Tanzanian micro-health insurance startup Jamii Africa has just raised US$750,000 seed funding for expanding across the country and into East and Central Africa.
Jamii launched in January 2015 and has built a mobile policy management platform that performs all the administration activities of an insurer, and allows users to access cheap insurance via USSD (starting at $1 per month).
Jamii plans to launch in five other African countries in 2017, and part of the plan will be to leverage their strategic partnerships with Jubilee Insurance and Vodacom Tanzania to enable mobile premium collection and a cashless facility from over 400 hospitals.
Interview with Lilian Makoi, Founder of Jamii
What inspired you to start Jamii?
Seeing the husband of my maid lose his life because they didn’t have $25 to access medical help, was a wake up call for me. I became curious to find out how big the problem was and how I could build a solution to cater for this underserved community: 50 million Tanzanians have no health insurance.
How did Jamii get to where it is today?
We started off with two people in the team, myself and Chris Rabi as my first angel investor. The team grew to 5 people while still struggling with company expenses and entrepreneurship experience. Our first break was forming a partnership with the biggest insurer in the country, Jubilee Insurance, and the biggest telecom, Vodacom Tanzania.
Our biggest break was getting into an accelerator program, the Barclays Accelerator powered by Techstars. It was there that we got to understand the value of our innovation, how to communicate it, build a financial model and test out as many strategies as we could.
This helped us go to market faster and the right way. In no time we were conversant with the startup world, started raising and grew valuable networks. This enabled us to raise our seed round $750k which now places us nicely for regional expansion.
How has the Barclays Techstars Accelerator helped shape the business?
The Barclays Accelerator equipped us with the required business design, management and growth skills we badly needed. Through the program we gained amazing connections and introductions that become investors and mentors. We were able to understand what kind of funding we needed, what percentage had to be donors, and what had to be a commercial raise. By associating with the brands Barclays Africa and Techstars, we’ve eased the journey to raising funds, and growing our partnerships.
How do you think as a startup you can get the most out of mentorship?
I strongly believe in mentors to be a vital part of a startup’s success. However, I personally believe it’s not so much about the number of mentors that you may have, but about the fit between the mentor and the company. Having a good fit allows you to make the most out of the relationship – build great partnerships, learn important lessons, and embrace opportunities.
How will you use the $750k and where do you hope to see the business by the end of 2018?
With our seed raise, we’ll take our marketing strategy to market and impact the lives of 720,000 by 2018. We have amazing partners, a great team and fantastic strategy that only needed funding to change the world!)
What advice do you have for startups who want to raise money?
Two words: great product!