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3 Actionable Insights for Founders Looking to Build in Africa

  • May 2, 2022
  • |
  • 4 min read

Fintech is no longer a buzzword in Africa. As of H1 2021, Africa had a total of 576 fintech startups. South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya harbored 391 fintech startups – 65% of the African fintech ecosystem. 

“Across the continent, fintech isn’t so much disrupting traditional financial services as building up a historically underdeveloped industry. With around 66% of the African adult population unbanked, the emerging industry has a huge opportunity to drive financial inclusion outside of traditional banking systems,” writes Yomi Kazeem for Quartz Africa.

It’s undeniable that building a better and more inclusive financial world for the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent is one of the most challenging but most impactful problems facing African innovators. 

In an interview on #SpaceswithIvy, Majid Moujaled, President of Chipper Cash shares three lessons he and Ham Serunjogi, CEO of Chipper Cash, have learned on their journey in building a Fintech startup and solving payment challenges in Africa. 

Building a Fintech Startup: 3 Key Lessons

You’re never going to be ready

The hardest thing to do in anything worth doing is starting. This is because you’ll never be fully ready to do anything. 

Chipper’s birth wasn’t linear. Ham and Maijid began building prototypes for individuals in Ghana and Uganda because they were from those places. The grind continued for a year and a half – Maijid worked on Chipper in the evenings and weekends. 

“Ham moved in with me and got busy with Chipper. He began showing the app to investors and dealing with customer support late into the night. On the other hand, I kept to my nights and weekends schedule,” Maijid says.

And then Ham decided to quit Facebook and take on Chipper full-time!

“I was in San Francisco at the time, and Ham called me to say, Yo Maijid, I’m quitting Facebook. I had so many questions and concerns because I didn’t think that Chipper was close to being ready for that. We had just 200 customers!” Maijid says.

Often, overthinking may be your most significant challenge, but even the best people overthink. Just start.

Building a product takes time

Nothing good comes easy, and building a fintech startup is no exception. To succeed, hard work and consistency are critical. For over a year, Maijid and Ham had to keep at it, every day, for Chipper to work. 

Once Ham took up Chipper full-time, the need for fundraising was imminent. But all the team had was a prototype web app. 

“It’s tough to raise money when you have nothing tangible to show. It’s, however, crucial to go out and talk to people. Yes, you’ll get rejected, but you’ll have a relationship.” Maijid explains. 

And when you get into the arena, you increase your luck surface area. 

In August 2018, Digest Africa published an article about Chipper Cash titled “Chipper Cash wants to do to money what WhatsApp did to texting.”

Boom! Chipper’s userbase spiked upwards to over 2000 users. The app now had data to support the idea. And more opportunities came. 

“We now had something more than an idea, and that made a huge difference,” Maijid says. “We had people say no at stage A and come back at stage B or C. So, often, people aren’t saying no, they’re saying not right now.”

There are no rules

For aspiring entrepreneurs, there may be best practices based on context. But there are no rules. 

People have different personalities, different motivations, and different ‘why’s. There’ll be lots of advice from people. But it’s crucial to pick what falls in line with your values. It also pays to know your ‘why’ because the conviction keeps you going when it gets complicated.

For example, although the team needed all the funds they could raise, they didn’t settle for investors who didn’t align with their goals.

“It’s like getting married.” Maijid continues. “You need to find someone you love, who understands your values.”

Fast forward to present-day Chipper. And the team has raised over $305 million

Their first seed round with Daniel Kimerling, Founder and Managing Partner, Decien Capital, was validating. It also motivated Maijid and the team to keep going. They had people they couldn’t let down.

“The man said yes to a million dollars! When you close your first round, it just sparks a fire that convinces you that people can believe in your creation. And the momentum from there just spirals.” Maijid explains.

Chipper to the World!

In the beginning, Chipper’s core idea was to solve a specific pain point. Ham and Majid wanted to make it fast and easy to send money to Africa.

Sending money between countries in Africa was insanely slow and expensive, which both Ham and Maijid experienced first-hand growing up in Uganda and Ghana and again when they moved to the US for college. Today Chipper is a suite of financial services from Payments, Cards, Investing (Fractional Stocks and Crypto) and more. Starting with one use case, one painful process was critical in the early days and gave Chipper a strong footing to build upon.

And that underpins our belief that as we connect Africa, one transaction at a time, we accelerate trade and improve the lives of millions of individuals across the continent. 

If this sounds interesting to you, come and join us on the journey! Let’s build this together as colleagues (we’re hiring), partners, or fellow entrepreneurs!

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