BIG5D Podcast Episode 24: Africa 118/Taskmoby Founder Ezana Raswork
"There is a massive amount of work going on behind the scenes supporting small businesses."
Episode 24 of the BIG5D Podcast features Ezana Raswork, founder and CEO of Africa 118, an East African local search platform, and of Taskmoby, an on-demand home services marketplace platform based in Ethiopia.
Taskmoby connects consumers with vetted service providers, including domestic workers, plumbers, electricians, with more categories coming.
Taskmoby made news recently when it was named as one of 50 startups receiving investments from the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund in Africa.
This is a meaningful award. Google has invested $3 million in the fund, which translates into non-dilutive cash investments up to $100,000. The award also includes Google Ads and Google Cloud credits worth up to $220,000, plus mentorship and technical support.
“It’s fantastic,” Ezana, an Ethiopian, said of the award. “It’s an award that recognizes African founders and helps us get to the next level.”
The startup investments come amid Google’s announcement that it plans to invest $1 billion in Africa over the next five years.
Google’s focus on African founders comes at a time of increasing scrunity over the racial disparities in venture funding in Africa. Expat founders are widely perceived to be given preferential treatment from investors over native African founders.
Several requirements of the Google Fund are designed to ensure that genuinely African companies get their support. These include requiring at least one black C-suite founder and having both headquarters and legal presence in Africa.
Ezana said that even he was surprised at the extent of the disparity.
“One stat that I didn’t know was, they’re telling me, that in East Africa only 10% of funds are going to black African founders,” Ezana said.
Our conversation with Ezana also focused on Africa’s on-demand home services market, which we wrote about last week.
Specifically, we discussed the challenges in building a two-sided marketplace for home services in Africa. And why, at least thus far, investors have stayed largely on the sidelines, at least when compared with other sectors like fintech and eCommerce.
However, Ezana says development agencies do take an interest in this space, largely because it can play a positive role in job creation.
Some progress was made recently on the venture funding front when Nigerian home services platform Eden Life raised a $1.4 million seed round.
Episode 24 of the BIG5D Podcast is supported by Matchcraft, a global martech company powering local search, social, and display campaigns. Matchcraft has introduced “Powered By”, a solution that productizes its suite of APIs, giving third-party platforms access to the technology behind its flagship AdVantage platform. Visit Matchcraft.com for more.
Here are some key passages from Episode 24.
What will be the impact of Google’s investments in Taskmoby?
“As a start up anything that helps you move forward financially is a great thing. We were on a couple of calls with the other startups, and you also get a network of people that are like minded, facing the same challenges. All that is hugely valuable. And then being able to hop on calls and ask questions. So we are very grateful for all of that. And this is specifically around targeting black African founders and trying to solve a funding gap in that area. So we're lucky to be part of that.”
What is Taskmoby’s mission?
“The backdrop that I think is important within the African context is the massive unemployment rate. In Ethiopia, the unemployment rate among people that graduate from plumbing school is 70%. What's broken is the job market. Essentially, the people don't get placed into position, they're graduating, they're getting certification, but they actually don't get jobs. So I think the way that we look at it is as a placement platform for these people who have certification, but no experience.”
What’s the funding environment like for on-demand home services in Africa?
“Taskmoby is actually quite a mission-driven business. If you look at talk to anybody on the team, the first thing they'll tell you is we're giving jobs to young people. So that the mission side of it actually becomes the main driver…And what we have found is that development partners are easier to talk to around this. And I think that the impact investors probably will be there.”
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