Microtraction: Trusting the entrepreneur, the idea and the market in good faith and helping raise $10m in follow-on

Microtraction, could be called the stepping stone into getting into YCombinator (Silicon Valley-based Startup investor) seed investor base on their track record. Most startups they invested in have been able to get into YC. In this Chat with Dayo Koleowo, the partner, we asked about their thinking when it comes to writing the first checks for entrepreneurs in Nigeria.

Below is the interview;

VentureHunt: What’s the link between YC and Microtraction? Do you hold special classes for your startups to be able to make it through YC?

Dayo Koleowo: Our relationship with YC is pretty informal, we do not have any official relationship. What has really worked for us is that we understand the ethos of YC as well as understand the local market. YC doesn’t have the exposure to the African market because they are not on the ground like us and other micro VCs on the continent. However, because our criteria are similar and we look out for the same things when making investments despite being in different locations, the chances become a little higher for our portfolio companies to get in. 

We do not hold special classes for our startups. What we simply do is go through their applications and help them review it. We also connect them to YC founders who can help them prepare for the video interview if they do get to that stage.

VH:What’s the success rate of the startup’s post-pre-seed in raising additional funds?

DK: 100%. All our companies have raised follow-on funding after our initial investment. They have all raised a sum total of about $10m.

VH: Market dynamics; based on recent investments, MT has invested a lot in Fintech, how much attention is given to other sectors? Do you actively pursue deal flows from other sectors?

DK: It is important to note that we are sector agnostic despite the investments in a couple of fintech startups. One of the most important things for us is the quality of the founders and these founders have generally focused on providing fintech solutions. In general, from an overall economic development perspective, regions like West Africa, and some other parts of Africa are still developing their capital market. Some of the basic and of course important problems such as consumer-level payments, credit, etc. are still being solved for. 

The flow of money is very critical to the economic development of the continent. So what tends to happen is that founders and companies decide to solve a problem but find out that their scalability is linked to the flow of money. When financial problems are solved it then becomes the foundation for other things to be built on top of. Classic example – imagine Nigeria without Paystack & Flutterwave, some companies will never have been started.

In summary, the same attention is given to all sectors. We will support and back founders who are solving the biggest challenges on the continent, regardless of the sector.

VH: Your portfolio has proven true to your mantra of a solid technical co-founder as part of the founding team; how flexible are you these days if the idea is awesome but the founders are not technical, do you invest still and ask them to figure out the technical bit?

DK: It is very difficult to build something without some level of expertise. We are in the business of tech. Any team building a tech business or tech-enabled business has to have some level of technical expertise. It is not just about what our criteria is, it is also about ensuring you don’t outsource your tech development. As a previous founder, I understand how expensive and time consuming it is to outsource your tech development. 

So for us, having 2 – 3 people in the team with a technical founder is always a winning combo. If we come across a great idea with no technical founder, we will only invest if the non-technical founder is willing to have a co-founder down the line. There are exceptions but we like to stick to our mantra.

VH: We have gone through your portfolio, you currently have like 9 startups, are there any others you want to share?

DK: None at the moment.

VH: Logistic is going haywire across the market, what your view and is it something you are looking at?

DK: We are always looking at different sectors. The logistics/transportation industry is a very interesting one and similar to the way fintech is being approached. Moving people or goods around is still difficult and if solved for it will open up interesting ideas that founders can build on top of that. Definitely a space we are keeping an eye on.

VH: There seem to be lower than average activities on the seed side in the country, what’s your view around this?

DK: There will not be enough seed activity if the pre-seed activity is not vibrant. We need more folks to bet on very early-stage startups for the seed activity to pick up. After all, it is the pre-seed startups that stand a chance to become seed startups. That is why we are focused on this very important stage of the venture chain. 

VH: What are your expectations generally about the Nigerian and Africa tech ecosystem?

DK: My expectation is to see a vibrant and successful Nigerian and African tech ecosystem where problems are being solved and the economic development is rapidly growing. This can only be achieved through the stakeholders – entrepreneurs, founders, investors, service providers, etc. We have to work together, educate each other, and build an ecosystem that will outlast us. 

If you are an entrepreneur building awesome stuff, why not sign up on Microtraction to get your ideas funded? Click here to get started.

Fairmoney Nigeria’s Fintech Startup Raised $12.5m in Series A Funding

Fintech just can’t stop raising money. The Firm launched in Nigeria last year with a local team and France-based engineering and product teams. Yesterday announced the raising of $12.5m, Led by Flourish, a venture of The Omidyar Group, the partners of DST Global, and existing seed investors Newfund, Speedinvest, and Le Studio VC.

Fairmoney is a microloan startup with a focus on the emerging market. Started as a mobile phone-based loan company, it has expanded to microloan to small businesses. Its goal with the new funding is to become a digital bank just like Kuda, which raised $1.6m seed last.

Back in May 2018, it raised $1.4m in seed and has gone on to grow to 200,000 customers.

The new funding will be used to scale up the engineering team and expand beyond Nigeria.

Big Question

Given that the engineering team is based in France, will the new funding help hire local devs and product team to help in further tailoring the product to the local markets they will be expanding to?

 

Breaking News: Nigeria’s online-only bank startup raised $1.6m Pre-seed

 Just when you think that Fintech-fever is over in Nigeria, out of nowhere comes Kuda, the fintech startup who prides itself as a bank without a single branch raised $1.6m in pre-seed. Founded just a year ago by Babs Ogundeyi, Kuda has racked up so much growth that investors decided to splash the cash on it.

What makes Kuda different from other Fintech Startups, in his world, Babs Ogundeyi said “Kuda is the first digital-only bank in Nigeria with a standalone license. We’re not a mobile wallet or simply a mobile app piggybacking on an existing bank, We have built our own full-stack banking software from scratch. We can also take deposits and connect directly to the switch,” Ogundeyi added, referring to Nigeria’s Central Switch ”

It’s amazing seeing freshly minted startup raise so much as pre-seed, I can imagine how out-of-the-roof the numbers must be. The funding was led by  Haresh Aswani , along with Ragnar Meitern.

Why does it matter

Many Fintech before it mostly piggybank on existing banks and exist just like wallet service but Kuda has been given a license and its strategy is to operate strictly like a bank. Sign up, verify your identity, get your bank account number and start banking.

It also has a relationship with 3 (GTbank, Access, and Zenith)of the top ten banks in Nigeria where you are able to walk, make deposit or withdrawal without charges. This essentially turns it into Nigeria’s bank with the widest reach. According to the story, the banks are not investors but partners. This is unlike other partnership we have seen banks in recent times where they own equity in startups where they have deep integration.

The startup plans to use the fund to scale up its team and execute more on it’s the strategy. With offices in Lagos, South Africa and London!

Jumia is looking to deal with fraud and loses, jumps into the ring with Paylater, RenMoney to start giving out loans

It’s no secret that Jumia is struggling to turn a profit; this was apparent during its last earnings call. Since its launch, it has burnt through more than a Billion dollars in a bid to dominate e-commerce in Africa.

JumiaPay, the payment arm of the company, which has been growing over the years, looks like a good candidate and channel for growth. During the earnings call, the CEO mentioned that it will be spun-off as an independent firm to enable it to take advantage of the growing Fintech sector across Africa. They recently posted on their website looking for a loan officer to join the payment team. This product will help give loan to the merchant in its marketplace to enable them to increase inventory and improve sales. The consequence of this is that they will have improved revenue in the coming quarters.

According to the job post;

“Our loan officer will assist in the development of Jumia Lending in Kenya by presenting our solution to our sellers. He/she will be helping our sellers to apply for a loan, and with the help of the loan officer will review the data collected and the applications. The loan officer will be part of the JumiaPay team in Kenya and work side by side with the loan officer,”

The candidate will work from Kenya, which has a more evolved Fintech than other areas in Africa. It will be a testbed for other Fintech products the company will launch in the nearest future.

What does this mean for the space?

Fintech is growing aggressively across Africa, Nigeria and Kenya are the hottest spots for the sector. From Paylater, to RenMoney, Branch and other loan platforms, the fight just got bigger. This product should be an easier sell than others, given that the company has live data about the customers’ sales numbers from the platform this should help them accurately predict revenue and the merchant’s ability to pay back.

Stanbic IBTC Welcomes Students Back to School with New Educational Payment Products

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new school year started this month, and Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, a member of Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC, has introduced a suite of user-friendly educational payment products that will relive parents and guardians of the burden of school fees.
The question now is, how do these educational payment solutions work?

Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC is a Nigerian financial institution with eight subsidiaries and an estimated staff strength of 5,000 Nigerians. Furthermore, 80% of the Stanbic IBTC board members are Nigerian.

With this Nigerian-based perspective, the bank recognises the cultural nuances in Nigeria, and has thus specifically modelled these products to be a relief.

The first of the solutions is the EZ cash loan/advance. Parents and wards who are strapped for cash at the point when school fees payment are due, can take advantage of the EZ cash loan, which gives access to loans, in less than a minute, to pre-approved customers.

If you are a salary earner, you can take advantage of Salary Advance (SALAD), another of the bank’s short-term loans that is quick and easy to get.

Another of Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC’s educational products is an international money transfer solution for payment of school fees and allowances abroad.

Added to that are prepaid cards which can be preloaded with pocket money for children/wards, while the credit cards, which currently offer a 55-day interest moratorium, can be used to seamlessly pay school fees.

Dr. Demola Sogunle, the Chief Executive, Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, said that the bank has a high-importance view of learning, and in accordance with this, it develops solutions that parents and guardians can take advantage of to ensure that their wards get the desired level of education.

He identified a deep understanding of Nigeria and developing tailor-made solutions as factors that distinguishes Stanbic IBTC Bank as a leading Nigerian financial institution.

Speaking on this, he said, “We are a Nigerian bank and we realise that whilst parents and guardians may have desired levels of education for their children, funding may be a deterrent in the pursuit of these dreams. We have hence developed these products which will ease the burden of school fees payment while also providing satisfaction to the parents and guardians that their wards are getting good education.

He added that the bank’s loan products offer fast, simple and convenient ways by which customers can meet their short term financial obligations to educate their wards, with very convenient repayment terms.

Other benefits of the school fees loans are: access to a revolving line of credit, flexible repayment terms, and the opportunity to access credit up to 100% of the customer’s income.

With schools resuming for a new term, the school fees loans will help to alleviate the financial burden parents and guardians may face in paying school fees. He further stated that the conditions for accessing the loan products are having a salary account with the bank; or having  investments with any of the Stanbic IBTC group subsidiaries.

Loan applicants can walk into any branch of the bank and apply for any of the education loans in a few easy steps. The application is then processed and the customer is contacted with feedback.

 

 

Chipper Cash Expands to Nigeria and Hires Abiodun Animashaun of Gokada

The San-Francisco based cross-border African startup, Chipper Cash has expanded to Nigeria. It further strengthened the move by opening an office in the capital city, Lagos, and hiring Abiodun Animashaun, cofounder and CFO at Gokada, the ride-hailing startup based out of Lagos, as County Manager.

Chipper Cash is a fintech firm involved in providing a platform for cross border payments. Founded by a Ugandan (Ham Serunjogi) and a Ghanaian (Maijid Moujaled), both of whom had arrived in the United States as students, Chipper Cash has grown at a steady clip and currently boasts as many as 70,000 users.

With offices in Ghana and Kenya, the firm is expanding to Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, to offer its Peer to Peer payment service and app. It is doing this in partnership with PayStack—the payment gateway company, as confirmed by Paystack CEO, Shola Akinlade.

Though the company only fully started October last year 2018, its plan to move to Nigeria’s major economy and scale digital finance applications in the budding Fintech space in the country indicates that its product has got a degree of traction.

Further testifying to this is the fact that as many as 70,000 active users on its no-fee, P2P, cross-border mobile-money payments product. Plus, 250,000 transactions have been completed in the platform since it went live.

Speaking on the rationale behind expanding to Nigeria, Ham Seunjogi, one of the co-founders of Chipper Cash, said,

Nigeria is the largest economy and most populous country in Africa. Its fintech industry is one of the most advanced in Africa, up there with Kenya and South Africa.”

“I think for any company doing fintech across borders, that is looking to be successful in Africa, it’s imperative that you have a presence in Nigeria.” he further said.

Besides Animashaun, Alicia Levine is another senior figure who is leaving and African tech venture to join Chipper Cash. Alicia Levine will leave Nairobi based internet hardware and service startup BRCK to become Chipper Cash’s Chief Operating Officer, according to Chipper Cash CEO Ham Serunjogi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carbon and Appzone Partner with Open Banking Nigeria

The Nigerian Fintech companies, Carbon and Appzone, have announced a partnership with the non-profit, Open Banking Nigeria.

Formerly known as Paylater, Carbon is Nigeria’s leading digital financial platform that gives quick loans at low interest rates, without the need for guarantors or collateral. Appzone is Africa’s leading provider of integrated banking and payment software platforms to financial institutions.

Recently, these two top financial technology (fintech) players respectively announced their collaboration with non-profit Open Banking Nigeria, joining  industry players like Paystack, Flutterwave, Interswitch, Ernest & Young, Fidelity Bank, Global Accelerex, TeamApt, PwC, and Sterling Bank who have partnered with Open Banking Nigeria.

 

With this collaboration with Open Banking Nigeria, the two fintech companies hope to extend the frontiers of innovation, to attain non-financial and non-partisan API standards for financial services in Nigeria.

Even more, the collaboration is expected to advance ongoing efforts by various notable financial industry stakeholders in the country targeted at maximising the rapid increase in digital and mobile payments, with the ultimate consumer-centric objective of meeting yearnings for convenience and flexibility.

The fintech companies, Carbon and Appzone would actively participate in diverse phases of the development of common API standards for Nigeria, testing the APIs for certification, and stimulating the adoption of Open Banking standards across the country.

Speaking on the partnership with Open Banking Nigeria,  Chijioke Dozie, the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of  OneFi, the parent company of Carbon said, “At Carbon, we know that data is more important than oil. We also understand that open banking presents a tremendous opportunity to unlock financial access for millions of consumers and has the potential of transforming the financial services landscape, not only for banks and fintechs but for everyone across the ecosystem,

It follows our innovative leanings as a brand committed to providing credit to the financially under-served and excluded individuals around Africa. We believe that, with Open Banking, we would be able to extend consumer credit to the 40 million unique bank customers across the nation.

We find open banking critical to the future, especially as we support over 300 financial institutions on BankOne, our banking-as-a-service platform.

Our partnership with Open Banking Nigeria also comes as a result of our understanding that in our fast-rising digital world, the use of standard APIs is crucial to empower verified third party players to securely leverage technology. Moreso, the adoption of standardised APIs is known to cut cost, reduce connectivity complications and improve turnaround time.” said Obi Emetarom, Chief Executive Officer, AppZone.

According to Ope Adeoye of Open Banking Nigeria,the collaboration of these fintech companies would, “enable further innovation in our financial services industry where the lack of common API standards currently constitutes a barrier to innovation, especially in the areas of digital payments expansion and financial inclusion.

Open Banking Nigeria was founded in 2017 by a group of industry experts across fintech, banking, and risk management to build a common standard for Open Banking APIs (Application Programming Interface) in Nigeria.

It is tailored for various stakeholders within the financial services sector such as banks, Fintechs, and regulators, working together to build the next generation of API standards for the Nigerian banking and financial industry.

Wallets Africa wants you to ditch your business bank account

 

Ever put together the cost of making payments from your corporate bank account?

Founded in 2016, Wallets Africa is a Nigerian fintech startup that is working to make banking in this digital age as seamless as possible.

It allows people to send money, receive money, and make payments using phone numbers around Africa. The company’s goal is to give its customers a unique and improved transaction experience.

Two days ago, on 2nd September, the company, the Co-Founder and CEO of the company, John Oke, took to his Twitter page to announce the launch of a new product that will further help the company achieve its goal. He said,

Over the past few months, we’ve been working hard to allow businesses enjoy modern internet banking just like our customers. I’m excited to announce the launch of Business Wallet Accounts on @walletsafrica. businesses.wallet.africa.”

“It’s the easiest way to manage bulk payouts, make expense payments and perform transfers via API. Startups that you love … already use their business @walletsafrica account to manage day to day business internet banking operations. Request access businesses.wallet.africa.”

In an interview with Venturehunt, the company disclosed that the name of the product is Wallets for Businesses.

What is the process of opening Wallets for Business?

To open a Wallets for Business account, you have to request access to the Wallets for Business website. Your business has to be registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission and have an RC number.

How is this different from normal banks?

Wallets For Business is really easy to set up and devoid of the typical bank charges that corporate customers are used to. This is mainly because Wallets Africa is not a bank, but a built relationship with banks to offer better experiences to our customers.

How are your charges different from the current bank charges?

All bank transfers on Wallets go for as low as N25 and if you’re sending to a Wallets account, the transaction is done for free.

How long will it take before this product is open to the public?

We will be open to the public soon but we’re currently running a closed beta where people can request for access to start using it.

Do you have a banking license, and will the businesses receive a bank account number?

We’re currently using Providus Bank and all businesses will receive a bank account number.

Can Wallets For Business be used to handle employee payments?

Yes, it can. It comes with the bulk transfers option that allows the user to transfer money in bulk by integrating with Google sheets. All you have to do is input the account details into a google sheet and you’re good to go.

Will there be a corporate expense ATM card?

Yes, there will. We’ve started testing.

Basically, it will allow businesses to manage bulk payouts, make expense payments, and make transfers.

Even more, it includes a feature that will allow companies to link their business account with Google Sheets and perform bulk transfers to bank accounts.

Carbon Expands to Kenya Chijioke Dozie Discloses

From a tweet from the company’s CEO Chijioke Dozie, it appears that the fintech startup, Carbon (formerly Paylater) is expanding to Kenya.

Carbon is one of Nigeria’s leading digital financial platform that launched two years ago, around May 2017. It gives quick loans to its users without requiring collateral or guarantors.

On Aug 28, 2019, Chijioke tweeted saying,

Looking for a self-starter that can help launch @get_carbon’s operations in Kenya. Local knowledge and experience in financial services/fintech is preferred. @get_carbon is hiring for a Kenya Country Manager! Please see link for more details onefi.bamboohr.com/jobs/view.php?…

Before this expansion, its presence was in only Nigeria, South Africa,Ghana and Portugal. The startup has been doing quite well since its launch, and this expansion to Kenya, one of Africa’s fast-growing economies, is another step in this direction.

As a matter of fact, it recently secured $5 million debt funding to acquire more customers in the Nigerian market as well as finance its expansion to other markets in Africa.

What’s more, Carbon now functions as a payment solution platform, offering services such as fund transfers and bill payments, going beyond loan offering. This move by the company is mainly as a result of its parent company – OneFi recent acquisition of a payment solution, Amplify.

Recent news around the company revolves around its strange but amazing decision to make its audited financial report open to the public, something that is quite uncommon among private companies in Nigeria.

As part of its commitment to transparency between the company and its customers, and attracting top talents, the company promised to continue publicising audited