South African fintech startup Lulalend, a digital lender catering to underserved small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), has raised a US$35 million Series B funding round to help it scale its business according to Disrupt Africa.

Founded in 2014, Lulalend, South Africa’s first online automated provider of business funding, uses proprietary AI technology to simplify cash flow management for business owners. From instant access to funding, to all-in-one business bank accounts and cutting edge financial analysis tools, Lulalend provides tools that empower SMEs across South Africa to succeed.

The startup’s US$35 million Series B funding round was led by Lightrock, the global impact investor, with participation from new investors the German development finance institution DEG, Triodos Investment Management, and Women’s World Banking Asset Management, as well as existing investors the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Quona Capital.

Lulalend will use the capital to scale its business and address South Africa’s enduring SME credit gap, which is estimated to be more than US$20 billion per year, according to the International Finance Corporation.

Its customer offering has recently grown to encompass a neo-banking proposition named Lula, built in partnership with Access Bank. Offering a bank account specifically tailored for SMEs, an AI-driven cash flow management tool, and real-time access to funding via the existing Lulalend funding solutions, Lula promises to simplify money management for the more than two million formal and informal SMEs that exist in South Africa. The platform’s current waitlist is made up of 20,000 businesses, highlighting the demand for this new approach to business banking.

The capital raised will enable Lulalend to increase the size of its loan book, bring new solutions to market, and invest in the technology and talent that will accelerate the rollout of Lulalend’s new digital business banking proposition. In addition, in partnership with new investor Women’s World Banking Asset Management, the company will work to scale its product to women-owned SMEs in the region.

“We are excited to utilise these funds to grow and evolve our products so we can better serve the needs of South Africa’s SMEs. We hope that our impact on this vital sector of the economy, which accounts for almost 40 per cent of GDP and 60 per cent of private sector employment, is nothing short of transformative. Our vision is to drive financial inclusion, and act as a catalyst for growth and prosperity across the SME sector,” said Trevor Gosling, co-founder and CEO of Lulalend.

Arul Thomas, principal at Lightrock, said traditional lenders have historically underserved the SME market, unfairly hindering the growth of companies that make up the backbone of South Africa’s economy.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Trevor and his dedicated team, who are levelling the playing field for SMEs with their simple, fast, and transparent approach to business finance,” he said.

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