Unbundling financial data through APIs and driving data-driven insights with value-add products in Africa keeps getting more exciting as major players continue to raise more money for scale.

Less than a year after its $3 million seed round, San Francisco- and Africa-based fintech Pngme has snapped up another $15 million for its financial data infrastructure play. The company is also describing itself as a machine learning-as-a-service platform.

Octopus Ventures led the Series A round, with follow-on investment from Lateral Capital, EchoVC, Raptor Group and Two Small Fish Ventures.  Other investors like Unshackled Ventures, Future Africa, Lagos-based Aruwa Capital, and The51 participated too. Pngme also received checks from angel investors; some include Hayden Simmons of RallyCap, Plaid’s Dan Kahn, Richard Talbot, ex-COO of RBC Capital Markets and Kyle Ellicott of Intersect VC.

Pngme’s platform caters to fintechs and other financial institutions across sub-Saharan Africa. When the founders, Brendan Playford and Cate Rung, last spoke with TechCrunch, Pngme was heading out of stealth mode in Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.

Right now, Pngme has three core products for clients in these three markets. In addition to its already known API and mobile SDK, Pngme has added a customer management platform. The company says combining the three products will drive its customers’ adoption and use of personalized user experiences and financial products.

In a conversation with TechCrunch, Playford references building personalized user fintech experiences to what Alipay and WeChat have done in the past couple of years.

When users sign up, both platforms provide the right recommendations on every financial service before offering the right product when they make up their minds.

“It’s a highly data-driven user experience. And every fintech or bank wants to provide that same data-driven user experience. From instant loans or savings, or overdrafts, or whatever it might be, it’s all just like a user experience around a product,” Playford said, referring to both Chinese super-app juggernauts. “If you get to the core of all of the business problems for financial institutions, they’re looking at doing two things. One is they’re looking at lowering their customer acquisition costs. And then they’re looking at increasing the lifetime value of their customers.”

Playford says Pngme wants to mirror this playbook. But why has it become important for the company all of a sudden?

Most African financial institutions and fintechs are racing to offer fully customized user experiences and financial products tailored to their customers’ needs. To fuel these products and user experiences, data infrastructure is needed. Machine learning models are supposed to be trained to acquire, retain and maximize the lifetime value of a customer. 

These processes can be expensive and time-consuming, leaving them with the difficult task of choosing between building the infrastructure or serving their customer.

Pngme allows financial institutions and fintechs to collect and aggregate financial data at scale. The company says its mobile SDK and data processing pipelines collect alternative financial data and unify it with other data sources to create a holistic picture of an individual’s financial behavior.   

“The pain point we solve is the cost of building the infrastructure is very high. And the data science, the data engineering talent, just globally is really hard to find. So building a data infrastructure as a service works really well because it’s a subscription to get those services which you’d normally need a five- or six-person team to build this infrastructure.”

The close of Pngme’s Series A brings its total investment to $18.5 million, making it the most funded in this fintech category across the continent. Other prominent startups include South African-based Stitch, and Nigeria’s OkraMono and OnePipe.

Although each platform has morphed into providing more complex data offerings, Playford says one of the important things Pngme has considered since February is clearly distinguishing itself from these other platforms. 

“What we do is that we’ve kind of really differentiated ourselves to be not just collecting the data that we can see but also, we can connect to Mono data, Okra data, and we can connect with banks’ data. We essentially merge all that data and then put machine learning models on top for the clients. That can be predictive credit models, segmentation models and really positioning ourselves as a data processing infrastructure for banks and fintechs.”

Playford’s explanation of how he thinks Pngme is different resonates with the way other founders think of their own platforms. But time will tell how long these products can keep being dissimilar.

Pngme’s proposition has found traction with some unnamed tier-one banks in Nigeria and South Africa; fintechs Kuda, Umba, Renmoney, CredPal and credit bureaus like TransUnion Africa.

Pngme will use the investment to acquire more customers, it says. One way the company plans to make this happen is by expanding its executive team. Pngme is hiring Lorraine Kageni Maina as the CSO and Nick Masson as the CTO.

Alongside key executive hires, Pngme is expanding its data science, engineering and sales teams globally. COO Rung says Pngme’s infrastructure has processed billions of data points from hundreds of financial institutions across sub-Saharan Africa. The next plan is to double down on its Insights Library product and expand its third-party data connections to other markets over the next year.

For Octopus Ventures, the lead investor in this round, Pngme shows the need for actionable data to drive the explosion of digital fintech services for Africans.

On why the VC firm invested, Tosin Agbabiaka said, “The elegance of the technology solution, combined with an exceptional team and strong market traction with large institutions underlines our belief that Pngme will power the next generation of financial services in Africa, helping to give millions of more people access to banking and lending.”

Original Post: TechCrunch

Vancouver, British Columbia–(Newsfile Corp. – December 10, 2020) – The Very
Good Food Company Inc. (CSE: VERY) (OTCQB: VRYYF) (FSE: 0SI) (“VERY” or the
“Company”), a progressive creator of innovative plant-based food products, is
pleased to announce record sales in November due to highly successful
Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday e-commerce sales promotions.

November Record Monthly Revenue

VERY achieved a new record for monthly sales in November 2020 of $782,790, an
increase of 582% over November 2019 due to increased e-commerce sales
attributable to American Thanksgiving along with Black Friday and Cyber Monday
sales promotions.

E-commerce sales in November were $600,671 resulting from 6,258 orders, an
increase of $292,486 from the prior month, and $550,429 compared to November

  1. American Thanksgiving attributed to $384,045 in e-commerce sales in
    November 2020 representing 4,287 orders; approximately a 1686% increase in the
    number of orders compared to November 2019. E-commerce revenue from Black
    Friday and Cyber Monday promotions was $191,512. Sales from these promotions
    is evidence of the effectiveness of VERY’s various e-commerce marketing
    initiatives to build brand awareness and demand for VERY’s products. These
    initiatives will support the Company’s next phase of growth and increased
    production capacity coming online in Q1 2021 from the Rupert facility.

CEO Mitchell Scott commented: “We are very pleased with the results of
November’s e-commerce sales promotions. We will be rolling out new marketing
initiatives in the New Year to target existing and new customers in both our
e-commerce and wholesale sales channels as we work to expand our production
and distribution capabilities with the commissioning of the Rupert facility.”

Extension of Marketing Agreement

The Company also announced today that it has extended its agreement with
Gravity Accelerator PBC (“Gravity”), who has provided search engine
optimization services to VERY since August 2020. As compensation for their
services, Gravity will receive a monthly consulting fee in the aggregate
amount of US$50,000 of which US$30,000 is payable through the issuance of
common shares of the Company and US$20,000 is payable in cash. The number of
shares issuable will be determined based on the closing price on the last
trading day prior to the date of Gravity’s monthly invoice less a 10%
discount. All shares issued to Gravity will be subject to a hold period of
four months from the day of issuance.

About The Very Good Food Company

The Very Good Food Company Inc. is an emerging plant-based food technology
company. Our mission is to use progressive food technology to create
plant-based meat and other food products that are delicious while maintaining
a wholesome nutritional profile. To date we have developed a core product line
under The VeryGood Butchers brand.

For further information, please contact:

Mitchell Scott
Chief Executive Officer and Director

Kevan Matheson
Corporate Communications and Investor Relations

Email: invest@verygoodbutchers.com

Phone: +1 855-472-9841

Neither the Canadian Securities Exchange nor its Market Regulator (as defined
in the policies of the Canadian Securities Exchange) accept responsibility for
the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Information

This news release contains forward-looking information. Such forward-looking
statements or information are provided for the purpose of providing
information about management’s current expectations and plans relating to the
future. Readers are cautioned that reliance on such information may not be
appropriate for other purposes. Any such forward-looking information may be
identified by words such as “proposed”, “expects”, “intends”, “may”, “will”,
and similar expressions. Forward-looking information contained or referred to
in this news release includes, but is not limited to: the expected timing for
commencement of operations at the Rupert Facility, the Company’s efforts and
ability to build its production and distribution capabilities.

Forward-looking statements or information are based on a number of factors and
assumptions which have been used to develop such statements and information,
but which may prove to be incorrect. Certain assumptions in respect of
continued strong demand for our products; ; that added production capacity
will enable us to increase our sales volume, that we do not experience
material interruptions or supply chain failures as a result of COVID-19, our
ability to retain key personnel, and changes and trends in our industry or the
global economy are material assumptions made in preparing forward-looking
statements or information and management’s expectations. Although the Company
believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements or
information are reasonable, undue reliance should not be placed on
forward-looking statements because the Company can give no assurance that such
expectations will prove to be correct. Factors that could cause actual results
to differ materially from those described in such forward-looking information
include, but are not limited to: negative cash flow and future financing
requirements to sustain operations; dilution; limited history of operations
and revenues and no history of earnings or dividends; competition; economic
changes; and the impact of and risks associated with the ongoing COVID-19
pandemic including the risk of disruption at the Company’s facilities or in
its supply and distribution channels. The forward-looking information in this
news release reflects the current expectations, assumptions and/or beliefs of
the Company based on information currently available to the Company.

Any forward-looking information speaks only as of the date on which it is made
and, except as may be required by applicable securities laws, the Company
disclaims any intent or obligation to update any forward-looking information,
whether as a result of new information, future events or results or otherwise.
The forward-looking statements or information contained in this news release
are expressly qualified by this cautionary statement.

Corporate Logo

To view the source version of this press release, please visit

(c) Copyright Newsfile Corp. 2020

Written By: Dylan Ander

COVID-19 has caused a market crash, with many portfolio and 401k owners losing significant value in their holdings, starting when the DOW lost 2,000+ points in a single day. Many small-medium sized businesses, which account for a majority of American jobs, have massive strain on short-term revenues. With no exaggeration, millions of Americans have filed for unemployment because this extensive list of corporations, airports, sports leagues and more, that have executed mass layoffs in March and April. 

Despite this short-term crash, we are not in a recession (yet). A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP and economic growth. In this survey, 74% of economists see a US recession by 2021, so let’s accept this as an assumption for the rest of this article.  

When times are good, you should advertise. When times are bad, you must advertise” 

McGrawHill Research Team

Many airlines, travel companies, hotel chains, resorts, national sports teams, and other organizations are currently non-operational. All of these companies have drastically reduced, if not completely terminated, all advertising. This is important for currently operational brands and companies to understand, as there’s many implications this has on all advertising channels. 

I’ll kick this off with a famous example from the 1990-91 recession: 

In 1990, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell took advantage of McDonald’s decision to drop its advertising and promotion budget. As a result, Pizza Hut increased sales by 61%, Taco Bell’s sales grew by 40% and McDonald’s sales declined by 28%. Of course there’s nuance to this story, but during this time there were no major pivots or changes in business planning outside of advertising. 

There are four major reasons why every company must continue to advertise during this COVID-19 pandemic (and any recession): 

  1. Digital attention is at an all time high. 42 states have enacted a mandatory shelter-in-place, so there’s never been a higher daily usage of the internet and digital platforms. 
  2. Most of your competitors paused their advertisements. As they are paused, your ads will continue to be seen by the most ideal target market on every digital platform. 
  3. Recessions create a “Buyers Market” for advertisers. It’s important to understand the structure of advertising; you are not “buying” advertising space, but bidding on how much you’re willing to spend on an advertising position. While there are less companies bidding on those slots, demand goes down and so does price. 
  4. Serve people now, win their business later. Consumers are judging every company’s response to COVID-19. Serve your audience and target market with content to get them through this hard time. If you do, you will soon have a loyal audience to retarget once this short-term bind is over. 

Digital Attention Is at an All Time High

Regardless of your employment status, you are either working and/or living exclusively from home. This creates more computer and mobile device screen-time, for either work or pleasure. Americans do not want to leave their house, but still have a demand for buying necessities and accessories. News sites and online retailers are seeing all-time high daily traffic

Source: Comscore
Source: Comscore

Most of Your Competitors Paused Their Advertisements 

Travel companies and sports leagues have either completely halted, or drastically decreased their advertising spends for both direct response and brand awareness. The NBA, NFL, ATP, and other national sports leagues have also paused their advertising, unaware of when they will be able to resume their events. The entertainment industry has also taken a hit, as large gatherings are illegal in 42 states. 

Because of this, many media outlets are quite literally going extinct, especially the outlets that have not adapted to the online content news model. 19 print newspapers have been suspended in Michigan. Time Out and Stylist magazines have halted production. Alternative weeklies have made mass layoffs in the US and Canada. On Monday, Digiday reported that 88% of legacy and digital publishers surveyed expect to miss their business targets this year. 

This also carves out massive opportunity for large advertisers during recessions, as advertising space is cheaper. The famous rise in marketshare of Taco Bell and Pizza Hut over McDonalds in 1990-1991 is a perfect example of this. 

In a study of U.S. recessions, McGraw-Hill Research analyzed 600 companies covering 16 different SIC industries from 1980 through 1985. The results showed that business-to-business firms that maintained or increased their advertising expenditures during the 1981-1982 recession averaged significantly higher sales growth, both during the recession and for the following three years, than those that eliminated or decreased advertising. By 1985, sales of companies that were aggressive recession advertisers had risen 256% over those that didn’t keep up their advertising.

Recessions Create a “Buyers Market” For Advertisers 

On digital platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, there is a finite number of impressions that they can sell as advertising space. This is simply their number of users multiplied by the duration they’re on the platform. The long-term trend is that this advertising inventory will only increase in price over time as more and more companies switch their print, radio, and television advertising to digital ads. In both recessions and Black Swans such as COVID-19, this long-term trend is swayed in favor of the advertisers. 

During COVID-19, the cost per click on Facebook Ads platform is down 20% from January 2020. This is not a one-time event, as we anticipate this will continue to decrease as the upcoming recession continues. 

In an easy to read graph from Common Thread Collective, you can see that advertising are experiencing a higher-than-average Return on Ad Spend (RoAS). With over a 35% increase in RoAS, these are stellar returns for online retailers. 

Source: Common Thread Collective

Serve People Now, Win Their Business Later 

During this pandemic, as well as all recessions, more citizens get laid off and discretionary income decreases. While overall spending decreases, this is the perfect time for growing a loyal audience and user base. While revenues may stay stagnant, you can serve the market in many different ways. Forbes gave the observation that advertisers may offer interest-free loans to finance their goods, which will continue purchases and increase revenue. They can create coupons or special promotions as everyone is looking for a “good deal” on products at these times. 

When the economy bounces back, regular pricing can return. Once this bounceback happens, you have nurtured and grown a loyal user base and audience who you can market to, virtually for free. Gravity Group’s major recommendation is to focus on collecting emails and phone numbers at this time. This is the perfect arbitrage, because click-through rates are high, cost per click is low, but propensity to spend is also low which does not hinder this effort. This makes the COVID-19 pandemic, and all recessions, the perfect time to focus on lead generation. 

If you have any questions on increasing revenues through COVID-19 and any recession, reach out to Dylan@gravity.group.  

Written By: Dylan Ander & Michael Wadden

For several years, ESG Ratings have been used almost exclusively by the impact investing community. Now, as impact investing and conscious capitalism have been integrated into major markets, ESG Ratings are used by start-ups, investors, and international corporations to support their decision making. 

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) refers to the three central factors in measuring the sustainability and societal impact of an investment in a company or business. These criteria help to better determine the future financial performance of companies (return and risk). ESG ratings are one of the leading indicators for how companies manage their people, supply chains, decision making processes, etc. during adverse times. These ratings have proven true based on how well companies are handling their COVID-19 response, The Clorox Company being an ESG Leader, outperforming its competitors in Q1 of 2020.

There are several research firms that can calculate an ESG Rating for companies based on a range of factors. Some of the leading ESG research companies include Bloomberg, MSCI, RepRisk, and Sustainalytics. There are some highly regarded ESG-specific firms such as CDP, Oekom, Trucost, and several others. 

MSCI Ratings (the biggest ESG market leader) recently became public data in November of 2019 which has major implications on every industry. Previously, only institutional investors had access to this data; they paid tens of thousands to have access. Now anyone can see a company’s ESG rating and decide to invest in that company or not. With this distribution of information in the market, C-Suite executives can no longer hide their company’s lack of social responsibility. If companies are exclusively profit-driven while sacrificing its people and the planet, this will lower their stock price. Executives in 2020 have to be proactive and manage their companies with ESG ratings as a core objective of their business.

At Gravity Group, we use MSCI Ratings to best determine major company decisions and indications of future performance. Although MSCI ratings (currently) only apply to public companies, they provide a rich dataset that helps us optimize our portfolio companies. MSCI ratings allow us to optimize everything from messaging and marketing to business models & fundraising structures. The most actionable facet of MSCI Scores is that they correlate with company valuation. Here’s the breakdown of how MSCI structures its ratings:

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Source: MSCI ESG Ratings Methodology

MSCI ESG Ratings Methodology Overview

MSCI ESG Ratings aim to answer the following questions:

  1. Of the negative externalities that companies in an industry generate, which issues may turn into unanticipated costs in the medium-to-long term? 
  2. Conversely, which ESG issues affecting an industry may turn into opportunities for companies in the medium to long term? 

More specifically, the MSCI ESG Ratings model seeks to answer four key questions about companies: 

The MSCI ESG Ratings model has 3 pillars, 10 themes, and 37 ESG key issues that are all factored into a final score. These ratings begin with the three major pillars of Environment, Social, and Governance. 

After a final score is calculated, all companies are placed into one of three buckets, ESG Laggard, ESG Average, or ESG Leader. ESG Laggards receive CCC or B ratings while ESG Leaders receive A and AA ratings. 

Source: ESG Investing

For example, Volkswagen’s ESG Rating is CCC, placing them as an ESG Laggard with the lowest possible rating. Conversely, Toyota Motor Corporation’s ESG Rating is a BBB rating, placing them as an ESG Average. We placed them side-by-side so you can compare. 

Source: MSCI Volkswagen AG and Toyota Motor Corporation Rating

In the height of the spread of COVID-19, there has been a great demand for products made by The Clorox Company (CLX). While this is a driving attribute of the short-term rise in stock price, there has been a steady growth curve since the stock price was at $150. The Clorox Company has a standout ESG rating of AA, as its an ESG Leader. Clorox is an ESG Leader specifically in Corporate Governance and Chemical Safety.

Source: MSCI Rating The Clorox Company

What is also important to know about ESG scores is that they change over time. There are some companies that have made drastic improvements or declines as they make major business decisions. For example, Tesla’s ESG Rating was previously an industry ESG Leader, but they have slid back into the territory of ESG Average. 

Source: MSCI Tesla, Inc Rating

Gravity Group focuses heavily on applying ESG principles to our portfolio of private companies. Whether Seed Stage or Series B, most of our portfolio companies have intentions of going public or getting acquired by a public company. ESG Momentum (your delta in ESG scores) is crucial for a successful IPO and sustainable stock price. If your company is an ESG Leader in several categories, it justifies a higher acquisition price as an ESG Laggard or ESG Average acquiring your company will see a boost in ESG Momentum. Whether your company falls into the “impact space” or not, this new lens of business is crucial for long-term success of any business. 

If your company is looking to leverages ESG Scores for a higher valuation, send an email to Michael@GravityNetwork.earth

Written By: Dylan Ander

Gravity Group has a technology accelerator that works with high-impact and ESG companies that improve the world we live in. The Accelerator’s portfolio companies support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), simultaneously seeking profitability and high returns for investors. The Co-Founders, Partners and Chief Executives of Gravity Accelerator are luminary entrepreneurs and investors such as Jeremy Nichele (pictured below), Novalena Betancourt NicheleRichard Andrew SalonyPetr Johanes and Michael Wadden. Gravity’s Executive Team has either founded, lead or held key executive roles in companies such as Accenture Digital, US West Cellular and NextWave among others who have historically returned over $3 Billion to shareholders and generated over $20 Billion in revenue.

Emilio Rivero (left) and Jeremy Nichele (right) CEO of Gravity Group

While over-subscribing its Seed Round, Gravity Accelerator earned equity positions in 17 disruptive portfolio companies, with stand-out companies such as Verses (spatial web), Pngme (providing credit scores and lending in third world countries), and Tsunami XR(reducing carbon emissions through the creation of virtual workspaces).

Emilio Rivero is the Chairman of Envirofit Mexico, a social enterprise that mitigates the negative health effects of cooking on an open fire. Envirofit Mexico has delivered over 300,000 Clean Cook Stoves throughout Latin America saving 4.5 million tons of trees, reducing 4.2 million tons of CO2 in the atmosphere while benefiting 1.2 million people’s long-term health.

Rivero highlights his experience as a Diplomat managing commercial relations within the NAFTA Northwest region. He was a senior advisor to the Office of the Cabinet of Japan for Development and Cooperation International Trade, as well as the International Olympic Committee’s Chief of Protocol dealing with International Dignitary and Security Programs for Olympic Winter Games (VANOC).

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