Kenyan startup tappi raises a $1.5 million pre-seed six months after receiving $180K from SOSV’s Orbit Startups

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December 6, 2023
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3 min read
The tappi team

The News:

  • Kenyan startup tappi has raised $1.5 million in an oversubscribed pre-seed round six months after securing $180,000 in funding from Orbit Startups in an accelerator programme.
  • Mercy Corps Ventures and Chui Ventures led the round, with participation from Digital Currency Group, SOSV, Resilience17, growX Ventures, Orbit Startups, and Reflect Ventures. Angel investors and advisors from global technology companies such as Google, Salesforce, Zendesk, and the financial sector contributed to the investment. 
  • The funding will support tappi's mission to enable SMEs to gain visibility and credibility in the digital commerce ecosystem. 

Launched in 2022 by Kenfield Griffith and Louis Majanja, tappi is a Kenyan end-to-end digital commerce SaaS solution designed for small and medium-sized businesses.

Previously, Griffith and Majanja founded Ajua, which provided retail, mobile, and big banks with customer experience management solutions.However, the co-founders transitioned to tappi when they realised they could serve the informal SME market on the continent.

While developing Ajua, the co-founders sought to provide software tools to smaller companies. They experimented with several strategies but quickly realised that the business models significantly differed.  

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But when they tried with smaller companies, they faced challenges, including the go-to-market strategies, the automation and simplicity requirements, the cost of acquisition, and the customer types.

Due to several factors, including the vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems in Kenya and Nigeria, the potential for digital growth among SMEs, and the possibility of partnering with companies such as MTN, the co-founders decided to launch tappi concurrently in both countries at the end of 2022.

“This simultaneous launch allowed us to immediately address the similar challenges SMEs face across different regions, setting the stage for tappi's rapid growth and impact in future markets.

“Ajua, being a profitable enterprise, continues to thrive under the leadership of the CEO, Richard Riley. Our passion for building tappi was driven by the desire to impact smaller businesses differently, leveraging the lessons and successes from Ajua building enterprise SaaS for over 10 years,” Griffith explains.

tappi’s startup offerings

tappi is a company that helps small businesses grow by connecting them with customers and leveraging customer reviews to establish online credibility. 

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The company also automates tasks like gathering and compiling client evaluations for online testimonials and grants them access to advertising resources to streamline SMEs' interactions with technology. 

With tappi's end-to-end digital commerce SaaS solution, small and medium-sized businesses can pay for online advertisements with their mobile airtime, create online business profiles using an AI-powered chat experience, and combine payments with verified reviews to establish online trust. 

In Nigeria, for example, tappi has addressed advertising challenges by allowing businesses to use their MTN mobile airtime credit, making it easier for small businesses to advertise online. 

Per Griffith, the company plans to invest the pre-seed funds in three key areas. It intends to increase its on-the-ground presence by hiring direct sales agents and "capitalising on its strong 90% retention rate."

Second, tappi is examining new partnerships with banks and fintech companies while strengthening its current relationships with mobile operators. Finally, a significant chunk of the investment goes towards marketing and branding initiatives to establish the startup as a reputable brand in the markets it serves.

Challenges and growth

Developing SaaS for SMEs in Kenya and Nigeria is one of the company's challenges. Designing a product that its customers love and need in its markets can be a challenging problem to solve, especially for SMEs that face numerous challenges. 

But following the company's experiment and user research, tappi discovered that 70% of SMEs find it hard to get customers. Thus, when it connected them with customers, "they came back."

Griffith maintains that the company has grown significantly since its inception, interacting with over 150,000 customers, obtaining verified reviews on $3 million transactions, and indexing over 5,000 online pages.

In conclusion, he says, “Looking ahead, we plan to continue our expansion in terms of geographic reach and the range of services offered to drive more value to our customers. 

“We are also constantly working on enhancing our technology to take SMEs into the future, ensuring that small businesses using tappi always have a competitive advantage.”


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She's autistic and interested in mental health and how technology can help Africans with mental disorders. Find her on Twitter @latoria_ria.
She's autistic and interested in mental health and how technology can help Africans with mental disorders. Find her on Twitter @latoria_ria.
She's autistic and interested in mental health and how technology can help Africans with mental disorders. Find her on Twitter @latoria_ria.

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