Lessons from PayStack at GES 2016

In the build-up to her panel discussion at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley, CEO Parminder Vir chatted with another delegate – Shola Akinlade, co-founder of Nigerian fintech startup PayStack, an online payment solutions firm. She writes about it.

On the opening day of GES 2016, I was excited to meet and share with new acquaintances, the story of TEEP. I opened each meeting with the trailer for the documentary that chronicles TEEP’s first year and it was thrilling to see so many people enthralled by our Founder’s vision for quickening Africa’s transformation through a thousand ready entrepreneurs every year. One of those with whom I shared the story was Shola Akinlade, a Nigerian whose success story is just as phenomenal as ours.

A few years ago, he founded PayStack with a friend after identifying a payment gap. He figured he could use his background in software engineering and development to build world class software to tackle this issue.

So they got to work, developing the software even with little funds. While it was in the beta phase of development, a concerned friend pitched the idea on their behalf to Y-combinator, a Silicon Valley-based accelerator programme. Soon they were accepted, becoming the first Nigerian company to do so.

Within six months, the startup was processing funds in the region of $200 per month. Barely a year after, it is processing over $200,000.

Since its launch in early 2016, Paystack has partnered with over 1,300 merchants in Nigeria alone, including industry e-commerce pioneers Hotels.NG and Jobberman. Prior to Paystack, Shola co-founded Precurio, an open-source collaboration software for businesses in emerging markets which was downloaded over 150,000 times and made available in 6 languages.

TEEP was setup to plug the existing gap for initial funding of businesses across Africa and Shola agrees that funding can be an issue in the early stages. “There are plenty of people offering $20 million when you’re successful, but no one trusts you before you’ve proven yourself”, he says.

Just like TEEP and its massive pan-African alumni network, Y-combinator takes its alumni network seriously. For 3 months, the alumna work with over a hundred companies and have dinner together every Tuesday to discuss business strategies and most importantly, find ways to collaborate. This is quite similar to TEEP’s country meet-ups, where mentors who are also potential investors meet with the entrepreneurs and top government officials. All of this is geared towards improving the ease of doing business and fostering solid beneficial collaborations.

I was surprised that it had to take a foreign investment platform like  Y-combinator to propel a Nigerian business like Paystack, but I’m glad they did because it is a fantastic idea. For other Nigerian – and African businesses wandering in the dark, TEEP is the homegrown solution that is here to help transform your business idea into gold.

I discussed this and more during my panel discussion on ‘David & Goliath’: Linking to International Supply Chains.’

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