Ghanaian digital escrow platform PayLock makes waves in Africa, South America

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Ghanaian startup PayLock has developed a digital escrow platform that helps international traders and freelancers protect their transactions against fraud and payment defaults.

Founded in September 2018 by Jerry Akanyi-King, Kennedy Anyinatoe and Kelechi Udoagwu after they met at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), PayLock was developed in response to issues faced by the co-founders in their time freelancing.

“We always had problems when it came to invoice remittance and so we created a solution,” Akanyi-King, the startup’s chief executive officer (CEO), told Disrupt Africa.

PayLock works by keeping funds safely in deposit, and only releases them in smaller payments as agreed milestones are completed. 

“We make the whole process a lot easier than using banks while freelancers are always paid on time with a payment method of their choice,” said Akanyi-King.

“It also protected the client’s interests by preventing freelancer “ghosting” – when a freelancer suddenly goes AWOL – and ensures that the client only pays for quality outputs.”

This is an important service when it comes to freelancing and two-sided transactions in general, when success or failure depends on the mutual satisfaction of both parties. 

“The risks involved double in the case of first-time transactions between two strangers. There are a lot of payment applications in Africa, but very few are focused on helping individuals or businesses protect themselves from fraud or payment defaults. We saw an opportunity here,” said Akanyi-King.

PayLock also saw an opportunity to extend usage to e-commerce platforms and digital marketplaces, developing APIs that such platforms can use to protect themselves from fraudulent transactions.

Launched in Ghana, the startup has been busy expanding, but not where you would think. After being accepted into the renowned Start-Up Chile accelerator earlier this year, and raising seed funding as a result, PayLock has opened an office in Santiago. Its user base is growing in both Ghana and Chile – it has over 1,500 users – and it plans further African expansion in 2020.

“We plan on expanding to Nigeria and Kenya next year,” Akanyi-King said.

“Our user base is growing at an impressive rate both in South America and Africa. We’re incorporating a lot of user feedback to further speed up growth in all our target markets.”

The startup, which makes money by charging a percentage commission on transactions and also plans to raise additional funding, has faced challenges from the fact the concept of escrow is relatively new to the African payments ecosystem, meaning encouraging adoption can take time. But it is making progress, and positioning itself at the forefront of this new way of transacting.

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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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