Good-Loop secures $1.6m seed funding to drive social good mission- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Ethical video platform Good-Loop has secured buy-in to the tune of $1.6m, with significant investment from You & Mr Jones, a brand tech group founded by former Havas chief executive David Jones.
The seven-figure investment underscores growing social responsibility in the commercial sphere with 180 US firms agreeing to emphasise social good as much as financial performance following an announcement at The Business Roundtable.
The capital will finance the expansion of Good-Loop’s commercial team in the US and Europe.
Amy Williams, co-founder and chief executive of Good-Loop commented: “This round of funding will help Good-Loop to further our mission of connecting people, brands and good causes around the world. Bringing You and Mr Jones and our other investors into the business at this stage will add a huge amount of value above and beyond cash as we prepare to scale up our operations.
“With industry luminaries like David Jones supporting us, we’ll be well-positioned to deliver innovative marketing technology, industry-leading social insight and truly impactful brand purpose.”
Good-Loop has raised over half a million pounds for charities by helping firms such as Co-op, Unilever and Nestle to tap into programmatic technology to make good on their brand purpose commitments.

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Nigerian online-only bank startup Kuda raises $1.6M – gpgmail


Nigerian fintech startup Kuda — a digital-only retail bank — has raised $1.6 million in pre-seed funding.

The Lagos and London-based company recently launched the beta version of its online mobile finance platform. Kuda also received its banking license from the Nigerian Central Bank, giving it a distinction compared to other fintech startups.

“Kuda is the first digital-only bank in Nigeria with a standalone license. We’re not a mobile wallet or simply a mobile app piggybacking on an existing bank,” Kuda bank founder Babs Ogundeyi told gpgmail.

“We have built our own full-stack banking software from scratch. We can also take deposits and connect directly to the switch,” Ogundeyi added, referring to the Nigeria’s Central Switch — a SWIFT-like system that facilitates bank communication and settlements.

A representative for the Central Bank of Nigeria (speaking on background) confirmed Kuda’s banking license and status, telling gpgmail, “As far as I’m aware there is no other digital bank [in Nigeria] that has a micro-finance license.”

 

Kuda offers checking accounts with no monthly-fees, a free debit card, and plans to offer consumer savings and P2P payments options on its platform in coming months.

“You can open a bank account within five minutes, do all the KYC in the app, and you get issued a new bank account number,” according to Ogundeyi. Kuda bank Founder CEO Babs OgundeyiOgundeyi — a repeat founder who exited classifieds site Motortradertrader.ng and worked in a finance advisory role to the Nigerian government — co-founded Kuda in 2018 with former Stanbic Bank software developer Musty Mustapha.

The two convinced investor Haresh Aswani to lead the $1.6 million pre-seed funding, along with Ragnar Meitern and other angel investors. Aswani confirmed his investment to gpgmail and that he will take a position on Kuda’s board.

Kuda plans to use its seed funds to go from beta to live launch in Nigeria by fourth-quarter 2019. The startup will also build out the tech of its banking platform, including support for its developer team located in Lagos and Cape Town, according to Ogundeyi.

Kuda also intends to expand in the near future. “It’s Nigeria for right now, but the plan is build a Pan-African digital-only bank,” he said.

As of 2014, Nigeria has held the dual distinction as Africa’s largest economy and most populous country (with 190 million people).

To scale there, and add some physical infrastructure to its online model, Kuda has correspondent relationships with three of Nigeria’s largest financial institutions: GTBank, Access Bank and Zenith Bank.

He clarified the banks are partners and not investors. Kuda customers can use these banks’ branches and ATMs to put money into bank accounts or withdraw funds without a fee.

“Even though we don’t own a single branch, we actually have the largest branch network in the country,” Ogundeyi claimed.

Kuda’s plans to generate revenues focus largely around leveraging its bank balances. “We plan to match different liability classes to the different asset classes that we create. That’s how we make money, that’s how we get efficiency in terms of income,” Ogundeyi said.

In Nigeria, Kuda enters a potentially revenue-rich market, but its one that already hosts a crowded fintech field — as the country becomes ground zero for payments startups and tech investment in Africa.

Briter Bridges Lagos Nigeria Fintech MapIn both raw and per capita numbers, Nigeria has been slower to convert to digital payments than leading African countries, such as Kenya, according to joint McKinsey Company and Gates Foundation analysis done several years ago. The same study estimated there could be nearly $1.3 billion in revenue up for grabs if Nigeria could reach the same digital-payments penetration as Kenya.

A number of startups — established and new — are going after that prize in the West African country — several with a strategy to scale in Nigeria first before expanding outward on the continent and globally.

San Francisco-based, no-fee payment venture Chipper Cash entered Nigeria this month.

Series B-stage Nigerian payments company Paga raised $10 million in 2018 to further grow its customer base (that now tallies 13 million) and expand to Asia and Latin America.

Kuda CEO Babs Ogundeyi believes the startup can scale and compete in Nigeria on a number of factors, one being financial safety. He names the company’s official bank status and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation security that brings as something that can attract cash-comfortable bank clients to digital finance.

Ogundeyi also points to offerings and price.”We look to be the next generation bank where you can do everything— savings, payments and transfers — and also the one that’s least expensive,” he said.

 


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Inkitt raises $16M led by Kleiner Perkins to publish crowdsourced novels in ‘mini-episodes’ – gpgmail


The traditional world of publishing has been challenged hard by the digital revolution. Reading as a pastime has been in significant decline, in part because of the proliferation of screens and options for what to watch and do on them. On the other hand, Amazon has led the charge in changing the economics of publishing: the returns on book sales, and profits to publishers and writers, have all seen margins squeezed in the e-reader universe.

A Berlin-based startup called Inkitt has built a crowdsourced publishing platform to buck those trends. It believes that there is still a place for reading in our modern world, if it’s presented in the right way (more on that below), and today it is announcing a $16 million round of funding that underscores its success to date — the Inkitt community today has 1.6 million readers and 110,000 writers with some 350,000 uploaded stories, with a run-rate of $6 million from a new “bite-sized”, immersive reading app it launched earlier this year called Galatea — and its ambitions going forward.

How big are those ambitions? Ali Albazaz, Inkitt’s founder and CEO, said the mission is to build the “Disney of the 21st century.” Digital novels are just the beginning, in his view: plans include a move into audio, TV, games and film, “and maybe even theme parks.”

But before we ride a rollercoaster based on The Millennium Wolves — one of the best sellers on the platform, with $1 million in sales in the first six months of its release; 24-year-old author Sapir Englard is using her royalties to finance her jazz studies at Berklee in Boston, Massachusetts — Inkitt is starting small.

In addition to continuing to search for authors that might make good Galatea fodder, it’s going to add 10 new languages in addition to English, along with more data science to improve readership and connecting audiences with the stories that are most engaging to them. The company has sourced some of its most successful works from places like India and Israel, so the thinking is that it’s time to make sure non-English readers in those countries are also getting a look in.

“It’s a long plan, and we’re working on it step by step,” Albazaz said in an interview this week. “We are looking for the best talents and the best stories, wherever they are being told. We want to find them, unearth them and turn them into globally successful franchises.”

The Series A is being led by Kleiner Perkins, with participation also from HV Holtzbrinck Ventures, angel investor Itai Tsiddon, Xploration Capital, Redalpine Capital, Speedinvest, and Earlybird. Inkitt is not disclosing its valuation, but it had raised $5 million before this (including this seed round led by Redalpine).

Fiction for the people

Inkitt got its start several years ago with a very basic idea: an app for people (usually unsigned authors) to upload excerpts of fictional works in progress, or entire fiction manuscripts — novels specifically — to connect them with readers to provide feedback. It would gather data that it collected from these readers to provide more insights into what people wanted to read, to feed its algorithm, and to give feedback to the writers.

It was a simple concept that competed with a plethora of other places where unpublished writers can get their work out there (including Kindle).

But then, six months ago, that concept of data-based, crowdsourced writing and reading took an interesting turn with the launch of Galatea.

With this, Inkitt selects the stories that perform the best on its first app — most readers, most often completed reading, best feedback, most recommended, and so on — and its in-house team of editors and developers reformat them for Galatea as short-form, bite-sized “mini episodes” that come with specific effects attuned to each page you read to make the experience more immersive.

This includes features like sound, haptic effects like the phone vibrating with crashes and heartbeats, fire spreading across the screen in a burning moment, and a requirement for users to swipe to proceed to the next section. (It’s a fitting name for the app: Galatea was the ivory statue that Pygmalion carved that came to life.)

As Albazaz describes it, Galatea was created as a response to the generation of consumers whose attention is constantly being diverted through notifications, and who have become used to getting information in short bursts.

“Nowadays you have Snapchat, Instagram and the rest, and they all send you notifications, but when you read you need a lot of attention,” he said.

So the solution was to cut down the page size to a paragraph at a time.

“Instead of flipping pages as you would on an e-reading app, you flip paragraphs.” These take up no more than about 20% of the screen, he said.

A reader gets one “episode” (about 15 minutes of reading, with several pages of text) free every day, so in theory you could read books on Galatea without paying anything, but typically people buy credits to continue reading a bit more than that each day, and it works out on average to about $12 per book in revenue. Inkitt is now adding multiple thousands of users (installs) each day across its two apps.

In addition to making this about tailoring a reading app to what consumers are most likely to do on a screen today, it’s about rethinking the model for how to source literature to disseminate in the first place.

“We all love stories and the way we create and consume them is evolving continuously,” said KP partner Ilya Fushman. “Inkitt’s rich and dynamic story format is rapidly capturing the imagination of a new generation of readers. Their content marketplace is connecting consumers with authors around the globe to entertain and democratize publishing.”

To date, the focus has very much been on original content that Inkitt has sourced itself. The basic model leaves a lot on the table, though. For one, what about all of the literature that has already been published in the world that either hasn’t really hit the right chord yet with readers, or classics, or popular works that might just be a little more interesting with the Galatea treatment?

On the other hand, the Galatea model seems to be inherently biased towards the most obvious “hits” — page turners that are engaging from the get-go, or are written on themes that have already proven to be popular. What about the wider body of literature that might not be accessible page-turners but are definitely worthwhile reading, stories that might one day become a part of the literary canon. For every Harry Potter series, some still want and need a Finnegan’s Wake or Milkman.

Albazaz has an answer for both of those: he says that his startup has already been approached by a number of publishers to work on ways of using its platform for their own works, and so that is something you might imagine will get turned on down the line. And he acknowledged the blockbuster element of the work on the platform now, but said that as it grows and scales its audience, it will be looking for works that appeal to a wider range of tastes.

The company’s business is a veritable David to Amazon’s Goliath, but one thing Inkitt has going for it is that it offers those who will take a chance on its platform a promise of making a good return.

Albazaz claims that the average writer on Galatea earns 30 to 50 times more than what would be earned via Amazon, which he calls “a horrible partner to work with as a publisher.” He wouldn’t comment exactly on the royalties split is on Inkitt, or whether that higher figure is due to more readers or a better cut (or both), except that he said that there are simply “more readers” of your work, “making you more money.”

It’s also a more flexible platform in another regard: if you want to publish elsewhere at the same time, you can. “No one is locked in,” he said. “Our mission statement, which we have across the wall in our office, is to be the fairest and most objective publisher. That’s the only way you will discover hidden talents.”


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