Ekaya expands to Gauteng, raises funding from Bill Paladino

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South African online rental marketplace Ekaya has expanded to cover Gauteng as well as the Western Cape, while also announcing ex-Naspers, Amazon and Property24 boss Bill Paladino has joined the startup as an investor and advisor.

Ekaya is a graduate from the 88mph accelerator programme in Cape Town, and has raised angel funding from a raft of investors including Vinny Lingham, Justin Stanford, Daniel Guasco, Wayne Gosling, Sebastian Stoddart and Guilherme Steinbruch.

The startup has now begun expanding its coverage area, and from today will be available in the greater Gauteng metropolitan area.

“Johannesburg is a huge market, and one that has been practically bashing down our door for access to Ekaya since shortly after we launched. I’m pumped to be bringing our offering to the City of Gold, at last,” said Ruark Ferreira, Ekaya chief operations officer (COO).

Ekaya chief executive officer (CEO) Justin Melville told Disrupt Africa 30 per cent of Ekaya’s traffic has been coming from Gauteng even though the startup has not had an active presence there. He also said Ekaya is now in a place where it can easily expand to other regions of the country should demand arise.

Ekaya has also announced Bill Paladino has joined the startup as an angel investor and advisor, with the company believing his previous experience will “introduce a wealth of rare and valuable marketplace experiences, as Ekaya plots its course toward further expansion and operational excellence”.

“It is kind of a pay-to-play investment. He’s coming on board as an angel investor, just extending that round a bit further. Bill’s conviction and experience mean he will really get stuck in to the company itself, digging beneath the surface and looking to the immediate future,” Melville said.

“The guys behind Ekaya are passionate about building great software that customers love. As a rental property owner myself, the value proposition offered by Ekaya is a total no-brainer for the tenant and landlord. The potential market for something as good as this is big,” Paladino said.

Ekaya has also redesigned its site and launched Ekaya VIP, which employs technology to allow prospective tenants to collect and submit all the information needed to apply for a rental property for a one-off fee of ZAR99 (US$8).

The tenant’s data is then stored safely in one place, enabling them to share their information securely with multiple property owners without having to print bank statements and verify ID documents.

“Ekaya VIP is really the first tool of its kind; it makes a painful, time-consuming and often expensive part of the renting process safer, faster and more efficient for both tenants and property owners. It’s a critical part of our mission to make renting smarter, not harder,” said Melville.

“The Ekaya Property Owner Guarantee completes the picture for our property owner and landlord customers. Not only do we provide an awesome space to list your property and find great tenants but now we can deliver complete peace of mind and take the hassle and risk out of renting, completely.”

Ekaya VIP will support Absa, FNB, Standard Bank and Nedbank, and will be working on bringing more banks on board in due course.

“Safety and security of information is our north star. We’ve worked very hard with our partners and industry leaders to ensure the highest standard of data security without compromising the user experience,” said Rudolf Vavruch, Ekaya chief technology officer (CTO).

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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