This entrepreneur observed a serious lending gap when he visited Uganda, and then founded a startup that raised $30 million to facilitate digital lending in the country

  • Prior to founding Asaak in 2016, Kaivan Shattar worked mainly in non-profit, holding some key positions in a number of NGOs.
  • He also worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for over three years.
  • Kaivan is the founder of Uganda’s very first digital lending platform.

The first time Kaivan Shattar visited Uganda in the mid-2010s, he was still a graduate student at Columbia University. According to him, he was visiting the East African under Columbia’s exchange programme —Engineers Without Borders. During that visit, he made a rather worrisome observation, the fact that loans were not easily accessible to Ugandan small business owners.

“While I was working there, I noticed a very interesting phenomenon: even deep in Ugandan villages, farmers had access to mobile phones and were very comfortable making digital payments to each other, but the rest of Uganda hadn’t caught up yet. Farmers could send mobile money and clear their transactions within seconds in their personal lives. Yet, if they wanted a loan from the bank, they had to do things the very traditional way. This means they had to go all the way into town, wait in line at the bank, fill out a lot of paper applications, and wait eight weeks to get a response,” he later recalled during an interview with Jason Colodne.

As it’s typical of every natural-born entrepreneur, Shatta immediately saw an opportunity to provide a solution and create value. By 2016, Shatta had established a fintech company called Asaak, the very first digital lender platform in the whole of Uganda.

What exactly does Asaak do?

Checks by Business Insider revealed that Asaak’s business model is mainly asset-financing. The fintech startup focuses specifically on financing the purchase of commercial motorbikes. Apparently, commercial motorbike business is the second leading mass employer of labour besides agriculture. Unfortunately, it can be pretty expensive to purchase these vehicles. And that’s exactly why Asaak’s decision to specialise in funding the purchase of these motor bikes is particularly remarkable.

Five years down the line, Asaak is growing fast

The fintech startup raised its seed round in 2018 to the tune of $1.5 million. And then in January this year, the company announced a $30 million pre-series A funding round, split between equity and debt. This funding round was led by some notable investors including Resolute Ventures, Social Capital, Founders Factory Africa, etc.

Shatta told CNBC Africa during a televised interview, yesterday, that the newly-raised capital would be used to “accelerate product development and geographic expansion throughout Uganda and other parts of East Africa even as we also start to introduce other products such as motorcycle insurance and savings accounts in addition to the asset-financing that we already have“.

So, who is Kaivan Shatta?

Not much is known about Kaivan’s nationality. However, what we do know for sure is that he did both his undergraduate and postgraduate studies in the United States of America. In 2012, Kaivan graduated from New York University with a degree in Mathematics and Economics. He later obtained a Master of Science degree Columbia University in 2016.

Prior to founding Asaak in 2016, he worked mainly in non-profit, holding some key positions a number of NGOs including: BRAC and Grameen Bank, Sanctuary for Families, B.A.S.I.C.S INTERNATIONAL and Innovations for Poverty Action. He also worked at Federal Reserve Bank of New York for over three years (between 2014 and 2016) as a Senior Research Analyst and Senior Model Developer.