Startup and FundingTechnology

South African startup Qwili gets $1.2M to scale its app and low-cost NFC-enabled smartphone

3 Mins read

Qwili, a startup that provides a hybrid sales product to micro and small merchants in South Africa, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding a year after closing an undisclosed pre-seed round.

E4E Africa, a South African venture capital firm, led the round, which welcomed participation from other firms such as Strat-Tech, Next Chymia, Untapped Global and Codec Ventures and angels like Ashwin Ravichandran and Kanyi Maqubela.

In a statement shared with TechCrunch, Qwili said it would use the investment for app development, new hires (improvement in operations and development capabilities) and hardware production.

The company’s hardware is a low-cost NFC-enabled smartphone called Qwili Pula that allows merchants to send and receive payments. The platform’s software (which can be downloadable as an app on any smartphone or automatically installed on Qwili’s phones) turns these smartphones into point-of-sale devices permitting merchants to sell value-added services such as data and pay-TV subscriptions, groceries and clothing to their customers. CEO Luyolo Sijake told TechCrunch on a call that Qwili’s phones cost between $60 and $70.

Qwili says its target audience are digitally excluded and unbanked customers. Its mobile app serves as a “digital sales portal” through which micro and small merchants (agents) can facilitate the sale of goods and value-added services, the company said in a statement.

At first, Sijake and his co-founders Thandwefika Radebe and Tapfuma Masunzambwa launched Qwili as a different idea. They employed a business-to-customer model where Qwili sold these devices to individual users who used the platform’s digital wallet to buy value-added services. The plan was as users operated the phone and Qwili took a piece of every transaction, the phone would eventually commercialize itself, and users could buy them off Qwili. It turns out that didn’t work, hence the pivot to merchants.

“During those early stages, the phone wasn’t paying back quickly enough, and there wasn’t high enough adoption of the digital services. But what happened was that people started using the digital wallet to sell pay TV, electricity and other value-added services to people around them,” said the chief executive. “They started using the phone in a way we hadn’t intended, making more sense commercially. That’s how we ended up with this agent model: essentially people using the device and the software to sell to others instead of buying services for themselves.”

Qwili, a startup that provides a hybrid sales product to micro and small merchants in South Africa, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding a year after closing an undisclosed pre-seed round.

E4E Africa, a South African venture capital firm, led the round, which welcomed participation from other firms such as Strat-Tech, Next Chymia, Untapped Global and Codec Ventures and angels like Ashwin Ravichandran and Kanyi Maqubela.

In a statement shared with TechCrunch, Qwili said it would use the investment for app development, new hires (improvement in operations and development capabilities) and hardware production.

The company’s hardware is a low-cost NFC-enabled smartphone called Qwili Pula that allows merchants to send and receive payments. The platform’s software (which can be downloadable as an app on any smartphone or automatically installed on Qwili’s phones) turns these smartphones into point-of-sale devices permitting merchants to sell value-added services such as data and pay-TV subscriptions, groceries and clothing to their customers. CEO Luyolo Sijake told TechCrunch on a call that Qwili’s phones cost between $60 and $70.

Qwili says its target audience are digitally excluded and unbanked customers. Its mobile app serves as a “digital sales portal” through which micro and small merchants (agents) can facilitate the sale of goods and value-added services, the company said in a statement.

At first, Sijake and his co-founders Thandwefika Radebe and Tapfuma Masunzambwa launched Qwili as a different idea. They employed a business-to-customer model where Qwili sold these devices to individual users who used the platform’s digital wallet to buy value-added services. The plan was as users operated the phone and Qwili took a piece of every transaction, the phone would eventually commercialize itself, and users could buy them off Qwili. It turns out that didn’t work, hence the pivot to merchants.

“During those early stages, the phone wasn’t paying back quickly enough, and there wasn’t high enough adoption of the digital services. But what happened was that people started using the digital wallet to sell pay TV, electricity and other value-added services to people around them,” said the chief executive. “They started using the phone in a way we hadn’t intended, making more sense commercially. That’s how we ended up with this agent model: essentially people using the device and the software to sell to others instead of buying services for themselves.”

 

Source: Tage Kene-Okafour | Techcrunch.com

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