Nigeria’s SpacePointe rolls out new features to boost SMEs

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Nigerian startup SpacePointe, which develops products geared towards small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with a particular focus on retailers, is rolling out new features as it steps up its monetisation process.

SpacePointe, which is currently piloting in Nigeria, is focused on getting African retailers to conduct their business transactions online, and two recent product launches cater for this.

The startup’s online marketplace PointeMart.com, launched last month, enables retailers to showcase and sell their products online, while a mobile point-of-sale (PoS) application – PointePay – is set to roll out this month. PointePay can be audio-navigated in several languages and enables SMEs to accept card payments in their stores.

Last year, SpacePointe was just getting started, making waves at DEMO Africa and then travelling to Silicon Valley to pitch at the DEMO Fall event in November. Part of the startup’s initial focus last year was to reach out and educate small business owners on the benefits of selling online, a process chief executive officer (CEO) Sayu Abend told Disrupt Africa had been very successful for SpacePointe.

“In just a few months, we acquired and on-boarded thousands of small businesses onto the SpacePointe platform. Quickly followed by education about growing their businesses online was an eagerness by the small business owners to start selling online,” she said.

Abend said in order to develop desirable products for retailers SpacePointe had needed to understand their challenges.

“Knowing that most of them have no issues using a mobile phone, along with the fact that cost to transact online was a contributing factor to adoption, SpacePointe designed an audio-navigated mobile point of sale application,” she said.

With those products now coming off the shelf, Abend believes the startup – funded originally by the founders but more recently by a Series A round – is tackling a potentially very valuable market segment.

“Informal retailers are the business engine of Africa as they represent about 90 per cent of commerce on the continent. They are typically small, unregistered petty traders that may not have English as their first language and, while they may not have computers, they typically have mobile phone,” she said.

“Despite the many benefits online commerce can provide, many of these retailers remain excluded from participating in this aspect of business because of barriers associated with their demographic. Therefore, SpacePointe seeks to empower and support the SME sector by providing solutions that meet their needs.”

In solving the online needs of brick and mortar SMEs, SpacePointe does have competitors.

“There are competitors in the online marketplace segment and others in the POS segment. However, our strategy involves integrating both worlds in way that makes sense for SMEs,” Abend said.

Though currently only focused on Nigeria, SpacePointe is targeting 10 other African markets, as well as some niche SME markets in North America, for expansion down the line, earning revenues from small per-transaction processing fees. The likes of Kenya and South Africa are foremost on its radar.

Abend said getting the startup off the ground has not been without its challenges, but now that SpacePointe is making revenues and is in the process of rolling out its new products, she sees a bright future.

“Because the informal market typically tends to ride under the radar, getting accurate market data has been a bit of a challenge. However, the more we delve into this space, the more we learn, so we are consistently working to understand the space, so we can improve our product and service offerings.”

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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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