Poa, a Kenyan startup providing low-cost internet services has raised $28 million in a Series C funding round led by AfDB-backed Africa50. The funding round takes the amount raised by the startup so far to a total of $36 million. The funding round also saw the participation of Novastar Ventures, an early backer of the startup.
Thanks to the new fund, Poa will be able to fund its goal of increasing its reach across Kenya where it is present and eventually across Africa. According to Andy Halsall, the internet service provider’s CEO and founder, “We are focused on Kenya at the moment, but the problem we’re solving is continent-wide. And for us, it’s not just about getting people some connectivity. Our aim is to get a lot of people online and to give them a meaningful internet experience like the ability to stream videos, without worrying about how much data they’re consuming”.
Currently, the internet service provider serves more than 12,000 customers including homes and offices in Kenya’s capital low and middle-income areas. It also serves thousands of people through its available street Wi-Fi connections. Poa has its fibre network laid out in areas that are not the first point of call for the “big” internet service providers. Its focus is, therefore, on untapped and unserved or underserved areas in Kenya that have been ignored by its bigger rivals like Safaricom, Zuku and Faiba.
Poa provides internet service at affordable rates. It charges its users a monthly subscription fee of $13, which is like half the price of the regular rates in the market. This helps the company to gain more users and is the primary factor that makes Poa attractive. It offers unlimited data usage also, which is not very common with its bigger rivals. Its Wi-Fi hotspots which are available in public spaces are at least ten times cheaper than what other companies charge for similar bundles. Users pay about $0.18 for 1GB of data with Poa.
Andy Halsall, the internet service provider’s CEO and founder added that “Our internet speeds are 4mbps, which is fast enough for video because everyone wants to stream Netflix, use YouTube, download movies and make video calls. So, we’ve designed our service to be fast enough to deliver video, but most importantly, our price is a winning factor. Our primary focus is to get the price as low as possible and to operate in the communities that don’t have fibre connectivity or are unlikely to get fibre. Therefore, we’re not really going to compete really against anyone because we are going after a market sector that is not well served”.
Speaking on the funding round and generally on Poa, leading investor Africa50’s Managing Director and Head of Infrastructure Investments, Raza Hasnani, said that “Poa has been instrumental in bridging the needs of last-mile connectivity, and their ultra-low-cost solutions can be used to address the significant connectivity gaps in Kenya and across the continent as a whole. This is particularly important at a time when societies and economic activities are increasingly becoming digitized as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Increasing access to reliable and affordable internet connectivity is strongly aligned with the key pillars of Africa50’s strategy, and we are excited to be part of this high impact journey and to support Poa’s growth in Africa”.