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Backed by YC, Shekel Mobility is building a neobank and trading platform for car dealers in Africa

Shekel Mobility has secured $1.95 million in pre-seed funding to pursue its ambition of building the largest Auto dealership ecosystem powering $10 billion dollars by 2025.

Backed by YC, Shekel Mobility is building a neobank and trading platform for car dealers in Africa
Shekel Mobility co-founders: Sanmi Olukanmi and Benjamen Oladokun 

In Africa, small and medium-scale car dealers make up almost 82% of the car dealership market, and most of these dealers sell used cars at high prices due to inadequate financing. In emerging markets like Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and large parts of Latin America the average of institutional credit in automotive transactions is about 65% to 70%, but it is less than 2% across most parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Although mobility fintech companies are springing up across the continent to solve the vehicle financing challenges, most of them target the established car dealers who make up 18% of the car dealership market or consumers. “Auto dealers are the most critical stakeholders in the automobile value chain. Yet, they have been neglected up until now,” Sanmi Olukanmi, CEO and co-founder at Shekel Mobility told Benjamindada.com.

To bridge the funding gap for auto dealers on the continent, Sanmi and his co-founders; Benjamen Oladokun and Valentine Mayaki—all alumni of Obafemi Awolowo University, Osun state, Nigeria—founded Shekel Mobility, an African neobank and trading platform for car dealers in 2021 (the company was fully launched in 2022).

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The trio have worked for over 15 years in the African mobility ecosystem, in 2015, they co-founded Eazypapers, a digital vehicle documentation platform and fleet management provider in Nigeria.

“Although Eazypapers was rewarding, it did not make the kind of impact we wanted to create in the mobility space. We started Shekel Mobility to digitise operations and also provide financing for dealers who are often neglected because they are perceived as the ‘big boys’ in the ecosystem.” Benjamen, Shekel Mobility, co-founder and chief business officer said. “Our goal is to ensure that every auto dealer in Africa and other emerging markets is able to access the right kind of capital to maximize the opportunities available”.

The Nigeria-based mobility fintech recently secured $1.95 million in pre-seed funding to pursue its ambition of building the largest Auto dealership ecosystem powering $10 billion dollars by 2025. The funding round was led by Ventures Platform with participation from other strategic investors including Y Combinator, Voltron Capital, Zedcrest and other angel investors.

“We are delighted to have partnered early with the team at Shekel as investors. Their innovative model fits into our thesis of “market creation” for the auto industry in a manner that we believe is truly scalable and transformative. Benjamen & Sanmi’s deep experience in the Auto Industry is a massive asset for the business, and we are excited to see the growth that is to come,” Kola Aina, founding partner of Ventures Platform, told Benjamindada.com.

Shekel Mobility is also one of the African startups in the Y Combinator 2023 winter batch.

How does Shekel Mobility work?

To access credit from the mobility fintech, pre-approved dealers are required to provide at least 30% of the value of the vehicle they intend to purchase, Shekel Mobility disburses the 70% after vetting and validating the corresponding documents. Once the vehicle is purchased, it is housed in an approved car lot—the company also intends to own its car lot(s) in the coming months.

The company also provides dealers with assistance when they are unable to meet up with the stipulated time for the selling of the vehicle, they either help the dealer to sell it to a consumer or another dealer on the mobility fintech’s dealers’ network. “I have been able to buy and sell more cars than I used to before onboarding with Shekel,” according to Deebrainny Autos, a Nigerian SME car dealer who has used the mobility fintech for over six months.

Since its launch, Shekel Mobility has over 1000 car dealers in its network and has actively financed about 3500 vehicles worth $20 million—powering over $2 million transactions on a monthly basis. “Due to our credit model, we have a 0% default rate,” Benjamen said. “This is because we do not just offer credit but we have built an operating system for the dealers to run their transactions.”

In Q1 2023, the company wants to grow its transactions from 20% to 100% month-on-month. “Limited access to credit from financial institutions is one of our major challenges,” Sanmi said. Most of our funding comes from non-traditional institutions and VCs, However, we are seeing a future where these financial institutions will be willing to partner with us.”

Although Shekel Mobility still leverages its equity funding, the company is now prioritizing getting more debt funding to push its business model across the continent and other emerging markets.

According to Sanmi, renewable energy transportation will be a frontline thought as the conversations around climate change will continue.

"For Nigeria, the global recession might not affect the auto industry in Nigeria partly because of the value of the dollar—as the ratio between Naira and Dollar increases, the value of vehicles will also go up. With the availability of affordable financing for car dealers, the cost for cars might trickle down, this is what we are also trying to achieve with Shekel," he added.

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In Nigeria, an average car dealer makes a profit of about 17%-25% per car.