Rwandan fintech startup Benefactors has taken on US$150,000 in pre-seed funding to help it scale its operations after reaching break-even point in June.
Launched in August of last year, and named winner of the Rwandan leg of the Seedstars World competition in July, Benefactors provides factoring services, offering businesses cash advances against confirmed invoices from reputable buyers.
The service supports small and medium sized companies in stabilising their cash flows, honouring their commitments and taking advantage of growth opportunities.
“We also know that cash flow stability is not just a financial problem, but one that can be affected by many other factors, so we work with a network of professional service providers such as accountants, recruitment firms and lawyers to help our clients achieve stability in whatever way they need it,” Olivia Zank, chief executive officer (CEO) and founder of Benefactors, told Disrupt Africa.
“Cash flow issues are everywhere the biggest reason why companies fail – it doesn’t matter which country. In Rwanda, however, we noticed that there are very few formal solutions to these kinds of problems, in that commercial banks do not typically have the technology to provide quick and flexible short-term liquidity products.”
In fact, banks can take up to two months to approve an application, and require fixed asset collateral, which is not cost-effective when it comes to small amounts. Nor are they flexible enough when operational challenges arise. Even telecoms or other fintechs that do provide short-term financial services in Rwanda focus only on consumers or have such high minimum thresholds that most companies do not qualify.
“So as a result, the only practical option for many is the illegal money lenders – who are both predatory and expensive but at least quick and flexible,” Zank said.
Benefactors fills this gap, offering businesses advances against confirmed invoices, and charging a small commission on these advances. Zank said uptake has been “overwhelming”.
“We have far more demand than we can service, without doing any advertising really. We are actually currently closed for applications while we focus on getting the working capital structure in place and honour our commitments to existing clients,” she said.
This strong demand has led to Benefactors already having broken even, but Zank and her team are pushing on. Last month the startup raised a US$150,000 pre-seed funding round from a mix of institutional angel investors and private individuals to help it scale. Though Benefactors is currently only active in Rwanda, it plans to cover all of East Africa by 2025.
“This was the first time we raised any money apart from the founding capital I and one of the board members put in. We needed to have the pre-seed round to raise some money for operations and investing in our technology before we could scale. We are now in the process of structuring working capital facilities for ourselves to we can reach more clients,” Zank said.