BY TOM JACKSON
Kenyan retail-tech startup MarketForce is the only Sub-Saharan African company selected for the Y Combinator Summer 2020 batch, securing US$150,000 in funding and the inspiration for a new product.
Launched in 2018, MarketForce enables consumer brands to optimise how they deliver essential goods and services to retailers and consumers by bridging the information gap in last mile distribution, while maximising efficiency across the sales and distribution value chain.
The startup’s platform leverages mobile devices by enabling field agents to record all customer interactions as they happen in the field, and then aggregates this data and presents it through live web dashboards.
Disrupt Africa reported in May that MarketForce had raised US$350,000 in seed funding to help it build upon its existing momentum and enhance its product to unlock new revenue streams, the funding coming from the ViKtoria Business Angels Network (VBAN), EchoVC Partners, P1 Ventures, and Ventures Platform.
It has now secured an extra US$150,000 in funding from Y Combinator, and has also announced the launch of a new business line, MarketForce Troops, which enables FMCGs and financial service providers to grow their retail distribution channels in Africa.
“The product expansion was inspired by Y Combinator, which affirmed our realisation that our technology is just one part of the equation. To fully bridge the gap in last mile distribution, it is crucial that we couple up our technology with essential services on the ground in order to create maximum impact for our initial customers,” Tesh Mbaabu, who co-founded MarketForce alongside Mesongo Sibuti, told Disrupt Africa.
“Today, 90 per cent of retail transactions occur through informal channels – with millions of “corner shops” and field sales agents acting as the first point of contact for consumers and brands. Combined, they form the heartbeat of Africa’s communities when it comes to retail sales and distribution.”
With this in mind, MarketForce will use the funding to build out its network and adapt its technology in order to support its local merchant stores and sales teams.
“Our ultimate goal is to create thousands of jobs for the African youth while ensuring both urban and rural consumers get timely access to essential goods and financial services,” Mbaabu said, adding that Troops is already processing significant revenues by distributing products from top consumer brands like Unilever, P&G, Nestle and Cadbury.