Ex-Cellulant CEO embarks on new mission in tech world

Ken Njoroge, the former chief executive of digital payments firm Cellulant, has set off on a new journey in the tech world. His new vehicle is MarketForce, a startup that connects consumer goods manufacturers to retailers.

Mr Njoroge was among the investors who recently raised a total of $40 million (Sh4.6 billion) for MarketForce.

“Ken Njoroge also participated in the round and joins the board as chairman. The oversubscribed round was made up of equity and debt,” MarketForce said in a statement.

Mr Njoroge, who has certainly earned his stripes as a top innovator in Africa thanks to his strings of achievements, set up Cellulant in 2003 together with Bolaji Akinboro.  The duo oversaw rapid growth of the tech firm to become one of the top three companies driving digital payments on the continent. He was the firm’s CEO for a solid 17 years.  The key rivals for Cellulant have been Nigerian payment companies Interswitch and eTranzact.

Cellulant began as a music ringtone revenue-sharing business to help musicians make money when users downloaded their songs. However, the firm soon changed tune, and shifted to digital payments realm. That decision paid off handsomely and the firm is currently an international company with footprints in 12 markets. Its expansion has been fuelled by partnerships with about 28 mobile operators and 31 banks.

Mr Njoroge is a techpreneur passionate about the massive potential technology holds in solvinf Africa’s challenges and transforming lives in the process.  He said the success recorded by Cellulant was “an ode to the belief that Africa could build great things”.

He called for Africa’s innovators to rise up to the challenge of the myriad problems that beset the continent.

 “Africa needs Lion riders who can run faster, better and build world-class businesses that solve fundamental problems in this continent. Most of them will be technology-driven,” he said when he was packing his bags to leave the firm he founded.

When he left Cellulant mid last year, those who know him well were certain he would soon embark on a new, ambitious project. Mr Njoroge had hinted this himself:  “The next part of my journey is to nurture, build and grow a thousand more lion riders who can run faster, better and with fewer mistakes than I did.”

And now he is back in the tech space, ready to deploy his vast and unmatched experience as well as his unshakable believe in Africa’s promise, to chart a new path by driving innovation at MarketForce where he chairs the board.

MarketForce plans to scale merchant inventory financing through a BNPL offering, expand in existing markets and scale up its digital financial and banking services riding on its merchant network. MarketForce is already a force to reckon, boasting 400 employees, a number the firm intends to double before the end of the year.

MarketForce’s $40 million funding round was led by V8 Capital Partners – a London and Lagos based African-focused investment vehicle – with participation from Ten13 VC, SOSV Select Fund, Vu Ventures, Vastly Valuable Ventures, Uncovered Fund, as well as investors such as Reflect Ventures, Greenhouse Capital, Century Oak Capital and Remapped Ventures.

MarketForce, which was set up was in 2018 by Mesongo Sibuti andTesh Mbaabu, is now a leading B2B commerce and fintech marketplace that focuses on informal merchants in Africa. The firm helps the merchants to order, pay and receive inventory digitally and conveniently. The platform also helps traders access financing, collect digital payments and earn additional income by reselling digital financial services such as airtime, electricity tokens and bill payments.

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