E-commerce startup Sokowatch raises US$125M series B funding, rebrand to Wasoko

AFRICA – African start-up Sokowatch, an online supplier of goods to micro retailers, has closed a US$125 million Series B funding round as it rebrands to Wasoko.

The latest round of funding was led by Tiger Global and Avenir Growth Capital to enable the e-commerce to expand further into Senegal and Ivory Coast markets.

Initially launched in Kenya by founder and CEO Daniel Yu in 2015, Sokowatch scaled into neighboring East African markets Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda in 2018.

The new capital will enable Wasoko to drive further geographic expansion and product growth across the continent, according to the company.

Alongside the new funding, the company has rebranded to Wasoko, which translates to “People of the Market” in Swahili.

The new brand reflects a “shift from its origins as a backend distribution software platform in East Africa to a public brand providing free delivery of essential goods and working capital financing to informal retailers across opposite ends of the African continent”.

The platform has sold more than US$600 billion of consumer goods in Africa through informal retail channels every year, supplying the vast majority of the 1.2 billion population.

Despite its importance, the informal retail sector still remains highly fragmented and inefficient with local shops facing a number of major challenges including frequent stockouts, limited access to capital, and difficulty receiving goods from suppliers.

Wasoko enables informal retailers to order products at any time via SMS or mobile app for free same-day delivery to their stores.

The platform leverages its data collection to evaluate retailers to provide them with access to Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) financing.

We’re excited about what Wasoko is building and the efficiencies it brings to these retailers and their suppliers,” said Andrew Sugrue, Founding Partner at Avenir Growth Capital.

The startup has delivered 2.5 million orders to over 50,000 informal retailers across Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal with revenue growth over the past 12 months at over 500%.

It currently has more than 800 full-time employees across Africa who are also shareholders of the company through its universal employee equity policy.

Wasoko is in the phase of examining opportunities to expand its product offering to verticals such as merchant point-of-sale systems, bill payments, and social commerce through both internal innovation as well as strategic investments and acquisitions of relevant companies.

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