Startup snapshot: Delivering land rights documentation to Ghanaian farmers
Meridia, an Accra-based property rights start-up, provides landholders (particularly smallholder farmers) with a one-stop-shop land documentation service, allowing them to register their properties under their name. The documentation is compliant with Ghanaian regulations and customary traditions, and can be used as collateral for accessing agricultural loans.
Meridia uses GPS data to map landholders’ plots, word-of-mouth to verify land ownership, and confirms the landholders’ identities in order to seek certification of land deeds from local authorities.
The company also has a presence in the Netherlands, with offices in Amsterdam.
“Authorities benefit by having a fully verified digital dataset, including biometrics and high-quality surveying. In turn Meridia helps landholders access relevant services such as finance, leveraging their land document and personal dataset,” noted Simon Ulvund and Thomas Vaassen, the founders of the business.
The duo further answered How we made it in Africa’s questions.
1. How did you finance your start-up?
Initially we had a grant to explore technical feasibility. However, since then we have gone the classic start-up route, raising two rounds of early-stage finance from a mix of angel and institutional investors. Our investors are spread across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.
2. If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?
Expanding to new markets. Following our successful implementation in Ghana, we’re seeing quite some interest from other markets.
3. What risks does your business face?
Structurally, we can only operate in an environment where there is strong land administration legislation in place and where the judiciary respects land laws. On the customer side, our biggest risks are related to cash constraints, which can significantly affect ability to pay.
4. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?
We use multiple channels and it varies by community. Anything from radio commercials, to working with commodity buyers, the traditional councils and chiefs – and our favourite: getting a slot at the end of Sunday service in churches, where you can present your wares to the whole congregation.
5. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.
Selling our first 10 land documents to smallholder farmers and asking them why bought it. They all responded: For my children.
6. Tell us about your biggest mistake, and what you’ve learnt from it.
We were too eager to go to a second market before having proved the first one fully. So instead we made Ghana our main focus and expect to launch our second market later than planned. But with one business that is already breaking even to back it, we’re set up for a much more sound growth trajectory.