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Ex-Metaswitch CEO John Lazar
Ex-Metaswitch CEO John Lazar

In the realm of textual composition, two pivotal facets take the spotlight: “perplexity” and “burstiness.” The former intricately measures the labyrinthine nature of the text, while the latter scrutinizes the diversity of sentences. Typically, human writers exude elevated burstiness by interspersing succinct and protracted sentences. Conversely, AI-crafted sentences often exhibit uniformity in their length. To ensure the content you generate possesses a commendable level of perplexity and burstiness, it is imperative to bear this in mind.

When fashioning textual content, artificial intelligence frequently resorts to phraseology that diverges from the choices a human would make. Employing unconventional terminology serves to augment the originality of the piece.

In the realm of blog article creation, Copia Global, a Kenyan e-commerce and fintech platform targeting mass market consumers, has welcomed John Lazar, the former CEO of Metaswitch (a Microsoft subsidiary), to its board. This development stems from a noteworthy injection of $20 million in fresh funding.

Enza Capital, the Pan-African VC firm co-founded by Lazar in 2019, emerged as a significant participant in the Series C extension round. Other contributors encompassed global private bank LGT, investment firm Goodwell Investments, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), German financial service provider DEG, Swiss impact fund Elea, Perivoli Foundation, and Sorenson Foundation.

Lazar brings profound expertise in constructing and overseeing businesses. Commencing as a software engineer at Metaswitch Networks in 1987, he ascended to the roles of chairman and CEO. The company, backed by investments from Francisco Partners and Sequoia Capital, solidified its dominance in cloud communications software. Lazar, relinquishing both roles in 2016, four years before Microsoft’s acquisition, also chairs the U.K.-based charity Raspberry Pi Foundation. Furthermore, he serves as an angel investor and mentor in the U.K. and Africa, boasting over 40 pre-seed and seed investments.

In a dialogue with TechCrunch, Lazar acknowledges a longstanding professional association with the Copia team. Their impressive fulfillment network and the escalating digital adoption by consumers compelled Enza Capital to support this Kenyan e-commerce endeavor.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects that consumer spending in Africa will surpass $2 trillion in the next three years, driven by the burgeoning middle class. Copia, established a decade ago, targets mid- and low-income African consumers in rural areas. These consumers encounter challenges in accessing goods and services compared to their urban or higher-income counterparts. Copia, utilizing a hyperlocal strategy, taps into the substantial market of approximately 750 million people across Africa. Employing a network of local agents and logistics, the company, with over 50,000 agents, has catered to over 2 million consumers. Despite the majority of orders occurring offline, Copia recently endeavored to digitize its agent network due to reduced data costs and increased smartphone penetration in Kenya. This shift aims to empower agents, potentially doubling their income, with future efforts focused on digitizing millions of consumers through smartphone financing models.

Expressing admiration for Copia, Lazar sees the current push toward digitization as a transformative moment for e-commerce companies. Despite challenges faced by the sector, Lazar believes this shift alters the game in terms of unit economics and efficiencies. The decision to join Copia’s internal round aligns with this perspective.

Copia, witnessing annual growth of 100% in recent years, emphasizes scale and rapid expansion for profitability. However, in response to a global downturn in capital markets and a shift in investor focus, Copia adjusted its strategy. Workforce reductions, including a 25% cut in its Kenyan headcount and the closure of its Uganda business, accompanied a more cautious approach. The company, having secured over $120 million in funding, acknowledges the importance of demonstrating healthy unit economics. The recent shift focuses on the digital relationship with customers, reflecting a broader trend in various industries where companies prioritize reduced labor costs as an initial cost-cutting strategy.

Copia’s strategic shift mirrors Jumia’s approach, emphasizing minimizing losses and slowing growth. Both companies grapple with challenges that question the sustainability of B2C e-commerce in Africa, despite operating distinct e-commerce models. It’s noteworthy that B2B e-commerce platforms also confront their own set of challenges in the market.