GFA Spotlight

Orbit Start-ups and Africa’s Emerging Start-up Market

In July, SOSV launched a new program – Orbit Start-ups. It encapsulates the former SOSV programs, supplying direct support for partnerships, business development, fundraising, and growth. The program focuses on digitalization to drive efficiency across e-commerce, fintech, media, healthcare, education, and organization and start a revolution for the next four billion users.

Last year, Orbit invested in more than 40 new start-ups situated in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas. It also helped portfolio companies raise $286 million in follow-up funding.

Founded in 1995 by Sean O’Sullivan and formerly known as SOS Ventures, SOSV is a global venture capital firm that offers multi-stage investment, starting with pre-seed start-up development programs designed for founders with breakthrough technologies. Its assets under management are worth $1.3b.

As a part of SOSV, Orbit start-ups are the world’s first and most active program focused on emerging and frontier markets. The program helps founders tap into an ecosystem of partners from multinational corporates to small businesses for sales and customer acquisition.

“We are eager to help disruptive start-ups in emerging and frontier markets where there are more inefficiencies, fewer legacy industries, and the most opportunities for aggressive growth.” said William Bao Bean, SOSV general partner and managing director of Orbit. “Orbit selects tech players that can impact millions of lives at once—start-ups that are solving monumental problems in healthcare, education, finance, and logistics; and start-ups that are future-proofing the local economy through digitalization.”

He also stated that many of the organization’s current successes have been due to applying the aggressive growth strategies learned in more mature markets, such as China, to developing ones globally. It is a phase of growth that Orbit reflects radiantly.

With a focus on emerging and frontier markets, Orbit’s activities in Africa’s developing ecosystem are worthy of note. Included in its portfolio are four African start-ups which it has aided with either seed or pre-seed funding:

  • MarketForces Technologies (Kenya): a pan-African, e-commerce, B2B marketplace for corner shops + SaaS for FMCGs
  • Lipa Later (Kenya): a company offering a buy-now-pay-later option for electronics in Africa. (Kenya), and
  • Pricepally (Nigeria): a company enabling customers to buy and share bulk food items, sourced directly from farmers and wholesalers.
  • Treepz (Nigeria): a company revolutionizing public transportation in Africa through technology-driven solutions.

All four companies operate in different sectors and provide unconventional, varied solutions to their communities, Africa at large, and the African start-up ecosystem.

Orbit’s investment into these companies stays true to Bean’s statement about SOSV’s enthusiasm in helping disruptive start-ups in areas “where more inefficiencies, fewer legacy industries, and the most opportunities for aggressive growth” thrive.

While the investment, compared to other regions globally, may be considered small at this time – four out of the millions of start-ups springing up daily in the continent and in only two of 54 countries – there is little doubt that this is the start of something that has immense potential to blossom.

For one, the four companies represent a commitment and show of support by Orbit of Africa’s large talent pool, one that has become increasingly recognizable by the international community through fundraising. Furthermore, this talent pool made up of the earth’s youngest, and one of its brightest populations, will also constitute the next four billion users that the Orbit Start-up program predicts.

And with its focus on digitalization, Orbit is certainly concentrating on the right side of the world.

Read Also: GFA Spotlight: MAGIC Fund

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