Plentywaka, a Nigerian bus-booking platform, has announced that it has been accepted into the Techstars Toronto accelerator program.
It will team up with nine other startups in the class of 2021 and obtain funding from the accelerator as it aims to expand globally.
Plentywaka was founded by Onyeka Akumah, Johnny Ena, John Shaibu and Afolabi Oluseyi. The platform operates an ‘Uber-for-buses’ model which connects commuters with buses through an app.
Plentywaka commenced operations in September 2019, and in the first two months of operation, it transported an average of six people daily. In the sixth month, the number increased to around 1,500 daily, and Plentywaka completed over 100,000 rides within that timeframe.
When the pandemic-induced lockdown affected businesses in Nigeria last year, Plentywaka made a slight pivot and started transporting essential services within Lagos, especially food items. Also, it opened a logistics service.
When the lockdown was eased in Lagos and commuting activities resumed, Plentywaka moved 60% capacity while the operational cost did not change. As growth started picking up, the company began to seek external investment. It got $300,000 pre-seed from its parent company, EMFATO and other investors like Niche Capital and Microtraction.
Since it got the financial backing, Plentywaka has doubled down on its core service — transportation of people through buses.
Akumah disclosed that the focus on the primary offering has paid off as the company has expanded its intrastate services into two major cities in Nigeria including Abuja and has transported around 300,000 people. Following this announcement, plans are in place to launch an interstate service across many Nigerian cities.
This service extension will see Plentywaka collaborate with some major bus travel companies, which cummulatively possess over 2000 buses and ply more than 100 routes in Nigeria. Plentywaka works as an aggregator, as such, commuters can view options of each transport company, compare fares, and book transportation services on its platform.
“Plentywaka is getting to a point where we’re now becoming more like an aggregator as we onboard transportation companies on our platform. Interstate travel in Nigeria is data insufficient, and we want to be the first company to solve this.” Ena, Co-founder and President of Plentywaka, told TechCrunch.
While talking about the expansion, Akumah said this global expansion plan would start with a city in Canada, most likely Toronto, before the end of Q4 2021.
The Managing Director of Techstars Toronto, Sunil Sharma, confirmed this to TechCrunch. According to Sharma, Techstars is backing Plentywaka because it’s offering solution to a massive problem in Nigeria that can be compared to challenges of urban transportation encountered in other populated cities worldwide.
He said: “We know that Western cities have legacy transportation systems. However, there are many transportation challenges, even in a city like Toronto.
“And we think that Plentywaka’s technology and approach in improving the lives of citizens and their daily commute needs can be brought over to cities in the West just as they are in Africa.”
Plentywaka aims to launch its intracity service first following its engagment with the country’s necessary stakeholders before it introduces the intercity model. Sharma feels most Canadian cities aren’t well serviced by buses and that has led to a disjointed intercity transit infrastructure. He said the presence of Plentywaka would bring the needed option that the city deserves.
He said: “Cities and towns here should have bus connectivity, but they quite simply don’t have it, and my view is that the arrival of Plentywaka will be an immediate option to the status quo. It will also resonate with people as a way to supplement existing transportation options.”
While talking further about the development, Akumah said the relationship with Techstars is one reason Plentywaka is expanding to Canada instead of adjoining African countries.
He said: “If the opportunity we have in Toronto right now to expand was similar to what we had in Ghana or South Africa, of course we’ll be having those conversations already. But when we have the support system from Techstars, Sunil, and regulators in Toronto without even putting feet on the ground, I mean that makes it exciting for us to expand to Canada.”