Data marketplace startup CARMA, which provides lending companies with access to real-time credit data on a peer-to-peer basis through a pay-as-you-go service, is planning operations across the continent after relocating its headquarters to Lagos, Nigeria.
CARMA describes itself as the world’s first credit data marketplace, tackling the gap in markets underserved by credit bureaus by providing lending companies with access to vital data to facilitate lending.
“As marketplaces sell goods and services, at CARMA we do the same with corporate data,” said Ted Martynov, the startup’s co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO).
“We provide lending organisations with credit assessment – including unbanked individuals – and we also allow other industries to contribute to sharing their data on our marketplace. It includes KYC, purchasing, credit information… We do not limit types of data, we take care to build a common language between data contributors and consumers. All of this is done on a fully decentralised basis. We do not store any data from our customers. It is like the internet, but the internet for corporate data.”
CARMA initially launched in Kenya as part of the Antler cohort in Nairobi, but recently relocated to Lagos after raising funding from Microtraction, an early-stage VC firm that invests in startups at the very earliest stage of their development.
“We went to market in July 2020, and it took more than 6 months before that to deliver the initial technology. We kicked off by signing a deal in Zambia with the NASCU, the local association of credit unions, and decided to place the headquarters in Nigeria as it is one of the biggest markets for us,” Martynov said.
CARMA expects to start processing transactions in Nigeria early this year.
“We put together a group of early adopters from multiple industries and I encourage every B2C organisation to join us and start monetising their data along with a strong social impact for the underbanked,” Martynov said.
The “beauty” of the CARMA solution, however, is that it can quickly roll out internationally. A partnership in Kenya may be close for the startup, while it is also working on a rollout in Vietnam. Africa is the focus though.
“Lack of mutual access to corporate data exists everywhere. In Africa, the problem is amplified by a lack of credit bureau coverage, which is a meaningful hurdle for financial inclusion,” said Martynov.
“On stage one, we link the digital footprint of individuals made beyond traditional credit history and make it available for lenders. They make better credit decisions, and borrowers get better access to financing for better terms. This brings us out of competition with credit bureaus; we build a more inclusive environment as an alternative solution for credit data.”
Essentially, CARMA provides a single technology protocol that acts as the internet of corporate data.
“The data stays on the side of the home company and is not aggregated somewhere in a centralised data silo, and only becomes available through specific requirements, providing ultimate control and transparency in data management,” said Martynov. “By linking your corporate data to CARMA’s platform, you are only providing information to other industries to make better business decisions.”
CARMA, which charges a fee every time a company data-seeker hits the database of another peer, is ready to grow, with its tech and investors in place.
“We have everything to implement our go-to-market strategy now. We are backed with amazing proprietary technology for decentralised data sharing, an experienced team, and the inspiration to make the world better,” Martynov said.