Stripe's $200M acquisition of Paystack marks the biggest exit to date in Nigeria and the latest in a flurry of startup activity happening across the world's youngest continent.
From Lagos to Nairobi to Johannesburg to Cairo, entrepreneurs in burgeoning tech hubs throughout Africa are launching record numbers of startups and taking in record investment.
The growth continues amid a backdrop of unrest in Lagos and concerns that COVID-19 could slow record investment in 2019 and into the first half of this year.
Venture investors pumped more than $1.3B into Africa-based startups in 2019, a marked increase from the year before (though still just 1% of the amount that went to U.S.-based startups in that time). By some estimates, as much as 82% of that VC money went to startups in Kenya and Nigeria.
The list of fintech companies raising more than $100M in the past two years includes Nigeria-based Interswitch (one of the continent's rare unicorns) and Opay; Kenya-based Branch; and South Africa-based Jumo. Kenya-based Sendwave's $500M acquisition earlier this year marked one of biggest exits ever on the continent. Nigeria-based Jumia — known as the "Amazon of Africa" — became the first African startup to list on a major global exchange last year.
ShopUp, a Bangladesh-based startup that aims to digitize millions of neighborhood stores, raised $22.5M in a round co-led by Sequoia Capital India and Flourish Ventures. Around 98% of all retail in Bangladesh are "mom and pop" shops— small, neighborhood haunts with no online presence. ShopUp offers procurement solutions that allow retailers to source goods from distributors with a lower upfront cost.
Whisper, a "smart" hearing aid that uses AI to automatically adjust to noise, announced a $35M Series B. Unlike traditional hearing aids, Whisper comes equipped with a "sound separation engine," a wireless device that processes sound in real time and then transmits optimized sound to an earpiece. The company offers the hearing aids through a network of audiologists who provide fit and tuning support over the life of the product.
Extend, which works with companies to build and handle extended warranties on their products, raised a $40M Series B. The company hopes to remove the stigma associated with extended warranties, which often elicit distrust from consumers. Extend's solution involves an API which merchants can integrate into their online checkout flow. If a customer wants to make a claim, they initiate the process instantly with Extend's chatbot, Kayley, which issues a credit back for the value of the product.
Future, a subscription app that connects users with fitness coaches, closed a $24M Series B. Future has experienced unprecedented growth since the start of the pandemic as thousands of gyms have closed their doors. The company's subscription costs $150 a month and pairs users with coaches to guide their fitness routines.