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    How £21M of Debt Sank the Fresh Funding Quest for Failed SA Startup WhereIsMyTransport

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    In a stark reminder of the challenges faced by startups in the mobility sector, South African firm WhereIsMyTransport recently ceased operations, leaving behind a trail of unpaid debts and disappointed investors. Despite raising over $27 million in funding since its inception in 2016, the company had only £180,000 (approximately $225,000) left to settle its obligations as of the date of filing for insolvency on September 18, 2023, according to a Statement of Affairs.

    A Promising Start

    Founded in 2016, WhereIsMyTransport initially garnered attention with its innovative big data platform for sustainable mobility in emerging markets. The platform aimed to connect and collect data on transportation networks, integrating this information into an open data platform accessible to cities, transport operators, and passengers. The company’s operations spanned South Africa and Mexico, and it secured significant funding, including a $14.5 million Series A extension round in 2021, with notable investors like Naspers Foundry.

    However, the company’s ambitious vision ultimately faltered due to an inability to secure further funding, as founder Devin de Vries announced on LinkedIn in October 2023. This unfortunate turn of events places WhereIsMyTransport among a growing list of African startups that have struggled to maintain financial viability, including well-known names like Sendy, 54gene, and Dash.

    WhereIsMyTransport’s Balance Sheet Was Hollow

    The Statement of Affairs paints a bleak picture of WhereIsMyTransport’s financial situation. The company’s assets, estimated at £180,000, are insufficient to cover its debts. A staggering £13,562,351 was owed to loan note holders, and unsecured creditors face an estimated deficiency of £13,459,843. Shareholders, who invested a total of £8,304,907, also lost the entire sum.

    Creditors and Shareholders Lost a Total of £21.7M

    A detailed list of creditors reveals a diverse range of entities, including software providers, cloud service companies, investment funds, and legal firms. Notable creditors include Adobe Systems Software, Amazon Web Services, and Cathay Africinvest Innovation Fund. The company also had a mix of individual and institutional shareholders, with Google LLC and Toyota Tsusho Corporation among the institutional investors.

    The top creditors, included:

    1. SVIC NO. 38 New Technology Business Investment Fund: £1,861,189.00
    2. WIMT Ltd Series, A Series of Capria Fund LLC: £1,122,963.00
    3. Africa Series, A Series of Capria Fund LLC: £280,741.00
    4. Foundry Holdings BV: £2,807,408.00
    5. Cathay Africinvest Innovation Fund: £2,807,408.00
    6. SBI 4&5 Investment LPS: £2,804,283.00
    7. B&Y Fund II LP: £467,902.00
    8. KDDI Open Innovation Fund III, LP: £467,902.00
    9. KDDI: £465,297.00
    10. Mission Gate Inc: £467,902.00

    David Taylor and Paul Ellison of KRE Corporate Recovery Limited had since been appointed Joint Liquidators for the purpose of winding up the company.

    Implications and the Road Ahead:

    The collapse of WhereIsMyTransport serves as a cautionary tale for the startup ecosystem, highlighting the importance of sustainable financial planning and prudent capital management. The company’s demise is likely to have far-reaching consequences for its creditors, shareholders, employees, and the communities it served.

    As the dust settles, questions remain about the factors that contributed to the company’s downfall and whether any lessons can be learned to prevent similar outcomes in the future. The case also underscores the challenges faced by startups in securing funding and navigating the competitive landscape of the mobility sector.

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