Africa’s Savannah Fund And Google’s Eric Schmidt Invest In Binu Mobile Via $2 Million Round
Savannah Fund, a new African venture capital outfit founded by Erik Hersman, Paul Bragiel and Mbwana Alliy, has contributed to a $2 million fundraising round for biNu mobile, a mobile app platform that brings iPhone-like experiences to low-end smartphones and feature phones.
biNu was founded 18 months ago in Australia by Dave Turner and Gour Lentell- Australian entrepreneurs with several years of experience in the technology, wireless and Internet industries. Since then, biNu has amassed over 4 million active monthly users around the world, of which 1 million are in Africa.
More than half of the world’s population owns a mobile phone, but less than half of that number have regular access to a computer and the Internet. In Africa, over 100 million people access the Internet through their mobile phones, even with all its inconveniences- small screens, tiny keyboards, limited hardware capacity and slower, yet expensive wireless networks. It’s usually individuals with sophisticated smartphones who easily gain access to the Internet. People with low-end mobiles aren’t as privileged.
BiNu’s model is as simple as it is exciting. The company developed a patented software platform that delivers Internet apps and services such as Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, live sports scores and news to low-end phones on 2G (GPRS / EDGE) with quick response times and efficient use of network bandwidth.
BiNu is built for speed. According to information available on its website, biNu “processes all application logic on ‘back-end’ servers, transmits end-user data efficiently over wireless networks, minimises processing on a user’s mobile device and responds instantly through extensive pre-caching and caching of data.”
Savannah Fund, an African-focused accelerator fund, was officially launched in June this year and aims to find and invest in early stage, high growth web and mobile startups addressing the Sub-Saharan Africa market. The fund typically makes investments in the $25,000 to $500,000 region.
While Savannah Fund’s mandate is to invest in African tech startups and companies, it comes as a surprise that its first investment is in an Australian company. On why Savannah opted to look outside Africa for its first inaugural investment, Mbwana Alliy, a founding partner of the fund, said that Savannah Fund will invest in any company around the world that serves an African user base.
“Yes, biNu is an Australian company, but the company has over 1 million of its users in Africa. Africa is one of the high growth areas they will focus on. There are a lot of synergies for us to add value together and also serve entrepreneurs in Africa who need to distribute content to Africans. Ideally Africans are best positioned to create companies serving Africans but that’s not always the case. BiNu is able to get 1M users in Africa being in Australia- that’s fantastic and we will help them grow more in Africa which benefits Africans,” Alliy said via email correspondence. Alliy did not disclose what portio of the $2 million Savannah Fund invested.
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