Angolan startup Roque Online, which provides informal vendors with access to tech to reach more customers, has seen strong traction since its launch late last year, helping merchants earn US$33,000 in revenues so far.
Winner of the recent Seedstars event in Luanda, booking a place at the global final in Switzerland next year, Roque Online connects informal market vendors and service providers to e-commerce channels and logistics support.
The platform helps informal vendors sell their goods and produce online, deliver the goods, and get paid, also enabling them to build a digital profile to help them access financial services such as loans and insurance.
Formed in September of last year by Juan Carlos Moreno, Geraldine Geraldo and Lauretta Geraldo, Roque Online is targeting Angola’s sizeable informal market, which developed crucial importance and grew substantially over 27 years of civil war. The startup is named after the Luanda-based market Roque Santeiro, which closed in 2011 but at one point was the largest open-air market in Africa, selling almost anything you could possibly imagine and providing an essential service for the country during the war period.
Roque Online wants to have the same kind of effect via technological means, and benefit the informal sector in the process.
“The informal market scene in Angola is still robust; however, these markets are facing increased pressure from modernisation. Luanda has seen a boom in modern hypermarkets that provide many of the same products as the informal markets,” said Moreno.
“The latter are still relevant though, as they provide very competitive prices and, frankly, have such a vast assortment of random items that still can’t be found in stores.”
The Roque Online helps vendors reach bigger customer bases via its online marketplace, earn more income, and grow their businesses, with the startup’s team trying various approaches before settling on its current incarnation around four months ago. Since then it has seen around 250 orders and helped informal market service providers earn US$33,000. Roque Online charges a markup on goods sold through its platform.
Currently the startup is bootstrapping, but Moreno said it is now in the position to seek seed funding, hence the Seedstars participating. Roque Online is looking for around US$500,000, exactly the figure it would secure if it emerges winner of next year’s final, which will cover its expenses for around 16 months and give it runway to grow.
Growth means expanding outside of its home country.
“We would love to expand to as much of Africa as possible. We believe we can do this with the right funding. We have partnered with business forums in Africa to test the requirements for expansion,” said Moreno.