Kenyan smart addressing startup OkHi has launched in Nigeria alongside strategic partner and new investor Interswitch Group, aiming to tackle a problem that costs Nigerian businesses an estimated US$2 billion a year – the lack of postal addressing infrastructure. 

Co-founded in 2014 by Timbo Drayson, who while at Google led the launch of Google Maps across emerging markets and built Chromecast, the Nairobi-based OkHi has developed technology that enables any business to collect an accurate address from their customer, verify it, and navigate to it.

Disrupt Africa reported in September the startup had raised a US$1.78 million funding round, and though that round has shrunk in size to US$1.5 million after an investor withdrew, further investors have now been named. They include Founders Factory Africa and Asian VC firm Betatron, as well as Interswitch, one of Africa’s largest fintech and digital commerce companies.

Aside from capital, Interswitch is also OkHi’s key strategic partner for its Nigerian expansion. In Nigeria, lack of addressing is a painful problem for the entire economy. Last mile delivery businesses call their customers more than three times on average to find their doors. Banks must send agents to verify prospective customer addresses – limiting access to financial services. Emergency services get lost, leading to lost lives.

The launch in Nigeria follows success in Kenya, where OkHi is reducing cost of delivery by 20 per cent and delivery times by 40 per cent. The company’s new address verification engine continuously verifies the location, a first of its kind – reducing time, cost and risk.  

“OkHi gives addresses not only to places, but also to people. From e-commerce businesses, to banks and emergency services, our technology enables people to be included in accessing services they need and deserve,” Drayson said.

“We are so excited about the start of our Nigerian journey. With Interswitch, we have a partner and investor whose technology has already had a massive impact on millions of Nigerians. Their expertise and infrastructure will position us to scale country-wide as quickly as possible.  

COVID-19 is accelerating the digital migration across Africa – people and businesses are more online than ever, while home deliveries have grown exponentially. What’s exciting is we are the infrastructure that enables that migration.” 

Interswitch Group’s divisional chief executive officer for industry vertical markets Jonah Adams said the partnership with and investment into OkHi was premised on the startup’s vision and capacity to execute collaboratively and to drive e-commerce growth across key African markets.

“Whilst digital payments remain our key focus, we see the bigger picture, identifying opportunities to unlock significant economic value though trusted address verification,” he said.

OkHi’s prominent early Nigerian customers include Okra, Kuda Bank and Zedvance, and its Nigerian office and team will be expanding in the coming months.