DEMO Africa alumni startup SpacePointe closed Seed and Series A, now finalizing series B

We had a chance to catch up with DEMO Africa 2014 alumna Sayu Abend, founder of Nigerian startup SpacePointe.

SpacePointe is an online marketplace and technology platform focused on enabling African retailers to effectively sell their products across the country and beyond the continent.

What has happened since you launched at DEMO Africa 2014?

“A LOT has happened since DEMO Africa 2014. Four days after our DEMO Africa win we got seed funding and since then we have closed on Series A funding as well. We are in active Series B negotiations that will be closing soon.

We entered into some key partnerships with the likes of Microsoft4Afrika who have helped us with grants and SW support as well through their Bizpark platform. A key and notable partnership is with Union Bank of Nigeria.

Considering our goals, we needed a very like-minded acquiring partner to make this work. It has been so far a marriage made in heaven! Together we have accomplished much and have big plans that will be unveiled over the course of the following months.”

How did you go about the fundraising process? What were your strategies to make this campaign successful?

“We leveraged every possible contact we had! We pushed with everything we had to ensure that we launched! We worked on our business model and continually scrubbed it down to ensure that we were as lean as we could possibly be and it did not matter that we got turned down or ignored by some. It mattered most that we keep on going!”

You launched at DEMO, why did you want to be on the DEMO stage and what did the event mean for your company?

“It was a fantastic opportunity to launch, network and most importantly get a TON of help in navigating the startup waters. Everything from scrubbing our pitch to identifying our USP and articulating it in a way that mattered to investors was factored into how we actually presented ourselves to the world and launched our business! The DEMO crew truly became family to us. We felt backed, encouraged, cheered on and supported throughout the entire process!”

What else have you leveraged (programs, accelerators, platforms) in getting your company connected and to the next level?

“The US Department of State helped us a great deal with our Silicon Valley trip and we got to attend some key events that gave us some very crucial contacts. The ATF (African Technology Foundation) crew were amazing support during our visit. Steven Ozoigbo did a great job schooling us on the wirings of our new world and helped us make some valuable connections. I would not trade that experience!”

How did you get started? What was the influencing factor that got you started?

“I saw a missed opportunity. I Look at the e-commerce projections for Africa and realized that certain pioneer players had completely ignored the SME demographic crucial to their success; the informal sector which accounts for 90% of commerce on the continent.”

How do you see your USP today? What are you doing that makes SpacePointe so unique?

“We have a USP that combines our business strategy with our innovative platform. Our innovative approach is inspired by the need to draw the informal retailers into the online space. We don’t just stop at helping them sell online, we help them sell in store as well. Inclusion Inspired Innovation is at the center of what we do!”

What does your growth and traction look like, please share some of your key milestones in terms of the business?

“Notable Milestones include the following: We have on-boarded over 2000 retailers onto our platform and are selling their products across all states in Nigeria, we have 30 drop ship and pickup centers across 20 states in Nigeria, and we have product inventory in the millions.”

What are your plans moving forward? Biggest challenge and your biggest opportunity?

“Lots of exciting market launches coming up. We just rolled out our PointeForce Program which will equip individuals as agents part of our direct sales team. There are so many young people without jobs and so many people still intimidated by the internet and buying online. We will train the team and empower each of them with a device, a payment account and our newly launched PointeMart Mobile site. It’s a win-win because on the one hand we are getting the increased sales we need and on the other hand we are raising up a new generation of SMEs. A notable mention is our MPOS solution which we are really excited about. As it relates to out inclusion inspired agenda, we are really proud of the fact that in just weeks, our amazing in-store product will hit the market!”

Looking back on what you have achieved, what is your advice for other entrepreneurs trying to raise capital?

“There is a lot to say about what I have learned but here are a few notable learnings from my experience:

1. Time spent researching the market, understanding your USP and crafting your message is crucial. It will show when you are talking to an investor and asking them to part with their money;

2. If you have not personally invested in your own business, it will show up as a gaping hole when talking to an investor. You have to be the first investor with your sweat and your money;

3. Do all you can to launch! Little traction is better than no traction. Traction speaks volumes to investors. At a minimum it shows that you have a proof of concept! Traction also puts you in a slightly more powerful position as it relates to your valuation;

4. Once you have done your research and are convinced of your USP, “drink your own cool-aid”, so to speak and hold on to what you believe! People will come with all kind of scary stats that will make you question what you are doing. Not every business takes the same path. You might have a wildcard scenario that propels you faster and farther;

5. Be careful not to ask for more than you need because you will have to give up more than you want. Launch in the leanest mode you can when it comes to your business model and finances. The market will bring up things you did not plan for and these factors might not be cheap to accommodate. Take your growth in stages;

6. Who you are aligned with matters. Not every investor is a fit for you. Not every door opened for funding is a good door to walk through. Use wisdom in navigating this because as soon you sign on the dotted line you have immediately stepped into a situation for good or for bad.”

Thanks Sayu. Great to read about all of your progress and great work with SpacePoint. You are an example of how all these organizations can come together in a shared effort to support rock star entrepreneurs. And for other up and coming founders out there, follow Sayu’s path by registering a venture profile on VC4Africa and start engaging our programs and partners today!