Orca Makes a Splash with a $550k Pre-Seed Round

Thalia Pillay
July 27, 2023
min read

We have raised a pre-seed round to fight fraud in emerging markets.

I'm thrilled to finally announce that we've raised $550k for our pre-seed round.

This is one of the largest pre-seed rounds EVER by an all-women founding team in Africa. The biggest thanks to our investors in this round. The round was led by Norrsken22 with participation from First Circle Capital, Musha Ventures, Everywhere Ventures, Kara Ventures as well as several strategic business angels and family and friends.

Who is in this round?

It mattered to us to have a diverse set of investors, ones that could really relate to who we are as founders. We were fortunate in that most of the funds we went with have at least 50% women partners. These are women who are builders or have backed builders and are so empathetic and extraordinary.

  • I'd like to thank the Norrsken22 team for leading the round. We always thought we were too early for them, but they understood us and what we were trying to achieve instantly. They've got one of the best portfolios and we're honoured to be a part of it. Their local presence combined with their global lens is exactly what we need at this early stage. To many more cookies and Egghead missions together.
  • First Circle were the most bullish about us off the bat. Selma, Agnes and Ming are great builders themselves who are practical, resourceful and just very cool.
  • Musha - Aadil was one of our dream angels for the longest of times. He's also an engineer and we just are so grateful to have him with us on this journey.
  • Kara Ventures - Rena and Jeremy also both builders. Love them and their work. Rena has great insights as a startup lawyer.
  • Everywhere Ventures - Scott, Jenny and the team are awesome and have a proven track record as a world-class community fund. It really helps having US investors as a Delaware C Corp trying to establish a business remotely.
  • And then we have all our angels / friends. They've been there for us since the beginning and are the reasons we get out of bed each day.

Raising a round takes a village. Big thanks to everyone we met along the way who helped us. My favourite thing about this has been getting to know people from such different countries and seeing how much how network has grown and how much knowledge we've gained as a result of that. We've been so lucky to meet with fraud experts and B2B builders in this process which has only widened our worldview and the way we think about building a world-class fraud platform.

What are you doing with this money? Shouldn't you have raised more?

A lot of people advised us to raise way more than what we did. We were super lucky in that we could have as the round was well oversubscribed, which is remarkable in these current market conditions. As much as I believe in storing and stashing things for the winter, raising in dollars and earning in local currency is hard. We need to be as lean and resourceful as we can be.  We can still have an abundance mindset with the amount we've raised.

Different businesses need different resources. Even you, reading this announcement, are probably so desensitised to "smaller rounds" after hearing rounds $30m+. However, money raised isn't a true business metric of success. As a founder, it is easy to conflate that with the things that actually matter. Here at Orca, we're all about profitability and are razor focussed on doing things which move the needly. Once we've found PMF, then we can focus on execution and scale.

What are you building?

When we started Orca, we thought AI and ML would be the things we build first. We're both engineers so we love cool tech. But the reality is, that at least in Africa, willingness to pay for tools which aren't a real need is low at best. Innovation is less about the buzzwords you use and more about how effectively you solve real problems. For our industry, real innovation is empowering businesses with the tools they need to fight fraud.

Closing thoughts

Early-stage startups are often glamourized, but it really isn't all sunshine and roses. The highs are high but the lows can be extremely low. I am lucky to have people around me who constantly are rooting for Orca. These past few months haven't been the easiest. We've been forced to mature as a business. That being said they have been incredible and some of the best months of my life. Taking risks isn't something everyone can afford. Every day I am reminded how lucky I am to be able to do this. I get to wake up, do things I love, build things I care about that actually help people and get to work with my best friend.

I've learnt so much about myself, the fraud industry and startups as a whole. I couldn't have done it without my fearless co-founder, Carla. I could wax poetry about Carla Wilby. If there was an apocalypse, she's the person you need to have on your team. These past months showed me the power of being a team and stepping up when the other needs you to. People often call her 10x Carla so some would say we're a team of 11 (10 x Carla + 1 x Thalia) instead of just 2. When I work with Carla, it feels like we can do anything. It is that feeling which allows us to innovate, to crush any uncertainty and doubts and to just go for things with both hands outreached. We've had many bowls of soups, many cookies and only one loaf of home made bread over these past few months and I'm excited for even more Soup Day Tuesday's.

We're only five months old but we've done so much already and we're only just getting started. We've spent the majority of that time on the ground with fraud fighters across Africa and have been horrified to see the effects of fraud on victims. We've taken down scams, helped with global investigations and really just tried to immerse ourselves as much as possible.

We feel so lucky that we have the resources and ability to do almost anything we want to mitigate fraud. We're tackling some big problems and look forward to the road ahead. Onwards, fellow Orcas.  

TLDR; we're having a whale of a time and are so grateful to everyone who has helped us get to this point.

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