Flutterwave and PayPal collaborate to allow African merchants to accept and make payments

It is nearly impossible for businesses in some African countries to receive money from PayPal. While the payments giant has not given reasons why this is so, speculation hints at factors like insufficient regulation and poor banking security in said countries. 

That might be a thing of the past for some businesses as African payments company Flutterwave today is announcing a collaboration with PayPal to allow PayPal customers globally to pay African merchants through its platform.

Via this partnership, businesses can connect with the more than 377 million PayPal accounts globally and overcome the challenges presented by the highly fragmented and complex payment and banking infrastructure on the continent.

According to CEO Olugbenga ‘GB’ Agboola, this will happen via a Flutterwave integration with PayPal so merchants can add PayPal as a payment option when receiving money outside the continent. The service, which is already available for merchants with registered business accounts on Flutterwave, will be operational across 50 African countries and worldwide, the company claims. Flutterwave hopes to roll out this service to individual merchants on the platform as well.  

“In a nutshell, we’re bringing more than 300 million PayPal users to African businesses so they can accept payments across the continent,” he said to TechCrunch. “Our mission at the company has always been to simplify payments for endless possibilities, and from when we started, it has always been about global payments. So despite having the largest payment infrastructure in Africa, we want to have arguably all the important payments systems in the world on our platform.”

A PayPal spokesperson confirmed the Flutterwave collaboration with TechCrunch.

Since the company’s expansion to Africa, it has maintained a one-sided relationship with most countries on the continent, allowing them only to send money. And according to its website, only 12 African countries can send and receive money on the platform, but to varying degrees. They include Algeria, Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, Seychelles and South Africa.

Users in countries who are not afforded the luxury to do so have to rely on using the PayPal account of a friend or family, based in countries where payments can be received. Next, they request the funds via bank transfer, leading to more incurred costs or use other cross-border money platforms like WorldRemit.

This is a pain point for these businesses, particularly in Nigeria. PayPal finally arrived Africa’s most populous country in 2014 and a year later, it became the company’s second-biggest market on the continent.

But despite its fast adoption rate and large fintech appetite, merchants cannot still receive payments from other countries on the platform with various sources alluding PayPal’s decision to the country’s history with internet fraud.

Fraud or not, Nigeria’s e-commerce and that of the continent at large continues to grow at a breathtaking pace. In 2017, Africa generated $16.5 billion in revenue, and by 2022, it is expected to reach $29 billion. With numbers like this, it isn’t hard to see why PayPal wants to get in on the action, albeit not completely. Hence, the partnership with Flutterwave.

The company, via its APIs, offer payment services to individuals and businesses across the continent. Since launching in 2019, the African payments company has partnered with Visa to launch Barter; Alipay to offer digital payments between Africa and China; and Worldpay FIS for payments in Africa.

But this one with PayPal is arguably its biggest partnership yet. Now, African businesses have more access to sell to global customers using PayPal to receive and send payments online. 

In a way, Flutterwave absorbs most of the risk PayPal thinks it will incur if it makes its platform more open to merchants in these countries. But at the same time, it solidifies Flutterwave’s position in the eyes of multinationals looking to enter the African market.

Like when its partnership with Worldpay FIS coincided with its Series B funding, this announcement is also coming on the back of a raise. Last week, the payments company closed a $170 million Series C led by Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger Global, becoming a billion-dollar company in the process.

In hindsight, the mammoth raise suggests that there are a couple of projects in the company’s pipeline. Going by this partnership, we can expect the majority of them to be global plays.

Yet, these questions remain top of mind — What happens when PayPal automatically allows businesses from these neglected African countries to start receiving payments? Will both services continue to coexist if that happens? We’ve reached out to PayPal for comment.

However that plays out, this is a step forward in the right direction for Flutterwave, which has shown time and time again the length it is willing to go for its 290,000 merchants and the ongoing quest to become a global payments company.

“By working with PayPal, we can further strengthen our commitment to our customers and service users as we will be enabling them to transact and expand their business operations to reach new markets. PayPal’s global reach is unrivalled, and collaborating with them allows our customers to explore new markets where PayPal is embedded,” the CEO said.

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African payments company Flutterwave raises $170M, now valued at over $1B

The proliferation of fintech services across Africa remains in full swing as investors remain bullish about the opportunities that abound in the sector. Today we behold another unicorn: African payments company Flutterwave announced that it has closed $170 million, valuing the company over $1 billion.

New York-based private investment firm Avenir Growth Capital and US hedge fund and investment firm Tiger Global led the Series C round. New and existing investors who participated include DST Global, Early Capital Berrywood, Green Visor Capital, Greycroft Capital, Insight Ventures, PayPal, Salesforce Ventures, Tiger Management, WorldpayFIS 9yards Capital

The Series C round comes a year after Flutterwave closed its $35 million Series B and $20 million Series A in 2018. In total, Flutterwave has raised $225 million and is one of the few African startups to have secured more than $200 million in funding

Launched in 2016 as a Nigerian and U.S.-based payments company with offices in Lagos and San Francisco, Flutterwave helps businesses build customizable payments applications through its APIs.

When the company raised its Series B, we reported that Flutterwave had processed 107 million transactions worth $5.4 billion. Right now, those numbers have increased to over 140 million transactions worth over $9 billion. The company, which also helps businesses outside Africa to expand their operations on the continent, has an impressive clientele of international companies. Some of them include Booking.com, Facebook, Flywire, and Uber.

Flutterwave says over 290,000 businesses use its platform to carry out payments. And according to the company’s statement, they can do so “in 150 currencies and multiple payment modes including local and international cards, mobile wallets, bank transfers, Barter by Flutterwave.”

While its website shows an active presence in 11 African countries, Flutterwave CEO Olugbenga Agboola, also known as GB, told TechCrunch the company is live in 20 African countries with an infrastructure reach in over 33 countries on the continent.

Last year was a pivotal one for the five-year-old company. Its second investment came just in time before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Africa, negatively impacting some businesses but not payments companies like Flutterwave.

Agboola says his company grew more than 100% in revenue within the past year due to the pandemic without giving specifics on numbers. It also contributed to its compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 226% from 2018.  

According to the CEO, this growth resulted from an increase in activities in “COVID beneficiary sectors”  — a term used by Flutterwave to describe sectors positively impacted by the pandemic. They include streaming, gaming, remittance, e-commerce, among others. Agboola adds that the company plans to ride on these sectors’ growth and continue in that trajectory.

Besides, Flutterwave’s response in introducing the Flutterwave Store for merchants during pandemic-induced lockdowns was instrumental as well. The product, which went live across 15 African countries, helps over 20,000 merchants to create storefronts and sell their products online.

Image Credits: Flutterwave

Flutterwave wants to become a global payments company, and the Series C investment helps to reach that goal. The company says it plans to use the funds to speed up customer acquisition in its present markets. It will also improve existing product offerings like Barter, where it has over 500,000 users, and introduce new offerings. One such is Flutterwave Mobile, which in the founder’s words “will turn merchants’ mobile devices into a point of sale, allowing them to accept payments and make sales.”

In a statement, Agboola gives credit to the company’s more than 300 staff, investors, customers, and regulatory bodies like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for creating the backbone for Flutterwave’s success.

For some, it would come off as strange that the CEO mentioned the last stakeholder given the unfavourable and questionable regulations it has recently placed on fintechs in Nigeria.

However, Agboola thinks the reverse is the case. He makes a bold statement by saying that under the current CBN governor’s current administration, the Central Bank has shown a consistent regulatory framework that has allowed fintechs like Flutterwave to thrive.

“Flutterwave, for instance, launched when the governor just came in. We got our license and scaled our business because of a favourable regime that allowed it to be possible. There are so many trailblazing innovations that we don’t talk about a lot about Nigeria, like the BVN and the NIP system. Nigeria has consistently been at the forefront of payments innovation for over a decade, and all it was possible because of the forward-looking CBN policies,” he said.

On exits, acquisitions, and the billion-dollar club

One fintech company that has unquestionably championed payments in this timeframe is Interswitch. The payments giant is currently worth $1 billion after Visa acquired a 20% stake in 2019 and Flutterwave joins the company as the only fintechs in Nigeria to have reached that valuation. This number increases to four in Africa when including publicly traded African e-commerce company, Jumia and Egyptian payments company Fawry.

Flutterwave’s $170 million mammoth raise and its billion-dollar valuation represent a landmark achievement for the African startup scene. While the aforementioned companies’ valuations can’t be disputed, there are question marks on whether some are startups or others, African companies.

Interswitch, for instance, was founded in 2002, which doesn’t necessarily make it a startup despite still being private. Fawry was launched in 2007 but didn’t become a billion-dollar company until 2020, a year after going public. Jumia, albeit public, reached unicorn status as a private company in 2016; however, there are varying consensus if it is an African company or not.

Unlike the others, Flutterwave checks all the boxes of what a billion-dollar African startup should ideally look like — founded by Africans in Africa while reaching a $1 billion valuation in fewer than 10 years.

Most stakeholders in Africa’s tech ecosystem knew this would happen, but the timing expected was later rather than sooner. After raising $35 million in a Series B in 2020, who would have thought Flutterwave was going to raise almost five times that amount the following round and be valued at more than $1 billion the next year? Maybe just a few.

Well, these numbers rarely matter to Agboola, as I ask him what he thinks of Flutterwave’s new growth metric. “I’ll say valuation is both art and science. At some point, we were also the most valuable African company at YC, but it’s not really a metric we’re focused on at Flutterwave because they move up and down,” he smiles. “Our key metrics have always been revenue, customer growth and retention.”

Aptly said, but as the company continues to grow, questions around profitability and exit will become more frequent.

Paystack, another Nigerian payments company that is often compared to Flutterwave got acquired by Stripe for more than $200 million last year. At the time, there were also rumours of Flutterwave taking the same route, but this Series C raise suggests that the company is not looking to exit at the moment. However, if the YC-backed company indeed does, it might be through an IPO.

“Like every other startup, we’re thinking about ways to create exit tools for our investors. So, a listing is very much in our plans, but for now, we’re focused on giving the best value to our customers,” Agboola said. 

In the course of the company’s journey to this point, it has remained big on partnerships. In 2019, Flutterwave partnered with Visa to launch Barter and Alipay to offer digital payments between Africa and China. Then last year, the company announced a partnership with Worldpay FIS for payments in Africa.

Although Flutterwave has done this with bigger establishments, Agboola says the company will be looking to do the same with smaller companies, opening the doors to potential acquisitions.

We believe in payments in partnership as you have to partner to scale. So, if in the course of making partnerships and scaling and we identify promising companies with a similar ethos and have our vision in mind, that is in making Africa a country, an acquisition isn’t off the table,” he said.

After capturing much of Sub-Saharan Africa, Agboola says Flutterwave’s next plan is to go live in North Africa. There, it will likely face competition from a local leader, Fawry, but that doesn’t matter. The African fintech market is large enough to accommodate multiple players.

That’s one reason why it has also been a popular bet with investors. The sector, which is both local and international investors’ top destination, attracted between 25% to 31% of the total VC funding last year from varying sources.

But from the information on their websites, this is the first time Flutterwave’s lead investors —  Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger Global — are backing an African fintech startup. For the former, Flutterwave represents the first African startup in its portfolio, but Tiger Global is known to have invested in Nigerian media company iROKOtv and South African e-commerce company, Takealot.

Via their partners — Jamie Reynolds of Avenir Growth Capital and Scott Shleifer of Tiger Global, both firms said they’re backing Flutterwave on its quest to build a global and world-class payments company.

Looking into the future, Agboola insists that the company’s focus remains to support its 290,000 merchants and help them build global businesses.

“We look forward to increasing our investments across the continent and deepening the impact our platform has on lives and livelihoods as we take more businesses in Africa to the world, and at the same time continue to bring more of the world to Africa,” he said.

 

#africa, #finance, #flutterwave, #funding, #olugbenga-agboola, #payments, #startups, #tc, #tiger-global, #unicorn, #worldpay

Vitesse, a fintech providing real-time cross-border payments for businesses, scores £6.6M Series A

Vitesse, the London-based fintech that offers real-time cross-border payments for businesses, has raised £6.6 million in Series A funding. The round is led by Octopus Ventures, with participation from existing backers including Hoxton Ventures and various angel investors.

The company says the new investment will be used for growth, including building out its sales and marketing functions, and expanding Vitesse’s footprint in the U.S. market. It will also further invest in the “reach and speed” of its banking capabilities in order to meet customer demand as the fintech expands globally.

Founded in 2014 by Phillip McGriskin and Paul Townsend, who sold their previous fintech to Worldpay, Vitesse operates a global banking and payment network. This sees it able to provide customers with direct access to the domestic payment networks of more than 100 countries in over 60 currencies.

It currently targets businesses in the insurance, payroll and corporate payment space who want to simplify their liquidity management and easily make cross-border payments. Existing customers include Brit Insurance, DXC Technology and Gett. To date, Vitesse has processed over £2.1 billion across almost 2.3 million transactions.

“Cross border payments are still largely inefficient, especially for businesses,” explains McGriskin. “They can be slow and expensive, and tracking and reconciling them and keeping compliant in a constantly shifting regulatory environment can prove difficult”.

To remedy this, Vitesse’s banking network provides access to multiple domestic banking services so that businesses can make payments to other businesses and their customers in the “fastest, and most economical way”. In addition, they gain greater transparency through things like real-time reporting.


Over on Extra Crunch, early Vitesse backer Hoxton Ventures assess Europe’s early-stage landscape.


“We are essentially running a globally distributed, local banking network to make payments so our customers don’t have to do it themselves,” says McGriskin. “And then we supply a customer specific view so they can manage their funds most effectively, giving appropriate views right across their business. It saves them a lot of time and money and operational expense”.

In the verticals it currently operates, the fintech typically competes with banks, which, conversely, it also partners with to gain access to those domestic payments networks and to tailor its services to customers.

Explains McGriskin: “The biggest different between us and the banks is technology. We are able to use our technology to provide real-time services with very rich and flexible reporting for our customers. And we can be nimble. But we prefer to work with the banks to optimise services for our customers”.

#bank, #banking, #economy, #finance, #financial-technology, #hoxton-ventures, #london, #money, #octopus-ventures, #payment-network, #tc, #united-states, #vitesse, #worldpay

African fintech firm Flutterwave launches SME e-commerce portal

San Francisco and Lagos-based fintech startup Flutterwave has launched Flutterwave Store, a portal for African merchants to create digital shops to sell online.

The product is less Amazon and more eBay — with no inventory or warehouse requirements. Flutterwave insists the move doesn’t represent any shift away from its core payments business.

The company accelerated the development of Flutterwave Store in response to COVID-19, which has brought restrictive measures to SMEs and traders operating in Africa’s largest economies.

After creating a profile, users can showcase inventory and link up to a payment option. For pickup and delivery, Flutterwave Store operates through existing third party logistics providers, such as Sendy in Kenya and Sendbox in Nigeria.

The service will start in 15 African countries and the only fees Flutterwave will charge (for now) are on payments. Otherwise, it’s free for SMEs to create an online storefront and for buyers and sellers to transact goods.

While the initiative is born out of the spread of coronavirus cases in Africa, it will continue beyond the pandemic. And Flutterwave’s CEO Olugbenga Agboola — aka GB — is adamant Flutterwave Store is not a pivot for the fintech company, which is an alum of Silicon Valley accelerator Y-Combinator.

“It’s not a direction change. We’re still a B2B payment infrastructure company. We are not moving into becoming an online retailer, and no we’re not looking to become Jumia,” GB told TechCrunch on a call.

Image Credits: Flutterwave

He was referring to Africa’s largest e-commerce company, which operates in 11 countries and listed in an NYSE IPO last year.

Flutterwave has a very different business than the continent’s big e-commerce players and plans to stick with it, according to GB.

When it comes to reach, VC and partnerships, the startup is one of the more connected and visible operating in Africa’s tech ecosystem. The Nigerian-founded venture’s main business is providing B2B payments services for companies operating in Africa to pay other companies on the continent and abroad.

Launched in 2016, Flutterwave allows clients to tap its APIs and work with Flutterwave developers to customize payments applications. Existing customers include Uber and Booking.com.

In 2019, Flutterwave processed 107 million transactions worth $5.4 billion, according to company data. Over the last 12 months the startup has been on a tear of investment, product and partnership activity.

In July 2019, Flutterwave joined forces with Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba’s Alipay to offer digital payments between Africa and China.

The Alipay collaboration followed one between Flutterwave and Visa to launch a consumer payment product for Africa, called GetBarter.

Then in January of this year, the startup raised a $35 million Series B round and announced a partnership with Worldpay FIS for payments in Africa.

On the potential for Flutterwave Store, there’s certainly a large pool of traders and small businesses across Africa that could appreciate the opportunity to take their businesses online. The IFC has estimated that SMEs make up 90% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s business serving the region’s one-billion people.

Flutterwave confirmed Flutterwave Store’s initial 15 countries will include Africa’s top economies and population countries of Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

Those markets already have a number of players driving digital commerce, including options for small businesses to post their wares online. Jumia’s Jumia Marketplace allows vendors register on its platform and use the company’s resources to do online retail.

Facebook has made a push into Africa that includes its overall push to get more users to sell on Facebook Marketplace. The social media giant now offers the service in Nigeria — with 200 million people and the continent’s largest economy.

GB Flutterwave disrupt

Flutterwave CEO GB, Image Credits: TechCrunch

eBay has not yet gone live in Africa with its business to consumer website, that allows any cottage industry to create a storefront. The American company does have an arrangement with e-commerce startup MallforAfrica.com for limited sales of African goods on eBay’s U.S. shopping site.

On where Flutterwave’s new product fits into Africa’s online sales space, CEO GB says Flutterwave Store will maintain a niche focus on mom and pop type businesses.

“The goal is not be become like eBay, that’s advocating for everybody. We’re just giving small merchants the infrastructure to create an online store at zero cost right from scratch,” he said.

That’s something Flutterwave expects to be useful to Africa’s SMEs through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

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Biometrics security technology developer BioCatch raises $145M

BioCatch, a developer of biometrics security technology, said it has raised $145 million in its latest round of funding.

The company’s technology tracks user behavior on websites to determine if a customer is real or a fraudster, according to a statement. Its technology is now used by more than 40 of the largest global financial institutions, the company said.

That top tier client list is likely one reason why the company was able to attract the Bain Capital Tech Opportunities investment team as the lead for its latest round. The growth investing business of the multi-billion dollar private equity firm Bain Capital joined previous investors American Express Ventures, Maverick Ventures, and the Israeli crowd-funding investor, OurCrowd in backing the company.

BIoCatch will use its newfound hoard of cash on research and development and sales and marketing to enter new verticals beyond the financial services world.

The investment will accelerate BioCatch’s rapid growth, broaden its product offerings and further support its expanding client base into new verticals.

“BioCatch’s growth in annual recurring revenue and client base speaks directly to the growing demand for our service and the increasing number of use cases we are able to support,” said Howard Edelstein, the company’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “The current environment has spawned a large increase in bad actors seeking to take advantage of distracted individuals working from home or dispersed companies whose technologists are scattered in remote locations. In such times, technologies like behavioral biometrics become more important than ever.”

Since launching to service the financial services sector, the company has already expanded its footprint in fraud detection and prevention to other verticals — including eCommerce. BioCatch intends to introduce new software for public sector offerings in 2020, the company said.

The company claims its tech can identify the creation of fake accounts or stolen identities at onboarding, recognize account takeovers, and flag social engineering scams using voice recordings.

For Bain, the investment in BioCatch extends the firm’s long history of fintech and cybersecurity deals including investments in Blue Coat, acquired by NortonLifeLock; InAuth, acquired by American Express; and WorldPay, which was snatched up by FIS .

“BioCatch has quickly established itself as a pioneer in the digital identity space by developing next-generation behavioral biometrics technology that integrates fraud detection and authentication capabilities to protect end-users and their most sensitive transactions. Their technology is highly applicable to other verticals beyond financial services that have the same need to balance fraud and the user experience,” said Dewey Awad, a Managing Director at Bain Capital Tech Opportunities.

#bain-capital, #biocatch, #blue-coat, #chief-executive-officer, #companies, #e-commerce, #financial-services, #fis, #maverick-ventures, #mitt-romney, #ourcrowd, #tc, #worldpay