MARA, a pan-African crypto exchange platform that aims to improve the population of Africans who may engage in the crypto economy, has announced the completion of a seed round of $23 million in stock and token sales from a variety of investors.
Coinbase Ventures, Alameda Research (FTX), and Distributed Global are among the prominent crypto and web3 investors.
TQ Ventures, DIGITAL, Nexo, Huobi Ventures, Day One Ventures, Infinite Capital, and DAO Jones (investment DAO sponsored by Mike Shinoda, Steve Aoki, and Disclosure) were among the other VCs in the round, which included roughly 100 other crypto investors.
Chi Nnadi launched MARA in April of 2021. Llinás Mnera, Dearg OBartuin, Kate Kallot, and board advisors Kojo Annan and Tatiana Koffman make up the rest of the executive team. They come from Amazon, PayPal, Uber, Nvidia, Founders Bank, and Rappi, among other companies.
Prior to joining MARA, Nnadi was the executive director of Sustainability International, a nonprofit that handled community-led solutions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
While commuting between Nigeria and the United States, he became aware of the sociological and financial issues that Africans in distant areas face, as well as notions about how bitcoin and blockchain technology could help.
The Sustainability International team collaborated with Consensys on a project that resulted in the Sela Technologies design.
It was a platform that allowed for direct payments and distributed accountability to stakeholders in a development project through smart contracts.
MARA claims to be developing a portfolio of solutions for the African market that will serve diverse crypto-finance demands.
Its main product is crypto-brokerage software for consumers that enables them to purchase, send, sell, and receive fiat and crypto-assets. The startup plans to launch in Kenya and Nigeria, where it is located, in July of this year.
Although MARA maintains that consumers don’t require any prior crypto knowledge to use this retail software, local options like VALR and Yellow Card, which are supported by Coinbase Ventures, are abounding in Africa. However, the web3 upstart’s subsequent goods may make it unique.
It will deploy the MARA Chain in Q4 of this year, a layer-1 blockchain and Alchemy-like platform supported by the native MARA token for developers to create decentralized applications, or dApps, in Africa.
Later, in Q1 2023, MARA plans to offer a pro-exchange for advanced traders who use technical analysis and desire a broad range of trading alternatives to MARA’s retail app’s standard exchange options.
A few web3 and decentralized platforms, such as Nestcoin (funded by Alameda Research) and Jambo (supported by Coinbase Ventures), have found their way into Africa in the last year, promising to integrate millions of people into a new economy while also benefiting them. While their combined impact has yet to be recognized, this may change over time.
MARA, on the other hand, seeks to have an immediate impact. The company announced in a statement that it has formed a collaboration with the Central African Republic (CAR), Africa’s first government to adopt bitcoin as legal tender, and the world’s second only to El Salvador, to become its official crypto partner and a crypto advisor to the president.
Nnadi claims that his company would work with other African governments, even those that are anti-crypto, such as Nigeria and Kenya, to help them understand the benefits of blockchain and develop licensing regimes for crypto companies to operate in their respective nations.
It’s uncertain how MARA plans to reason with these regimes, whose record for toughness precedes them; yet, only time will tell what results from such discussions.
For the time being, the year-old startup will be enjoying what is perhaps the largest financing for an African crypto/web3 startup at this level. According to Nnadi, the organization has the good fortune of working with some of the world’s best crypto companies as well as some of the best venture capital firms.
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