Branch International, a Nairobi/San Francisco-based mobile micro-finance Startup has secured a $9.2 million round of funding from Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. The funds will boost Branch’s expansion across the East African region and source local talent for its operations.
Branch is a FinTech profit-driven company providing credit, that aims to become the largest branchless bank in emerging markets like Africa. Branch uses technology (mobile app) to dramatically reduce the cost of delivering financial services to those in need. Currently, Branch is operational in Kenya and Tanzania. Download the Branch App on Google Store
The round of funding was led by Andreessen Horowitz, a prestigious US-based Venture Capital firm that has previously backed top international technology companies such as Facebook and Airbnb. Seed investors Khosla Impact and Formation 8 also participated in funding round. Alex Rampell, the partner at Andreessen Horowitz, who invested on behalf of the fund had this to say about the deal:
“…credit is not evenly distributed — people who have the means, motivation, and opportunity to repay are nonetheless denied access to credit every day by an archaic and byzantine system. It usually comes down to this catch-22 in the developed world: You can’t get access to credit unless you have a credit score, and you can’t get a credit score unless you have access to credit”.
The company disbursed its first loan in Tanzania, marking an important milestone towards its goal to expand to several African countries and disburse 1,000,000 additional loans to its customers. Already, around 150,000 people in Kenya are using the app and the Branch App enjoys a 5* rating on the Google Play Store. On average, each customer has taken out 3 loans each, ranging from KSh250 ($2.5) to KSh50,000 ($500). The loans are typically approved within minutes, which makes the process smooth and stress-free for its customers.
“Over the last few months we’ve been growing rapidly”, Founder and CEO Matt Flannery said. “With this latest round of funding, we’re able to expand further to meet the huge demand for our credit product in Kenya and enter new markets.” Flannery founded Branch after a decade of founding and running Kiva.org, the micro-lending website that today operates across 80 countries.
The combination of smartphones, digital money, and machine learning offers an opportunity to leapfrog old-fashioned credit infrastructure, and that’s precisely what Branch is doing. It’s like a combination of proprietary credit bureau and bank all in one, all wrapped into an Android app that anyone can download. It works by referencing the data on your phone, with your permission, for underwriting. Once the loan is approved, the funds are transmitted instantly, digitally, via M-Pesa.
“Our product is simple. Forget about bank queues and month-long processes. Branch is like a bank in your pocket, there for you at all times”, explained Daniel Szlapak, Africa Director. “The proprietary technology we have developed means that we are able to charge lower interest rates than our competition, and reward users who repay on time with lower fees, larger loan amounts and more flexible repayment terms as they continue to use the app.”
The socially conscious technology company launched the Branch app in May 2015 to provide financial services to the rapidly expanding middle class in Kenya through its innovative Android phone application. It uses advanced data science to calculate a credit score for its customers by analyzing the information on their phone such as call and SMS history. This enables Branch to meet the growing demand for credit among millions of Kenyans and disburse loans within minutes into customers’ mobile money wallets, while maintaining low default rates.