Early-stage investor DFS Lab has backed 19 African tech startups in 2021

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Africa-focused early-stage investor DFS Lab has invested in 19 African tech startups so far in 2021, making it one of the most active firms on the continent and taking its total portfolio size to 22.

Founded in 2017, DFS Lab helps founders leading next generation digital commerce businesses in Africa build solid foundations, and matches them with capital.

The company brings both global and local mentorship to its flagship accelerator programme, and its portfolio companies have gone on to raise capital from firms like Tiger Global, DST Global, QED, Accel, Anthemis, 500 Global, Y Combinator, Flourish Ventures, NYCA, and Accion Venture Lab, among others. 

The 19 African deals DFS Lab has done so far in 2021 were a mixture of investments made in companies that have gone through its programme, for which applications are open on a rolling basis and through which participants bank US$25,000 in capital, and separate participations in other deals, for which investment values can be different.

Eight of the companies funded are from Kenya, including Ando Foods; a cloud kitchen startup building high-quality food brands for the digital age; GoBeba, a multi-faceted on-demand delivery and errands service; PesaKit, a free business app that allows mobile money agents to become the go-to shop for affordable financial and digital services; and TuShop, a community group buying platform where members can sell groceries to those in their social networks and communities.

The other Kenyan companies backed by DFS Lab are Koa, which facilitates high volume savings and democratises access to financial products; Tanda, a banking startup that caters to MSMEs by offering access to inventory credit and helping them sell digital products; Kibanda Topup, which builds tools that enables restaurants to access affordable fresh and dry products; and Logistify, which is building last-mile distribution infrastructure for food suppliers.

Another six startups hail from Nigeria, namely Suplias; a B2B marketplace where mom and pop stores in Africa buy inventory directly from manufacturers using a mobile app; OnePipe, which builds and maintains APIs that enable banks to partner with modern digital services and fintech; Payhippo, a business lending startup; Star Kitchens Group, a restaurant management platform; Bumpa, an app empowering sellers with the tools needed for digital commerce; and SendChamp – A messaging platform for businesses and developers to power customer verification and personalise communications through multiple channels.

The list is completed by Egypt’s Appetito, a grocery delivery platform; South Africa’s Akiba Digital, which unlocks financial opportunities for consumers and businesses using alternative data; the pan-African Boost, which is building a “B2B Shopify” for informal retailers; Zambia’s Union54, which provides card-issuing APIs for corporates who want to have virtual or physical multi-currency debit cards; and an as-yet-unnamed stealth startup.

“We believe that the next generation of companies that will provide a great deal of value on the African continent will be in the digital commerce space. We’re passionate about working closely with founders in this space from the very early stages. The founders we back get to take advantage of our extensive knowledge in the space, our expansive network of mentors who are seasoned operators ready to guide our founders as they execute on their vision, and our relationships with bigger investors who can back them as they scale,” Joseph Benson-Aruna, partner at DFS Lab, told Disrupt Africa.

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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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