Wowzi, a Kenyan tech start-up, has announced that it has successfully closed a $2 million (Ksh226 million) seed round to scale its influencer marketing platform across the African continent. 4DX Ventures led the round, with participation from To.org, Golden Palm Investments, LoftyInc Capital, Afropreneur Angels, and Future Africa.
Andela co-founder Christina Sass and alumni Jessica Chervin, Justin Ziegler, and Johnny Falla participated as well. The $2 million seed round comes after a previously unannounced $1.2 million (Ksh135.6) pre-seed round, bringing the total amount raised to date to $3.2 million.
Wowzi’s online marketplace democratizes influence, connecting everyday social media users with big brands, enabling nano and micro creators to earn money by spreading brand messages via social media. Wowzi plans to use the new funding to scale partnerships with local, regional, and multinational FMCG companies, Telcos, Banks, Creative Agencies and Development Institutions to create dignified digital economy jobs for African youth.
Wowzi’s self-serve online platform allows brands of any size or industry to create and manage massive, distributed messaging campaigns utilizing thousands of real, everyday customers and fans who get paid to offer authentic endorsements online for the products they already love. Brands like Netflix, Safaricom, Diageo, Coca Cola, P&G and Absa Bank are now designing campaigns involving 5,000 or more people at a time. Through scalable marketing automation, brands can run massive, hyper-targeted campaigns that achieve higher ROI for marketing dollars, consistently delivering better sales leads while increasing conversions.
In its first 18 months of operation, Wowzi has on-boarded 70,000 influencers across Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, primarily through word of mouth.
Brands are increasingly aligning their marketing strategies to tap into micro and nano content creators looking to monetize their social media accounts, because they get higher engagement with their followers on posts and are more believable messengers than celebrity personalities. Brands now also realize they can play a leading role in further digitizing business while investing in sustainable livelihoods for young African creators.
“Mobile use has become a key driver of commerce in African markets, and it’s where young people already spend their time. Young people only require lightweight remote training to master the key principles of sharing brand messages, so suddenly anyone with a phone can influence their peers through social media. Now that Wowzi has created the technology platform to efficiently distribute and manage job offers to thousands of youth at a time, brands have an opportunity to engage directly with youth and offer meaningful gig work. Wowzi offers a new layer of advertising for brands that can help target niche communities,” said Wowzi Co-Founder and CEO Brian Mogeni.
“This new layer of advertising plays into emerging trends of decentralized social networks, creating creators who think of themselves as media entrepreneurs. Furthermore, we are building the world’s best technology that can scale globally to meet the evolving needs of users and brands.”
Nearly 90 percent of Wowzi’s weekly payouts are distributed to thousands for micro and nano creators. This bucks the trend of most creator platforms today, where a few celebrity personalities at the top take home the lion’s share of total earnings, making it impossible for emerging talent to break through.
Wowzi Co-Founder Mike Otieno added, ”GenZ African creators influence decision purchasing amongst peers through unique online and offline communities, and Wowzi is creating a marketplace that assigns value to creativity. That hasn’t been done before on the African continent at scale. Our mission is to connect capacity to opportunity, and that’s precisely what the platform does for emerging creators. We set an ambitious goal of creating 1 million jobs for African youth, and already this year we’ve delivered nearly 200,000 such paid gigs.”
Wowzi says that distributing jobs to thousands of everyday messengers is the future of marketing, because it uncovers unlikely storytellers and creative voices that tap into the zeitgeist of culture. Their messages resonate powerfully and move people, and Wowzi can boost great content created anywhere, by anyone. Suddenly brilliant creators that would never have had the opportunity to work with big brands are getting noticed, and brands ask for them by name, says Wowzi.
4DX Ventures Co-Founder and General Partner Peter Orth said, “We believe that Wowzi has the potential to transform the way advertising is done in Africa and beyond. The ROI their platform delivers to brands is an order of magnitude better than traditional advertising campaigns, and while delivering this impact they are also creating a large number of jobs for an emerging class of digital influencers. We’re very excited to partner with Wowzi to help them deliver on their big vision.”
Wowzi believes that everyone has influence. With Wowzi, it’s not just about how many followers you have, but rather about the power an individual has within a unique community.
“A banking CEO or a lawyer or a doctor might have a limited social following, but wield outsize influence within their community. Wowzi efficiently organizes social capital within these unique communities and offers brands access to these communities,” the company said in a statement.
But most influence happens offline, so Wowzi is designed to deliver jobs on the platform for people to complete brand tasks offline, out in the community too. As a jobs aggregator, the Wowzi platform allows clients to offer multiple job types through the influencer app, so influencers can choose to dial up or down the number of online gigs they accept, and opt in to offline jobs or tasks, or engage in market intelligence gathering jobs, answering polls and surveys for brands, research companies, and development partners.