FinTechs and the bankless for the unbanked future
Nigeria ranks 6th among the world’s most unbanked countries, and has a 206.1m population, with 60% unbanked, 24% cash transactions, 27% card transactions, 16.9 ATMs per 100,000 adults, and 70% internet penetration (Merchant Machine, 2021). Moreover, adapted in 2013 by Aileen Lee (a venture capitalist), the term “unicorn startup” talks about a private company that is valued at or over $1 billion. This is because just like the mythical creature, the statistical rarity of such a successful business venture is almost improbable, but not impossible. And there goes my question: Can we make unicorn status commonplace in Nigeria with a highly densely populated (226 per square kilometer or 586 people per square mile — 5 times of the United States), unbanked and youthful presence, despite all odds?
FinTechs in Nigeria have begun to articulate this narrative, with a couple of them hitting that status — the likes of Flutterwave (now gunning for the $3b valuations) and Chipper. The future of money and transactions lie with finance on the wheels of technology, visioned by artificial intelligence and data analytics. No wonder OPay and Flutterwave (in Nigeria) came out of grossly uncharted paths to lead banks that have been in existence for 40 years. What if entrepreneurs began to shoot for the trillion-dollar valuation like what Amazon and Apple have created out of America in 2021? Of the top 10 on that track to a trillion dollars, we see 9 out of 10 being tech-driven (Apple, Microsoft, Saudi Aramco, Amazon, Alphabet-Google, Facebook, Tencent, Tesla, Inc., Comcast, Meituan). Only Saudi Aramco is Oil and Gas on that list. Imagine what it means for the economy when 7 out of those 10 are US-based companies. What could such thought patterns make possible for 206.1 million (2020) people living within a 923,768 km² space area called Nigeria?
Further on, we notice that Money thrives when acceptance and value exchange (which lies at the core of its usage) becomes simplified. So much is possible when AI, IoT, data analytics, and robotics have intercourse with the world of finance. Surely, time is inching by the seconds into the future and we are at the brink of a true global transformation when everything fuses into a seamless experience and you are just you operating from anywhere and anytime. Yes, technology makes that a reality with its ability to replicate and adapt better as human second nature in phones, tablets, watches, eyeglasses, waistbands, scarfs, footwear, and cars.
The FinTech space excites me and one of my great passion is to see businesses thrive and gain global dominance with 100 out of Nigeria companies, rising to a valuation of no less than $20b, each bringing that cumulative to a $2Trillion total valuation. Entrepreneurs have the magic wand that puts Nigeria on the pedestal of the envy of Nations and we have the manpower, population density, people buying passion, and tech-vironment to create this amazing reality.
Furthermore, I deeply appreciate what AirBnB is doing to aggregate the “waste” in property usage while re-channeling such energies towards the achievement of new customer experiences and value trade. FinTechs in Nigeria have towed similar paths to chart courses in uncharted territories, while financial inclusion remains largely challenged; and research shows that 73.2 million adults representing 41.6% of the adult population in Nigeria remain unbanked. What solution can you offer to connect 10 million of this category? Some top FinTech and Bankless companies are doing amazing value creation on a global scale and we will be looking at a couple in that category.
Flutterwave (www.flutterwave.com.ng — raised a total of $234.7m in over 13 funding rounds from 43 investors) is a FinTech company that provides a payment infrastructure for global merchants and payment service providers. They pride themselves on the easiest way to make and accept payments from customers anywhere in the world. They offer one platform that lets their merchants sell wherever their customers are (online, in‑person, anywhere in the world, and everywhere in‑between). Indeed a laudable goal and commendable drive towards creating a unique customer experience to drive retention. They acquired Disha on 10 November 2021, which empowers creators with tools to showcase their work easily and beautifully.
Chipper Cash (www.chippercash.com — raised a total of $302.2m in over 6 funding rounds from 20 investors) is a FinTech platform that offers mobile, cross-border money transfer services. They are inviting the world to join over 4 million people securely sending and receiving money with Chipper Cash, promising that people can move money across Africa or an ocean. What a bold claim to say they are the borderless way to send and receive money!
Kuda (https://www.kudabank.com/ — raised a total of $91.5m in over 5 funding rounds and latest on 2 August 2021 from a Series B round) is a licensed digital bank that offers free full-service banking solutions to Africans. Imagine a Kuda that says they are there to help humanity get the best out of their money with no strings attached. The tag line, “Welcome to your freedom!”, sells it for me. Also noteworthy is Airopay, towing that digital banking path to provide users the ease and convenience of carrying out banking transactions from their phones at super fast speed in secure manners with no hidden charges.
Clyde (https://www.joinclyde.com/ — raised a total of $58m in over 5 rounds of funding with the latest in a Series B on 19 October 2021) based in New York, is a platform that connects retailers to insurance companies to launch and manage product protection programs. Imagine a company that empowers businesses (ranging from startups to enterprises) to offer extended warranties and accident protection to their customers. Their plans fit into customers’ current purchase flow to ensure they are onboarded in minutes.
Paystack (www.paystack.com — raised a total of $10.4m in over 5 funding rounds) helps businesses accept payments via credit card, debit card, money transfer, and mobile money on their websites or mobile apps. They were acquired on 15 October 2020 by Stripe (www.stripe.com — raised a total of $2.2b in over 17 funding rounds with 14 lead investors and the latest funding on 14 July 2021 from a Secondary Market round). Stripe is a developer-oriented commerce company helping small and large companies accept web and mobile payments.
Digit (www.digit.co — raised a total of $66.3m in over 7 funding rounds from 24 investors) is a finance app that analyzes your spending habits and automatically saves the perfect amount every day. They ask users to take the worry out of their money and leave the tough thoughts about saving or investing money as Digit does it all for them. The company (Digit) was acquired by Oportun (https://oportun.com/ — raised $266.1m in over 9 funding rounds), which is a FinTech company that provides financial services from personal loans to financial resources.
Braintree (https://www.braintreepayments.com/ — raised a total of $69m in 2 funding rounds) is a payment platform that provides all the tools online and mobile businesses need to accept payments. Their checkout is designed to be seamless and secure (with the ready-made UI or tailor-made option), clients can give their buyers a checkout with fewer clicks and a friction-free user experience that can help reduce cart abandonment, increase conversion rates, and encourage repeat business. Braintree was acquired by PayPal (www.paypal.com — raised a total of $216m in over 5 funding rounds and the latest funding was raised on 16 February 2001 from a Series D round). Imagine what 216m USD did to create the experience PayPal now offers the world. Braintree also has a developer-friendly SDK, which is thoroughly documented and helps businesses bring new payment methods (including PayPal, and Venmo — in the US) in a single integration.
Flywire (www.flywire.com — raised a total of $323.2m in over 9 funding rounds with the latest funding on 4 March 2021 from a Series F round) is a global payments enablement and software company. They offer solutions in education, healthcare, travel, and technology; with vertical-specific insight and technology that enables such organizations to optimize the payment experience for their customers while eliminating operational challenges ranging from invoicing to payment reconciliation. They support more than 2,400 clients in multiple industries all over the world and process payments in more than 140 currencies. This gives them access to unique insights into the dynamics around how clients get paid, and most importantly how their customers prefer to pay.
Remitly (www.remitly.com — raised a total of $505m in over 13 funding rounds and latest funding on 11 May 2021) is a mobile payments service that enables users to make person-to-person international money transfers. They are a digital remittance service on a mission to make the money transfer process faster, affordable, and more transparent. Because of their digital nature, they can keep costs low and save a lot for their customers. Imagine what 505 million USD can make possible in a country like Nigeria, when most of it goes into technology infrastructure development to serve a tenth of our population predominantly youth!
In conclusion, I will like to posit that FinTechs hold the key to the future of how payments will be made possible and that there lies even much more ahead when AI, IoT, Robotics, Data Analytics, and Computer Vision crystalize around the world of finance; while wowed humanity is at the center of its value offering. It is important to manage investor relations well as a good team can make great results a possibility. How big is your dream in the value creation business space, and what vision drives your enterprise? That is my only worry for a lot of Nigerian entrepreneurs because there is so much the universe can make possible when the driver wants more. What would you like to create and who should be on the team of your value-offering experience. Yes, a huge dosage of enthusiasm will be required, and even more, is the clarity and consistency of what you see in your inner reality.
Welcome to the Future of Money!
I am open to conversations that further on the foregoing and thank you for your investment in time. Yours in tech, Olufemi Ariyo.
Email: [email protected]