South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and the startup scene in Johannesburg is something to behold. The recent list of startups in Johannesburg alone gives you an overwhelming compilation of tech companies on the verge of wider success.
However, only a few truly stand out with potential to reach across the world. One of those is Ovamba, a startup out of Johnnesburg focusing on financially helping small to medium-sized businesses.
As a Graduate of our Johannesburg Founder Institute program, their business journey is an inspiring one. Their most recent success was becoming a finalist in the 2017 Benzinga Global Fintech Awards under the category of "Best Under-Banked or Emerging Market Solution."
Let's take a look at Ovamba's mission, the woman who founded it, and what its future is in the African business funding marketplace.
Viola Llewellyn from Cameroon
We're always happy when we can introduce the brilliant women who make the startup scene so inspirational. Viola Llewellyn from Cameroon is the founder of Ovamba, though worked with co-founder Marvin Cole to start the company. Both of them started this business as a company mission to give opportunity to fellow African businesses struggling to grow.
Their service allows easier access to funding so businesses in Africa don't have to go through the continent's overly complex banking systems.
The problems they attempted to solve focused squarely on how poorly banks treat startups in Africa. First, the founders honed in on how ill-equipped African banks are in loaning money to new businesses. Llewellyn and Cole knew all too well how these banks often renege on loaning money to businesses with no track records.
In many ways, Viola Llewellyn has saved Africa's business economy by building on a 2015 prediction from Bill Gates.
Llewellyn's Vision for Digital Banking
Back in 2015, Bill Gates noted digital banking would become the answer to helping businesses thrive in Africa. While Ovamba was already up and running by then (they opened in 2013), it's a standout in making Gates' vision a reality. Llewellyn and Cole already had a substantial background in the world of finance and technology.
Bringing this expertise to their platform was something nobody had accomplished, perhaps out of fear of fighting back with the banks. All investing methods through Ovamba occur on mobile devices, making busy startup owners capable of obtaining money while on the go.
Alternative banking platforms aren't really a new concept considering companies like LendingClub and Prosper already exist in America. Ovamba, though, focuses strictly on African markets, giving it a huge reach from the get-go.
Using the site is also simplified as much as possible. You can sign up as an investor or as a business. The latter can simply apply directly through the site. It's easy to add key information about your business into your profile.
Due diligence is the main focus, and the site gives decisions on funds within 48 hours. You'll receive an offer based on your risk profile.
The Future Outlook for Ovamba
With up to 24 million small and medium-sized businesses being underserved by banks in Africa, you can see how successful Ovamba can soon become. Thanks to Viola Llewellyn being cited recently as a leading woman in tech, she's also serving many of the struggling African women trying to create enterprises there.
It's these additional underserved markets where Ovamba is going to thrive. Now that they have a base office in Chevy Chase, Maryland, they may soon try to compete in the American alternative banking arena.
There's still plenty room for their service around the world, even if they change the African business climate first as the ultimate victory.