SA’s Karri thinking big with geographical and sector expansion

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South African startup Karri Payments is quickly broadening its horizons, expanding its offering to various organisations and launching in Australia, the United Kingdom (UK), United States (US) and Canada.

Founded in 2017 in partnership with Nedbank, Karri began with a pilot in four schools across the Western Cape, but is now in use across hundreds of schools across Africa.

The payments platform allows schools collecting funds for various things to message parents, who are able to quickly make payments via the app. It reconciles what payments have been received and sends reminders, and is fully supported by Nedbank.

Founder Doug Hoernle came up with the idea for the service while running his other business, ed-tech startup Rethink Education.

“After spending the past few years working with schools across South Africa, I came across an enormous opportunity to build a product which allows parents to pay schools conveniently and securely directly from a mobile wallet on their smartphone,” he told Disrupt Africa.

“At the time, my fiancé was a geography teacher and taught in a school in Cape Town. Each evening when she came home from a busy day of inspiring the minds of tomorrow’s leaders, she would sit up counting ZAR5 coins for the civvies day her school had just ran, or the ZAR100 notes for the geography trip that she was taking her class on. It was painful to watch, even more painful for her to count.”

To make matters worse, he said his friends were “constantly whining” about the ZAR10 that they needed to send to their child’s teacher for the class bake sale, saying they did not carry cash and ATM trips with children were a hassle.

“I knew there had to be a better, easier and safer way to make these payments back to schools, and get rid of the administration around these kind of collections for schools,” Hoernle said.

The solution was Karri, which was swiftly rolled out to schools across South Africa in order to help schools collect funds from their parents. It is also now expanding its offering to include other organisations, such as churches and sports clubs.

Hoernle says Karri is more than just a payments platform, however.

“Karri has a unique mobile wallet functionality that allows parents to load funds onto their Karri accounts. To date, over 40 per cent of parents using Karri store funds in their wallets each month, as they see it as a way to budget for the upcoming months school activities,” he said.

The startup, which has a team of 20 full-time employees, is now actively expanding into other markets. It already has small teams based in Dublin and Sydney, and is in the process of launching in Australia, the UK, US and Canada.

“We will also consider launching in other African countries through our relationship with Nedbank,” said Hoernle.

All this has been achieved without the need for external investment. Karri is funded by its own revenues – charging a small fee on funds collected through the platform.

“A typical school will collect a few million rands through the Karri app a year. If the school runs school fees through Karri, this can easily get into the hundreds of millions,” Hoernle said.

“We have no intention of raising traditional VC funding as Karri’s model was operationally profitable from day one. We have every intention of building Karri into a global fintech company that competes with the likes of AliPay and Naspers.”

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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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