Six months ago, Eloho Omame, the Managing Director of Endeavor Nigeria and Odunayo Eweniyi, the Co-founder/Chief Operations Officer of Piggyvest launched FirstCheck Africa to make it easier for women in Africa to raise venture-backed capital and invest in technology startups.
FirstCheck Africa announced then that it would invest up to $25,000 each in “ridiculously early” startups led by women in Africa.
So what has the female-focused angel fund been up to? It says “it has been meeting founders, evaluating startups and writing our first pre-seed checks to help more startups led by women launch.”
It has so far received over 200 applications from female founders and startups with diverse teams and almost 100 pitches in 6 months from founders building in agriculture, clean energy, fintech, education, healthcare and retail, amongst others; and leveraging technology like machine learning & AI to build differentiated propositions.
Today, FirstCheck Africa has announced its first four portfolio companies, led by female founders in three different African countries. They are Foondamate (South Africa), Healthtracka (Nigeria), Tushop (Kenya), and Zoie Health (South Africa).
Meet the new portfolio companies of FirstCheck Africa
1. Foondamate, led by Dacod Magagula & Tao Boyle (Cape Town, South Africa): Foondamate helps students with limited internet access study online through low-data platforms like WhatsApp.
Dacod & Tao’s Inspiration for Foondamate
Dacod & Tao had very different experiences of education while growing up in South Africa. Dacod attended a poorly-resourced school outside Mbombela, Mpumalanga, where he was the only student with access to a personal computer. This had a profound impact on his life: he graduated top of his class and was the first person from the school ever to be accepted to UCT, Africa’s top university.
While studying computer science, Dacod met Tao, an Economics student, who had attended a private school in the suburbs in Cape Town. Dacod and Tao were struck by their vastly different educational experiences and became obsessed with improving education at scale. The co-founders believe that talent is equally distributed but opportunity is not, and are determined to level the playing field, by making it possible for anyone from anywhere to educate themselves, even with limited access to technology.
Inspired to launch their startup at the height of the global pandemic in 2020, Foondamate has already been used by 140,000 students across three continents in more than 25 countries. By helping students search the internet, define words, download practice questions & answers and solve maths equations via WhatsApp, Foondamate is a game-changer.
2. Healthtracka, led by Ifeoluwa Dare-Johnson (Lagos, Nigeria): Healthtracka is a digital health platform that allows users to order laboratory tests from the privacy of home, receive fast, accurate test results and book virtual 1-on-1 doctors’ reviews.
Ifeoluwa’s Inspiration for HealthTracka
After losing a loved one to an undiagnosed condition, Ifeoluwa was determined to put diagnostic tests within every Nigerian’s reach. The doctors told her family that her close relative had undiagnosed hypertension and diabetes. Both conditions went untreated for so long that they eventually led, sadly, to a stroke. It was heartbreaking that simple routine testing could have saved his life.
Unfortunately, millions of Nigerians have no idea about their health status until it has degenerated into an emergency. Late diagnosis is a huge problem, leading to shorter lifespans and more expensive healthcare. The future of health care is prevention. Healthtracka is empowering every Nigerian with actionable insights into their health.
3. Tushop, led by Cathy Chepkemboi (Nairobi, Kenya): Tushop is a social commerce company that aggregates community-level demand for groceries to help its end-customers access better prices and convenient delivery.
Cathy’s Inspiration for Tushop
The journey started in 2014 when Cathy joined Unilever as a Graduate Trainee. She had a pivotal experience while managing one of the FMCG company’s distributors for six months, leaving the experience with a humbling appreciation of the sheer volume of the groceries sector and a conviction that the supply chain was broken. There were too many middlemen that made the supply chain process expensive, siloed, and cumbersome. After Unilever, Cathy worked at a furniture e-commerce startup in Nairobi, Moko, focusing on B2C sales. Two more things became clear. First, there is a huge opportunity within social commerce, and second, the Kenyan social commerce process is also broken. There were no CRMs, and non-existent logistics & payments integrations made deliveries and reconciliations a nightmare.
Tushop is a culmination of Cathy’s experiences at Unilever and Moko. She believes that by creating an integrated product that has both online (social & payments) and offline (logistics & warehousing) elements, Tushop will deliver cheaper groceries conveniently for Kenya’s mass market. Tushop’s vision is to build strong and resilient communities, and the team is hustling to make this vision a reality.
4. Zoie Health, led by Thato Schermer & Nonhlanhla Sitole (Johannesburg, South Africa): Zoie Health is a digital health & wellness platform that facilitates virtual consults, home consults and delivery of contraceptive & health test kits for women and the people they love.
Thato & Nonie’s Inspiration for Zoie Health
Thato and Nonie have both had disappointing experiences with women’s healthcare services. When Thato first went for a contraceptive consult with an OBGYN in 2019, it lasted 10 minutes, and she was charged $100 for the consult alone. She couldn’t believe how a basic healthcare service needed by 50% of the population was so expensive. Similarly, when Nonie — a medical doctor – went through the difficulties of post-partum depression, which is relatively common in women after giving birth, she found that she didn’t have access to community, support or the best care.
Armed with Nonie’s clinical expertise and Thato’s technology & healthcare experience (with Uber and Life Healthcare), they are changing the experience for others, by building a technology-enabled solution that will make women’s healthcare services more accessible, affordable, convenient and caring, all on the foundation of a community.