Pula, a Kenyan insurtech startup that specialises in digital and agricultural insurance coverage to derisk hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers throughout Africa, has closed a Series A funding of $6 million.
The spherical was led by Pan-African early-stage enterprise capital agency, TLcom Capital, with participation from nonprofit Women’s World Banking. The increase comes after Pula closed $1 million in seed funding from Rocher Participations with help from Accion Venture Lab, Omidyar Network and a number of other angel traders in 2018.
Founded by Rose Goslinga and Thomas Njeru in 2015, Pula delivers agricultural insurance coverage and digital merchandise to assist smallholder farmers navigate local weather dangers, enhance their farming practices and bolster their incomes over time.
Agriculture insurance coverage has historically relied on farm enterprise. In the U.S. or Europe with sometimes massive farms, a median insurance coverage premium is $1,000. But in Africa, the place smallholding or small-scale farms are the norms, the quantity stands at a median of $4.
It is especially telling that the worth of agricultural insurance coverage premiums in Africa represents lower than 1 % of the world’s complete when the continent has 17 % of the world’s arable land.
This disparity stems from the truth that the standard methodology of calculating insurance coverage by means of farm visits is commonly unaffordable for these smallholder farmers. Thus, they’re usually uncared for from monetary safety towards local weather dangers like flood, drought, pestilence and hail.
Pula is fixing this downside through the use of know-how and information. Through its Area Yield Index Insurance product, the insurtech startup leverages machine studying, crop cuts experiments and information factors regarding climate patterns and farmer losses, to construct merchandise that cater to varied dangers.
But getting farmers on board has by no means been simple, Goslinga instructed TechCrunch. According to her, Pula has understood to not promote insurance coverage on to small-scale farmers, as a result of they’ll undergo from optimism bias. “Some suppose a local weather catastrophe wouldn’t hit their farms for a specific season; therefore, they don’t ask for insurance coverage initially. But in the event that they witness any of those local weather dangers through the season, they might need to get insurance coverage, which is counterproductive to Pula,” mentioned the founder in a cellphone name.
So the startup as an alternative companions with banks. Banks present loans to farmers and make it obligatory for them to have insurance coverage. With the mortgage, banks pays the insurance coverage on behalf of the farmers at the beginning of the season. But on the finish of the season, the farmer has to repay the mortgage with curiosity.
“The unit economics doesn’t work for us to work with farmers immediately. But with banks, we all know they supply loans to farmers with significantly better margins to pay for insurance coverage. Also, we work along with authorities subsidy applications since they’re additionally all for defending their farmers.”
Through its partnerships with banks, governments and agricultural enter corporations, Pula is on the heart of an ecosystem that gives insurance coverage to smallholder farmers and has amassed 50 insurance coverage companions and 6 reinsurance companions.
Its clientele contains the likes of the World Food Programme and Central Bank of Nigeria in addition to the Zambian and Kenyan governments. Social enterprises like One Acre Fund, startups like Apollo Agriculture, and agribusiness giants like Flour Mills and Export Trading Group are additionally amongst Pula’s shoppers.
Co-CEOs with agricultural backgrounds
When Goslinga met Njeru in 2008, she labored for Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA). There, she began Kilimo Salama, as a micro-insurance program for greater than 200,000 farmers in Kenya and Rwanda. She met Njeru who was the lead actuary at UAP Insurance, a accomplice to the Kilimo Salama program, on the time.
After staying with Syngenta for six years and recognising the necessity to present normal insurance coverage merchandise for smallholder farmers, Goslinga left to start out Pula with Njeru in 2015. However, it wasn’t till two years later that Njeru joined fulltime as he had a six-year engagement with Deloitte South Africa from 2012 as a advisor actuary. The pair each act as co-CEOs.
“When Thomas and I launched Pula in 2015, we had one objective in thoughts: to construct and ship scalable insurance coverage options for Africa’s 700 million smallholder farmers,” Goslinga mentioned. “With our newest funding, now could be the time to interrupt into new floor. In our 5 years since launching, we’ve constructed sturdy traction for our merchandise. However, the actual fact stays that throughout Africa and different rising markets, there are nonetheless hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers with dangers to their livelihoods that haven’t been coated.”
According to Goslinga, the COVID-19 pandemic helped Pula double its footprint and dimension as rural farming actions and operations continued regardless of pandemic-induced lockdowns.
Therefore, the brand new financing will scale up operations in its present 13 markets throughout Africa, the place it has insured over 4.three million farmers. They embrace Senegal, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. Likewise, the Kenyan startup hopes to propel its growth for smallholder farmers in Asia and Latin America.
Pula is likely one of the few African startups disrupting the farming trade with know-how. Its Series A funding attests that traders’ urge for food for agritech startups continues to be on the rise.
Per week in the past, Aerobotics, a South African startup that makes use of synthetic intelligence to assist farmers shield their timber and fruits from dangers, raised a Series B spherical of $17 million. Last month, SunCulture, a Kenyan startup that gives solar energy methods, water pumps and irrigation methods for small-scale farmers, raised $14 million.
South African startup Aerobotics raises $17M to scale its AI-for-agriculture platform
Another startup is Apollo Agriculture which raised $6 million Series A, akin to Pula. Not solely did the pair increase the identical spherical, Apollo Agriculture and Pula each cope with offering monetary sources to smallholder farmers. But whereas each corporations may seem like rivals, even to the admission of Goslinga, she argues that the startups are companions and complement one another.
As a part of the brand new fundraise, TLcom’s senior accomplice Omobola Johnson will be a part of Pula’s board. However, it was her colleague, Maurizio Caio, the agency’s managing accomplice, who had one thing to say concerning the spherical.
“The potential for the insurance coverage marketplace for smallholder farmers in Africa is big, and beneath the management of Rose and Thomas, Pula has quickly established a robust presence all through the continent and has a number of high-profile shoppers on their books. We are assured of Pula’s potential for development regardless of the pandemic and look ahead to partnering with them as they execute the subsequent section of their journey,” he mentioned in an announcement.
For the lead investor, Pula’s funding marks the end result of its busiest run of investments having led and co-led rounds in Okra, Shara, Autochek and Ilara Health inside the previous yr.
Christina Juhasz, CIO at Women’s World Banking, the opposite investor within the spherical, defined that the organisation minimize a verify for Pula “given the legions of ladies engaged in small-hold farming and securing the meals provide for communities across the globe.”