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Meet the founder helping African businesses expand across borders

Tola Onayemi is CEO at Norebase, a tech company that helps African businesses scale across multiple markets using its digital platform.

In May, Norebase announced that it had secured a $1m seed funding round. The round was co-led by Samurai Incubate and Consonance Investment, with participation from Sahil Lavingia (Gumroad), Kinfolk VC, Future Africa, Ventures Platform, Microtraction, Boleh Capital, Voltron Capital, Wuri Ventures, Afropreneur and other angel investors.

Onayemi says the firm aims to “build a future where starting a business or expanding a business in any African country is as simple as clicking a single button.”

The firm says it has delivered 100% month-on-month growth in transaction volumes for the last six months, with a 40% month-on-month growth in revenue during the same period. Find out more about the company in our exclusive interview below.

African Business: What is Norebase in a nutshell?  

Tola Onayemi: As an African business if you want to scale across the continent it’s hard as a Nigerian to set up in Ghana and then if you want to expand to Kenya, for example, that’s also difficult.

You want to expand because it’s the same problems you’re trying to solve – it’s almost like copy and paste, the markets are similar, with young populations, people need jobs.

But there are all these artificial barriers. Businesses are constantly distracted by accessing other markets because they’re fragmented, so we offer a single digital platform (for expansion) where you don’t have to think about anything else apart from the business.

You can come to a single platform, can fill in a form on the platform to expand in Kenya, Ghana, Egypt, US, etc. It means in your local market you can set up quickly and get compliance done, but it also means you can get into new markets without having to figure out the logistics of it.

We want to add scale to everybody so that they can focus on solving the biggest problems of our time – one place where you can start, scale and operate from a single digital platform.  

What specific services do you provide? 

When you want to set up in new markets, our product guides you. We understand the constrictions you have and answer those questions. We can help you to get addresses in markets, sort out a nominee directorship if you need to get one, help you with trademarks.

Also we help with things like sorting out bank accounts and bylaws. We can help you set up in any African market and the US. You can focus on the core of the business.

We have engineers spending time understanding laws and codes, and we spend time with partners in different markets understanding the laws. We spend a lot of capital on understanding and testing out rules. A lot of it is legal analysis, understanding what rules say, compliance analysis. And turning it into a platform that makes sense for the user.

We spend a lot of time building our tech out. Part of it is understanding the rules intricately and building that into code and platform, and part of it is actually dealing with requests.  

You’ve successfully announced a fundraising, what does that mean for the future? 

We’re growing incredibly fast. We’re solving a big problem and we’re looking for the best talent for the team. It’s a large problem in large markets and we want the best talent. And we spend a lot of time on tech, freelancers, remote workers.

We’re also doubling down on legal engineers who are spending time understanding the laws and rules. So we’re doubling down on pretty much everything – talent, technology, growth, legal engineering and research.

We were very conscious of how we targeted investors. We’re solving a problem that not everyone else is trying to do, that’s underinvested. We were looking for investors spread across the continent who could provide support, and we’ve had a lot of that – introductions to partners, customers and collaborators.

Later this month we are going to Egypt to meet with a ministry, and that came out of our investors. We’ve got investors everywhere across continent that we knew can bring serious value. We wanted to get the best support.

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This interview originally appeared in Tech54, a newsletter produced by African Business and Briter Bridges rounding up the most exciting developments in the world of African tech. Subscribe to the newsletter here.