Mara, an African-based crypto startup has raised a $23 million seed round in equity and token sale led by Coinbase Ventures with participation from Alameda Research (FTX), Distributed Global, TQ Ventures, DIGITAL, Nexo, Huobi Ventures, Day One Ventures, Infinite Capital, DAO Jones (investment decentralized autonomous organization backed by Mike Shinoda, Steve Aoki, and Disclosure), and nearly 100 other crypto investors, and angels including Amit Bhatia and Hamad Alhoimaizi.
The money will be used to develop a pan-African cryptocurrency exchange that will provide Africans access to the crypto economy. Mara has also announced a collaboration with the Central African Republic to assist in the implementation of the country’s new crypto legislation, which recognizes Bitcoin as legal tender. Mara will become the Central African Republic’s official crypto partner and an adviser to the President on crypto strategy and planning as part of this cooperation.
Mara now employs 80 employees, with two-thirds working in-house and the remainder working as outsourced developers.
Chi Nnadi, CEO of Mara, described how a decentralized financial system like bitcoin will benefit Sub-Saharan African countries, “The inefficiencies inherent to the old 20th centralized Sub-Saharan African financial systems have presented an obstacle to the proper development of Sub-Saharan individuals and economies for decades. A decentralized alternative (which will include but not be limited to finance, art, ownership, infrastructure, and business as a whole) will give Sub-Saharan Africans an alternative to these tired systems. Through this digital financial system—through this freedom—the region will find itself in a much stronger competitive position before other parts of the world,” he explained.
Mara provides a unique set of solutions that cover a wide range of crypto-finance requirements while adhering to local legislation and being designed specifically for the African market. Mara Wallet is a user-friendly brokerage program that has condensed the experience by allowing users to rapidly purchase, transmit, sell, and withdraw both fiat and crypto assets without any prior crypto expertise, while the Pro-Exchange is designed exclusively for experienced users. It also includes the Mara Chain, a Layer-1 blockchain powered by the native Mara currency that allows savvy developers to build decentralized apps that will help define the future of the African crypto economy.
“Mara’s mission is to facilitate a more equitable distribution of capital by providing a decentralized alternative that spans across tribes, classes, cultures, and countries. Our goal is to close the gap in opportunities for Sub-Saharan individuals and establish a financial infrastructure that they can build their lives upon,” Nnadi said.
Mara’s onboarding, support, and ecosystem are tailored to cater to the unique needs of Africans. KYC/AML (know-your-customer and anti-money laundering procedures) is compliant with global standards, and is compatible with international financial regulations, the company said. Customer support is easily accessed and will be available in both local and international languages.
Schuster Tanger, co-founder of TQ Ventures expressed his satisfaction with the partnership “We are pleased to partner with Mara as it embarks on building a digital financial system for Sub-Saharan Africa. With the right resources, this region has the potential for mass adoption of cryptocurrency. To that end, the local knowledge and specialized skills of the Mara team is quite promising.”
Mara will launch in Kenya, Nigeria, and surrounding regions, while the Mara Wallet app will be available in the App Store and Google Play stores. Pre-registered users will join a queue to enable early access on a first-come, first-served basis.
“While there are other crypto exchanges in Africa, there is yet to be an indigenous African crypto exchange,” Nnadi said. “That’s where Mara comes in — we are a Pan-African crypto exchange built by Africans, for Africans. Support can be accessed easily through means people in Africa are familiar with.”
Once onboarded, the Mara Wallet will enable users to invest in crypto and send money to their family members in real time, without processing times or delays.
“To have real success in Africa, you have to have alignment with the regulatory regime, especially when it comes to crypto,” Nnadi said. “The Mara founding team, myself included, sits at an interesting intersection between the older and younger populations. This means we have the incredibly unique ability to understand the needs of the younger generation while understanding the pain points of the elders and educating them on the importance of blockchain technology. We’re able to close the gap between these two generations and build a bridge to regulators.”
With data from blockchain intelligence firm Chainalysis pointing to the astronomical growth in crypto usage in Sub-Saharan Africa – which grew 1,200% last year, making it the third-fastest growing cryptocurrency economy – more investment should be expected in the African crypto startups.