Meeting with Olivia Zenk, founder of BeneFactors Ltd.
Olivia Zenk is an economist and the founder of a fintech company named BeneFactory Ltd. BeneFactors Ltd. is a factoring company. Factoring is a simple advance against unpaid invoices that a company is waiting for. This helps the receiver stabilise their cash, overcome liquidity challenges and grow.
Introduce yourself and your journey
My name is Olivia Zank, I’m from Denmark but have lived in Rwanda since 2015. I moved originally as an advisor to the Ministry of Trade and Industry as an ODI Fellow, where I ended up leading the policy development on the government’s private sector development work. It was through the consultations I did for that job, that I realised that there is both a huge unmet demand for working capital and a gap in the market for a specialised financial institution offering only working capital services. I have previously worked in Microfinance in Kenya and Uganda (2011-2014) and therefore have experience dealing with financing BOP markets, so I had a good starting point for creating my own project
What is your project and its mission?
BeneFactors Ltd. is a factoring company. Factoring is a simple advance against unpaid invoices that a company is waiting for. This helps the receiver stabilise their cash, overcome liquidity challenges and grow. We’re tech enabled, meaning that we leverage modern technology to automate and better screen risk in order to deliver a product that has been around for centuries – factoring.
Can you introduce your team?
We have an amazing team, both in operations and in strategy. We are three founders; Jani Moliis who is a management consultant and former advisor to the Rwandan president’s office; Patrick McSharry who is a pioneer data scientist and who has been modelling risk and behaviour in East Africa for a decade; and myself. On the operations side, we have our COO Cameron Pickett, who has a background in economics and Microfinance, and Dinah Gakuba who heads up the client account management who has been working in various Rwandan businesses for 10 years. In addition, we have a team of amazing angel investors – our general counsel has 10 years experience in corporate law in East Africa; another has similar experience in marketing and business development.
What is the problem solved by BeneFactors Ltd.?
The problem we are solving is the liquidity challenge faced by companies selling on credit. This happens when goods or services have been delivered and an invoice submitted, but payment delays or the buyer has such strong bargaining power that they won’t pay until 2-3 months later. Expenses on the other hand are typically incurred up front. Especially a small company in an emerging market, that can be really difficult to manage since they cannot easily get an overdraft, or a credit card. So where else can they go? Many end up going to loan sharks that are extortionate, and sometimes dangerous.
What is your business model?
We charge a pro-rated fee on the advances we offer, linked to the time the invoice is outstanding and the riskiness of the payment
What are the next steps?
We’re in the process of closing the ongoing debt round to grow our business in Rwanda. We’re also upgrading our technology to version 2.0 which will have a bunch of additional features and data integrations. Once that is completed, we will begin preparing for our Series A round, later this year, for expanding regionally and adding new working capital products
What do you need and how can Seedstars / AfrikaTech help you?
Due to the nature of our business, we’re always going to be fundraising and looking for industry expertise! Whether its equity or debt, the demand we face is so large, and there are so many ways to tackle it that we’ll keep developing new products and keep fundraising to roll them out
What are the contacts of the startup? Website, email, Mobile / WhatsApp, links to social networks?