Two digital platforms have partnered to broaden the reach of African companies that are looking to access institutional capital, including trade finance.

The partnership is between Asoko Insight, a corporate data platform that provides information on privately held companies in Africa, and Orbitt, an Africa-focused deal origination and processing platform. The collaboration is aimed at matching the funding requirements of the companies on the Asoko platform with the global investors and investment intermediaries on the Orbitt platform.

“Asoko captures and builds out profiles on companies – we’ve built a database of over 50,000 of them so far across the continent. A certain percentage of those companies, when submitting information to us, also provide information on their funding requirements,” Obi Ejimofo, Asoko’s chief innovation officer, tells GTR.

Over the past 18 months, Asoko has run physical “deal rooms” at a variety of African events, connecting high potential companies with active investors to test the quality of its deal origination pipeline.

The partnership with Orbitt effectively digitises that process.

“The Orbitt partnership makes perfect sense: the ability to create that matchmaking opportunity without the need for a physical handshake is really the way to go,” says Ejimofo.

Companies that submit their information to Asoko are able to indicate who they would like to see their information sent on to. Following a certain amount of “high-level due diligence and validation” by Asoko, this information is then passed on to Orbitt.

It marks the first step towards a much deeper partnership between the two platforms as they seek to drive the development of a “more mature, highly efficient and data-driven technology investment ecosystem” in Africa, says a release issued by Orbitt.

“Over the next six months we will go through a number of feedback loops and determine – from both sides – the best way to continue to improve that feed,” Ejimofo adds.


Trade finance opportunities

Orbitt’s platform, launched in March 2017, aims to make African deal-making “smarter” by connecting investors, businesses and intermediaries involved in trade and investment, and essentially digitising their business development and fundraising processes.

The company seeks to address the mismatch in capital allocation across Africa by connecting investors with firms looking to raise between US$5mn and US$50mn. Orbitt offers platform members tools such as deal tracking and digital NDAs to replace the traditional methods of Excel and Outlook and reduce the time taken between introductions and acceptance of term sheet. Its onboarding team pre-vets all opportunities before they are passed on to investors.

At the end of Q1 the company added a services element to the platform, allowing investment intermediaries – lawyers, accountants, corporate services, and so forth – to be digitally matched with companies that require their services.

The trade finance asset class, although being a relatively new addition to Orbitt’s platform, is the fastest growing: in January 2018 there were US$40mn-worth of active screened trade finance investment opportunities on the platform. In March 2019, that figure had shot up to US$204mn.

Orbitt’s co-founders Will Hunnam and Lanre Oloniniyi both come from a private equity background, having run portfolio companies for investors and raising capital as advisors.

“In the first year of Orbitt we realised that the origination challenge that investors were experiencing for private equity was the same for structured debt,” Hunnam tells GTR, explaining the reason behind building out the platform’s trade finance capabilities.

Having identified the opportunity, the company set out to build out its contacts in the trade finance space and research trade flows across the continent. “Compared to foreign direct investment flows, for trade finance there are much greater volumes in terms of capital. There is also a higher deal velocity, and a much-needed demand – with greater impact,” Hunnam adds.

In addition to its deal origination and processing capabilities, Orbitt is also dedicated to raising awareness of trade finance as an asset class which, within the African investment ecosystem, is not as predominant as private equity or private debt.

“We are excited about being able to inform African businesses about the access to all the options of raising capital through trade finance, and – through the platform – being able to supply the investors, banks and funds who we’ve built relationship with, with pre-vetted opportunities across Africa,” says Oloniniyi.