves represent a pivot for OneFi away from operating primarily as a digital lender, toward becoming an online consumer finance platform.

“We’re not a bank but we’re offering more banking services…Customers are now coming to us not just for loans but for cheaper funds transfer, more convenient bill payment, and to know their credit scores,” said Dozie.

OneFi will add payment options for clients on social media apps including WhatsApp this quarter—something in which Amplify already holds a specialization and client base. Through its Visa partnership, OneFi will also offer clients virtual Visa wallets on mobile phones and start providing QR code payment options at supermarkets, on public transit, and across other POS points in Nigeria.

Founded in 2016 by Segun Adeyemi and Maxwell Obi, Amplify secured its first seed investment the same year from Pan-African incubator MEST Africa. The startup went on to scale as a payments gateway company for merchants and has partnered with banks, who offer its white label mTransfers social payment product.

Amplify has differentiated itself from Nigerian competitors Paystack and Flutterwave, by committing to payments on social media platforms, according to OneFi CEO Dozie. “We liked that and thought payments on social was something we wanted to offer to our customers,” he said.

With the acquisition, Amplify co-founder Maxwell Obi and the Amplify team will stay on under OneFi. Co-founder Segun Adeyemi won’t, however, and told TechCrunch he’s taking a break and will “likely start another company.”

OneFi’s purchase of Amplify adds to the tally of exits and acquisitions in African tech, which are less common than in other regional startup scenes. TechCrunch has covered several of recent, including Nigerian data-analytics company Terragon’s buy of Asian mobile ad firm Bizsense and Kenyan connectivity startup BRCK’s recent purchase of ISP Everylayer and its Nairobi subsidiary Surf.

These acquisition events, including OneFi’s purchase, bump up performance metrics around African tech startups. Though amounts aren’t undisclosed, the Amplify buy creates exits for MEST, Amplify’s founders, and its other investors. “I believe all the stakeholders, including MEST, are comfortable with the deal. Exits aren’t that commonplace in Africa, so this one feels like a standout moment for all involved,”

With the Amplify acquisition and pivot to broad-based online banking services in Nigeria, OneFi sets itself up to maneuver competitively across Africa’s massive fintech space—which has become infinitely more complex (and crowded) since the rise of Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile money product.

By a number of estimates, the continent’s 1.2 billion people include the largest share of the world’s unbanked and underbanked population. An improving smartphone and mobile-connectivity profile for Africa (see GSMA) turns that problem into an opportunity for mobile based financial solutions. Hundreds of startups are descending on this space, looking to offer scaleable solutions for the continent’s financial needs. By stats offered by Briter Bridges and a 2018 WeeTracker survey, fintech now receives the bulk of VC capital to African startups,

OneFi is looking to expand in Africa’s fintech markets and is considering Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Ghana and Egypt and Europe for Diaspora markets, Dozie said.

The startup is currently fundraising and looks to close a round by the second half of 2019. OnfeFi’s transparency with performance and financials through its credit rating is supporting that, according to Dozie.

There’s been sparse official or audited financial information to review from African startups—with the exception of e-commerce unicorn Jumia, whose numbers were previewed when lead investor Rocket Internet went public and in Jumia’s recent S-1, IPO filing (covered here).

OneFi gained a BB Stable rating from Global Credit Rating Co. and showed positive operating income before taxes of $5.1 million in 2017, according to GCR’s report. Though the startup is still a private company, OneFi looks to issue a 2018 financial report in the second half of 2019, according to Dozie.

News Source = techcrunch.com

This robot can park your car for you

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French startup Stanley Robotics showed off its self-driving parking robot at Lyon-Saint-Exupéry airport today. While I couldn’t be there in person, the service is going live by the end of March 2019. And here’s what it looks like.

The startup has been working on a robot called Stan. These giant robots can literally pick up your car at the entrance of a gigantic parking lot and then park it for you. You might think that parking isn’t that hard, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about airport parking lots.

Those parking lots have become one of the most lucrative businesses for airport companies. But many airports don’t have a ton of space. They keep adding new terminals and it is becoming increasingly complicated to build more parking lots.

That’s why Stanley Robotics can turn existing parking lots into automated parking areas. It’s more efficient as you don’t need space to circulate between all parking spaces. According to the startup, you can create 50 percent more spaces in the same surface area.

If you’re traveling for a few months, Stan robots can put your car in a corner and park a few cars in front of your car. Stan robots will make your car accessible shortly before you land. This way, it’s transparent for the end user.

At Vinci’s Lyon airport, there will be 500 parking spaces dedicated to Stanley Robotics. Four robots will work day in, day out to move cars around the parking lot. But Vinci and Stanley Robotics already plan to expand this system to up to 6,000 spaces in total.

According to the airport website, booking a parking space for a week on the normal P5 parking lot costs €50.40. It costs €52.20 if you want a space on P5+, the parking lot managed by Stanley Robotics.

Self-driving cars are not there yet because the road is so unpredictable. But Stanley Robotics has removed all the unpredictable elements. You can’t walk on the parking lot. You just interact with a garage at the gate of the parking. After the door is closed, the startup controls the environment from start to finish.

Now, let’s see if Vinci Airports plans to expand its partnership with Stanley Robotics to other airports around the world.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Email app Spark adds delegation feature for teams

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Email app Spark added collaboration features back in May 2018. And Readdle, the company behind the app, is going one step further with a new feature specifically designed to delegate an email to one of your colleagues.

While you can already collaborate with your team by sharing emails in Spark, the app is still not as powerful as a dedicated shared email client, such as Front. But delegation brings Spark one step closer to its competitor.

You can now treat emails as tasks with a deadline. If you’re a manager, you’re working with a personal assistant or you’re in charge of everyone’s workload, you can now assign a conversation to a person in particular and send a message to add some context.

On the other end, your colleague receives the conversation in their Spark account, in the ‘Assigned’ tab. They can then start working on that email together with other team members.

As a reminder, Spark lets you discuss email threads with your colleagues in a comment area, @-mention your colleague, add attachments and links. When you know what to say, you can create a draft, ask for feedback and collaborate like in Google Docs.

Delegation is a bit more powerful than simply sharing an email with a colleague. For instance, you can set a due date and mute the conversation. This way, you can hand off some work and focus on something else.

Spark for Teams uses a software-as-a-service approach. It’s free for small teams and you have to pay $6.39 to $7.99 per user per month to unlock advanced features, such as unlimited email templates and unlimited delegations. Free teams are limited to 10 active delegations at any time.

News Source = techcrunch.com

CXA, a health-focused digital insurance startup, raises $25M

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CXA Group, a Singapore-based startup that helps make insurance more accessible and affordable, has raised $25 million for expansion in Asia and later into Europe and North America.

The startup takes a unique route to insurance. Rather than going to consumers directly, it taps corporations to offer their employees health flexible options. That’s to say that instead of rigid plans that force employees to use a certain gym or particular healthcare, a collection over 1,000 programs and options can be tailored to let employees pick what’s relevant or appealing to them. The ultimate goal is to bring value to employees to keep them healthier and lower the overall premiums for their employers.

“Our purpose is to empower personalized choices for better living for employees,” CXA founder and CEO Rosaline Koo told TechCrunch in an interview. “We use data and tech to recommend better choices.”

The company is primarily focused on China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia where it claims to works with 600 enterprises including Fortune 500 firms. The company has over 200 staff, and it has acquired two traditional insurance brokerages in China to help grow its footprint, gain requisite licenses and its logistics in areas such as health checkups.

We last wrote about CXA in 2017 when it raised a $25 million Series B, and this new Series C round takes it to $58 million from investors to date. Existing backers include B Capital, the BCG-backed fund from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, EDBI — the investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board — and early Go-Jek backer Openspace Ventures, and they are joined by a glut of big-name backers in this round.

Those new investors include a lot of corporates. There’s HSBC, Singtel Innov8 (of Singaporean telco Singtel), Telkom Indonesia MDI Ventures (of Indonesia telco Telkom), Sumitomo Corporation Equity Asia (Japanese trading firm) Muang Thai Fuchsia Ventures (Thailand-based insurance firm), Humanica (Thailand-based HR firm) and PE firm Heritas Venture Fund.

“There are additional insurance companies and strategic partners that we aren’t listing,” said Koo.

Rosaline Koo is founder and CEO of CXA Group

That’s a very deliberate selection of large corporates which is part of a new strategy to widen CXA audience.

The company had initially gone after massive firms — it claims to reach a collective 400,000 employees — but now the goal is to reach SMEs and non-Fortune 500 enterprises. To do that, it is using the reach and connections of larger service companies to reach their customers.

“We believe that banks and telcos can cross-sell insurance and banking services,” said Koo, who grew up in LA and counts benefits broker Mercer on her resume. “With demographic and work life event data, plus health data, we’re able to target the right banking and insurance services.

“We can help move them away from spamming,” she added. “Because we will have the right data to really target the right offering to the right person at the right time. No firm wants an agent sitting in their canteen bothering their staff, now it’s all digital and we’re moving insurance and banking into a new paradigm.”

The ultimate goal is to combat a health problem that Koo believes is only getting worse in the Asia Pacific region.

“Chronic disease comes here 10 years before anywhere else,” she said, citing an Emory research paper which concluded that chronic diseases in Asia are “rising at a rate that exceeds global increases.”

“There’s such a crying need for solutions, but companies can’t force the brokers to lower costs as employees are getting sick… double-digit increases are normal, but we think this approach can help drop them. We want to start changing the cost of healthcare in Asia, where it is an epidemic, using data and personalization at scale in a way to help the community,” Koo added.

Talking to Koo makes it very clear that she is focused on growing CXA’s reach in Asia this year, but further down the line, there are ambitions to expand to other parts of the world. Europe and North America, she said, may come in 2020.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Scaleway updates its high-performance instances

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Cloud-hosting company Scaleway refreshed its lineup of high-performance instances today. These instances are now all equipped with AMD EPYC CPUs, DDR4 RAM and NVMe SSD storage. The more you pay, the more computing power, RAM, storage and bandwidth you get.

High-performance plans start at €0.078 per hour or €39 per month ($44.20), whichever is lower at the end of the month. For this price you get 4 cores, 16GB of RAM, 150GB of storage and 400Mbps of bandwidth.

If you double the price, you get twice as many cores, RAM and storage. Higher plans get a tiny discount on performance bumps. And the fastest instance comes with 48 cores, 256GB of RAM, 600GB of storage and 2Gbps of bandwidth. That beast can cost as much as €569 per month ($645).

Here’s the full lineup:

Scaleway had high-performance instances in the past, called “X64” instances. They were relatively cheaper. Despite that price bump, Scaleway manages to stay competitive against Linode, DigitalOcean and others.

A server with 6 CPU cores and 16GB of RAM costs $80 per month on Linode. After that, you have to choose between high memory plans and dedicated CPU plans, so it’s harder to compare.

On DigitalOcean, an instance with 16GB of RAM and 4 CPU cores costs $120 per month. The most expensive instance costs $1,200 per month, and it doesn’t match the specifications of Scaleway’s most expensive instance.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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