Kenyan startup Wowzi has raised a total of US$3.2 million across pre-seed and seed funding rounds to help it scale its influencer marketing platform across the continent.
Launched in 2020, Wowzi is an online marketplace that democratises influence, connecting everyday social media users with big brands, and enabling nano and micro creators to earn money by spreading brand messages via social media.
The startup’s self-serve online platform allows brands of any size or industry to create and manage massive, distributed messaging campaigns utilising thousands of real, everyday customers and fans who get paid to offer authentic endorsements online for the products they already love.
Brands like Netflix, Safaricom, Diageo, Coca Cola, P&G and Absa Bank are now designing campaigns involving 5,000 or more people at a time, with Wowzi having on-boarded 70,000 influencers across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in its first 18 months of operation, primarily through word of mouth.
To help it scale further, the startup has closed a US$2 million seed round led by 4DX Ventures, with participation from To.org, Golden Palm Investments, LoftyInc Capital, Afropreneur Angels, and Future Africa. Andela co-founder Christina Sass and alumni Jessica Chervin, Justin Ziegler, and Johnny Falla also participated. The US$2 million seed round comes after a previously unannounced US$1.2 million pre-seed round secured in 2020, bringing the total amount raised to date to US$3.2 million.
Wowzi plans to use the new funding to scale partnerships with local, regional, and multinational FMCG companies, telcos, banks, creative agencies and development institutions to create dignified digital economy jobs for African youth.
“Mobile use has become a key driver of commerce in African markets, and it’s where young people already spend their time. Young people only require lightweight remote training to master the key principles of sharing brand messages, so suddenly anyone with a phone can influence their peers through social media. Now that Wowzi has created the technology platform to efficiently distribute and manage job offers to thousands of youth at a time, brands have an opportunity to engage directly with youth and offer meaningful gig work. Wowzi offers a new layer of advertising for brands that can help target niche communities,” said Wowzi co-founder and CEO Brian Mogeni.
“This new layer of advertising plays into emerging trends of decentralised social networks, creating creators who think of themselves as media entrepreneurs. Furthermore, we are building the world’s best technology that can scale globally to meet the evolving needs of users and brands.”
Wowzi co-founder Mike Otieno said Generation Z African creators influence decision purchasing amongst peers through unique online and offline communities.
“Wowzi is creating a marketplace that assigns value to creativity. That hasn’t been done before on the African continent at scale. Our mission is to connect capacity to opportunity, and that’s precisely what the platform does for emerging creators. We set an ambitious goal of creating one million jobs for African youth, and already this year we’ve delivered nearly 200,000 such paid gigs.”
4DX Ventures co-founder and general partner Peter Orth said he believed Wowzi has the potential to transform the way advertising is done in Africa, and beyond.
“The ROI their platform delivers to brands is an order of magnitude better than traditional advertising campaigns, and while delivering this impact they are also creating a large number of jobs for an emerging class of digital influencers. We’re very excited to partner with Wowzi to help them deliver on their big vision,” he said.