Several things are wrong with the real estate sector in Africa.
Mercenary real estate agents, devious landowners, fraudulent title deeds, unrealistic prices, ruthless contracts – in some cases no deal. All of these and many more go a long way in the tedious process of getting a home.
At the root of most of these problems is the question of trust. And Africa-focused proptech, Seso Global, is looking to solve this problem.
The journey began after Phillip Jarman, Daniel Bloch and Eugene Badzongoly met in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August 2017.
After winning a contract in Nigeria in 2018, the startup set up an engineering team in Accra, Ghana, going through different iterations for its customer relationship management (CRM) platform.
As the company’s first investor, in 2017 Kweku Essien, vice president of partnerships, joined Seso as an ambassador before taking up his current role in 2019.
In 2019, Seso officially launched in Nigeria and South Africa and made it to Ghana in 2020. The startup also has sales teams in Dubai, UK and US.
But what are they doing exactly?
According to CEO and co-founder, Bloch, “We’re the first one-stop-shop where there are people doing different parts of Seso, similar things. Some just have a registry; they are trying to do a Blockchain cadastre.
“We are the first solution to provide an end-to-end experience for our users. You can find the asset, which can be scanned and verified on the platform and the CRM. You can find a mortgage bank, a lawyer. So a full one-stop-shop on the platform.
Seso provides buyers with a marketplace where they can safely purchase goods from approved developers while also providing access to other professional service providers such as lawyers, surveyors, and appraisers.
Recently, the startup launched a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, which is expected to compete with Salesforce, one of the world’s leading CRM platforms.
CRM platforms merge all prospect and customer data into one place. They record and analyze all calls, emails and meetings, helping to improve customer service, drive sales and increase revenue.
Seso has also launched a land registration platform in South Africa focused primarily on suburban and less wealthy areas where users can register their land titles. An offer to solve the country’s titling problems while providing access to mortgages.
For Badzongoly, Head of Software Engineering, what makes Seso’s offering even more unique is its focus on Africa.
“More often than not you would have products that are built outside of Africa, imported and made to fit and then made to fit. But it’s a solution that’s built here in Africa, and then it solves an African problem. “
This is all built on a private Blockchain network built from the ground up by Badzongoly, with the help of a Nigerian developer.
In Badzongoly’s words, “Why Blockchain? Because if you look at Blockchain, in terms of security and privacy it was the best, due to the immutable nature of Blockchain.
A decision which, according to Bloch, has generated a lot of interest.
“We have built a system using Blockchain so that in the long run, as Seso grows, we also build a database that is reliable and also used for the proptech industry at large.
“Now people come to us and tell us we really like what Seso does, property data security. Could we use Seso to create an app around prices, comparable prices in different neighborhoods? “
But aside from the trust that a Blockchain network provides due to its immutability, there is the aspect of privacy.
“Usually, on a normal Blockchain, people will put it on a distributed ledger that is public. But, we care about privacy, so we have our private ledger that we use when it comes to Seso. A private Blockchain designed for Seso.
However, Bloch says there are plans to turn it into an open source platform when the platform expands. For now, it’s limited to authenticated users – the current closed network of developers, reviewers, lawyers, and buyers – to foster trust.
From technical brother to entrepreneur
Jarman – Co-Founder, COO and Country Director, UK – and Bloch have different backgrounds.
Jarman worked as an investment banker with Swiss bank UBS. A job that led him to deal with wealthy Africans, giving him insight into the growth potential of the African market.
“I was able to see then that the future of finance was in fintech and that there was a huge opportunity to evolve technology in Africa in an emerging market.”
Eventually, while earning an MBA from Imperial College London, he met Bloch.
The two would continue to work on what Jaman calls “Seso’s previous incarnation” before launching the business.
“At that time, we were sort of struggling with product-to-market fit. So we rotated the model to set up Seso, which appears to be much more commercially viable. “
On the other hand, Bloch’s journey to entrepreneurship was different.
“The main aspect of my experience is in creating technological solutions, especially in Blockchain. I managed a Bitcoin exchange; I ran a non-profit organization that did education around Blockchain.
With Jarman’s corporate and legal leanings and Bloch’s knowledge of the Blockchain ecosystem, the two were able to create a project they deem viable.
But, Jarman thinks the startup team should be rewarded as well. An “absolutely amazing team, both in terms of developers in Ghana, sales people in Ghana, a humble Briton and an American in our different parts of the world”.
A breakthrough for the diaspora
In 2020, as the naira continued to depreciate in the face of falling oil prices and a national budget unprepared for a pandemic, Seso’s team decided to turn lemons into lemonade.
It was time to take advantage of the diaspora market.
“We have identified Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya as the top three for remittances. We all know that around $ 45 billion goes into Africa every year, half of which goes to mighty Nigeria, then Ghana and finally Kenya. We have seen that there is a large segment here in the diaspora, people who work hard, ”says Essien.
The company’s strategy – online webinars, physical events and Instagram Live sessions – appears to have resulted in purchases made by people in the UK, US, Canada, Germany, Australia, Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy.
However, Bloch believes that the inter-African market is just as important. He says the company has sold to Zimbabweans and Cameroonians looking to acquire property in other African countries.
The underlying goal: to build trust.
A numbers game
Bloch says the company has 20,000 users who visit the platform each month and currently has 85 real estate developers. He projects 200 by the end of this year and 500 by December 2022.
Ambitious figures, of course. As for how the company is funded, in June 2021, Seso closed a $ 600,000 pre-seed round.
Other than that, Bloch says Seso is funded “by income, selling houses, getting clients. We received a small grant for some exploration work, but quite a small one. But at the moment we are able to increase the equity financing, and last year we sold over $ 1.2 million worth of properties on the platform, which is pretty good on the side. revenues.
“Really just earning the income. So we’re going to start now, getting ready for a bigger round; hopefully we have some really solid traction.
Overcome challenges; To look forward
“By the end of this year, our goal is to sell $ 5 million through the platform, and we hope by the end of 2022, we will sell $ 25 million worth of products through the platform. . “
But income aside, Seso hopes to expand into Kenya very soon, and Jarman says the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is a likely option.
“We have made exploratory trips to Morocco. We currently have our first member of the Seso team working in Dubai. Obviously this is a very strong real estate market, and as far as other emerging economies are concerned, we are really convinced that the solution could extend to South America.
“We would obviously love to try them out. But it is Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East.
Seso is also looking to engage with governments and traditional leaders as he wants to expand the use case of his land registry and CRM platforms.
Meanwhile, it is planned to make mortgages available to people in the diaspora.
“We are working with banks and insurance companies on a diaspora mortgage to help people in the diaspora. “