SA startup Qwili raises $1.2m seed round to launch low-cost NFC-enabled smartphone

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Hybrid hardware-software company Qwili, based in Cape Town, has raised US$1.2 million in an oversubscribed seed funding round to help it launch its low-cost NFC-enabled smartphone. 

Qwili is a hybrid hardware-software product consisting of an NFC-enabled smartphone and digital sales ecosystem. Its software turns users’ phones into point-of-sale devices, enabling them to sell value-added services such as data, electricity, pay-TV subscriptions, groceries, clothing and much more to their friends and communities.

The funding round round was led by E4E Africa, an entrepreneur-centric VC firm, and also involved Strat-Tech, Next Chymia, and Untapped Global alongside other funds and angel investors. The cash will be used for app development, new hires, and hardware production. 

“We are passionate about expanding access to digital goods and services. Achieving this does not only lie in new innovations and technologies, but also applying existing tech in appropriate ways, that reach and benefit more people,” said Luyolo Sijake, Qwili co-founder and CEO. 

“This understanding, coupled with rapid iteration and a market insights-led approach to product development, allowed us to find an offering that the market is embracing and we believe can hasten the speed of digital inclusion across the continent. So, we are delighted to have received this backing from the investors who participated in this round. It allows us to set to work refining our product and scaling the business towards realising our vision.”

In addition to supporting Qwili’s existing impact, the raise has allowed for a critical expansion of the Qwili team and its development capabilities, the introduction of new product offerings, and a greater focus on research and development in the hardware component of the business. 

“We believe that Qwili is both highly scalable and high impact. Qwili agents love the entrepreneurial opportunity that Qwili provides them, while giving their community access to e-commerce and to fairly priced goods and services,” said Bastiaan Hochstenbach, co-founder and managing partner at E4E Africa. 

“Qwili’s founding team is exceptional and the business model is a strong fit with E4E Africa’s aspiration to support diverse founders in creating a thriving, innovative and inclusive 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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