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Orca reels in €550K to sink fraud in emerging markets

Orca founders. Picture credits; Orca

Orca, a South African startup dedicated to combating fraud in emerging markets, has secured €550K in a pre-seed round that was oversubscribed. This funding will be used to develop effective fraud prevention tools and engage with customers in South Africa. The announcement comes as Orca aims to protect banks and fintechs from various types of fraud, leveraging its innovative AI-driven platform.

Strategic investment partners

The funding round was led by Norrsken22, with participation from First Circle Capital, Musha Ventures, Kara Ventures, as well as several strategic business angels, family, and friends. The round’s success, especially in the current market climate, underscores the strong support for Orca’s mission.

About Orca Fraud

Founded in January 2024 by Thalia Pillay and Carla Wilby, Orca aims to empower fraud analysts and compliance officers with the tools they need to combat various types of fraud effectively. After interviewing over 150 fraud professionals and fintech founders, Orca identified a critical need for targeted solutions in the fraud landscape. Thalia and Carla, who met while studying engineering at the University of Cape Town, have extensive experience in the fintech and startup industry. Their firsthand experiences with the high volume of preventable fraud in African fintechs and banks inspired them to start Orca. The company is committed to providing affordable, effective fraud prevention solutions tailored to the unique challenges of emerging markets.

The rising challenge of fraud in South Africa

South Africa has experienced a dramatic 600% increase in reported fraud cases since 2018, according to the South African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS, 2022). The proliferation of new payment methods such as Payshap, mobile money, cross-border payments, and e-wallets has opened up new avenues for large-scale fraud, often facilitated by instant settlements. This surge in fraud highlights the need for robust, scalable fraud prevention solutions tailored to the specific challenges of emerging markets.

Tailored solutions for unique challenges

Existing fraud and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) prevention providers are often designed for economically developed markets and do not meet the unique needs of African fintechs and banks. The socio-economic climates, regulatory environments, and payment platforms differ significantly, necessitating bespoke solutions. Orca aims to fill this gap by offering modular fraud prevention services that protect businesses and their users from the damaging effects of fraud.

Orca’s innovative approach

Orca’s approach is tailored to the specific types of fraud prevalent in emerging markets. The startup’s solutions are designed to be affordable and effective, providing much-needed protection for businesses in Africa. Given South Africa’s status as a cybercrime hub, Orca is launching its services locally before expanding to the rest of the continent.

Leadership and vision

Thalia Pillay, Co-Founder of Orca, highlighted the importance of building a network beyond South Africa to connect with fraud prevention experts in other markets. “It has been incredibly useful establishing a network far beyond South Africa where we’re able to connect with fraud players in other markets. There are so many parallels between the types of fraud that we see in various emerging markets. There’s so much fraud to fight that it really is a team effort. As we always say, we named ourselves Orca because orcas’ band together to take down boats. Looking forward to collaborating with our peers to take down fraudsters”

Using funds for growth and innovation

With the newly raised funds, Orca plans to expand its team and develop, validate, and iterate its fraud and compliance products. This strategic investment will enable Orca to enhance its offerings and better serve its clients.

Investor confidence

Thalia Pillay expressed enthusiasm about the strategic investors involved in this funding round. “We are excited about the strategic investors we have onboard, who can provide us with various types of support we are looking for at this early stage. We aimed to have a diverse cap table that reflects where and how we plan on growing the business. Most of our investors are builders themselves who have successfully navigated B2B and fraud spaces which makes them especially relevant to us.”

Nivesh Pather of Norrsken22 commented on the significant fraud challenges faced by emerging market banks and fintechs, particularly in Africa, “We have seen the quantum and complexity of fraud challenges faced by emerging market banks and fintechs, specifically in Africa, as they scale to provide increased financial inclusion. Orca is building a fraud prevention solution that is tailored for the African market. The market needs a bespoke solution, rather than a retrofitted suite of tools that was built for global markets where the finance and regulatory infrastructure is totally different. Whilst our core focus at Norrsken22 is on supporting growth stage businesses, selectively back exceptional founders at an earlier stage building in key verticals and we believe Orca is in a great position to become the leading fraud tooling for African businesses.”

Selma Ribica, Co-Founder of First Circle Capital, added, “We invested in Orca Fraud because of their focus on building an orchestrated fraud prevention platform, with tailored fraud models based on a company’s transactional data. Thalia and Carla are super strong product experts and experienced in fraud risk management. We are bullish about the scaling potential of the solution they are building”.

Pioneering women in tech

Orca was founded by an all-female team, a rarity in the global and African startup ecosystem. Data from “Africa: The Big Deal” shows that between 2019 and 2022, only 1% of funding went to female-only founding teams or solo female founders. Thalia Pillay and Carla Wilby, the co-founders, are determined to disrupt this male-dominated landscape by building a lean, resourceful, and agile company.

Both founders have a passion for advocating for women in engineering. As founders, they understand the importance of representation and diversity across all aspects of their business—from the founding team to investors and future employees. Orca will be hiring in the coming months, aiming to build a world-class team dedicated to innovating towards a fraud-free future.

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