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Nigeria’s Topship Raises $2.5 Million in Funding from Flexport and YC to Assist Merchants With International Shipping.

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When it comes to international shipping, African merchants face numerous challenges, ranging from logistics and customs to hidden and excessive charges.

To address these supply chain issues, the continent’s digital freight forwarders have grown. In some ways, they resemble Flexport, a $8 billion company and market leader in the freight space; some have dubbed themselves the “Flexport for Africa.”

Topship, a recent YC graduate, is one such startup that has raised a $2.5 million seed round months after finishing the most recent YC winter batch. Flexport is the company’s primary investor. Y Combinator, Soma Capital, Starling Ventures, Olive Tree Capital, Capital X, and True Capital are among the other investors. Individual investors in the round include Mercury CEO Immad Akhund and Dropbox co-founder Arash Ferdowsi.

Topship was founded in 2020, during the pandemic, after co-founder and CEO Moses Enenwali noticed an increase in merchants’ needs for shipping parcels and cargo outside of Nigeria. Following his time with logistics company ACE Logistics and e-commerce fulfilment provider Sendbox, he had developed relationships with these merchants. Despite the fact that demand was consistent during his time with both companies from 2015 to 2020.

“The world was closing down, but there was this high demand for things, and demand for international shipping was increasing at the same time.” “This is interesting,” I thought. “It wasn’t a business back then because we just helped these people move stuff like a scrappy, little hustle,” Enenwali explained.

Topship CEO Moses Enenwali

Globally, approximately 60% of air cargo is flown in the belly hold of passenger flights, which is one reason why, to some extent, air shipping businesses are easier to start than sea shipping businesses. It made even more sense for Enenwali to take this route because passenger planes flew half empty for the majority of 2020. Topship went live in March 2021 after months of iteration, with Junaid Babatunde as CTO.

Topship claims to want to make it as simple as possible for African businesses to export and import parcels and cargo to their customers, suppliers, and distributors around the world. The company, along with competitors like Sote, SEND, and OnePort365, aims to improve the overall shipping experience in Africa. Topship, on the other hand, has high expectations; the company stated in a statement that “its mission is to make the shipping experience in Africa as easy and stress-free as booking an Uber ride.” And one factor that may work in its favor is its emphasis on air cargo, even as others investigate the Flexport-pioneered combination of air, sea, and truck haulage.

While African startups, including his, have taken some cues from Flexport’s playbook, CEO Enenwali believes Africa isn’t ready for the unicorn’s model, which is heavily reliant on sea cargo movement.

“The Flexport model would not work here because it is heavily invested in ocean freight and there aren’t enough ports on the continent.” For example, in Nigeria, we only have one function port, and in order for ocean freight to work, we need ports, railways, and trucking roads. “But we don’t have roads, and we don’t have railways,” said the CEO, explaining why Topship does not handle sea cargo.

“Connecting the continent with ocean freight is difficult.” Even with their aggressive approach to problems, Flexport’s business model makes a lot of sense. However, for Africa, we must modify it to fit the local use case. As we’ve seen, the only way to connect the continent is by air. Every country and major city on the continent has an airport, and airlines fly to all of them on a daily basis.”

Topship serves a diverse range of users. Topship is a borderline local and international shipping solution between digital freight and e-commerce fulfilment, from a merchant moving tons of heavy equipment and a solo entrepreneur sending parcels to a student mailing documents to a school abroad and a Gen Z shopping from a foreign store. Flexport has invested in several African startups in both categories, including Trella, Flextock, ShipBlu, Sendbox, and Freeterium.

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Instagram Testing New Tool for Age Verification

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According to parent company Meta, Instagram is developing a new feature to stop minors from impersonating adults. Instagram will request identification if a user whose account indicates they are under 18 tries to manually change their date of birth on the platform.

A valid ID or driver’s license, “social vouching,” in which three adult users are asked to verify the age, or a video selfie are the three methods that people can demonstrate their age.

With social vouching, the three adult users must answer to the request within three days and cannot be vouching at the same time for anybody else. Instagram sends a video selfie to Yoti, a business whose technology can determine someone’s age based on their facial traits. Instagram explains how to take the video and claims that the selfies are erased once the verification process is over.

Younger users who have already informed Instagram that they are adults will not be caught by its new tool. Although Meta’s blog post does not specifically mention it, the new tool will be used to verify that users of the app are at least 13 years old in order to join up. 

Over the past year, Instagram has been the subject of inquiries questioning the app’s influence on teenagers. Attorneys general from a number of jurisdictions, including Massachusetts, Florida, and California, started scrutinizing Meta, claiming the firm was aware that Instagram could be harmful to children’s physical and emotional health. Additionally, The Wall Street Journal ran a series based in part on hacked papers, one of which claimed that Facebook was aware of Instagram’s “toxic” effects on teen girls’ body image and mental health.

Meta disputed the claims made by the states and added that the Journal had incorrectly described the leaked documents. The business said that some internal studies had revealed that using Instagram had improved some youngsters’ perceptions of their bodies.

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Alexa Could One Day Speak in Your Dead Loved One’s Voice

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One day, Amazon Alexa might be able to speak to you in the voices of departed loved ones. At Amazon’s re:MARS conference on Wednesday, the new voice assistant feature was noted as a method to “make memories last.”

Alexa would be able to mimic a person’s voice when speaking after less than a minute of listening to that person’s speech. According to Sky News, a child in a video of the feature asked Alexa to read them a story, and she agreed before changing her voice.

It’s unclear how far along the feature is in development or when Alexa voice assistants might start receiving it. We might not see this functionality any time soon because the re:MARS (for machine learning, automation, robots, and space) event highlights what Amazon is doing in ambient computing, including developments in Alexa.

The capacity to replicate a voice pattern precisely raises security concerns as well, but we’ll reserve judgment until we know how well Alexa can imitate a voice after only hearing it briefly. We’ll also watch how the function is accepted; even though it appears to require consent from users, there are ethical concerns over the rights of the deceased’s voice and how long they should be preserved.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the voice-imitating tool isn’t specifically designed for family members who have passed away. It is based on recent developments in text-to-speech technology, which are detailed in an Amazon white paper from this year. The team applied a voice filter to produce high-quality voice with much less data than was required when hours-long voice recordings in a professional studio were used to create the voice files.

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Twitter Tests Long-Form Notes That Let People Go Beyond the Character Limit

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Twitter said on Wednesday that it is testing Notes, a tool similar to a blog post that lets users publish longer pieces of writing on the social network.

By eliminating the need to use the Twitter thread and divide their views across numerous tweets, the functionality makes it simpler for people to publish long-form work. The content of notes can also contain images, videos, tweets, or GIFs.

“As the platform for writers, it’s clear that Twitter is essential — from the proximity to an engaged audience, to the conversation around a writer’s work, to the community of readers (and, often, cheerleaders) that Twitter provides, to the critical role it plays in the livelihoods and careers of writers, on and off Twitter,” Twitter’s editorial director, Rembert Browne, said in a Note on the platform.

Both on and off Twitter, users can read Notes, and you can see all of a person’s Notes on the new tab on their profile. According to Twitter, the Notes test is being conducted by a small number of writers in the US, Canada, UK, and Ghana. When Notes might be made more readily available is not yet known by the company.

A long-requested feature from anyone who has ever made a typo in a tweet, an edit button was finally being tested by Twitter in April. The website has now launched Twitter Blue, a paid subscription service that enables users to edit tweets, submit longer videos, and read news without advertisements.

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is in the middle of a proposed $44 billion acquisition of the platform. Musk has said he wants to quash bots on the platform and get 1 billion users on Twitter.

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