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Pan-African Fintech Platform Appzone Secures $10 Million Series A Funding

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Pan-African Fintech Platform Appzone Secures $10 Million Series A Funding, SiliconNigeria

 Appzone, the Pan-African fintech software provider building proprietary solutions for the continent’s banking and payments industries, has today announced the close of its $10mn Series A round.

Led by CardinalStone Capital Advisers with participation from V8 Capital, Lateral Investment Partners, Constant Capital, and Itanna Capital Ventures, the new round will bolster investment in Appzone’s core technologies and kick off a wave of new country expansions in a drive to build out a financial operating system intended to completely digitise and automate the delivery of financial services on the continent.  

Launched in 2008, Appzone delivers best-in-class products for digital core banking and interbank transaction processing with clients across seven African countries including high-profile names like Access Bank, GT Bank and Zenith Bank.

Since its inception, the company, also an alumnus of the Google launchpad accelerator, has led Africa’s fintech sector through radical innovation that resulted in a number of global firsts from the continent, including the world’s first decentralised payment processing network , the first core banking and omni-channel software on the cloud and the first multi-bank direct debit service based on single global mandates.

To date, the company’s platforms have served 18 commercial banks and over 450 microfinance banks, amassing a yearly transaction value and yearly loan disbursement of $2bn and $300mn respectively.

As Africa’s traditional banks and fintech startups grapple with the increasing threat from telco companies and big tech players, Appzone’s products effectively and affordably equip them to deal with the sector’s most pressing challenges including legacy cost structures and a major lack of operational efficiency.

Currently, due to a severe dearth of high-quality localised solutions that address these problems, traditional and challenger banks in Africa are limited to using foreign technology solutions tailored for Western markets – many of which are plagued with the huge stumbling blocks of prohibitive pricing, insufficient flexibility to innovate and a lack of local tech support. 

Speaking on the fundraise, Appzone’s Co-Founder and CEO Obi Emetarom says: “We’re excited not only to be securing a significant capital raise, but also welcoming on board some strategic investors whose support will be key to our growth journey.

“Today’s news allows us to scale Appzone’s products and services rapidly. For the last 12 years, we’ve worked in stealth mode, building the really complex infrastructure to power the continent’s growing digital financial services space and forging partnerships with the continent’s biggest financial institutions. 

“In terms of next steps, we are now looking to hire from Africa’s top 1% to grow our team of elite talent who have proven themselves to be true  African builders; the brightest senior software engineers and domain experts, doing the incredibly hard work of building the backbone and next generation infrastructure for digital financial services at a level beyond world-class.

“We are seeking out gifted and audacious engineering and entrepreneurial minds, hungry to accelerate economic prosperity and tackle challenging technology with us. We are not just trying  to bring African fintech on-par with the rest of the world – we exist to make our financial sector the most innovative and technologically advanced on the globe through solutions built for Africa by Africans.”

Currently, Appzone’s clients spread across Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), Tanzania, Senegal and Guinea and to-date, the company has raised $15mn in equity funding with previous investors including Lateral Capital, GreenHouse Capital, Timon Capital and Itanna.

In 2018, the company obtained an officially approval from the Central Bank of Nigeria to operate as a Payment Solution Service Provider (PSSP) and has been the recipient of a number of industry awards including the Frost & Sullivan Award, NAMB (National Association of Microfinance Banks) and CeBIH (Committee of eBusiness Industry Heads) awards. 

Yomi Jemibewon, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Cardinal Stone Capital Advisers said: “Our investment in Appzone is further proof of Africa’s potential as the future hub of world class technology. Appzone is building a disruptive FinTech ecosystem that will be the backbone of Africa’s finance industry with products across payments, infrastructure and Software as a Service.

“The impact of Appzone’s work is multifold – the company’s products deepen financial inclusion across the continent whilst providing best-fit and low cost solutions to financial institutions. Its emphasis on premium talent also helps stem brain drain, rewarding Africa’s best brains with best in class employment opportunities.”

Despite its challenges, Africa’s banking sector is projected to reach a total market valuation of $129bn by 2022 according to McKinsey & Co. As the industry struggles to serve Africa’s huge unbanked population, there has been a growing influx of fintech platforms filling the gap. In recent years, these startups have attracted major interest from investors across the globe and in 2020, the sector accounted for over a third of the total $1.3 billion in funding secured by African tech startups. 

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Crypto-currencies and Blockchain

The Most Influential Business People Driving Blockchain Adoption

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The Most Influential Business People Driving Blockchain Adoption, SiliconNigeria

The Most Influential Business People Driving Blockchain Adoption, SiliconNigeria

Why has bitcoin’s market valuation soared past $1 trillion? Why is cryptocurrency a $2 trillion asset class today? Why are people suddenly going bonkers over a meme coin named DOGE? Why are NFTs making front-page headlines on every major news daily?

Because of a few people who are putting their weight behind the digital asset space and directly influencing the growth of the blockchain industry.

But who are these people? We’re profiling five of the biggest names in the industry below!

Elon Musk

The Most Influential Business People Driving Blockchain Adoption, SiliconNigeria

Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla, CTO, SpaceX, Source: CNBC

The suave and dapper CEO of Tesla, CEO, CTO, and chief designer of SpaceX, founder of The Boring Company, co-founder of Neuralink, and co-founder and initial co-chairman of OpenAI doesn’t need any introduction.

Well, that was an introduction. Besides the said positions that Elon Musk holds, he is a long-term believer in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.

Everyone in the crypto community is well-versedwith Elon Musk’s Dogecoin obsession. Such are the effects of his tweets that people not owning any cryptocurrencies have started taking an active interest in crypto prices and markets. You know where they headed first, right? Of course, Dogecoin!

The Most Influential Business People Driving Blockchain Adoption, SiliconNigeria

Source: https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1382552587099062272

Musk has garnered a reputation for being a straight-on DOGE “shiller.” Thus, curious folks find themselves searching for “elon musk dogecoin investment” on Google. And not just DOGE.

Musk’s company Tesla announced a $1.5 billion investment in bitcoin on its balance sheet more than two months back, along with the addition of BTC as a payment option for purchasing a new car. Musk and company understand that the cryptocurrency asset class is a great way to open up finance for all individuals irrespective of nationalities and geographies. Although we may never know whether or not Elon Musk does have any cryptocurrency, he indeed has pushed people enough to join the blockchain bandwagon.

Michael Saylor

The Most Influential Business People Driving Blockchain Adoption, SiliconNigeria

Michael J Saylor, founder and CEO, MicroStrategy, Source: Wikipedia

Another business executive and American entrepreneur who took the world by storm with his company MicroStrategy’s massive bet on bitcoin is Michael J. Saylor. But initially, the billionaire was a hardcore skeptic.

The Most Influential Business People Driving Blockchain Adoption, SiliconNigeria

Source: https://twitter.com/michael_saylor/status/413478389329428480

His public disdain for BTC has now become ancient history. He admitted that his comments were unfounded (in an interview with CoinDesk last year):

“I went down the rabbit hole during COVID-19,” Saylor said, admitting he “was wrong” to have doubted bitcoin back in the $600 range.

“I wish I knew then what I know now,” he said.

Last year he kickstarted the massive institutional bitcoin investment and blockchain technology adoption drive, which inspired many other prominent corporations such as Jack Dorsey-led Square to add bitcoin to their balance sheets.

Michael Saylor has now become the poster boy of bitcoin institutional investment, and his reasons are pretty much logical. Unlike all fiat currency-based assets, BTC is deflationary as it has limited supply, and that the Bitcoin blockchain network is highly secure and permissionless. In the same interview with CoinDesk last September, Saylor expressed his “primary concern” is to “move away from the dollar.”

 

 

Jack Dorsey

The Most Influential Business People Driving Blockchain Adoption, SiliconNigeria

Jack Dorsey, founder, Twitter and Square, Source: Britannica

Jack Dorsey is the founder of social media giant Twitter and payments firm Square. Jack has been a bitcoin advocate for quite a long time.

Square’s subsidiary firm Cash App has set an example in blockchain adoption in financial services by letting customers buy and sell bitcoin. Apart from this, the parent firm announced a $50 million investment in BTC, followed by an additional $170 million investment this year in February. And it just doesn’t stop at bitcoin investment.

Square Crypto, the BTC focussed arm of Square, has established a record by giving out 26 grants to boost the development of Bitcoin and recently announced funding for the team behind a popular Bitcoin blockchainexplorer.

Mr. Dorsey is behind all these developments. He recently partnered with popular musician Jay-Z to set up ₿trust, a 500 BTC endowment to fund bitcoin development and boost blockchainindustry growth. African and Indian teams will be the initial recipients of a chunk of the fund. The Silicon Valley-based billionaire tech entrepreneur has done and is still doing what it takes to boost crypto and blockchain adoption.

Recently, Mr. Dorsey sold his first tweet as an NFT for over $2.9 million, converted the proceeds to BTC, and donated to the GiveDirectly fund to help alleviate poverty in Africa. 

The Winklevoss Twins

The Most Influential Business People Driving Blockchain Adoption, SiliconNigeria

The Winklevoss twins with the Gemini bus in New York City, Source: MarketWatch/Twitter

Losing the ownership of Facebook to Mark Zuckerberg didn’t stop these two Olympic rowing and investor twins. Instead, they entered the cryptocurrency race intending to spur solid blockchain industry growth. In 2012, both bought bitcoins for $10 million when the top cryptocurrency’s price was trending at around $8.

What followed is the cryptocurrency market’s rise across nine years and the ballooning of the Winklevoss twins’ worth, to the point (around $6 billion) that they have now made the Forbes list of global real-time billionaires. As per the latest accounts, both have invested in 25 crypto firms. Apart from their investments, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss actively promote crypto purchase and adoption through Gemini, the cryptocurrency they own.

In a development that would make blockchain part of the banking industry, in October 2015, Gemini became one of the first cryptocurrency exchanges designated as a trust bank by the New York State Department of Financial Services.

The Winklevoss twins also support the current NFT trend through their acquisition of Nifty Gateway.

The twins ran “full bus” cryptocurrency advertisements encouraging people to buy BTC and other crypto assets and “fuel the open finance movement.”

While these were all successful individuals who have helped elevate cryptocurrency and blockchain technology and advocated their adoption, certain firms are operating with the same goal.

AIKON is one such firm that specializes in providing secure blockchain identity services through ORE ID, its proprietaryblockchain authentication system. The AIKON team has partnered with AllianceBlock, which wants to enable anyone and anybody to benefit from secure access to the trillion-dollar capital market without having to jump through needless hoops to do so. AllianceBlock’s objective is to build the world’s first globally compliant blockchain-based capital market. ORE ID, which impresses onusing blockchain for authentication, will play an instrumental role in the project’s identity management system.

What becomes quite clear is that blockchain technology adoption is at a nascent stage. Of course, an increasing number of business bigshots are helping catapult the ecosystem to mainstream prominence. Still, the effects of their actions have barely covered the tip of the adoption iceberg.

There’s a long way to go. This drop may seem minuscule and insignificant, but it will pave the way for the ocean’s formation.

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Crypto-currencies and Blockchain

Paxful Affirms Commitment to Boosting Nigeria’s Crypto Market

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Paxful Affirms Commitment to Boosting Nigeria’s Crypto Market, SiliconNigeria

Photo: L-R: CEO and Co-founder Paxful; Ray Youssef; Paxful Regional Manager Nigeria; Nena Nwachukwu, Director of Built With Bitcoin Foundation; Yusuf Nessary, Paxful power trader; Mubarak Sulaiman and Paxful VIP trader; Sulaiman Muyideen at meet and greet with Paxful Peers and VIP traders in Lagos.

Paxful, the leading global peer-to-peer fintech, has restated its commitment to advancing Nigeria’s crypto market. The company is doing this through constant engagement and enlightenment efforts that foster a clear market understanding while also driving increased adoption among Nigerians, particularly the youths.

During the visit of Ray Youssef, the Paxful CEO and Co-founder highlighted the company’s dedication at a stakeholders’ forum organised recently in Lagos, to chart a course for the industry.

According to Youssef, while Nigeria has become Paxful’s biggest market, there are still huge untapped potentials for the youth. “The adoption of cryptocurrency by Nigerian youth in recent time is quite impressive. What is most striking, is the success they have made with cryptocurrency with only a basic knowledge of it. It goes to show their passion, drive, and  tenacity in making the most of every  opportunity.”

“The future is even brighter ahead. But to effectively leverage and maximize the humongous potentials, we need to do more as industry players in deepening knowledge of the crypto market,” he remarked.

Consequently, he called for increased collaboration among players in the Nigeria crypto market to promote learning. “As the demand for a decentralized marketplace continues to increase, there is a  need for us to work together if we plan to thrive and power global finance. We can do this by taking responsibility to constantly engage and enlighten the public about cryptocurrency and its potentials for driving sustainable growth and prosperity.”

Speaking on how he has been empowered through the Paxful platform, Sulaiman Muyideen, a Paxful VIP trader who started trading on the platform with $10 eleven months ago, stated that crypto is a game changer and an enabler of wealth creation. “I am financially liberated in just a short period of my joining the platform. I also like the fact that the Paxful Peer Program allows you to educate people on selling bitcoin as well as gives priority to individual users to safely trade on the platform.  

The event had in attendance stakeholders from the blockchain technology sector, banking and financial institutions, crypto market players as well as Paxful peers and VIP Traders.

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Technology

NITDA, MassChallenge Plan National Startup Community

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NITDA MassChallenge Plan National Startup Community, SiliconNigeria

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and MassChallenge, a global network of zero-equity startup accelerators, have partnered to catalyze and support a national startup community in Nigeria.

The two parties have closely aligned goals to stimulate economic vitality and job creation in Nigeria by catalyzing entrepreneurial activity and supporting entrepreneurs as they develop and execute on game-changing ideas, digital technologies, and discoveries. 

The director-general of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, noted that this is an exciting partnership that shows the commitment of the Agency towards fostering the growth of digital innovation and entrepreneurship in Nigeria. The Agency is leading the drive to transform Nigeria into a digitally-driven economy by leveraging on innovation.

The chief executive officer of MassChallenge, Siobhan Dullea said, “MassChallenge is proud to partner with NITDA to foster cross-sector innovation and cooperation across all industries in Nigeria. Bridge to MassChallenge Nigeria will help grow the highest-impact, highest-potential startups across Nigeria, while connecting them to MassChallenge’s global network.

“We have supported many high-quality Nigerian startups through our global programs and we’re extremely excited to start our work with NITDA to support even more.” With the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, startups have shown resilience by turning challenges into opportunities and creating new markets.

The partnership with MassChallenge will further strengthen the Nigerian ecosystem by providing the needed exposure such as access to global networks, funding and knowledge sharing/transfer, thereby giving the startups equal opportunities to compete globally.

Bridge to MassChallenge Nigeria will identify and accelerate top startups that are based in Nigeria and interested in growing their business in the Nigerian market. Startups selected for the program will participate in a week-long MassChallenge-led startup bootcamp followed by a pitch competition that will determine the top Bridge to MassChallenge Nigeria startups.

The top startups will participate in a second week-long bootcamp where they’ll have access to the MassChallenge Boston or Israeli ecosystem. MassChallenge and NITDA will be working closely to promote Nigeria as an emerging entrepreneurial hub and leader of innovation in Africa, in order to support job creation and economic development.

With the focus of fostering the growth and success of Nigeria’s startup enterprises MassChallenge is keen to connect Nigerian entrepreneurs with markets, networks, and capital in the global innovation ecosystem.

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