A great deal has changed since we last covered Nigerian fintech startup TeamApt two years ago. At the time, the company had just closed a $5.5 million Series A round from a single VC — Quantum Capital Partners, a firm owned by Zenith Bank billionaire Jim Ovia.
TeamApt has quite the story. CEO Tosin Eniolorunda started the company in 2015 after leaving Interswitch. He was going head-to-head with the billion-dollar company when TeamApt received a license to operate as a payment switch providing enterprise solutions for banks in the country.
TeamApt bootstrapped with revenue made on a per-project basis. By 2017, the company, which optimized core bank back-office operations was servicing 26 financial institutions and processing $160 million in monthly transactions without raising a dime. A year later, TeamApt began releasing direct consumer and business-facing products targeted at driving financial inclusion in the country.
Moneytor was a digital banking service for financial institutions to track transactions with web and mobile interfaces; Monnify, an enterprise software suite for small business management and AptPay, a push payment infrastructure to centralize services used on banking mobile apps. These products had varying degrees of success; however, Moniepoint, an agency banking platform launched months after the Series A, became the instant hit.
In developed markets where banking networks are sophisticated and have an extensive reach, the concept of agency banking is foreign. But in developing markets like Nigeria, it’s necessary because the bank to population ratio in Nigeria is low. According to reports, there are 4.3 branches per 100,000 people compared to the global average of 11.7 branches.
Agency banking serves as an alternative distribution strategy for traditional retail banking by using authorized personnel who acts as agents to expand the reach of the branch network. For many Nigerians, agency banking represents a financial access lifeline and one of the most viable options for accessing the financial services they need.
Moniepoint agents use mobile apps and point-of-sale terminals to offer these customers access to financial services like cash withdrawal, cash deposit, funds transfer, airtime purchase and bill payments. In less than two years, Moniepoint claims to account for 74% of agency banking transactions in Nigeria. The platform also processes about 68 million transactions worth over $3.5 billion monthly through 100,000 agents and 14 million customers. When transactions from Monnify are added, TeamApt said it processed $17.5 billion in the past 12 months.
But despite the seeming success, TeamApt is poised to add digital banking services to Moniepoint’s dominant agency banking play. “What is the reason behind this? With multiple players, was the agency banking space becoming too crowded that Moniepoint couldn’t acquire more market share?” I ask Eniolorunda.
“There’s still room for growth in the agency space. We can actually grow more and take more share as more agents continue to enter the market and consumers embracing agency networks and point-of-sale networks. So the reason we’re trying to do this is for two reasons — a mission and commercial reason,” he answered.
Most well-known digital banks in Nigeria cater to the already banked, neglecting the unbanked or underbanked consumers that banks do not serve. Eniolorunda’s “mission reason” is to provide financial services for them via launching a digital bank. The commercial reason? “We want to be the middle ground between banks and digital approaches to actually serve the next billion Africans. The reason why we can do this is that we have demonstrated our traction in Nigeria to become the largest agency network just in the period of two years,” the CEO added.
Judging by the transactions made on Moniepoint and since existing digital banks capture the same customers as big commercial banks, TeamApt sits on a big opportunity if it can convert a chunk of its offline users online. Of course, this strategy isn’t new in itself. It is currently being adopted by another digital bank targeted at the unbanked, Bankly. However, the good news is that should any of these platforms show significant success, other platforms might widely adopt the approach and go a long way in providing digital banking services to the unbanked.
To test out this strategy at scale, TeamApt has secured another round of investment. Two months ago, Dutch entrepreneurial development bank FMO announced its participation in TeamApt’s Series A extension round with $2 million. But while FMO is among the grand list investors in this tranche of investment, the venture round has changed to a Series B, TeamApt confirmed.
The $200 million Pan-African fund Novastar Ventures led the round. Dubai-based Global Ventures, CDC Group, Soma Capital, and Pan-African VC firms Kepple Africa and Oui Capital participated alongside some local angel investors.
TeamApt, while continuing its switching business for enterprise, will be looking to extend its offerings directly to customers and micro-SMEs with Moniepoint. In addition, and subject to regulatory approval, both agency and digital banking platforms will exist under Moniepoint.
Brian Waswani Odhiambo, the head of West Africa at Novastar Ventures, said the VC firm backed TeamApt after seeing the speed at which its agency network became the leading operator in Nigeria. The firm, “by providing TeamApt with sufficient capital to pursue its new phase of growth,” has no doubt the company will do the same with its digital banking platform.
In the past month, TeamApt has announced to anyone who cared to listen that it’s currently in the process of closing another round. Eniolorunda confirmed this to TechCrunch that it would be a Series C round. While that is in progress, TeamApt will be making expansion plans to other African countries with strong economies in every region — Central, East, North and South. The company is also keen on performing a few acquisitions along the way to tap significant opportunities for leveraging technology and offline distribution to provide financial services to Africa’s mass market.