Nigeria-based satellite-as-a-service and integrated digital ecosystem platform, BeepTool Communications, recently raised seed investments from Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe, one of Nigeria’s foremost engineers, inventor and angel investor.
The startup is on a mission to transform Africa’s mobile communication, payments and connectivity landscape by offering integrated ICT solutions to under-served communities that have been locked out of the ongoing digital growth on the continent.
Building on its integrated mobile platforms and satellite-based connectivity systems, BeepTool is creating an ecosystem of service-on-demand products, ranging from telehealth to financial services, messaging, micro-lending, video chat, video conferencing and VoIP, among others.
BeepTool, which has been largely self-funded and bootstrapping its growth since 2014 when it was founded, made an announcement in April 2018 stating its readiness to raise investment from strategic investors and partners to scale its operations.
On August 15, 2019, the startup updated its Crunchbase page to indicate that it has successfully raised an undisclosed amount from Prof. Ekekwe in a seed round.
The update follows an earlier publication released by Prof Ekekwe, announcing that he had taken some “equity and seat on BeepTool’s board”.
“I have been working with this entity for largely a year, and decided that now is the time to get fully involved”, Prof Ekekwe said. “Our vision in this company is to take the services which Nigerians in urban areas are enjoying to rural communities. To do that, we have to create a connectivity system supported by services.”
The company deploys its solutions via nanosatellite-based wifi terminals, mobile ecosystem apps and custom-made affordable satellite smartphone.
The company has already launched M-naira (a fintech service), Lafiya (a telehealth service), and Oyi-I, an affordable satellite smartphone built for typical rural Africans, all connected to the BeepTool ecosystem.
BeepTool signed some notable strategic partnerships to scale its operations and complement its proprietary innovations. The company’s partners include Sky and Space Global, a British publicly-traded narrowband satellite communications provider; Interswitch Limited, an Africa-focused integrated digital payments company based in Nigeria, JNFX International and TransferTo.
In 2017, the startup signed a 5-year binding network contract with Sky and Space to leverage communications bandwidth from Sky and Space’s 3 Diamonds precursor nanosatellites, to serve the commercial demand on the BeepTool ecosystem. The deal is said to be worth approximately USD 30 million in contract value, a sum which stretches over the 5-year term.
Prior to the multi-million dollar deal, BeepTool collaborated with Sky and Space Global to successfully demonstrate what the company claims is the “world’s first financial transaction using nanosatellites.” The experiment proved that BeepTool can enable financial transactions from one phone to the other, using bandwidth from its partner satellite provider.
At the core of the startup’s mission sprawls a promise to deliver digital inclusion to poor and under-served Africans in rural communities. Prof. Ekekwe noted that the startup recognises the obligation to enable connectivity systems that are tailored for the majority of Africans in communities with minimal infrastructure.
BeepTool users enjoy cutting-edge digital services within the platform at a fraction of the traditional cost obtainable in urban cities. The BeepTool services and application platforms are built to be interoperable with the entire ecosystem and hardware, such as the Oyi-1 phone and satellite wifi terminals. In essence, the startup’s idea of satellite-as-a-service is enabling connectivity within the ecosystem within conditions and in remote areas that would typically lack access to digital services.
BeepTool’s co-founder and CEO, John Enoh, in an interview granted to Africa Business Community, said, “the market response has been good even though it could be better. The community of BeepTool users is more than 1,000,000 users strong, with about 30 per cent active usage on a monthly basis from the direct app and agent location networks.”
In 2018, BeepTool launched an enterprise communication solution based on its nanosatellite network, targeting the needs of corporate organisations as its early focus had been on end-users.
The startup has already signed up about 7 satellite operators, including Sky and Space Global, Kepler, Nigcomsat, Oneweb, Telesat and Avanti Communications, to its ecosystem to scale capacity for its growing user base.
In a recent post on Linkedin, the startup called on interested investors to come on board and join in the mission of providing connectivity in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“We are closer to the coast now. But before we break the news, we want to still give 30 days of investment opportunity to friends, family, and individuals to join our private shareholders who are about to make history in sub-Sahara Africa”, the company noted on its Linkedin page.
Joseph Ibeh is a Mandela Washington Fellow and Senior Analyst at Space in Africa. His experience spans industry research and market analysis with a focus on African-grown NewSpace companies, commercial space industry, national space programmes and real-life application of space science for sustainable development in Africa.