Rwanda’s SafeMotos raises $131k for further experimentation

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Rwandan startup SafeMotos, an Uber-style app for the motorcycle taxi industry, has raised US$131,000 in funding from various investors for further experimentation on its product and market fit.

Disrupt Africa reported in June SafeMotos, which allows users to hail motorcycle taxis from their phones, was aiming to make the industry more efficient and less dangerous by applying vehicle telematics software that tracks driver safety and pushes bad drivers to the outskirts of the system.

The startup was one of the winners of the PIVOT East competition in July, and has now raised an oversubscribed funding round to allow it to continue experimenting in Rwanda, a country that co-founder Barrett Nash told Disrupt Africa is the startup’s “test kitchen”.

One of the investors is Sean O’Sullivan of SOSventures, who has previously invested in companies such as Netflix and Guitar Hero. SafeMotos is O’Sullivan’s first African investment. Nash said the funds would be used for further testing on the product, after which it would be looking to raise Series A capital for expansion into other markets.

“Raising money for a startup in Rwanda is no easy task and huge validation. A key mission for SafeMotos is to show that you can have a Silicon Valley startup here in Rwanda and we are proud that we have done this without compromising,” he said.

“Selling equity to venture capitalists and angels is the way you raise money in the United States, and the fact that sophisticated investors drafted 70 page agreements for SafeMotos is a sign for us that we are not shaking naive money trees thinking that every startup will be Google. Instead, smart money thinks our idea can win.”

SafeMotos has just completed its 2000th ride, having seen 730 rides in September. It now has 200,000 kilometres of data, and is in the process of partnering with delivery firms and corporate clients.

It is also experimenting with having taxi cabs available on the platform, a move that puts it into Uber’s territory, though the latter is yet to establish a presence in Rwanda. There are currently ten cars available on the platform.

“I think our app can compete better than Uber. We aren’t as smooth in UI, but our backend gets Africa,” Nash said.

“While we don’t see this as part of our scaling plan, increasing convenience and safety for motorcycle taxis is very much our core, we see it as a great way for converting early adopters to our platform and an effective funnel to getting users onto motorcycle taxis.”

Expansion outside Rwanda will follow, though Nash said the timing will depend on SafeMotos perfecting its product.

“Our time for expansion is going to be based on discovering product market fit here in Rwanda. Once we believe we have built a product that gives delight, Rwandans want to use, is scalable, and we have the corporate infrastructure to handle growth, then we expect to be aggressive and try to hit between five and 10 additional cities across Africa within a year.”

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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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