By Adedapo Adesanya
Financial technology company, Wave, has joined the list of African unicorns – the first in French-speaking Africa – as its valuation jumped to $1.7 billion following its new Series A funding round of $200 million.
The new funding round was carried out by Sequoia Heritage, Founders Fund, Ribbit Capital and existing investors such as Partech Africa and Sam Altman, the former CEO of Y Combinator and current CEO of OpenAI.
Founded by Messrs Drew Durbin and Lincoln Quirk in 2018, Wave was launched as a mobile app in Senegal.
In the past year, up to $500 billion has moved through the accounts of 300 million active mobile money users in the region.
The startup is a by-product of WorldRemit acquired company, SendWave, which allows customers in the diaspora to transfer money across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
Leveraging Wave’s platform, affordable and instant transactions can be done between the US, UK, Canada, France, Italy, Spain and Ireland to Kenya.
The platform allows cash deposit, withdrawal, and peer-to-peer and business payments.
With the new injection of funds, Wave is expected to continue building a financial infrastructure where account fees are not required, it entails instant availability, and is accepted everywhere.
The company is solving the problem of poverty, lack of access to affordable saving means, and access to capital needed to establish businesses, meeting required individual necessities.
Wave does this by building a radically inclusive and extremely affordable financial network with technology. It affirms to have moved over 3 per cent of the GDP of Senegal and has rapidly created an impact across the continent.
The firm plans to make more impact by strengthening its presence in Senegal, Ivory Coast and reaching markets across Uganda. The startup projects to expand its team, adding creative and innovative minds to its 800 teammates across product, engineering, and business.
Speaking on this, co-founder, Mr Durbin said – “We saw an opportunity to make a bigger impact by trying to build a better, much more affordable mobile money service than the telcos are building throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa. We didn’t see any companies besides the telcos trying to solve that problem.”
The uniqueness of Wave’s Unicorn attainment is that, unlike OPay, Jumia, Interswitch and Flutterwave, whose Unicorn attainment was through a Series C funding round, Wave achieved this via a Series A funding round.
The company aims to expand into new African markets such as Uganda and Mali on the back of the fundraise, deepen its existing presence, and enhance digital offerings and operations.
Former Y-Combinator CEO and Partech Africa investor, Mr Sam Altman added: “Wave is solving the root problem with financial services in Africa by making it easy and affordable for anyone to save and send money. They’ve built a product that millions of users love and the engagement is on par with the top consumer tech companies in the world.”
“Since 2018 we’ve supported Wave because we were convinced mobile money is still an unsolved problem in Africa. Wave has great product design, stellar execution and a strong financial trajectory. We are proud to see it become the first unicorn from Senegal. This funding is a game-changer in helping Wave bring a better mobile money service across Africa,” said Mr Tidjane Deme, Partech general partner and Africa Fund co-lead.
Nigerian Developer to Launch New First-person Shooter Game
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
A Nigerian developer, Mr Okolie Uchechukwu, will launch a new first-person shooter game, NCHE: The Escape, on Monday, March 14, 2022.
A statement from Mr Uchechukwu disclosed that the mobile game, a product of an inquisitive mind, entails the player using the resources available to make his way through lasers and zombies in the quest for survival.
According to him, a test was carried out last year and based upon the feedback, he and a co-developer, Cleec Designs, an indie studio based in Nigeria, improved the skill balance, gameplay experience for both android and IOS devices, and boosted the overall graphics and UI design.
He stated that the online showcase uploaded via his official YouTube channel has gathered interest from fans of the genre across the world.
When officially unveiled in less than two months’ time, game lovers would be able to download and play NCHE: The Escape for free by both iOS and Android users.
Mr Uchechukwu further explained that NCHE: The Escape thrusts players into a mysterious mental facility where escape is seemingly impossible.
“You’ll have to keep your wits about you as you try to find a means to escape. As the perfect icing to the cake, the facility is overrun by bloodthirsty zombies, so making it out of the place alive is indeed a challenge.
“Players will go through a series of eerie levels each time, encountering zombies, picking up defence supplies, and avoiding the lasers. NCHE: The Escape places players in a strange mental facility where the existence of life is unthinkable.
“So, making your way through the facility overrun by violent zombies will be a challenging task. Players can pick up guns and ammo on their way as they move ahead in levels, in search of their way to escape.
“The hitch here is that players have to be critical when using their weapons as ammo is limited. They will come across moving lasers and zombies that can be shot down any moment but sometimes simply dodging them would be a better alternative for players to make it through the advancing intense levels.
“The difficulty level increases with every progress as players will find it more and more challenging to withstand the approaching obstacles,” he added.
Nigeria to Launch Another Satellite in Space Soon—FG
By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government has disclosed that it plans to launch another satellite through the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat) before the end of the year.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami, during a tour of facilities at the agency’s base in Abuja.
He said: “That approval of federal government which I have secured has been forwarded to NigComSat. Now, it is on the table of NigComSat to answer that question. I want to make sure that as I said that 2022 is NigComSat year along with NIPOST. I want to make sure that all work in progress must be completed by 2022.
“As I said earlier, 2022 has been dedicated to NigComSat and NIPOST, and I want to do the best I can to improve what we have achieved in the previous years.
“I recently approved two subsidiaries of NigComSat and I am here to supervise what they have been doing, and I discovered some areas where we need to work to improve their performance significantly.”
He also stated that for the agency not to be considered for privatisation again, it must provide quality service and generate good revenue for the federal government.
He added: “Before I was made the Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), there was the Oronsaye report which recommended for the scrapping of NITDA. But when I was able to turn things around from a generation of N7 billion to N19 billion in a year, no one talks about scrapping NITDA again.
“So, if you are able to turn things around, render quality service and generate income, no one will talk of privatising your company again.”
On her part, the Director-General, NigComSat, Mrs Abimbola Alike, appreciated the Minister for his immense support.
Mrs Alike stated: “We all know what our budget used to be N200 million-N300m, for a company that needs capital after overhead.
“He stood for us and said there must be something good in NigComSat because he is a man who believes that we can actually turn around NigComSat.”
She assured Mr Pantami of the agency’s readiness to deliver quality service and generate revenue to justify his efforts at revitalising the agency.
According to her, this year, Nigerians would see new significant changes that will make them know that NigComSat is a new company that can compete with its global counterparts.
Balthazar Secures $3m to Achieve NFT Gaming Platform Growth
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The sum of $3 million has been raised by an NTF gaming platform, Balthazar, through the sale of tokens, with Animoca Brands emerging as the lead purchaser.
Other token purchasers were Finder Group (through Hive Empire Capital, which is led by Fred Schebesta), Zip co-founder Larry Diamond, Digital Asset Capital Management (DACM), Fantom, ZED Run, Darling Ventures, Pluto Digital, San Francisco-based VC Side Door Ventures, Algorand, and Three Arrows Capital’s TPS Capital.
With the new development, Animoca Brands, a global leader in gamification and blockchain with a large portfolio of over 150 investments in NFT-related companies and decentralised projects, will provide advisory services to Balthazar, which aims to be the leading NFT gaming platform in the metaverse.
Balthazar, which commenced operations in 2021, wants to be the largest decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO) in the play-to-earn space.
The company is a community-focused platform, removing the barrier to entry for gamers to access play-to-earn games through its scholarship program with no upfront costs.
Balthazar is more than a guild, with plans to develop its tech platform, its rent-to-earn lending model, and to scale up its community.
Prior to the token sale, Balthazar deployed 1,100 scholars into several NFT games including Axie Infinity, Splinterlands and Thetan Arena, with a further 30,000 people on its waitlist, and a community of more than 70,000 people in its Discord channel.
“We are so thrilled to be backed by Animoca Brands and all of our supporters in helping to shape the metaverse and to continue assisting and expanding our community.
“This support means we can fulfil our vision of empowering the biggest community of gamers to create a self-sustaining, wealth-building ecosystem.
“We are developing the most incredible platform that will bring together gamers, crypto holders and individuals through our own NFT games, valuable tokenomic strategies and gaming partnerships.
“I’m excited about the future of the play-to-earn space, in particular how it’s spreading earning opportunities to those who need it most, as well as providing a new use-case for cryptocurrency,” the CEO of Balthazar, John Stefanidis, stated.
Also commenting, the Executive Chairman and co-founder of Animoca Brands, Yat Siu, stated that, “Balthazar has a thriving and fast-growing community, offering opportunities for all people to be involved in the NFT gaming space, including gamers, game companies, and crypto holders.
“With its dynamic leadership, we believe that Balthazar will be able to tap growth for NFT-based gaming in new markets, and we are excited to be part of its journey.”
Balthazar has opened a private token sale round, with plans to sell $8 million of tokens at a token cap valuation of $150 million by February 2022.
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