Microsoft, Facebook, Google and other major global organizations started as ideas. These ideas started from higher institutions and have become global brands that even their annual earnings after tax surpass the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of many countries in Africa.
Electronic Settlement Limited – a leading financial solution provider that delivers excellent payment services through and owners of Cash Envoy, Paypad, CashEnvoy and Paycenter – have joined the league of companies that were nurtured from the university.
Executive Director of the organization, Olaoluwa Awojoodu said the company started the university while he was finding ways to solve problems of the Nigerian payment space. He said that everything started at the Obafemi Awolowo University with his colleague, Olusegun Okin, when they were in the same faculty.
Awojoodu said the idea was not to start a company but to solve the problems of payment at that time, as it was difficult for Nigerians to make payments on the internet without enough fund to pay for the goods.
“Most people wanted to pay for things outside the country, pay school fees, buy software but they could not because of the online payment bottlenecks then but now everybody can make bank transfers, use credit cards and all sorts.”
Prior to Cash Envoy, which is now a major platform today, Awojoodu had established Clickstore Africa to sell IT hardware online. This led him to realize that there was a need for Nigeria to make payment online.
Then he asked Paypal, an American company that allows users to make convenient and safe payment online to come and set up shop in Nigeria. Paypal turned down the request. He said that the rejection from Paypal prompted him to start CashEnvoy in partnership with his co-founder.
Awojoodu said it was difficult to raise fund to expand the startup then. “We pitched the idea to many Nigerian investors in order to raise $300, 000 dollars. We did not get the fund. Many people clapped for us, saying our idea is fantastic. They said it is going to work and blah, blah. Then, others would have quit. We did not, we persevere.
“There was a period, we had no office space. My dad’s company gave us a table in one room. So the whole of CashEnvoy was just a table. Now we have a room full of developers and another room filled with business development executives. I would say the growth has been tremendous.
“After we have developed CashEnvoy, we needed to integrate the platform into a payment gateway. So we had to borrow ₦75,000 from my mum. That was essentially our startup capital and with that we were able to launch quietly.
“In those early days, things were very tight. Even the whole idea of the business was futuristic. Now there are maybe a million online stores. Back in 2009, they were only about 13. My job was to go to those 13 and to get them to sign up on CashEnvoy.
“I had help from another former school colleague called Blessing. We would dress up and visit each of these 13 stores one after the other pitching CashEnvoy without earning salary”, he said.
Awojoodu added that one of the products, Pay Centre developed with the aim of creating financial access for people in remote villages and towns.
“We realized that there were many banks in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. But outside these places, there are few banks in major streets of other states. This leaves many villages and towns without banks. People have to travel to major cities in these states to access banking service.
“What we did is that with our technology, we converted groceries stores in villages, towns into financial access. We set up shops with card acceptance device, mobile PoS and application. With that you can make transactions like cash out, deposit, bill payment, and cash transfer for customers.
“We are going into account opening, card insurance, and loan application. We will be providing all services the banks provide. We will go to the shops in those villages where there are no banks. These are the same shops where they buy beverages and make financial transactions”, he said.
He said the country is moving to the peak of digital payment system fast. “We are lucky in Nigeria for having companies that have come into the space and become enablers for other companies to innovate, a body like Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems (NIBSS). This allows a lot of innovations to happen within the space where other countries don’t have.
He stated that part of the positive effect of innovation is the migration to Europay, Mastercard and Visa (EMV), which has been in existence in Nigeria since 2006, through chip and PIN cards. But in the United States, that country has jut migrated in 2016. This is what has transformed the Fintech space and made it to move faster in the country.
He urged the banks and Fintech companies to collaborate and develop the industry for the betterment of the economy.
“The best that can happen between Nigerian banks and Fintech companies is partnership. They can’t compete. What the banks can do, the Fintech companies can do it better and faster because the Fintech have unquenchable hunger to innovate. The banks do not have this. The banks need to reach out because the fintech companies have been reaching out”, he said.