In December last year, Asaak – a Uganda-based mobile SME lender – announced that it had closed a $1.5 million Series Seed.
U.S.-based venture capital firm, Resolute Ventures – led the round which closed in November last year. Other notable investors included 500 Startups, Catalyst Fund, HOF Capital, and Social Capital.
Yet, less than a year since the announcement, the startup has opened up the second round of equity financing. That is according to Dylan Terril, Asaak’s Chief Business Officer.
In conversation with him, we talked about their fundraising plans. Though he declined to reveal the actual amount and other details.
“We started raising a few weeks ago [September,],” Dylan started, “[and] we should close by end of the year.”
Although they have raised institutional debt before, they are only looking at equity capital for this particular round. “We’ve secured some institutional debt recently, but right now we are focused on expanding the operations of the business and building product,” he said.
Many lending businesses have struggled when it comes to repayment. But, Dylan says that they are heading into the fundraising at a point when “repayment for loans is quite high.”
Something he believes is aided by the fact that each loan is backed by collateral. Though, they project that in the future, their loans will be advanced based on credit scoring.
Founded in 2016 by Kaivan K. Sattar and Titus Opesen, Asaak has a full-time team of 26. This is distributed across San Francisco (USA), Kampala (Uganda) and Soroti (Uganda).
Kaivan and Titus founded the startup during their work through a partnership with Pilgrim Africa and Engineers Without Borders in Soroti, Uganda. At that time, they were supplying farming villages with agriculture machinery. During the tenure, they found out that many small-scale farmers were struggling to access credit.
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“While there was an issue of not having the infrastructure for farming, the real issue they saw was that farmers didn’t have access to credit,” Dylan says.
But, they also found out that the challenge wasn’t in Soroti alone. Hence the decision to spread out. “We realized that Soroti isn’t the only place that needs a sustainable credit solution. There are other places and types of businesses that needed access to credit all over the country.”
Asaak’s business model revolves around charging a premium on the loans that they advance. They receive funds from institutional investors, at an interest rate, then advance these to the borrowers at a marked up interest. The difference is what makes up their revenue.
Although some mistake Asaak for a microfinance company, they say that they aren’t.
“As a lender in Africa, outside parties often mistake us for another microfinance solution. But we are a business lender backed by fintech,” Dylan says. Adding that “we are trying to distance ourselves from the ‘microfinance'”.
Currently, Asaak operates like a marketplace. This implies that investors can come in and advance loans to several businesses of their choosing. Although they are not looking to change that, the startup is also looking at raising its internal funds to finance those deals.
“We have partners in the U.S. and Europe that are interested in this type of marketplace,” Dylan says, “so we’ve capitalized on those opportunities.” Adding that they “are also developing an internal fund.”