Research startup SOKO Insight secures 12K USD, looks for similar new investment

VC4Africa listed research startup SOKO Insight secured 12K USD from the Hartnamtemah company of VC4Africa listed investor Rodrigue Fouafou. The company is now looking to raise an additional 13K investment from an investor with relevant expertise and network who can introduce them to more clients. Check out their VC4Africa venture profile. 

SOKO Insight is an internet-based information platform providing reliable data and insights from Africa, working with consumer surveys in five countries. Founder Yannick Lefang is a diaspora entrepreneur from Cameroon currently residing in Canada. SOKO Insight was founded in 2013 and is headquartered in Canada.

The company offers consumer and market information collection and aggregation within two weeks via a grassroots network of local partners and smart data analytics tools. The company is currently collecting from five countries and look to survey Africa’s 20 biggest countries by 2020, with a web-based data collection platform and other tools. With access to millions of consumers in Africa biggest cities they say they can reach representative samples of the middle class in countries with average to high Internet penetration. SOKO Insight founder Yannick Lefang joined VC4Africa in January 2015.

How did you grow the company to where you are now?

“SOKO Insight started in late 2012 when I began to collect weekly prices in markets in the main cities of Cameroon. Like a lot people looking to invest in Africa, I was frustrated with the lack of local market and the scarcity of data like Consumer Price Indexes (CPI). With the prices I collected, I built a city CPI that I tracked over a year and compared it with the official CPI. That’s when I realized it was possible to collect data in Africa. Not big data but smart data. Eventually I stopped collecting prices because it is time consuming and expensive product to sell for a small company with limited budget. I moved on to collect consumer and market insights via online surveys.

The company was incorporated in November 2013 and we launched a pilot in Cameroon. We have been bootstrapping during the pilot phase to prove the process and work on its scalability. In June 2014, we ran a real time fan pulse during the FIFA world cup in Cameroon where we surveyed over 900 fans during the first round of the tournament. The results were impressive and our respondents were better at predicting the outcome of the world cup than the Goldman Sachs mathematical model. We became an engine to harness the power and wisdom of the crowd in Africa. In early 2014 when we felt we could expand, we went out to look for a small investment.”

How did your investment deal come together?

“We were lucky to find our investors Rodrigue and Marc from Hartnamtemah early on. Rodrigue and I went to school together in Ottawa and we chat often about our lives and projects. We’ve pitched this project to few other investors in Canada and it has been very difficult to get traction. Investors here have money but no context or way to validate opportunities in Africa. Every time we pitch about SOKO, first we have to pitch Africa and bring context. It has been challenging and frustrating at times. Fortunately, our strategy has always been to focus on the product and customers. We are lean and will stay lean.

Investors move in herds I find. Africa is the next wave so it won’t be long before we see more investors backing Africa focused companies. That’s where a platform like VC4Africa is critical because it offers a playground for experimentation and people can follow a track record here. For diaspora entrepreneurs like myself, it is the go to platform where they have a shot at funding. Anywhere else will be very difficult and frankly a waste of time.

Early this year, I had a meeting with Rodrigue in Toronto where I gave him more information about SOKO Insight and he got really excited about it. Later we agreed to work together at some point. Last April, we’ve completed our pilot in Cameroon and were ready to expand the SOKO platform in four countries in Africa. I reached out to him and he agreed to help us by providing funds to help with our expansion. The deal closed soon after and we are now close to 6 months in the partnership and it has been great.”

What milestones do you want to reach with this funding? 

“With the money raised, we were looking to expand our platform and data supply by adding 4 additional countries. The funds will also help us run pilots and produce our own reports to drive our content marketing strategy. We are a consumer insights platform so content is a key component of our customer acquisition strategy.”

What new investments are you looking for, and what kind of investors?

“We are now looking to raise an additional 13K from a single investor. We are looking for an investor who understands the opportunity that Africa represents but also how data is critical to capitalize on that opportunity. We are looking for a visionary who is in for the long term. The dollar amount is not the main factor, we are really looking for someone who can introduce us to potential clients, be a subject matter expert and has deep knowledge of Africa challenges.

The money raised will fuel our customer acquisition and distribution in Canada, US and Africa. We are now in 5 countries, have surveyed over 10.000 respondents and collected over 200K responses with some very interesting insights in mobile banking, purchase habits, informal lending or media consumption. We recently ran a multi country study on mobile banking that was featured on Quartz Africa. We are ready to onboard customers.”

What are your long term goals with the company? 

“SOKO Insight’s vision is to empower business leaders and organizations all over the world with reliable data and actionable insights from Africa. We are building the ultimate web-based data collection platform for Africa that will provide consumer insights within two weeks. Our innovative process allows us to collect from places as small as Mali to bigger countries like Kenya. We will be the African consumer pulse engine.”

Why is your company interesting for investors?

“The Africa consumer market is estimated to be $1.2 Trillion by 2020, according to McKinsey, that’s a $40 Billion business opportunity for marketing agencies all over the world. Unfortunately more than 62% of marketers say the lack of local market data in Africa is hindering their attempts to generate insights on this fast growing market, according to a World Federation of Advertisers survey from 2015. We are providing a much-needed tool that will allow marketers to generate insights. Not in months but in days. We are looking for visionary investors who are in for the long run as it will take time to establish ourselves but when we do, sky is the limit.

Our data collection platform was built to capture data from the informal sectors in Africa. You can call our data, non-traditional data but in economies where the informal sector accounts for more than 70% of the economy, we can argue our data is the standard.

Unlike mobile collection, we can deploy long and complex surveys and maintain a high response rate and engagement. Unlike face to face, we provide an affordable data collection alternative with low operational risks. We will fit in any marketing agencies suite of data collection tools and can be used for triangular research.

We are the only platform built to scale by leveraging a grassroots’ network and the best data analytics tools. With SOKO Insight, you will be able to get insights from 20 countries in two weeks from your PC anywhere in the world.”

What are your recommendations to other entrepreneurs who are wondering what VC4Africa can do for them? 

“Just do it! Join the platform, it’s a 10 min exercise, and start connecting. For someone who isn’t full time on the continent like me, it’s a great way to know and hear about upcoming start-ups and events in Africa. So join, connect, get inspired and thrive.

Rodrigue was the first to mention VC4Africa late in 2013 around the time we incorporated SOKO. It was during one of our weekly calls where he suggested that I join. A few months later I met Adam from Karibu Solar during a meetup here in Toronto. He also saw the value in SOKO and our vision. Later that night, he introduced me to David from VC4Africa via email. The next week, I was on the platform and was featured on the homepage few weeks later.

Because of VC4Africa, Africa entrepreneurs have a face and voice now where people all over the world can see firsthand how dynamic and buoyant Africa is. I am sure it won’t be long before we see our first Africa unicorn on VC4Africa.

I have used the VC4Africa platform to meet potential investors and mentors. I visit the platform daily to check how other start-ups are doing (raises, investments, etc.). I also post information on SOKO Insight and our progress. We recently added SOKO Insight in the partner’s page. The main added value for me to join VC4Africa was the network and the connections I’ve made. Jasper Grosskurth comes in mind, he has been an informal but very effective advisor we met via VC4Africa. Really great guy. And now, with the upcoming raise, we will really test the funding raising ability of the platform.”

Anything else you’d like to add?

“We are open for business. Are you an entrepreneur looking to validate your business idea? SOKO Insight can help. Are you a marketer looking to generate insights on the African middle class? We can help. Are you a leader looking to make data driven decision? We can help. Gone are the days when getting on-the-ground data, quickly and from your computer was impossible.”

For more info about the company check out SOKO Insight’s venture profile on VC4AfricaOnly investors registered in the VC4Africa Investor Network have access to full details, documents and contacts on the VC4Africa venture profiles.