Releaf connects Nigerian agri-businesses to customers they can trust.
Through their platform, businesses register and indicate which commodities they are looking to sell. Then, they are presented with a list of verified buyer contracts for those goods that they may apply to. Finally, Releaf verifies the seller, and if they are qualified, makes a direct connection between the two parties. When businesses provide more information about who they work with, they increase the likelihood of the platform informing them of a mutual connection they might share with a customer, furthering the possibility of a deal.
Releaf was started in 2015 by Isaiah Udotong, an MIT undergraduate majoring in mechanical engineering with a concentration in international development (expected 2018), and recent graduates Ikenna Nzewi ’17 from Yale University, and Uzoma Ayogu ’17 from Duke University. Inspired by their Nigerian heritage, the founding partners immediately began working on their venture within just a few months of coming up with the idea as a way to help drive sustainable development in Africa.
At MIT, the team sought advice on incorporating from the BU Law Clinic, a resource they learned about through the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, and simultaneously began building out their business plan with the help of the Venture Mentoring Service. At the beginning of fall 2016, they started working with D-Lab to conduct primary market research.
Over the 2017 January Independent Activities Period, Isaiah traveled to Nigeria to further his research efforts and returned with a renewed focus on agriculture and a mind to scale after being advised to pivot to a more viable business model. Funding and support through MIT Sandbox helped the group better define their market.
In addition, Releaf launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for research-based travels and growth. The founders were also accepted in YCombinator’s 2017 Summer batch, to enable them to continue their mission of making it easier to do business in Africa, a solution they believe can scale across the developing world.