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QED and Partech back South African payment orchestration platform Revio in $5.2M seed

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The payment landscape in Africa is still fragmented, with several payment operators providing different payment options to customers as well as businesses. Due to this fragmentation, payment failures are inevitable due to factors such as invalid cards, inactive accounts and high dispute rates.

One of the few startups working on payment orchestration to address this fragmentation is Revio from South Africa. Ruaan Botha, the co-founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that he started the fintech after learning how much time and manual effort businesses spend collecting payments across various providers and engaging customers on outstanding and failed payments.

“Digital payments are growing rapidly across Africa, projected to reach $146 billion in 2023, before taking into account almost $500 billion in mobile money transactions,” explained Botha. “However, there are unique market challenges and opportunities in how payments are made and collected on the continent. The most glaring is the immense fragmentation of the payments ecosystem, with more than 280 licensed payment service providers, 42 currencies and the unique consumer payment cultures that exist.”

The two-year-old startup assists companies in streamlining their order-to-cash lifecycles while handling issues brought on by employing various payment options via its APIs. In the latest development, the startup has raised $5.2 million in seed funding to strengthen its efforts in tackling these failed payments that cost digital businesses billions in recurring revenue yearly.

This is the second round of funding that Revio has received in the last 12 months. In November, it secured $1.1 million in pre-seed funding from investors, including Speedinvest, Ralicap and Everywhere VC. These investors wrote follow-on checks in the QED-led seed round, joined by growth-stage pan-African VC Partech.

The participation of QED and Partech, which are typically known for their growth-stage investments, in Revio’s seed round, according to co-founder and chief operating officer Nicole Dunn, is a testament to the relevance of its product (Partech Africa invests in Series A and B deals, and this is QED’s first seed check in an African startup after Moniepoint’s pre-Series C and Remedial Health’s Series A).

She remarked on a call with TechCrunch, “I think it’s a great signal for the ecosystem, not only for us but hopefully to the rest of the ecosystem. This should also encourage some of those investors that had committed to investing in Africa and started deploying before the downturn to follow the example that QED set by coming early into a seed round, even in this current market, especially in an African context.”

Orchestration reduces the cost, risk and complexity of payments

When a business operates in different countries and accepts various payment methods, using payment orchestration platforms becomes increasingly crucial. Just as Primer, Spreedly, and Zooz, via their APIs, handle this heavy lifting in the U.S. and Europe, Revio and similar upstarts, including Egypt-based MoneyHash, do the same for Africa.

Dunn stated on the call that Revio has developed an order-to-cash lifecycle or end-to-end payment value chain that merchants can use to collect revenue from their customers. Through its API, these merchants connect to more than 70 payment methods and service providers, giving them access to transaction routing, automated failover and retries, and real-time customer engagement workflows to increase payment success rates.

In addition, Revio recently unveiled a revenue recovery use case based on the realization that payment failure in Africa isn’t always due to technical difficulties; it might also be the consequence of insufficient funds or an abandoned authorization. To that end, the platform drives real-time action via channels like email, SMS, WhatsApp and push notifications to re-engage consumers in the checkout process and provide them with a more convenient payment method (cash or flexible payment plans). “It’s really around bridging the merchants’ need to connect with the consumer realities on the ground. And that’s been quite differentiated in the broader market context,” says Dunn.

Another reality is that payment orchestration platforms need broad coverage to serve businesses that transact across different markets to capture enough value for them. The Cape Town-based fintech says it has made strides in that regard, expanding its scope to encompass over 25 African markets.

The Revio team. Image Credits: Revio

Even though Revio has roughly 50 customers, less than half of them — enterprise and mid-market customers — are mostly responsible for this growth in coverage. Last year, Revio described its customers as large-scale enterprises to midmarket corporates and fast-growing scale-ups involved with recurring revenue businesses and high transactional volumes. However, due to learnings over the past year, Revio concentrates more on large-scale enterprises with complex payment requirements.

“We’re not actively going for a high volume of clients. We’re going for very high-value clients that have very complex payment needs. We’ve switched off things like product-led onboarding to being able to build and dominate in the enterprise sales,” the COO said. “These companies are typically in multiple markets but headquartered in Africa or recurring revenue businesses that are somewhat underserved and have unique risks and complexities around collecting payment tokenization and tackling high failure rates. They’re the ones that benefit from Revio’s services.”

These clients include four of Africa’s largest insurers and two of the continent’s largest telcos (Old Mutual, MTN’s aYo, Innovation Group and Standard Bank are examples).

According to Dunn, Revio, which has seen its revenue increase by 1,000% in the past year, also plans to target global retailers servicing the African market during its next development phase. She said the startup has begun interactions with a few of these merchants to understand better what it would take to service them effectively, mainly as it builds capabilities around cross-border reconciliation settlement. The newly injected capital will develop the company’s technological capabilities in this regard and expand its team by hiring talent within and outside the continent.

“We have a strong conviction that payments in Africa hasn’t been fully solved. Revio is building a platform that can unlock increased e-commerce and digital payment activity on the continent and help global and local merchants reach new customer segments,” said Gbenga Ajayi, partner and Africa lead at QED Investors. “We are excited to back the exceptional team that has proven they can execute even in tough market conditions and localize very strongly to win enterprise customers.”



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SpaceX Rocket Suffers Engine Failure In Starlink Mission, Elon Musk Shares What’ll Happen Next

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SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket suffered a rare failure on Friday. The launcher lifted off with 20 Starlink satellites at 8:06 am IST from California but failed to deploy them in the intended orbit.

According to SpaceX, the second stage of Falcon 9 did not complete its second burn necessary for reaching the desired orbit. The booster did its job and safely landed on the droneship in the Pacific Ocean. It was SpaceX‘s 70th mission this year.

Currently, the satellites are in a lower orbit than planned.

“SpaceX has made contact with 5 of the satellites so far and is attempting to have them raise orbit using their ion thrusters,” the company said in a statement on X.

ALSO SEE: Japan’s First Private Rocket Launch Ends In Massive Explosion, Video Goes Viral

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that it might not work “but it’s worth the shot. He also said that the satellites might fall toward Earth and burn up in the atmosphere if their thrusters are overpowered by the atmospheric drag.

In another post, Musk revealed that the upper stage engine exploded for unknown reasons while trying to raise the orbit. “Team is reviewing data tonight to understand root cause,” he said.

Notably, the reputed rocket by SpaceX has suffered only one full in-flight failure during a mission to the International Space Station in 2015.

ALSO SEE: Chinese Rocket Launches Accidentally, Crashes With Massive Explosion Seconds Later

(Image: SpaceX)





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China Plans To Destroy An Asteroid For Planetary Defense Mission By 2030: Report

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After the impeccable success of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, China is now planning to deflect an asteroid later this decade. According to The Planetary Society, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) is preparing its first planetary defense test which is expected to launch by 2030.

Scientists have proposed the near-Earth asteroid 2015 XF261 as a candidate for the mission which will include two probes. One will ram into the space rock to deflect it and the second will conduct impact assessment.

The asteroid 2015 XF261 measures about 100 feet or 30 metres in diameter and it made a close flyby of our planet earlier this month. According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the asteroid was about 50 million kilometres from our planet on July 9 and was travelling at a speed of around 42,000 kilometres per hour.

ALSO SEE: NASA Drills Freaky Scenario Where Elusive Asteroid Heads Towards Earth

Apart from China, Japan is also eyeing a ‘kinetic impact’ test mission to deflect an asteroid. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) reportedly has plans to repurpose its Hayabusa2 spacecraft to collide with 1998 KY26. The probe which launched in 2014 is expected to rendezvous with the space rock in 2031 and potentially change its orbit.

The said missions by the two nations are driven by the success of NASA’s DART mission launched in 2021 which proved that smacking an asteroid can deflect them. It collided with Dimorphos which circles a larger rock Didymos in September 2022 and changed its orbit by about 32 minutes.

These missions are of immense importance as they enable technologies that could save Earth from a planet-killing asteroid. While predicting an impending asteroid armageddon is predictable, it is also the gravest threat that humanity faces.

ALSO SEE: Collision Of NASA’s DART With Asteroid Dimorphos Changed Its Shape; Finding Excites Scientists



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Uzbekistan mobile bank TBC raises $38.2M to expand its financial products

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Uzbekistan’s only mobile-exclusive bank, TBC Bank Uzbekistan, owned by London Stock Exchange-listed TBC Bank Group, has raised $38.2 million in a fresh equity investment. It plans to expand its local presence in the country and introduce new financial products as well.

TBC Bank Group has led the latest funding in TBC Bank Uzbekistan by infusing $23 million, while shareholders European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) have participated in the round by investing $7.6 million each.

After serving customers in Georgia, TBC Bank Group decided to expand outside that country’s borders in 2019 and found Uzbekistan as its first international market. The bank started its Uzbekistan operations in 2020 through a separate entity, TBC Group Uzbekistan, which launched the mobile-only bank after its debut, with no physical branches in the country. The plan was to leverage Uzbekistan’s increasing digitization effort and foresee business growth in the country, which has the biggest population after Russia and Ukraine in the region — the second-largest among all the Commonwealth of Independent States countries — and has upright economic and socio-demographics.

“Before TBC came in, there were no banking apps in Uzbekistan … Fast-forward four years, most of the banks have got a mobile app, but TBC is far ahead of the field,” said Oliver Hughes, head of international business at TBC Group, in an exclusive interview.

According to official data, Uzbekistan has a 70% smartphone penetration rate and a 77% internet penetration rate; 59% of its population of 37 million is under 30 years old, making it a viable market for a mobile-specific business.

TBC Bank Uzbekistan offers a mobile app through which customers can open bank accounts and access services, including cash loans and deposits. This omits the requirement of physically going to a bank branch to access banking.

Hughes told TechCrunch that a couple of years ago, customers in Uzbekistan typically had to visit their bank and stand in a queue to get any of their banking work done.

Alongside the mobile-only bank, TBC Group Uzbekistan owns Payme, the digital payments app for individual users and small businesses, as well as the Sharia-compliant credit business called Payme Nasiya. To broaden its coverage, it looks to integrate some experiences from these two businesses within the bank or sync them with the bank’s operations.

For instance, through its app, TBC Group Uzbekistan will offer tips, recommendations and user-generated content on local events, entertainment, concerts and travel to provide complementary services that are not strictly financially related. Some of these features will first arrive on the Payme app but will be available to the TBC Bank Uzbekistan customers over time.

Similarly, Payme Nasiya currently serves Uzbek customers with its point-of-sale and installment loans. To expand the credit business, it will introduce e-commerce and offline buy now, pay later. This is expected to attract more local businesses and eventually help the mobile bank gain more customers.

In addition to the new financial products in the pipeline, TBC Group Uzbekistan plans to bring AI experiences to its mobile bank. Hughes told TechCrunch the group has built a large language model predominantly using its customer dataset and is working on a voice assistant to deliver banking and financial services through a chatbot integrated within its app.

In the fall, TBC Bank Uzbekistan will use the fresh funding to add credit cards and an insurance product next year, Hughes said.

The bank’s roadmap includes additional services such as current accounts, as well as accounting, offline payments, e-commerce payments and lending specifically for small and medium enterprise customers, Hughes added.

“This investment will allow us to further capitalize on the immense opportunities in Uzbekistan, a fast-growing country with a population of over 37 million people where TBC UZ continues to leverage its growth momentum,” said Vakhtang Butskhrikidze, CEO of TBC Bank Group, in a prepared statement.

At the end of 2022, TBC Bank Uzbekistan broke even, and 2023 was the bank’s first full year of profit. As of March 2024, the bank had a user base of 4.8 million unique registered users. It also recorded monthly active users of 1.2 million in the first quarter of 2024.

Overall, TBC Group Uzbekistan, with a registered user base of 15 million users, reached profitability two years after launch and recorded 85% year-on-year revenue growth in the first quarter of this year. The company achieved gross loans of $296 million and deposits of $216 million through all three of its subsidiaries. Its net profit hit $23 million for the financial year 2023, most of which came from Payme. However, TBC did not disclose the mobile bank’s revenues or profits.

“TBC UZ’s impressive growth trajectory and innovative approach align with our mission to support sustainable economic development in the region,” said Andi Aranitasi, head of Uzbekistan, EBRD.

Hughes said that by the end of 2025, TBC Group Uzbekistan is projected to generate $75 million in net profit, most of which would come from TBC Bank Uzbekistan.

“We are encouraged with the progress TBC UZ has made so far and remain confident in its potential to contribute to economic growth and financial inclusion in Uzbekistan,” said Neil McKain, country manager, Uzbekistan, IFC.



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