TopUp Mama is looking for solutions for restaurants

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Inventory shortages, unpredictable agricultural prices and a lack of working capital are some of the challenges small restaurants and food vendors in emerging markets face. Here are some of the issues TopUp Mama has been working on fixing since launching in Kenya’s capital Nairobi last year, and they seem to be moving in the right direction.

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Nyawwa Mutambowho co-founded Mum with Emily Blauhoff (chief operating officer) and Andrew Kibe (CTO) told TechCrunch in February 2021 that the startup has grown 10x over the past year, with more than 3,000 merchants (1,000 active) using its platform each month.

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A B2B e-commerce startup that also operates in Nigeria allows restaurants and food vendors to restock. The startup receives supplies from distributors and farmers and uses its fleet of vehicles to deliver them to suppliers and other end-chain users. It also offers short term credit.

“The average adult living in Nairobi will eat out at least once a day, but the restaurants that support this consumption have extremely fragmented supply chains. Their ability to obtain products for their business is extremely limited. These are the same challenges that my mother, a restaurateur with over 30 years of experience, faced and inspired me to start this business,” TopUp CEO Mama Mutambo told TechCrunch.

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“We work with individual manufacturers and distributors, manage the purchasing process, and then assemble the goods in our warehouses that maintain the cold chain. We also deal with distribution of the last mile. Our ‘buy now, pay later’ product allows our customers to order more and thus boost their business,” he said.

TopUp Mama allows restaurants and food vendors to restock. Image credits: Mum

$1.7 million seed funding

The startup has also developed tools over the past few months, including a food delivery platform that helps restaurants better manage their operations and increase profits by connecting them with consumers. These developments followed a $1.7 million seed funding that closed in March, bringing the total fund raised to $2.16 million.

Over the next few years, TopUp Mama hopes to be a supplier to 50,000 businesses in Kenya and Nigeria as they aim to become the largest restaurant-focused food distributor in Africa.

The startup is backed by a number of investors, including Ventures Platform and JAM Fund, which led a seed round with Next Billion Ventures, Future Africa, Jedar Capital HoaQ Fund, First Check Africa and San Francisco-based DFS Labs.

“TopUp Mama gives restaurant owners access to affordable food and powerful data analytics to offer delicious meals that support and unite us. Importantly, they also help restaurants expand their customer base while improving efficiency at the same time,” said Cola Aina, founder of Ventures Platform.

Applying technology to solve supply chain problems has been adopted around the world by start-ups such as Kenya’s Twiga Foods, which eliminates middlemen by buying directly from farmers and selling it to customers or small vendors, mostly in cities.

Frubana, another Colombian-based restaurant tech startup, is in the same business as TopUp Mama. Frubana helps restaurants and small retailers buy products directly from farmers or producers, cutting out the middleman and further reducing the cost of produce.

TopUp Mama says they are aiming to create a “world-class food supply chain” that will boost the continent’s GDP, but first they want to capture the markets of Kenya and Nigeria.

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