Nigerian fintech startup Biya helps you pay your bills through chat apps

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Nigerian fintech startup Biya has attracted hundreds of customers after launching its AI-based service that allows people to make payments using chat apps.

Launched last year, Biya allows users to do airtime top-up, pay bills and transfer funds easily via services like Facebook Messenger, Skype, Telegram and Slack.

An artificial intelligence (AI)-focused payments service, Biya breaks through technical and accessibility barriers to provide seamless digital payments, alleviating the problem of having to carry multiple cards and bypassing the cost of operating PoS machines.

“Our solution offers Nigerians the ability to go cashless or even cardless, and make payments easily from the comfort of their chat-enabled devices,” co-founder Sulaiman Bello told Disrupt Africa.

The Biya concept came together in January 2017, with the team having worked on several chatbot applications for various clients in the past.

“We observed constraints in how electronic payments were made in Nigeria, so we made the process and adoption simpler,” Bello said.

“Many users were constrained by pre-existing electronic payment channels. Struggling users such as the elderly or the tech unsavvy were mystified by mobile app technology, but are very comfortable with chat. Millenials have a low attention span and spend a lot of their on-screen time in messaging apps, so thought it imperative to build our solution without modifying existing usage patterns.”

The Biya chatbot is accessible on messaging platforms, as well as the web. Users interact with it as they would with a contact or friend, and make payments for things like airtime and TV subscriptions. They can also request and transfer money using the service, with the user linking their bank or card to make transactions.

The bootstrapped startup, which operates only in Nigeria for now but has plans to expand to other countries in future, has organically grown to over 1,000 users, with more than 400 active customers.

“Payment chatbots powered by artificial intelligence are fast gaining credence for their automation, flexibility and ease of service offering. Chatbots provide an easily accessible platform for mobile users on the go via messaging to disrupt traditional payment channels,” said Bello.

There is competition in the local space, with Kudi.ai and NebulaPay operating chatbots for value added payment services, but Bello believes Biya has the edge.

“Our novel technology service for businesses makes it an all-round better product, with availability on more channels, for a larger addressable market. This enables Biya to achieve better penetration and growth faster than direct competitors,” he said.

To drive this, the startup is trying to raise US$250,000 in funding to scale its operations and further finance product development. Bello said it made money from a combination of commissions and service charges.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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