They say innovation is the child of necessity and no other crisis in recent history has necessitated more innovation than the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the industries direly affected by the pandemic is the shipping sector. With countries quick to shut down borders and ports, and putting in place strict Covid-19 regulations, ‘contactless’ shipping became expedient.
Nigeria’s shipping sector lost an estimated N500 billion to the Covid-19 lockdowns. According to the Vice President of the Association of the Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, Kayode Farinto, The lockdown was also expected to lead to at least 35% job loss in the sector.
On the export side, perhaps because of the huge job loss in the shipping sector, manufacturers have continued to struggle to connect themselves with shippers in the wake of the pandemic. This became a problem that needed a solution and quickly too.
Topship, a Nigerian shipping startup, came up with a solution that would easily connect producers of export products and merchants to shippers in the country. The solution was launched in 2020 at the peak of the lockdowns to provide safer but cheaper options to move things in and out of the country.
Speaking with me, Co-founder and CEO of the company, Moses Enenwali said he decided to launch the solution with his Co-founder, Junaid Babatunde because it was clear there was a huge gap in that market.
“We noticed that it was still very difficult to move things around the world from Africa and vice versa. After a trip to a tannery in Kano in early 2020 and seeing the broken, expensive, slow and fragmented shipping solutions the leather merchants had to manage, it was clear that there was still a huge gap in the market,”Moses Enenwali
He said that as the global economy was slowing down due to the lockdowns, demand for international shipping was skyrocketing. The obvious demand, clear pain points and gap in the market strengthened the founders’ conviction to start building the solution.
How Topship works
Topship is a shipping platform that connects African merchants and SMEs with the rest of the world.
“Nigerian merchants are realising that there’s a huge market outside the country and we’re working hard to bridge that gap and ensure that they can access new markets, new audiences and do this as easy as possible,” the CEO said.
The company’s technology is solving this problem by giving merchants a wide range of shipping options that will make it “incredibly easy for them to ship cargo internationally.
These shipping options include Express, Basic, and Cargo. They are categorised based on a variety of factors which include the needs of the merchants, and other criteria like price and delivery time. The startup claims that all imports and exports are fulfilled within three to five working days.
Topship has a web app that enables merchants to request shipments, get different prices for different shipping services and import goods from around the world.
The startup’s CEO said his company is very particular about growth and this is responsible for the impressive growth rate it has witnessed since its launch.
“We’re growing rapidly and are very aggressive about growth. We’ve maintained an average of 20% monthly growth since we launched, Reception has been good and demand remains strong, which continues to reinforce our faith in the industry,” he said.
He also noted that his team will continue to work on onboarding new merchants as well as the company’s expansion into other African countries.
Selection into YC winter 2022 batch
Topship is one of several startups selected into Y Combinator’s winter 2022 batch. Y Combinator is a California-based tech startup accelerator founded in March 2005. The company selects early-stage startups from a pool of applicants to participate in its accelerator program which holds twice a year.
After the three-month program, the accelerator invests $125,000 in participating startups for a 7% equity. Y Combinator’s Winter 2022 batch which is billed to run from January through March will be remote due to COVID-19. After 11 weeks, the startups will participate in a Demo Day, where they will present their teams and solutions to a carefully selected audience comprising investors.
And the team at Topship are excited to be a part of the accelerator as it would give them access to seed funding and other investment opportunities upon completion. The company hopes to invest the funds it gets from the program into expanding to other countries in Africa.
It also hopes to hire more talents so as to achieve the company’s goals and build the global distribution system for the movement of cargo by leveraging on initiatives like the AfCFTA.
“We’re beyond excited to be a part of this batch and this strongly affirms our mission to build the global distribution system for the movement of goods within and beyond Africa,” Moses Enenwali said.
Congratulations to the team over at Topship.
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