Ghanaian e-commerce startup Tendo launches in Nigeria with heavyweight backing

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Ghanaian startup Tendo, which enables anyone to sell online with zero upfront inventory, has launched in Nigeria after securing the backing of heavyweights such as Catalyst Fund, Google and Y Combinator.

Launched last year, Tendo has developed a mobile app that connects dropshippers to local wholesalers. Sellers on the platform are able to source products and resell items using social commerce tools such as WhatsApp, arrange delivery, and get paid, all through the Tendo app.

“At the moment, people who want to sell online need to save money, visit hundreds of suppliers to find a trusted one, and risk losing their capital by stocking up inventory. Beyond this, they need to incur costs for logistics and warehousing. We eliminate all that,” Felix Manford, the startup’s co-founder and CEO, told Disrupt Africa.

The startup is already working with thousands of merchants in Ghana, and it has now also opened its doors in Nigeria. This has been achieved with funding from the likes of the Google Black Founders’ Fund, LoftyInc Capital Management, and Plug and Play Ventures, while Tendo has also recently taken part in the Y Combinator W22 accelerator and Catalyst Fund’s inclusive digital commerce programme.

All of this success stems from a pivot. Manford and the Tendo team initially built an influencer marketing platform called Hashfyre to help young social media users earn an income by partnering with brands on micro-influencer campaigns. 

“As we built our community we realised most of our users had more interest in starting a business but struggled to raise initial capital. We also learned that social media had become the preferred shopping channel for many consumers in Africa – an estimated 32 per cent of all e-commerce in Africa was happening on Facebook,” Manford said.

“We initially launched Tendo and distributed products through WhatsApp groups. We also used spreadsheets to manage and track orders.”

Not anymore, with Tendo on a strong growth trajectory, tackling the lack of trust amongst African consumers when it comes to shopping online.

“Consumers here trust people they know, not brands – and they make purchase decisions based on this. This social experience is however missing on many traditional e-commerce platforms in Africa,” said Manford. 

“To address that deficit Tendo leverages on social networks of individuals and the platform leans in on the existing consumer behavior. Tendo is shaping digital commerce in Africa by putting selling power in the hands of everyday users. Anyone can become an entrepreneur.”

Tendo runs a marketplace model, taking a percentage of each order processed on the platform. Suppliers can also pay for ad placements on the app to boost the visibility of their products. Manford said revenues were steadily growing, with the prime challenge faced by the startup being offering affordable and reliable last-mile delivery.

“However, over the past months, we’ve been able to refine our process and secure better partnerships that have provided us with significant cost savings which our sellers have benefited from,” he said.

Now, then, to tackle Nigeria, with new country manager Chisom Ukaegu explaining the size of the opportunity Tendo was looking to seize there.

“With the young demographics making up more than one-third of Nigeria’s growing population, Tendo’s entry into Nigeria is the logical next step as we work towards building the largest reselling platform in Africa. Our primary focus here is to build the largest network of resellers, or Tendo merchants as we like to call them, and equipping them with the resources and support needed to grow and manage their business,” Ukaegu said.

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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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