My uncle has lived the best parts of his life buying and picking stocks. A few weeks ago, we had a conversation about Nigeria and the business scene. In the middle of the conversation, he said, “your generation doesn’t produce business people as we did”. That was when I knew he had no idea about startups in Nigeria.
I took time to explain how young Nigerians from different walks of life are building companies that aim to solve one problem or another. In the process of explaining, he asked me to list the top startups in Nigeria.
Thinking about the best criteria to use in ranking the top startups, I focused on founders whose goal is to give the Nigerian society what it needs but hasn’t created yet. Think about it, before Interswitch, carrying huge amounts of cash around was cool. Today thanks to the efforts and works of different Fintech companies in Nigeria, there are numerous alternatives to carrying cash around. Cash is no longer King.
Interswitch: Interswitch Walked, So Other Fintechs In Nigeria Could Run.
Interswitch was a product of Elegbe’s observation. Before the birth of Interswitch, carrying cash was considered normal, and Nigerians used it to pay for everything.
The company built Nigeria’s first interbank transaction switching and payment processing infrastructure. This enabled interbank sharing and the first real-time POS system. Interswitch uses a ‘switching’ infrastructure to connect different banks in Nigeria. The firm provides technology for ATM cards, and it has over 11,000 ATMs on its network.
Interswitch is the owner of Verve, an international debit card that has become the most used payment card in Nigeria. Verve accounts for 18 million of the 25 million cards in circulation in the country.
The company also owns Quickteller, an online payments platform and retail pay, a mobile business management platform
In 2019, Visa bought a fifth of Interswitch at a valuation of $1billion, making Interswtich Africa’s first fintech unicorn.
Interswitch has raised a total of $210.5M in funding over three rounds. Their latest funding was raised on Nov 11, 2019, from a Corporate Round.
Flutterwave: Serving African Businesses- One Payment At A Time.
Flutterwave understands that Africa has one of the world’s fastest-growing digital payments markets. But there exists a disconnect between the population of the banks and the underbanked. For example in Nigeria, only 60 per cent of the population is financially included.
Bridging this gap is why Flutterwave exists today. And the firm has built a digital infrastructure that would provide a variety of payments services to African businesses through its API software.
Flutterwave was created in 2016 and it started in San Francisco where it participated in the prestigious start-up accelerator YCombinator.
Five years later, Flutterwave published that it has processed over 140 million transactions which is valued at $6 billion in payments worldwide.
Flutterwave currently operates in more than 15 countries. And more than 290,0000 businesses use its platform to transact businesses including Facebook, Netflix and Uber.
In March 2021, Flutterwave became a Unicorn, after it closed $170 million in financing.
Flutterwave has raised a total of $234.7M in funding over 13 rounds. Their latest funding was raised on Mar 9, 2021, from a Series C round.
Opay: A Startup That Wants To Dominate “Everything”
Opay was founded by Opera, and it was launched in Nigeria in August 2018. To operate in Nigeria, the company paid an undisclosed fee to acquire a stake in PayCom. Since the acquisition, PayCom has operated all OPay services in Nigeria and became a vehicle for Opera’s first $40 million investment fund for the country.
Since its inception, Opay has developed an app that does “everything”. It led with its popular bike hailing services, ORide. However, the ban on bike hailing in Lagos made Opay focus on payments.
The mobile app allows people to pay bills, transfer money, recharge cards, pay for services and do other functions. Opay also creates a bank account for users through Paycom, which allows users to use their phone numbers as their account numbers.
Opay now has over 300,000 agents, and the payment giant processed a gross transaction value of $2 billion in December 2020.
In July 2019, OPay raised $50 million from Sequoia Capital, IDG Capital, Source Code, GSR Ventures and Meituan-Dianping. Opera itself also invested in the round. Four months later, it raised a massive $120 million in a Series B round.
On the 23rd of August, 2021, Opay raised $400 million in new financing led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, at a valuation of $2billion.
Paystack: Making Payments Easier For All
Paystack was admitted into Y Combinator’s (YC) accelerator programme in winter 2016. And this made them one of the first Nigerian startups to join the programme.
The main focus of Paystack is payment processing. For merchants, Paystack helps them receive payments from customers. Founded in 2015 by two long time friends Ezra and Shola.
Paystack is a technology company solving payments problems for ambitious businesses. Whose sole mission is to help businesses in Africa become profitable, envied, and loved.
Paystack builds technology to help Africa’s best businesses grow – from new startups to market leaders launching a new business model. Paystack currently has more than 60,000 clients, including small businesses, larger corporates, fintech, educational institutions and online betting companies. And $2,900,000 payments were collected in October 2018 and more than $27 million was paid out to merchants in October 2018.
Last year Paystack was acquired by Stripe in a deal that is worth over $200 million. Which made it the biggest startup acquisition to date to come out of Nigeria.
KudaBank: Never Again To Ridiculous Bank Charges
Kudabank was created in 2019 by Babs Ogundey and Musty Mustapha with one mission, which is to give Africans access to banking services that they can afford. And unlike other traditional banks in Nigeria, Kuda is staying true to its mission by ensuring that its services are free. Hence the slogan “Bank of the free”
Kudabank’s rise is meteoric, the bank went from raising 1.2million pre-seed funding to raising 25 Million series A, 16 months later.
The bank went from having 300,000 customers and processing 500 Million worth of transactions in November 2020. To 650,000 customers and processing $2.2 billion in transactions in February 2021 alone.
Kuda hopes to continue growing its customer base in Nigeria. Ryan Laubscher Kuda’s COO, Says the company plans to further speed up the company’s growth.
Kuda has raised a total of $91.5M in funding over 5 rounds. Their latest funding was raised on August 2, 2021, from a series B round, which values the company at a valuation of $500,000,000
Paga: Another Unicorn In The Making
Paga is a mobile payment platform that allows users to make payments and transfer money with the help of mobile devices. The company currently has over 27,000 agents that are offering paga services across Nigeria. Through Paga, any individual with a mobile phone can conduct transactions using Paga’s platform mobile wallet.
Paga was created by Tayo Oviosu in 2009, and it caters to the unbanked population in Nigeria. Its major backers include U.S. billionaire investor Tim Draper and former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economist Jim O’Neill, the firm boasts 17 million unique users.
It processed over 2.3 billion worth of transactions in 2020 and 8 billion dollars in the past 4 years. Tayo Oviosu tweeted:
“We crossed 3 Trillion Naira in transaction values processed since the start of commercial operations in 2012. Hit N2 Trillion in March 2020. Hit N3 Trillion in May 2021 15 months to process 1 Trillion”
Word on the street is, PAGA Is expanding to Mexico and Ethiopia and if everything goes well, we’d soon celebrate another Unicorn in Nigeria. Things we love to see.
Paga has raised a total of $36.7M in funding over 5 rounds. Their latest funding was raised on Sep 6, 2018, from a Series B round which was led by the Global innovation fund.
TeamApt: Bridging The Financial Inclusion Gap
TeamApt was founded in 2015, the goal of the firm was to create financial solutions for customers by optimising partner banks and financial institutions’ operations.
By 2017, TeamApt was servicing 26 financial institutions and helped improve the service of over ten million customers.
In 2018, Teamapt realised that a lot of Nigerians are not financially included. And this made them work on direct consumer & business-facing products. By the end of 2018, TeamApt had onboarded 100,000 businesses and 3,000,000 customers while processing $160m in monthly transaction
In 2019, TeamApt launched Moniepoint, which is a platform for agent banking. Moniepoint uses a network of mobile money agents to provide financial services to unbanked and underbanked individuals in their communities.
Moniepoint has over 30,000 registered agents that make over 23m transactions per month. Also, almost ₦400b in value is transacted every month.
The firm also launched Monnify. Which provides businesses in the formal and informal sectors with the right tools and solutions to manage their finances and grow their businesses. Over 1,600 businesses are on the Monnify platform, with over 1,200,000 transactions per month and over 50Billion in value transacted
TeamApt’s last fundraise was $5.5m Series A in February 2019, which was led by Jim Ovia’s Quantum Capital. The firm is about to announce another fundraiser series, the CEO, Eniolorunda, confirmed the round – “a couple of tens of million” – has been closed. Another – “a lot more” – is in progress. Word on the street is if they announce, we might get a clear picture of the company’s valuation- fellas we might have another Unicorn in Nigeria soon.
Andela: Across The World, Brilliance Is Relatively Distributed. Opportunity Is Not,”
Andela was created by Jeremy Johnson and Iyinoluwa Aboyeji with one philosophy in mind, Africa has a lot of smart people, but they lack the guide on how to be gainfully employed in today’s world. Andela set out to bridge this gap between brilliance and opportunity- the result? Andela currently has 77,000 members in the Andela learning community. And more than 1,000 engineers were placed for jobs across 200 companies which includes Viacom, Mastercard Labs, GitHub among others.
The future looks bright as Andela is hoping to have helped prepare 100,000 software developers in Africa for jobs by 2024.
Andela has raised a total of $181M in funding over 10 rounds. Their latest funding was raised on Jan 23, 2019, from a Series D round led by Generation Investment Management The company is valued at somewhere between $600 million and $700 million.
PalmPay: A Startup That Entered The Nigerian Market With 40M war chest
PalmPay’s mission is simple: the firm desires to help 100 million Africans to advance their lives, through access to relevant, reliable and affordable financial services within the next three years.
PalmPay users can top up funds electronically, make and accept individual and merchant payments, purchase digital services and do peer-to-peer transfers.
When it was launched in 2019, PalmPay announced that it received a seed-stage injection of $40 million from Transsion Holdings. Transsion holdings the makers of Tecno, Infinix and Itel has over 50% of the telephone market share in Africa. Palmpay is working directly towards pre-loading the over 20 million units of Transsion’s phone brand with the PalmPay app, thus enhancing its visibility. For every Tecno phone, you buy- PalmPay is pre-loaded on it.
PalmPay prides itself as Africa’s leading payment platform.
Kobo 360: Solving Africa’s Logistics Problem, One Delivery At A Time.
Kobo 360 is a startup in Nigeria that was launched in 2017 by Obi Ozor and Ife Oyedele. The startup helps both individuals and SMEs to deliver goods to both local and international locations. And this is done through its digital logistics platform.
Cargo owners can request freight trucks using either their phones or the web and have their goods picked up and delivered to the required location.
Kobo’s selling point remains that they are cheaper and quicker, and the tech startup has so far moved over 300M kg of goods. And has signed up a fleet of over 12,900 drivers and trucks and has supported 2,345 businesses. The firm also launched its Beforedriver working capital finance program, Kopay, KoboSafe insurance product and KoboCare. a suite of driver services from HMO packages to family tuition help
Nothing is more rooted in Kobo 360’s mind today than conquering Africa. The continent is set to see a 16% increase (US$16 billion) in regional trade, due to the historic African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). Kobo 360 is looking to gain from this agreement by signing up 25,000 drivers to its platform with the new investment. And it has expanded into 10 African countries.
Kobo360 has raised a $20 million Series A round led by Goldman Sachs and $10 million in working capital financing from Nigerian commercial banks.
PigggVest: You’ve Got a Saving And Investing Problem? Piggybank’s Got You.
Piggyvest was created by Odun EweniyI, Nonso Eagle, Somtochukwu Ifezue and Joshua Chibueze. The startup was created to tackle the huge issue of savings in Nigeria.Piggybank. ng was first launched on the 7th of January 2016 as a savings-only platform. In April 2019, the firm rebranded to “PiggyVest ” and began offering direct investment opportunities to users in addition to savings.
The selling point of Piggybank remains that, unlike traditional banks, savings account. Where user can access their money at any time. Piggybank. ng helps its users maintain their savings discipline while building their savings culture.
Piggybankers can earn on average 6% per annum on automated savings or 10.95% per annum on the fixed deposit product. And they can withdraw funds for free once per quarter.
Since launching in 2016, over 2,000,000 people have used PiggyVest to manage their money better. And this has helped them avoid over-spending and be more accountable
Piggyvest has raised a total of $1.1million in funding. Their latest funding was raised on May 31, 2018, from a Seed round
Lifebank: A Startup That Does Not Want To Leave Any Man Behind
LifeBank was founded in 2015 by Temie Giwa-Tubosun. The Startup recognises that there is a problem with healthcare in Nigeria. The problem includes the lack of proper equipment in hospitals which eventually leads to avoidable deaths. Life bank thus is aiming to solve this problem by ensuring that patients that need blood get it when it is due.
LifeBank’s aims to educate people on the importance of blood donation for anyone in need of blood and increase accessibility to blood banks. It does this by working with hospitals and clinics.
LifeBank also delivers vital medical supplies such as oxygen, drugs and medical samples for patients. According to the website, Lifebank has moved 25825 products and has served 676 across Nigeria and Kenya. 10,401 lives were saved.
The importance of life bank to society is best evinced by Mark Zuckerberg “If everyone had the opportunity to build something like this, then the world would be a better place”