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uLesson: Nigeria’s EdTech Startup Secures $7.5M Series A Round Led by Owl Ventures

ulesson

Nigeria’s edtech company, uLesson, reports it has raised US$7.5 million in a series A round. The startup specializes in selling curriculum through SD cards to students. Owl Ventures led the latest round of investment with participation from LocalGlobe, TLcom Capital and Founder Collective.

uLesson in November 2019, raised US$3.1 million seed funding but this significant rise in investment has to do with the necessity of the situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

uLesson app on Google PlayStore and Apple Store

The edtech startup launched a few weeks before the WHO (World Health Organization) declared coronavirus as global pandemic. Since physical classroom education came to a halt, uLesson got into action by delivering content through SD cards as low-bandwith especially when smart devices were now being used more at homes to enable distant learning.

According to Sim Shagaya, the founder and CEO of the edtech startup, this crisis rather brought a whole lot of opportunity for the company to thrive and helped to offer products that were really difficult offering offline.

An class in session

Users pay just $50 per year and there have been more than a million downloads. And thanks to this new normal in education, demand for uLesson’s services have gone up, making it evolve into a live, online platform.

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The CEO thinks that Africa has become a good opportunity for the edtech industry because of its young population and rising private school going students.

As observed, the major challenge for this company and those others in the edtech industry in Africa is distribution and outcomes. This was expressed in an interview with TechCrunch, where Shagaya said that “Content efforts and products live or die at the altar of distribution.”

We also understand that for them to continue delivering, uLesson is trying to find the perfect source of videos in markets around Africa and embed those into their product offerings.

The number one (1) learning platform in Africa currently operates in Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia.


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Funding

OKO: Insurtech Startup Raises US$1.2M to bring Innovative Insurance to Smallholder Farmers Across Africa

OKO

Insurtech start-up, OKO, that provides inclusive agricultural insurance to secure farmers’ income across Africa, has closed a seed investment of $1.2 million. The round was led by Newfund and ResiliAnce. Mercy Corps Venture, Techstars, ImpactAssets and RaSa also participated in the round.

The startup which currently operates in Mali and Uganda uses satellite data and mobile payments to create automated insurance products for farmers whose fields are affected adversely by weather events — primarily droughts and floods. With the new funding, OKO aims to strengthen its presence in Mali and Uganda and expand its offerings to more African markets, starting with Ivory Coast.

According to the founder of OKO, Simon Schwall, in a press statement said,

Agriculture is by far the largest source of occupation in Africa, with an estimated 33 million farms. And yet, farmers are deprived from basic financial services like insurance and loans.”

Simon also said they were using technology to solve this issue and secure the income of those farmers.

The company already has approximately 7,000 paying customers in Mali and compensated more than 1,000 farmers last year, who were affected by floods. OKO’s customers typically grow maize, cotton, sesame or millet. It also works with agro-industries to help them with their sustainability goals and secure their relationships with suppliers. Successful pilots were completed with ABInBev and Touton in Uganda.

oko

This convinced Augustin Sayer, partner at Newfund, to support OKO:

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“We believe recent advancement in iOT and data availability will lead to the rise of parametric insurance in Africa for the benefit of the local populations. Simon and his team have built solid bases in Mali from which OKO can now expand in new countries and offer new insurance products.”

OKO takes pride in being the most inclusive crop insurance available. All farmers need to connect to OKO is a phone (no smartphone required): they can dial a short code to obtain more information and pay through mobile money services. To achieve this level of accessibility, the company partners with mobile operators.

OKO, for Aisha Touré, the CEO of Orange Money in Mali, has taken full benefit of the Orange Money platform to provide a service that is both innovative and inclusive.

Daniel Block from Mercy Corps Ventures added,

“While other micro-insurance for farmers exist, we were impressed by OKO’s ability to partner with a pan-African operator like Orange and establish a direct consumer link, which allows for an exciting opportunity to drive deeper user engagement and expand to a suite of insurance products for rural farmers in the future.”

The service offered by OKO is supported by regulators and has won both the Fintech Showcase Award by the Alliance for Financial Inclusion, representing financial regulators of emerging countries, and the SME award from ITU, the telecommunication governing body.

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When asked about the next challenges for OKO, Simon Schwall’s answer is clear:

“We need to find more partners who can bring our product to farmers, be it NGOs, agro-industrial players, mobile operators or governmental programmes. We proved that our solution is working and answers a strong need. Now we need to scale”

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