Okra, a relatively young fintech startup based in Lagos, Nigeria, has gotten backing worth $1 million from venture capital group TLcom.
Founded in 2019, the startup has gained traction for its API product, which connects users’ bank accounts to digital apps that may require them for financial transactions. The founding team speaks of it as a “super-connector” that could link Africa’s fintech platforms together and make digital transactions truly seamless.
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They already serve Nigeria’s major commercial banks. Companies like Travelstart, AIICO Insurance, Renmoney, AXA Mansard, and Palmplay also use its solution.
Its founders, Fara Ashiru Jituboh and David Peterside, say they will leverage the support to strengthen their service and expand into other parts of the continent.
TLcom has a $71 million fund which will go to African startups well into 2021. Okra is one of 12 startups that it intends to benefit from this plan.
Okra’s proposition may have convinced TLcom because it fills a significant gap in fintech in Africa. This segment has received a lion’s share of startup investment on the continent in the past few years. In 2019, it gulped 62% of funding for startups in Nigeria.
Investors see African fintech as a goldmine that’s only been partially explored. In Nigeria alone, about 60 million adults lack access to financial services. There’s also plenty of room for improvement in the banking system, openings that fintechs are rushing in to fill. Huge populations and untapped potentials have drawn the dollars in.
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But the partners at TLcom say they were also impressed by the Okra founders’ technical experience. One of them, Andreata Muforo, alluded to Jituboh’s expertise in 20 programming languages, and her stints with US banks and tech companies.
Before co-founding Okra, Jituboh had worked with JP Morgan Chase and Fidelity Investments, and a number of startups in the United States.
With the investment deal sealed, Muforo will be joining the board of Okra. Ido Sum, another partner at TLcom, will also be taking a position as a board observer.
Demand for Okra’s service has soared this year. That’s partly because more businesses are going digital, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The startup is already pushing ahead with its expansion plans. It’s currently hiring new talent and hopes to broaden its geographical reach. The team hasn’t disclosed where they will be setting up next; Moforo has suggested a possible launch in Kenya.
Featured image source: Techcabal
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