A NAMIBIAN start-up, Jabu, has raised US$3,2 million (N$49,9 million) in a seed round from AforeCapital, Y Combinator, FJ Labs, Quiet Capital, Kli Capital, Pareto Capital and other angel investors.
The seed round closed last year.
Jabu's chief executive officer, David Akinin, founded the company in early 2020 aimed at making affordable products accessible to all the small shops around Namibia. According to Akinin, this requires funding, hence the move to raise financing.
Akinin moved to Namibia from Venezuela in 2014 and founded Atenu to build affordable housing and schools around the country.
"These projects allowed me to live and breathe in some of the most amazing communities around the country, where I discovered that informal retailers struggle to have a decent supply chain," he said on Tuesday.
Early last year, Akinin said they saw a lot of adoption for their tech-enabled,last-mile distribution services.
The start-up offers free delivery, resulting in thousands of home shops and bars ordering through Jabu.
"When we experienced monthly growth rates of 50% plus, I realised that if we wanted to keep up with our growth [momentum] and get our services to everyone,we needed to raise capital one way or another," he said.
He added that he initially put in a lot of the capital he and his brothers saved over the years because they wanted to build a team and a service that they would be proud of as a Namibian company. This was also to show the international investment community that in Namibia one can build a business that scales up.
"We cast a wide net. I pitched the business for months and must have been on 400 video calls. Most of the funds we spoke to were worried about the size of Namibia as a market, but a few great funds believed in us.
"Subsequently, we were accepted as the first Namibian start-up to join the Y Combinator accelerator in Silicon Valley. This momentum and an incredible team on the ground have helped us put these resources to good use," he said.
Jabu helps home shops, bars, restaurants and forecourts source and stock all the products they need. In addition to offering free same-day delivery with their own fleet, the company has a tech enabled e-commerce approach to ordering.
For the brands, it offers warehousing, distribution and tech-enabled analytics. Akinin added that they give a Jabu Dashboard to fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands so they can live-track all their distribution, see all their key performance indicators, and even book marketing campaigns through Jabu's merchandising team.
"We kicked off in early 2020, when we helped the Pupkewitz Foundation execute its Covid-19 relief food drive. They donated food all over the country. As we travelled around, we realised that informal sector retailers all face the same issues - [lack of] access to a reliable supply chain, pricing and being unbanked," Akinin stated.
Jabu wants to build strong relationships with FMCG brands showing them data as they grow in the market, develop the Jabu Wallet and expand to new markets.
It currently operates at, Ondangwa, Oshakati and in Windhoek, but hopes to expand to five more towns in Namibia soon . Moreover, Jabu recently launched operations at Lusaka, Zambia.
"So, we are very excited about going international, and bringing our Namibian flavour to new markets," he noted.
Akinin said Jabu is proud to wave the Namibian flag on this journey, showing the international community that Namibia is a prime destination for investment in the technology space.
"We look forward to getting support from the Namibian government to ease access to work permits for the vast technical talent that we will need to hire software engineers as we scale up," he says.