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Nigerian investment platform Chaka secures $1.5M pre-seed after bagging country’s first SEC license – TechCrunch

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When Robinhood raised its $3 million seed round in 2013, it was a couple of months old with huge ambitions of democratizing securities access to the underserved and unserved. Robinhood has since taken the world by storm and grown to serve more than 30 million users with its zero-commission trading

In the past, we’ve seen such growth trickle down to other regions across the world, inspiring similar businesses. Robinhood is no exception. Several platforms have sprung forth to bring stock trading opportunities in their respective markets. In Nigeria, at least four platforms offer both local and foreign stocks to individuals. Chaka is one such platform. Today, it is announcing the close of its $1.5 million pre-seed round to power digital investments for individuals and businesses.

The pre-seed round was led by Breyer Capital, while 4DX Ventures, Golden Palm Investments, Future Africa, Seedstars, and Musha Ventures participated. It’s the second joint deal for 4DX Ventures and Breyer Capital in the space of two weeks, the first in Egyptian social e-commerce platform Taager.

It is a well-known fact that even before Robinhood, the average American actively participated in stock trading. According to a survey by Gallup, about 60% of Americans owned some form of stock in 2000; that number was down to 55% in 2020. This was partly due to the global financial crisis that occurred in 2008.

The crash also affected the Nigerian capital market and because Nigerians lost a lot of money during that period, stock trading is mostly frowned upon by most of the public. Yet for the average Nigerian interested, participating in trading local stocks is hard; and practically impossible for foreign ones.

Tosin Osibodu, while in the U.S., recognised this problem and came back to Nigeria to start Chaka officially launching the company in 2019. According to Osibodu, Chaka wanted to create opportunities for Nigerians to invest in dollar assets and at the same time allow foreigners to invest in Nigerian assets.

“If there’s more demand in the market, over time, we expect there’ll be more supply. If you fast forward over a long period of time, we expect that our local capital markets will continue to grow,” he said to TechCrunch in an interview. “We will provide borderless digital access to multiple solutions, and so it’s not just about Nigerians investing in the market, it’s about making the markets accessible for people locally and globally.”

For the most part, Chaka has executed on one front. The platform Nigerians access to more than 10,000 stocks and ETFs trading on local and foreign capital markets. The CEO maintains that the platform has levelled entry barriers for borderless investments in Nigeria by providing customers with compliant access to the capital market.

“The thing about markets is that they have demand and supply with barriers to entry. We’re committed to lowering those barriers in local markets and by lowering barriers to investing for retail, more people will come to the market. In fact, more people came into the Nigerian stock market through us last year than any other broker. It’s like a demand-supply flywheel,” the CEO added.

Chaka’s local assets are registered with the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) and regulated by the Securities Exchange Commission of Nigeria (SEC). Dollar assets, on the other hand, are regulated by the US FINRA and the US SEC.

In April this year, digital investment platforms were caught in crosshairs with Nigeria’s SEC. The regulator declared their activities illegal and warned capital market operators working with them to renege on providing brokerage services for foreign securities. Unlike Robinhood which offers online brokerages, Nigerian investment platforms do not. Chaka, for instance, partners with Citi Investment Capital in Nigeria and DriveWealth LLC in the U.S. to issue stocks and securities.

According to Nigeria’s SEC, the bottom line was to bring the activities of these platforms under its purview as part of its efforts to safeguard the investing public. Although Osibodu claims Chaka had always engaged the SEC since the company was formed in 2019, it did not seem that way last December when the regulator singled out the two-year-old company for “selling and advertising stocks.”

The event set the precedence for the regulator’s all-out attack on other digital investment platforms, giving Chaka enough time to engage and conclude talks in about half a year. And last month, Chaka acquired the first fintech license issued by the SEC, making it the only investment platform operating as a digital sub-broker.

“When we launched, we kept SEC in the loop. But now, over the last six months, we’ve engaged with them, showed them our business models, the benefits, the markets. Now we’re proud to have SEC’s first fintech license. We believe that the most important thing is that the market has clarity and understands the regulations required to be registered. And we’re thrilled to have broken new ground and cleared up what it takes to be able to offer services in the market,” he said.

With the new license, the company can swiftly focus on what lies ahead. Osibodu says the license expands the scope of what Chaka can achieve. He asserts that Chaka can power multiple brokers and provide access to different digital investment offerings in addition to being a digital sub-broker.

Image Credits: Chaka

Asides from Chaka’s traditional stock trading app for retail investors, it also offers Chaka SDK which allows asset managers and financial institutions to offer digital investments and Chaka for Business for direct business onboarding and trading tools for institutional investors.

Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital, commenting on the investment said, “We are proud to combine efforts with a company that is levelling the investment playing field for Nigerians [and Africans at large]. We’re confident in the value Chaka provides through its digital tools, and we look forward to playing our part in supporting Chaka’s team on their mission to drive borderless investments in Africa.” 

Osibodu says the company will use its pre-seed investment to expand footprints to Ghana and other West African markets. Improving its technology and services and securing partnerships with major financial institutions, including apex ones, is also a priority.

“As we advance, I think something that we’re just very focused on is how do we continually reduce access barriers, and we are proud of the initiatives that we’ve brought and are to come. Watch this space for more partnerships, even with apex institutions in our markets as well.”

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Montreal investment fund sued over use of founder's great-great-grandfather's name – Coast Reporter

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MONTREAL — Brendan Holt Dunn said he wanted to invoke the legacy of his great-great-grandfather, pioneering Quebec industrialist Sir Herbert Holt, in the name of his Montreal-based venture capital fund.

Now, he may have to go to court to keep the name.

His fund, The Holt Xchange, which invests in early stage financial technology startups, is being sued by international bank Credit Suisse for trademark violation. 

In a statement of claim filed last year with Federal Court in Edmonton, Credit Suisse subsidiary CSFB HOLT said it owns the right to use the brand “HOLT” when offering financial goods and services in Canada and that the branding and offerings of the Montreal venture capital fund — known as the Holt Accelerator when the lawsuit was filed — is too similar.

The bank, which is seeking at least $100,000 in damages, argues that similarity “will cause confusion amongst Canadian consumers” and reduce the value and reputation of its trademark.

Dunn said he doesn’t think there’s a risk of confusion.

“We’re in different areas, the financial sector as a whole is very broad,” he said, adding that he’d never heard of Credit Suisse’s HOLT brand before being sued.

“I think what they’re worried about is that our name, our family’s name is better known than them in Canada,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “There is absolutely no overlap.”

Elisabeth Laett, managing partner at The Holt Xchange, said the decision to use the Holt family name when the fund launched in 2018 was a reference to the history of Montreal’s financial sector and the fund’s ambitions to help make Quebec a hub for a new generation of financial technology companies.

“We were the financial hub of Canada, in Montreal, at one point,” she said. 

When Herbert Holt died in 1941, he was described as the richest man in Canada. A railway engineer who helped build the Canadian Pacific Railway, he was knighted for his work planning railways in France during the First World War. He later consolidated several power companies in the Montreal area — which would eventually be expropriated to create Hydro-Québec — and was president of the Royal Bank of Canada from 1908 to 1934. 

Holt was also a controversial figure in Montreal at a time when many French-speaking Quebecers resented the city’s English-speaking business elite.

In court filings, The Holt Xchange maintains the Holt name has been used by generations of family members when offering financial goods and services in Canada. It has also filed a counter claim seeking to have Credit Suisse’s HOLT trademark struck down.

Credit Suisse’s HOLT brand comes from the name of a United States-based financial consulting firm acquired by the bank in 2002 and is an acronym based on the letters of the last names of consulting company’s founders. The bank, which filed an application to register the “HOLT” trademark in Canada in 2006, sells software used to value companies, as well as offering consulting services and investment products, under the HOLT name.

Whether consumers would interpret “Holt” in the name of the Montreal venture capital fund as a reference to the Holt family is one of the issues being disputed in court filings.

Teresa Scassa, the Canada Research Chair in information law and policy at the University of Ottawa’s law faculty said the courts look at several factors when evaluating the possibility of confusion in trademark cases “including how long each name or mark has been in use, and how similar the goods and services goods or services are, and the way in which they’re marketed or sold.”

While the Trademarks Act allows people to use their own names as trade names, she said that defence has “been interpreted fairly narrowly,” 

“For example, someone named McDonald is not prevented from using their name in business and if they open a burger stand, they’re not prevented from using their name in their family business to sell burgers, but they can’t just call it McDonald’s,” she said. Instead they have to make it clear it’s a different business.

Credit Suisse spokesman Jonathan Schwarzberg declined to comment on the case, saying the bank can’t say anything publicly beyond what’s in court filings. No trial date has been set. 

Dunn said the fund entered into negotiations with Credit Suisse after the lawsuit was filed and changed its name from Holt Fintech Accelerator to The Holt Xchange in the spring, a move he said he thought would satisfy the bank.

He noted there are other companies using the name Holt.

“I don’t understand it,” he said. “It’s insulting and we’re obviously feeling like we’re being bullied. We’re a very successful family, but no family in the world can go up against a financial institution.”

Laett said the Montreal fund has built an international brand around its name, attracting interest from startups from around the world. “We’ve received roughly 3,000 applications to be part of Holt,” she said. “There is a tremendous momentum.”

Dunn said he’s not open to dropping “Holt” from the company’s name. 

“It is my personal name and my family’s name and our family’s history and reputation in Canada,” he said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 2, 2021.

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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Montreal investment fund sued over use of founder's great-great-grandfather's name – Pique Newsmagazine

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MONTREAL — Brendan Holt Dunn said he wanted to invoke the legacy of his great-great-grandfather, pioneering Quebec industrialist Sir Herbert Holt, in the name of his Montreal-based venture capital fund.

Now, he may have to go to court to keep the name.

His fund, The Holt Xchange, which invests in early stage financial technology startups, is being sued by international bank Credit Suisse for trademark violation. 

In a statement of claim filed last year with Federal Court in Edmonton, Credit Suisse subsidiary CSFB HOLT said it owns the right to use the brand “HOLT” when offering financial goods and services in Canada and that the branding and offerings of the Montreal venture capital fund — known as the Holt Accelerator when the lawsuit was filed — is too similar.

The bank, which is seeking at least $100,000 in damages, argues that similarity “will cause confusion amongst Canadian consumers” and reduce the value and reputation of its trademark.

Dunn said he doesn’t think there’s a risk of confusion.

“We’re in different areas, the financial sector as a whole is very broad,” he said, adding that he’d never heard of Credit Suisse’s HOLT brand before being sued.

“I think what they’re worried about is that our name, our family’s name is better known than them in Canada,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “There is absolutely no overlap.”

Elisabeth Laett, managing partner at The Holt Xchange, said the decision to use the Holt family name when the fund launched in 2018 was a reference to the history of Montreal’s financial sector and the fund’s ambitions to help make Quebec a hub for a new generation of financial technology companies.

“We were the financial hub of Canada, in Montreal, at one point,” she said. 

When Herbert Holt died in 1941, he was described as the richest man in Canada. A railway engineer who helped build the Canadian Pacific Railway, he was knighted for his work planning railways in France during the First World War. He later consolidated several power companies in the Montreal area — which would eventually be expropriated to create Hydro-Québec — and was president of the Royal Bank of Canada from 1908 to 1934. 

Holt was also a controversial figure in Montreal at a time when many French-speaking Quebecers resented the city’s English-speaking business elite.

In court filings, The Holt Xchange maintains the Holt name has been used by generations of family members when offering financial goods and services in Canada. It has also filed a counter claim seeking to have Credit Suisse’s HOLT trademark struck down.

Credit Suisse’s HOLT brand comes from the name of a United States-based financial consulting firm acquired by the bank in 2002 and is an acronym based on the letters of the last names of consulting company’s founders. The bank, which filed an application to register the “HOLT” trademark in Canada in 2006, sells software used to value companies, as well as offering consulting services and investment products, under the HOLT name.

Whether consumers would interpret “Holt” in the name of the Montreal venture capital fund as a reference to the Holt family is one of the issues being disputed in court filings.

Teresa Scassa, the Canada Research Chair in information law and policy at the University of Ottawa’s law faculty said the courts look at several factors when evaluating the possibility of confusion in trademark cases “including how long each name or mark has been in use, and how similar the goods and services goods or services are, and the way in which they’re marketed or sold.”

While the Trademarks Act allows people to use their own names as trade names, she said that defence has “been interpreted fairly narrowly,” 

“For example, someone named McDonald is not prevented from using their name in business and if they open a burger stand, they’re not prevented from using their name in their family business to sell burgers, but they can’t just call it McDonald’s,” she said. Instead they have to make it clear it’s a different business.

Credit Suisse spokesman Jonathan Schwarzberg declined to comment on the case, saying the bank can’t say anything publicly beyond what’s in court filings. No trial date has been set. 

Dunn said the fund entered into negotiations with Credit Suisse after the lawsuit was filed and changed its name from Holt Fintech Accelerator to The Holt Xchange in the spring, a move he said he thought would satisfy the bank.

He noted there are other companies using the name Holt.

“I don’t understand it,” he said. “It’s insulting and we’re obviously feeling like we’re being bullied. We’re a very successful family, but no family in the world can go up against a financial institution.”

Laett said the Montreal fund has built an international brand around its name, attracting interest from startups from around the world. “We’ve received roughly 3,000 applications to be part of Holt,” she said. “There is a tremendous momentum.”

Dunn said he’s not open to dropping “Holt” from the company’s name. 

“It is my personal name and my family’s name and our family’s history and reputation in Canada,” he said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 2, 2021.

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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Why You Should Invest In Farmland – Forbes

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At Terra Ag Ventures, our mission is to provide investors access to high quality farmland investment opportunities in the Southwest while employing sustainable farming practices with respect to water and soil. We’ve been investing in farmland for over 20 years and understand the benefits of having this asset class in a modern and diversified portfolio.

However, although farmland has generated superior returns historically for us and other investors and is an attractive investment for most portfolios, it is also misunderstood and very difficult to access. Over 86% of all farmland is owned by families (much like the single-family home market) with the rest held by large institutional interests including endowments, pension funds, insurance companies, family offices and private equity firms. 

The historical returns of farmland investing have been uncorrelated to conventional assets and securities such as stocks, bonds, real estate, timber, and even short-term agricultural commodity prices. Accordingly, the inclusion of farmland in a portfolio increases diversification while providing an attractive hedge against inflation. Additionally, farmland has delivered a higher average annual return than most asset classes in the last 29 years (1992-2020). To summarize in more detail, farmland has:

(1) Historically Attractive Returns (1992 – 2020 / 11.01%)

(2) Low Volatility of Returns (1992 – 2020 / 6.9%)

(3) Uncorrelated with Other Asset Classes (1992 to 2020 / -0.05 to 0.45)

(4) Long-Term Tailwinds (high demand with decreasing supply and recession / inflation resistant

Farmland crops can be divided into two sub-categories, annual row crops and permanent crops. Annual row crops, such alfalfa, corn, wheat, peppers, squash, lettuce, and others, are planted and harvested annually, or more frequently. Permanent crops, such as oranges, almonds, and grapes, have plant structures such as trees or vines that produce crops annually without being replanted.

Row Cropland

Row cropland investments produce annual crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton, wheat, and rice. In general, these have lower annual cash flow yields but less volatility. They typically have shorter harvest periods and involve lower upfront capital expenditure. The crop decisions are made annually providing additional flexibility for farmers to react to relatively current market conditions.

Permanent Cropland

Permanent cropland investments, our focus here at Terra Ag, include perennial crops such as fruit and nut crops, which have both pre-productive and mature periods. Pre-productive or “greenfield” investments must mature before they reach economic profitability. Some permanent crops, like almonds, peak in productivity and then decline so orchard age is an important factor in estimating productivity and value. Others, such as pistachios and pecans, take longer to reach economic profitability but can produce an economically viable crop for over 50 or 100 years. These crop types have longer investment horizons and offer opportunities for higher profitability and higher yields but also carry higher risk.

Farmland Values

Farmland values began rising in 1988 and, except for single-year declines in 2009 and 2016, have continued rising. Additionally, since 2000, the NCREIF Farmland Income Index, which tracks the value of U.S. farmland, has more than tripled. A similar positive trend in farm income growth and appreciation of land values occurred in other major crop-producing regions, such as South America, Oceania, and Europe.

Regionally, farmland values vary widely because of differences in general economic conditions, local farm economic conditions, government policy and local geographic conditions that affect returns to farming. Cropland values are highest in the Pacific region with California ($12,900/acre) and Arizona ($7,650/acre) having the highest value cropland as of 2020.

Food Demand

The world currently faces a global supply-demand imbalance with regards to food production. As the global population continues to rise, with expectations of reaching 9.7 billion by 2050, approximately 70% more food will be required than is consumed today. Additionally, it is estimated that only 7% of the Earth’s land is suitable for cultivation with most of the world’s productive arable land already in crop production. With increasing food production needs and decreasing land suitable for cultivation, this will create a supply-demand imbalance.

Alongside the rise in global population and growing food production needs, increases in income per capita is driving higher daily caloric intake. 2.3 billion people currently consume 2,000 to 2,500 kilocalories per day; however, this number is expected to drop to 683 million by 2030 as consumers transition to diets of 2,500+ kilocalories per day. This shift in consumption will be most prevalent in developing nations such as India and Africa, which remain 30% below current U.S. average consumption levels.

In addition to the increase in population and caloric intake, consumer preferences are evolving to include a greater emphasis on nutritious foods due to a better understanding of health benefits and higher income per capita. Within the U.S. and the developing world, this growing awareness of the importance of what people eat and its influence on a healthier lifestyle is driving demand for fresh, wholesome foods. In the U.S., more than half of Americans report trying to consume more protein, fiber, whole grains and vitamins and minerals in their diets.

Driven by rising demand for food, decreasing land supply, low correlation with other assets and historically strong performance, it is thus not a surprise that more investors are looking to access farmland as an investment opportunity. As with other types of real estate, farmland investors also benefit from tax savings through depreciation. At Terra Ag, we’re excited to see this investment opportunity become more mainstream with investors looking for ways to diversify and earn solid returns.

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