South Africa’s VARL Raises $3.4m to Advance Cryptocurrency As Kenya’s Little Gets $3m to Expand Ride-hailing Services to West Africa

South Africa’s VARL Raises $3.4m to Advance Cryptocurrency As Kenya’s Little Gets $3m to Expand Ride-hailing Services to West Africa

Craft Silicon, the parent company of Kenya’s ride-hailing startup, Little has doled out $3 million to expand the transport service. Little is planning to expand the ride-hailing service to West Africa and will use the fund to foster the app’s pilot program in Accra, the capital city of Ghana.

The Craft Silicon and Little CEO, Kamal Budhabatti said the move is necessary if the company has to be a key player in Africa.

“We have already started testing the product in Accra. Since travel may be an issue, we are taking an approach of opening a new city without visiting there. We would recruit drivers online, provide training online. West Africa is a large market, and if Little has to be a key player in Africa, we need to be present there in addition to East Africa. Hence the march towards West Africa,” he said.

COVID-19 pandemic has forced Little to go virtual as intra-African movement is still restricted. But Budhabatti said the company will be recruiting staff to augment the virtual operations.

“Accra being a big city like Nairobi, having fully virtual operations is not recommended. So we would be recruiting some staff there, and interviews are underway. But we are going to try and make as much as possible to operate virtually keeping in mind the new normal,” he said.

Little is operational in four African countries; Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia. Ghana will be its first West African country of operation and will bring its number of countries to five.

Little said last year it is seeking to raise $50 million from investors to expand its services in Africa. The company wishes to conquer the African continent, leveraging on countries where Uber and Bolt aren’t dominant.

In the other news, VARL, a leading South Africa’s cryptocurrency firm, said it has raised $3.4 million to advance the adoption of digital currency.

The Series A equity round of funding was led by 100x Ventures, (the investment arm of 100x Group who are behind cryptocurrency derivatives trading platform BitMex), with participation from 4DiCapital and FNB CEO Michael Jordan and US-based company Bittrex.

Founded in 2018, VALR was established to bridge the gap between the traditional financial system and the new world of cryptocurrencies. In June 2019, VALR launched bitcoin-rand trading and has since grown to become one of South Africa’s bitcoin trading platforms.

The company said it offers over 40,000 of customers the ability to buy and sell more than 50 digital currencies including bitcoin and ethereum at the cheapest cost in the market.

VALR cofounder and CEO Farzam Ehsani said the company has recorded phenomenal growth despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am very grateful that despite the challenging global COVID-19 pandemic that has adversely affected many businesses around the world, VALR has been able to raise funds and partner with a set of world-class investors, adding to our already distinguished group of shareholders,” he said.

VALR will use the proceeds from the capital raised to build new products and services, expand into new territories, and continue to build its team of professionals, particularly in the technology, regulatory and compliance, and client service domains.

The cofounder and CEO, 100x Group, Arthur Hayes said they are backing VALR because they believe it is well placed for future growth.

“South Africa has an incredibly exciting and fast-growing cryptocurrency ecosystem, and we believe VALR is well-placed to capitalize on future growth of bitcoin trading. In VALR we’re backing not only a successful early stage business, but a management team with the ability to scale operations significantly,” he said.

In July 2018, VALR raised a R20 million equity and has further raised R59 million till date.

Justin Stanford, confounding General partner at 4Di Capital said VALR presents them with lucrative opportunities for investment in the crypto ecosystem.

“At 4Di we have been looking for appropriate investment in the crypto sector for some years, and we are delighted to be backing such a high quality business and management team.

“VARL has shown great integrity and leadership coupled with impressive growth, and delivers a mature, institutional-grade offering to the local market. This is becoming a necessary component in all markets the world over, as the crypto-asset ecosystem becomes increasingly more accepted and integrated into the global financial system,” he said.

African startups keep attracting investors despite the pandemic, and South Africa and Kenya are taking the lead.

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