Jambo, a three-month old company building a Web 3 super app for Africa, has raised $7.5 million in seed funding from an array of prominent backers in the crypto industry, including Delphi Ventures, Coinbase Ventures and Three Arrows Capital.
A super app is a one-stop mobile application for multiple services such as ride-hailing, banking, communication and food delivery. Examples include China’s WeChat, India’s Paytm, and southeast Asia’s Grab, which was valued at $40 billion ahead of its U.S. share-listing last year.
Jambo wants to introduce young Africans to Web 3 financial ecosystems through play-to-earn gaming and decentralized finance (DeFi) services including currency exchanges and remittances.
“Honestly, anything that helps in Africa – send money, save money, make money – is what we’re testing off of the super app,” co-founder and CEO James Zhang said in an interview, adding that the core of Jambo is a digital wallet.
Africa has been a fast adopter of crypto: The continent’s crypto market grew by over $100 billion between July 2020 and June 2021, according to the World Economic Forum, which translates into value growth of about 1,200%.
Zhang grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and said his family had been in Africa for three generations. After graduating from NYU in 2017 with a degree in computer science, he ran a crypto fund for four years before starting work on Jambo.
According to a press statement shared with CoinDesk, other backers include Alameda Research and AllianceDAO. Jambo has also garnered the support of angel investors like Do Kwon, co-founder and CEO of Terraform Labs, Sandeep Nailwal, co-founder and CEO of Polygon, and Web 3 investor Santiago R. Santos.
“What WeChat did in China, Jambo will do in Africa,” Santos said in the statement.
Zhang told CoinDesk that Jambo’s first goal is to educate young people in Africa about Web 3 and introduce them to the financial opportunities it offers. One target user-base for Jambo is university students: In 2019, around 50% of university graduates in Africa were unemployed, according to the African Center for Economic Transformation.
Since January, Jambo has signed up over 12,000 students across 15 African nations including Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Nigeria and Ethiopia to complete a Web 3 curriculum, designed to allow students to explore opportunities in play-to-earn and DeFi, the statement said.
“We’re literally going campus by campus. We’re, I think, signing on one to two per week, started about a month ago. We’re at around more than six college campuses already. Hoping to enter 10 or 15 by the end of [March],” Zhang said.
The startup is setting up local teams and offices in 15 countries to test and provide services that cater to the diversity of communities and nations across the continent, according to Zhang.
“We have the long-term vision of realizing financial prosperity for billions across the continent and are committed to fostering the next generation of Web 3 innovators, builders, and creators,” he said.
The funds raised will go into operations and testing the app, which will go live late this year.