It is no surprise that Africans tend to be wary of investments, with the history of scams and fraud seeding distrust of financial institutions, a staggering lack of financial education and awareness, and an unstable economy that makes it difficult to prioritise investing.
Despite this, the interest in investment among the African youth is clear. “A lot of people have spare cash but don’t know where to put their money,” said Emmanuel Oballa, CEO and Co-Founder of Keble.co. “Of course, there are stocks and crypto, but when you hear them say they’re looking for a place to put their money, it means they’re looking for a place to put their money and not lose it. Because at the end of the day, this is people’s hard-earned money. People want to feel safe. They want to feel secure in an investment. That’s what we want Keble to be.”
Though stocks and crypto are notoriously mercurial, with prices fluctuating rapidly in response to market conditions and news events, real estate has a reputation for being more stable and predictable. This is because with real estate you are investing in tangible assets that hold value over time. Furthermore, as the African population soars, the demand for housing and commercial properties will only continue to grow.
Emmanuel Oballa, Adebisi Borokinni, Josemaria Agulanna, and Valentine Offiah saw the opportunity that real estate presents, but recognized the high barrier of entry to access it. They founded Keble to make it easier for everyday Africans to take advantage of the previously restricted asset class.
“The essential problem we’re trying to solve here is that ordinarily, owning a piece of property is way out of reach of the means of the average earner,” said Emmanuel. “We relate to that because we also had the same problem, and it led us to create Keble. In Nigeria alone, less than 20% of over 200 million people own homes and are actively investing in real estate, leaving over 80% vulnerable to other fluctuating investment options such as stocks and crypto.”
Keble is breaking down these barriers by providing access to global real estate opportunities with little capital. Through the use of fractional ownership, Keble’s platform allows users to invest in properties from around the world with ease and flexibility. The process is simple – users can browse a diverse selection of properties on Keble’s platform, choose the one they like, and purchase a fraction of the property. By doing so they become part-owners of the asset and are entitled to a share of the property’s appreciation in value.
With Keble, users can invest in real estate without the need for a large initial investment and can benefit from the stability and growth potential of the asset class. This innovative approach to real estate investment will empower people to take ownership of their financial futures and build wealth through accessible and convenient investment opportunities.
Keble is one of many investment platforms operating in Africa, and its founders are well aware of the intense competition in the market. In this landscape, Keble’s founders understand the need to differentiate themselves and offer a unique value proposition to their clients. Their approach is based on three key pillars: the stable asset class they focus on (real estate), the currency they use (dollars), and their commitment to transparency.
“We are giving you dollar-based real estate assets that are fixed in price,” said Emmanuel. “And we are giving you trust.” With Keble, you are able to see everything about your asset–from its locations to its performance. They also have partnerships and trustees across different continents, so their international assets are well maintained. “We have a good relationship with the body of developers in the UK, for example. So we have consistent communication. We get reports, documentation, updates and first-hand information about the properties and new investment opportunities.”
Keble is one of the 12 startups chosen for the inaugural class of the ARM Labs Lagos Techstars Accelerator, a Lagos-based program focused on building early-stage proptech and fintech startups across Africa.
“Techstars backing us at this early stage is the validity that we’re on to something unique,” said Emmanuel. “It’s an opportunity for more investors to join us in this journey.”
Keble’s journey began unofficially in 2020. As a CEO in these early days, Emmanuel described his experience as “daunting”. The fractional real estate market was not as large as today, so it was significantly harder to get investors to understand them.
“In the very early stages, we felt we were the only ones,” Emmanuel said. “When we spoke with investors, [our concepts] looked so strange to them. We had to learn to refine our pitches, tell our story better.”
Their persistence, as well as the market’s expansion, allowed them to push forward. They sorted out compliance, realised their market with the African diaspora, and shot for globalisation. By the fourth quarter of 2021, the brand made its official beginnings.
“It became easier,” said Emmanuel. “We got referrals and introductions, and we were able to close more deals. Now when we’re talking to investors they understand, because there are fractional real estate companies now springing up around the world. It’s much easier to make a pitch.”
The investment platform secured a $130k angel investment round in 2022, with the participation of investors such as GreenHouse Capital, Hacked Venture, Asset Resource & Management (ARM) and several angel investors. The company is currently raising a pre-seed round, and Techstars has already participated.
Keble’s goals for the year are reasonably ambitious, what with their incredible journey and investor support thus far. “We want to hit up to 100,000 users this year, that would be huge. We also aim to end the year with over $2 million in assets under management. That’s a solid value proposition.”
Despite being small, Keble has a lot in the way of confidence and determination. And so far in their trajectory, it has worked well for them. “Anybody can say they can do it,” said Emmanuel. “But if there is anyone that can actually execute it well, it has to be Keble. We want to be among the people you think of when you’re considering a fractional investment. When you’re thinking real estate, you’re thinking Keble.”