Local startup that provides housing loans to the informally employed rebrands and has updates on progress

Leonard Sengere Avatar
Builder next to bricks near a wall

In 2022, we interviewed a local startup aiming to provide mortgages to individuals in the informal sector. Recently, we reconnected with them to inquire about their progress and current endeavours.

Find out where they were last time around here: Local startup to provide housing finance to the informally employed. Yes, mortgages for those without pay slips

When we talked to them last year, they went by Tigere Housing but they recently rebranded and are going by Entry now. They are still on their ‘mortgages for the informal sector’ mission but a few things have been tweaked in their product portfolio.

Entry

Why did they rebrand? – you ask. The inability of non-Zimbabweans to pronounce “Tigere” was one of several factors that led to the founders’ frustration.

Additionally, changes to the vision expanded its scope beyond simply providing housing, enabling it to address financial inclusion more broadly. Said CEO, Vusa Chimanikire,

At the core of everything we’re doing, we’re looking at housing being the first step to someone being financially included and then they will get access to so much more. So, we’re giving people a credit score for some of life’s basic human rights, which is a home, but from there we’re looking launch multiple other lending products that are going upwards towards lending to someone’s business and also downscale to consumer lending.

They felt the name “Entry” represented this new vision more accurately. It did not “box” them in like Tigere Housing did.

The product portfolio

When we talked to them last year, they had two main products:

  • construction loans
  • rent-to-own pre-built houses programs

Entry decided to focus on one for the time being and chose to go with the incremental construction loans solution.

Interest and collateral

Entry believes they have the best interest rates on the market. I’m inclined to agree as I am not aware of any organisation offering lower interest rates. I cannot disclose the rate here because it’s not finalised yet as they are working to decrease it even further. However, you can find out for yourself if you apply.

Entry also believes they have the best collateral terms on the market. Said Entry CEO, “Our collateral and interest terms are like nothing we have seen on the market for microlending.” That’s a bold statement right there.

The revised revenue model

Entry will no longer be funding the loans, instead, they are now working directly with financial service providers.

In simpler English, they are now giving people access to banks. But don’t people already have access to banks and their loans? – you ask. Not really.

See, Entry’s differentiator is a credit scoring system that ‘sanitises’ the informally employed for the banks.

Entry has the ability to assess the creditworthiness of traditionally underserved individuals, such as self-employed carpenters, and provide them with access to financial services that they would not have otherwise.

They say they have sort of become “this critical niche acquisition partner” for the banks.

Entry now has two banking partners – Qupa Micro-Finance (part of the ZB Holdings family) and Willbey Solutions.

Funding

Since we last spoke, Entry raised capital from foreign investors. They wouldn’t disclose the amount but they say it helped them create their minimum viable product (a version of a product with just enough features to be usable by early customers who can then provide feedback for future product development) and also to fully build up their site.

They may have been coy with the figures but our research shows they may have raised capital from two main sources:

  • a grant of $40K from the NEAR Foundation (via Sankore 2.0 apparently)
  • $15K in equity funding from Startupbootcamp Inclusive Fintech & DeFi

In all this Entry only gave up a tiny part of equity.

Entry was the only Afro-based startup at Startupbootcamp Inclusive Fintech and Defi in Amsterdam earlier this year.

Local funding

Entry has had to pass on some offers from local investors. So, yes, they exist even though it remains that there really isn’t much of a venture capital industry to talk about. Local investors are more interested in acquisitions, not venture capital.

The reason Entry passed on the funding is that there was no “fit” with the investors and there were misunderstandings on the goal and vision of the company.

Future funding

Entry will be raising more capital in the future. They say they have a couple of deals pending as potential venture capitalists are doing their own due diligence and vetting. One deal in particular is likely to go through in 2024.

However, CPO Tanaka Mhambi told me about how they are privileged to have worked and been in other business ventures before they founded Entry. In addition, the nature of their product is not too capital-intensive.

As a result, even if they did not get funding, they would still be able to develop their product. The funding would help, especially when it comes to customer acquisition and marketing but the startup is not dead in the water without external funding.

Traction

Entry says they have had over 14,000 visits to their site and 2,000 applications. At this point, they have not been able to avail or assist all 2000 applicants with loans.

A smaller number, but significant considering these are not $50 loans, has gotten loans – the exact number of which we can’t get into.

However, Entry says the reason they haven’t given out more loans is not because of a lack of capacity. Rather, they were still refining their proof of concept and so gave out enough loans to make that assessment.

They say they finished their pilot, their proof of concept and have now fully launched. So, they expect to be giving out more loans from now on.

Suppliers

Entry has signed up over six suppliers now, including Kitchen Tech. Remember we said Entry is focused on construction loans for now, well, people don’t get the loans in cash. Instead, they get access to the building materials they need, which is where the six suppliers come in.

Challenges

The section on Funding above could have misled you to believe it’s been a cakewalk raising capital. It has not.

Entry says the biggest challenge comes from something they have no control over, their Zimbabweanness. Investors are reluctant to invest in Zimbabwe, despite ‘Zimbabwe being open for business’ as the politicians say.

This is not an Entry-exclusive problem, many startups and established businesses have voiced the same over the years.

Entry says this is why some Zim startups are registering and moving operations to other countries, something we have talked about here on Techzim before.

The guys told me how one potential investor did their own research on Zimbabwe and found that Zimbabweans earn very little per month. However, as those of us in Zimbabwe know, formal earnings are but a fraction of total earnings.

The problem is then trying to educate the foreign investor on the black box that is the informal economy of Zimbabwe where everyone has a side hustle that’s paying the bills.

That informal economy also presents challenges in that there isn’t much research into understanding how it works. As other businesses have complained, the government does not release its research on time and oftentimes it’s not thorough.

As a result, Entry has had to spend a lot of time “learning” as opposed to doing.

Startup-established business partnerships are also hard to pull off. “Big businesses are not collaborating with startups,” as Vusa puts it. Entry was able to get those partnerships but it is a challenge in Zimbabwe.

Then we get to the mistrust, distrust and scepticism of the Zimbabwean. The businesses they approach assume it’s a scam and so do potential customers.

Zimbabweans have been burnt so much that their initial response is always, “It’s likely a scam.” Except when it comes to obvious scams like E-creator for some reason, but I digress.

However, Entry is committed to the Zimbabwean market and does not have any plans to exit the market.

The team

Entry has a team of five at the moment, including CEO Vusa Chimanikire and CPO Tanaka Mhambi.

The team experienced a setback when co-founder Tendai Madzikanda, the CTO, passed away in a car accident earlier this year.

He was irreplaceable but the team has had to soldier on without him. This was actually the biggest challenge for Entry, even worse than the funding challenges that a Zim-based startup faces.

What next?

The team is now focused on understanding the customer. The next major thrust is on how to translate registration on the site into a full account. People drop off in the onboarding process and Entry wants to understand why that is.

This will involve calling customers and asking, for example, “You created an account, why did you not take the psychometric test?”

The goal is, as Tanaka puts it, “to take interest into account creation into applications.” Entry believes direct communication, although resource-intensive, is best suited for this exercise.

The anticipated funding deals, as mentioned earlier, should provide ample support for the team’s planned expansion which will involve hiring sales and marketing people.

You can check out their new website here.

Also read:

Local startup to provide housing finance to the informally employed. Yes, mortgages for those without pay slips

61% of employed Zimbabweans earning less than $12.66 a month

30% interest per month on a loan? The Zimbabwean credit situation improving but still the wild west

7 comments

What’s your take?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Devine

    Why hide information in the financial sector you have to be transparent to gain trust, they missed an opportunity to set themselves apart from the ponzi stuff, why come to the public when you are not yet ready

    1. All Things Encouraging Only
  2. MOSES CHIGARIRO

    I’m interested

  3. D.K.

    It is a very interesting venture. Since this was my first time to hear or read about them, I went to read your previous article from June 2022. The one thing I did not quite understand is that the person they say was a co-founder who passed on in an accident (MHSRIP) was not at all mentioned in your last year’s article.
    Having grown seeing the housing and mortgage arena over a number of years I find it difficult to place this startup to any area. Maybe it is what the modern youth term “disruptive technology”. I still do not understand if they are going to give the funding, or they will be more like touts who will refer them to the real fund providers after they have passed the psychometric test to be declared sanitized for the loan. Are the tests lawful, and do they have the necessary qualified and registered professionals or consultants? It was, and may still be, a condition that one taking a mortgage should have a life insurance policy covering the mortgage so it gets paid up when the person with the mortgage passes away during the term of the mortgage .
    Have they had any registration with the bodies to do with housing, finance, estate agents and any other they are legally obliged to register with?
    Over the years, we have seen housing cooperatives and also land barons coming up. If you study deep into how these operate, you will find out that the contracts are made in such a way that the member will definitely default and lose the house or stand and all the money they paid.
    I am sure the people running the company have housing of people at heart. The article has a lot of information which the company is not yet ready to have released to the general public. One has to be interested (and desperate) to get the information so they can make a decision.
    Most, if not all startups have a lot of doubting Thomases who only get convinced when things are running. I wish these guys the best.

  4. Harmony Dube

    Kiki. This article, beginning with the title, has “United States Sub-prime Mortgage Bubble Crisis” vibes of the 2000s.

    Full disclosure: I haven’t thoroughly read the article at the time of this comment. 😹

  5. hi

    loans in zim to individuals for consumption…wne. big companies can’t pay

    1. All Things Encouraging Only

      In life, there are many choices to make, and sometimes it’s hard to know which is the right one. I believe that if you can learn to see life from a positive perspective, you’ll be more likely to make the best decisions for yourself. Don’t let fear, doubt, or negative thoughts stop you from living your best life. Be the best version of yourself and make choices that align with your values. ~~> All Things Encouraging
      https://chat.whatsapp.com/EmfsoT4OCsF1CZP7fwdRWA

2023 © Techzim All rights reserved. Hosted By Cloud Unboxed