Flutterwave’s “unicorn” status stems from pan-African focus, top execution

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The “unicorn” status secured by Nigerian payments startup Flutterwave after a US$170 million funding round raised in March can be attributed to the company’s pan-African focus, great team, and excellent execution, according to its chief commercial officer (CCO).

Launched in 2016, Flutterwave builds modern payments technology and infrastructure for Africa to enable people and businesses to connect with the global economy. Its solution enables banks and merchants to replace multiple payment integrations with one simple API, which enables processing of any form of payment anywhere in Africa.

Disrupt Africa reported in March the company had closed a US$170 million Series C funding round, the largest amount ever secured by an African tech startup and one that gives it “unicorn” status with a value of over US$1 billion.

Flutterwave was already one of Africa’s most-backed, raising US$10 million in Series A funding in August 2017, an extension round in 2018, and a US$35 million Series B in January of last year, and speaking to the latest edition of Disrupt Podcast the company’s CCO Ifeoluwa ‘IO’ Orioke discussed the reasons for its fundraising success.

“It started from our decision to look at Africa as one piece as opposed to different countries. What we decided to do was look at solutions that would integrate the different payment types, and find solutions that people would ultimately love. And from that we found product-market fit,” he said.

“Focusing on our vision is what has brought us here.”

Team and the quality of its execution are other factors.

“Something that has worked well for us is execution. Execution is key,” Orioke said, citing examples of flexibility with customers. “And I think that makes us stand out.”

Meanwhile, it is quality people that are the ones executing. 

“It is the people that are carrying that mission and running with it. That’s what sets us apart. I think when we tell our stories investors are able to connect with us and connect with what we do,” he said.

When it came to its Series C, Flutterwave was looking for capital to scale but also partners that are aligned to its goal, Orioke said.

“It was less about the valuation, but more about investors that were very keen on helping us scale the business and helping us open specific doors, who really understood or were trying to understand the path that we have seen in Africa,” he said. “What was unique was the quality of the conversations and the quality of the investors.”

Though it was “awesome” to be a unicorn, Flutterwave is now focused on the next steps.

“We reminded ourselves that we have got greater goals and objectives, bigger things to do. Now let’s hit the ground running,” he said, adding that the company’s unicorn status now means it takes on wider relevance and importance within Africa’s tech ecosystem.

“Africa is still growing as a continent, and to be a unicorn now comes with responsibility. So our responsibility now is to take the future of payments to Africa, connect Africa to the world, and the world to Africa,” said Orioke.

“For us it is important that everyone wins. We are very ecosystem driven.”

He sees “endless possibilities” for Flutterwave, which has lots of expansion plans.

“Ultimately it means expansion into North Africa, right now we are more in Sub-Saharan Africa. And we are looking at adding more countries in the regions we already exist in. And it is all about tying everything together. The vision is quite clear. We are following our North Star,” said Orioke.

“Capital, and funds being available to deploy, are absolutely critical to any company, more so our company, given the speed at which we are growing. We went from one country, to five overnight, to 30. We have to ensure capital is not an impediment to driving this train along.”

Disrupt Africa recently announced it is to make Finnovating for Africa 2021, the third edition of its deep-dive into the continent’s fintech space, free to all as part of an open-sourcing initiative alongside partners that include Flutterwave, as well as VC firm GreenHouse Capital and many others. Oriole explained the company’s reasons for supporting the initiative.

“Data is the new oil. Data is extremely important for every part of a business, every ecosystem, every industry. Anything that provides that platform for businesses to thrive is something we support 100 per cent,” he said.

The latest episode of Disrupt Podcast is available now, featuring in-depth interviews with Orioke as well as a host of other Nigerian fintech founders in what is a bumper double edition.

You can listen on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and all other podcasting platforms.

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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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