Fintech Nala wins Seedstars Dar es Salaam, confirms Y-Combinator selection

Dec. 19, 2018

The Nala team (with founder Benjamin Fernandes far right) pictured at Seedstars Dar es Salaam (Image via Ventureburn)

This article was originally posted on Ventureburn.

Tanzanian fintech Nala was yesterday selected as the winner of this year’s Seedstars Dar es Salaam, at a pitching event in Tanzania’s capital. Nala is a mobile money application that works offline, allowing users to easily access multiple mobile money wallets faster.

This, as Nala founder Benjamin Fernandes yesterday also confirmed to Ventureburn (following a tip off from an industry source) that the startup has been selected by the prestigious US seed accelerator Y-Combinator to take part in its 2019 batch.

Fernandes declined to comment further, saying Y-Combinator had asked participants not to share publicly yet that they have been accepted.

The accelerator usually makes seed investments in those startups that take part in the programme — which it in October revealed it had increased from $120 000 to $150 000, while keeping its equity stake in such deals unchanged at seven percent (see this story).

Nala will now represent Tanzania at this week’s Seedstars Africa and April’s global summit

The Dar es Salaam pitch event follows another pitch event held in the Tanzanian port city of Tanga which was won by agri-business startup Makaru Agro. The startup, along with six other startups also pitched at Seedstars Dar es Salaam.

Nala was placed first ahead of JointPesa with its mobile solution that aims to empower women in Tanzania engaged with informal group saving.

Womenchoice Industries, a social enterprise that produces and distributes reusable sanitary towels to girls from low income families in Tanzania, took third place.

A panel of judges that included Seedstars investment manager Fredrik Andersson, Smart Codes founder Edwin Bruno, Ekihya co-founder Lillian Secelela Madeje, JonSoft Group consultant Jones Mrusha, Empower founder Miranda Naiman, Teknohama CEO George Mulamula and TIB Rasilmali director general Antoinette Ntlemo selected the winners.

The event is Seedstar World’s last in its 2018 tour.

By winning Seedstars Dar Es Salaam, Nala has secured an opportunity to represent Tanzania at Seedstars Africa (which kicked off in Dar es Salaam today) and at the global conference in Lausanne, Switzerland in April where the startup stands a chance to win up to $1-million in funding.

Nala was founded in June last year by Fernandes (pictured above, far right), according to Fernandes’s LinkedIn profile (where he is listed as founder). Fernandes worked previously for two years at The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the US.

Last month, the fintech was one of nine African startups selected for the The Luxembourg House of Financial Technology (LHoFT) Foundation’s Catapult: Inclusion Africa bootcamp in Luxembourg.

Nala also won the Disruptive Innovation Award at the 2018 AppsAfrica Innovation Awards.

In September Nala emerged as the winner of the 2018 Ecobank Fintech Challenge, clinching $10 000, while tech site Disrupt Africa reported earlier that the startup secured $50 000 in funding from DFS Lab in April.

Recently, Nala’s app made it to number-four spot for finance apps in Tanzania on the Google Playstore — within two and half months of going live (See this Medium post from August in which Fernandes details how Nala was built).

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