June 06, Colombo: IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, today announced its foray into venture capital in Sri Lanka with a $2.5 million equity investment in PickMe, the local technology company that introduced ride-hailing services to the country.
The investment will help the company expand across the island and increase access to affordable, safe, and efficient transportation.
PickMe, which launched operations in 2015, was founded by serial entrepreneur Jiffry Zulfer and helps customers call anything from an auto rickshaw to a luxury car using its smartphone app. This helps solve a critical problem, since Sri Lanka has as many as 31 people for each registered car and 20 for each auto rickshaw. The sharing economy-especially ride-hailing-has the potential to better serve women.
"We at PickMe have a strong expansion program in place as we enter new cities and diversify our operations to reach more customers, and serve them better," said Jiffry Zulfer, CEO of PickMe. "We are excited to be able to draw from the best practices and global knowledge that IFC brings."
Sri Lanka's venture ecosystem is growing, but funding options are still limited. A mere 5% of the startups that get seed funding manage to raise Series A rounds. IFC's entry into this space is expected to attract more capital, domestic and international, for the country's technology startups.
"Sri Lanka possesses many of the building blocks for a thriving digital startup ecosystem, but has been held back by a lack of global expertise and funding," said Amena Arif, IFC Country Manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives. "Through this partnership, we want to help make travel safer, increase revenues for the company's driver partners, and support the growth of Sri Lanka's startup ecosystem."
IFC's Venture Capital group invests in growth-stage companies that offer innovative technologies or disruptive business models focused on emerging markets. IFC's investments mobilize institutional capital and better position companies for follow-on funding, sustainability, and further job creation.
Sri Lanka is a priority country for IFC. IFC's committed portfolio in Sri Lanka covers projects across a range of sectors, including infrastructure, tourism, renewable energy, finance, and healthcare. IFC also provides advisory services to promote sustainable growth among small and medium enterprises by facilitating access to finance and by offering capacity-building and training opportunities.