Releaf, a Nigerian-American based organisation has secured a $120,000 investment from Y Combinator, the world’s leading early startup investor, to upscale its solution in Nigeria.
A press statement by the organization made available to Daily Trust said the initiative was launched by Nigerian Americans that have attended the likes of Yale, Duke, and MIT.
Releaf connects Nigerian agribusinesses to customers they can trust.
The three founders Ikenna Nzewi, Uzoma Ayogu, and Isaiah Udotong are all Nigerian-Americans, with Engineering and Computer Science backgrounds. Prior to launching the company, the founders worked at Bain, GE, and Facebook, respectively.
The team said they were inspired to work in Nigerian agriculture by Former Minister of Agriculture and current President of African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina.
The three founders spent the past several months, working to understand the challenges for businesses in Nigerian agriculture. Through hundreds of calls and several trips on-ground, the group continued to hear that one of the largest challenges these businesses face is obtaining buyers for their products.
Co-founder Ikenna says, “Existing portals with thousands of random businesses do not facilitate many true business connections, because most business primarily originates through word of mouth. There is less upfront trust in African business, so potential business partners need to be verified and connected to someone you trust.”
Unlike conventional B2B models where sellers post what they sell and wait for buyers, Releaf’s platform allows sellers to bid for active buyer contracts. Sellers with mutual contacts to the buyer are given preference.
Sellers register and indicate which commodities they are looking to sell. They are presented with a list verified buyer contracts for those commodities and they apply to fulfill them. Releaf verifies the seller and allows the buyer to decide if they would like to discuss the contract.
Instead of cold inquires being sent to buyers, contacting is directly facilitated by Releaf to ensure a 90% response rate from clients.
Chief Executive Officer of Releaf,Isaiah Udotong said one of key benefits on the platform is when businesses provide more information about who they work with, they increase the likelihood of the platform informing them of a mutual connection shared with a buyer contract holder adding that “If Chima Amechi has 5 business relationships and Ade Olutobi has 5 business relationships, their connection can result in each of them gaining 5 new business relationships.”
Udotong, further explained that “Our vision is to make doing business in Africa easier. For too long, reliable businesses has been restricted to few trusted partners and have not found success finding partners on B2B sites. At Releaf, we believe with a larger trusted business network, private sector growth can be stimulated across the African continent.”
Releaf’s business network is referral-driven. Companies with mutual ties are also recommended to connect with one another as done on Facebook.
Sharing more trusted business contacts will increase the chance of finding a mutual connection with a buyer. Having mutual contacts makes it 5x more likely to secure a contract.
This fall, the team plans to relocate to Nigeria and scale the business on-ground. The company, operating in stealth thus far, has already verified over 600 agribusinesses and facilitated over 100 connections, but they are now publicly allowing agribusinesses to apply for verification.
Releaf aims to map out Nigerian agriculture in its entirety over the next 12 months by registering 20,000 businesses.
Though currently focused on Nigerian Agriculture, the company aims to serve as a central platform that powers African trade in the future.