Business

Kenyan startup Wowzi raises $ 3.2 million from 4DX Ventures, co-founder of Andela, to expand across Africa

Kenyan startup Wowzi has secured new funding to expand the reach of its platform, which turns social media users into brand influencers, to western and southern Africa – as it capitalizes on the increasing use of social websites across the continent, brought about by the proliferation of smartphones and a depression is driven Internet penetration.

Wowzi, which connects social media users with advertisers and provides consumer insights, has raised a total of $ 3.2 million from investors over the past few months, including a recently completed $ 2 million seed round that led by the Africa-focused venture capital company 4DX Ventures. This was preceded by a pre-seed round worth $ 1.2 million.

Other investors in the seed round were To.org, Golden Palm Investments, LoftyInc Capital, Afropreneur Angels and Future Africa. Andela co-founder Christina Sass and former Andela executives Jessica Chervin, Justin Ziegler and Johnny Falla, currently Chief Development and Growth Officer at Wowzi, also took part in the round.

Wowzi plans to use the new investment to establish offices in Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa and look for growth opportunities beyond Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, where it currently has a physical presence. It plans to use these new hubs to reach additional countries across the continent.

“We are primarily focused on expanding in Africa and other emerging markets globally in 2022,” Wowzi co-founder and CEO Brian Mogeni told TechCrunch.

“We are also adding new product capabilities and functions as we advance our technology and add value to our communities,” he said.

Wowzi enables brands to collaborate with social media users for marketing campaigns. This is a new form of digital marketing that is deviating from the norm of using celebrities for marketing campaigns. Wowzi said that by using regular internet users, it unlocks “more authentic engagements or product recommendations” from people who interact with these brands on a daily basis.

The startup also relieves brands of the stress of managing influencers, as the platform is automated. To publish a campaign, brands filter out their preferred demographic influencer groups based on characteristics such as gender, location, occupation or income level. Wowzi then matches them with the right influencers for their needs. The brands then refine their search (based on the content shared or the level of activity) and then reach out to the influencers they want.

“Managing influencers is difficult; from making contact, negotiating, concluding contracts, ensuring delivery and timely provision of content to payment processing. It is much work. We control the whole process with the brand to make sure it is successful, ”said Falla

Categorized into Nano, Micro, Mega, Meta, and Super (celebrities), Wowzi influencers conduct marketing campaigns for brands through their social media accounts on sites like Tik Tok, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. However, the focus of Wowzi is mainly on nano and micro influencers (social media users with less than 10,000 followers).

Anyone with at least 250 (nano-influencer) connections on a social site will fit a Wowzi influencer’s profile, but interested candidates must go through several stages of verification before getting gigs.

“Brands want more authentic engagements or referrals on products from the people who use and love them, and can talk about real practical uses. Our campaigns show that nano-influencers are delivering better leads because of the higher level of trust they have in their following, ”Falla told TechCrunch.

“Brands also access a community of their most likely customers, which makes the campaigns extremely targeted for them too,” Falla said.

Wowzi co-founders (from left to right) Mike Otieno, Hassan Bashir and Brian Mogeni. Photo credits: Wowzi.

Wowzi works with creative agencies or directly with brands to help them scale their campaigns. So far it has worked with Coca Cola, Netflix, Safaricom, Diageo, P&G, and Absa Bank.

The processes are automated, which means that brands receive data that they can use to evaluate the reach of the marketing campaigns.

“We offer a really comprehensive reporting dashboard online. This allows brands to check what exactly happened, which posts were written by the influencers, which produced the best results and analyze the demographic data of the people actually reached, ”said Falla.

Wowzi is the brainchild of Mogeni, Hassan Bashir, and Mike Otieno, who co-founded the company in mid-2019, but the platform went online a day before Kenya’s president imposed the first lockdown last year. As it later found out, a window of opportunity opened as more brands realized they needed to use different marketing methods as travel and human interactions were limited.

The startup has worked with 200 brands so far, ran over 15,000 campaigns and delivered over 200,000 paid gigs to date. Wowzi has grown 20 times over the past year.

More recently, brands have been able to post market research jobs, including engaging influencers in polls or polls. This is part of Wowzi’s plan to grow beyond an influencer marketing platform to a job aggregator.

“We recently launched a market research service that enables the same brand, SMB or development agency to get information from their focus segments in a faster, more targeted and richer format,” said Mogeni.

Wowzi is currently reviewing over 1 million job vacancies at short notice to build a strong pan-African presence. This goal is achievable for the startup, which has successfully run campaigns in multiple markets in Africa, including Mauritius, Mozambique, Zambia and Cameroon.

“We recently had our first engagement in Cameroon after Netflix asked us to work with them in eight more countries. So what we saw is that we can easily scale without the need for a physical presence, ”Falla said.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 303 million people, around 28% of the population, will be connected to the mobile Internet in 2021, according to the GSMA Mobile Economy report. This number is expected to grow to around 40% of the population by 2025, providing a bigger market for internet-based companies like Wowzi.

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