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Kenya’s ‘Airbnb for Forestry’ Scores Big

In 2002, Bay Area native Tevis Howard, a high school grad at the time, took a gap year to work on malaria research in Kenya. During his time in the country, Howard noticed that though Kenya was generally poverty-stricken, for those that lived on a high quality land where they could grow vegetables or tend dairy cattle, there was a chance to break out of that cycle. Howard came up with a company called Komaza, which is what he calls an “Airbnb for forestry.” He created a model where farmers who owned land (that was mostly sitting empty), would plant tree seeds, wait for the trees to grow, and get paid once the fully grown trees were cut down and sent to be used for a variety of construction and industrial needs. “We work on the entire chain of forestry, we own and operate the largest seedling nursery in Kenya, so we make our own seedlings, and distribute and plant them with our partner farmers.” Earlier this month, Komaza secured a first close of $28m of the company’s planned $33m Series B equity financing. The Kenya-based company, which recently moved from the small coastal town Kilifi to the capital of Nairobi, currently employs 450 people. During its first 10 years, it lived on a total of $5 million invested mostly from grants and venture philanthropists, while in 2017 it raised a $10 million Series A investment.