YC-backed Nigerian fintech Lemonade looks to set itself apart in African remittances space

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In helping Africans abroad send and receive money to and from their home countries, Nigerian fintech startup Lemonade is by no means unique, but the startup believes it has a secret sauce that sets it apart from the rest.

Founded in 2020 by Ridwan Olalere and Rian Cochran and a participant in Y Combinator’s W21 batch last year, Lemonade Finance allows Africans abroad to send and receive money from their home countries in efficient, affordable and fast ways. Its app allows users to hold their balances in the currencies that matter to them, easily converting one to the other.

The company offers local and international transfers to Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Canada and the United Kingdom (UK) instantly without hidden fees, and makes international transfers at the real market exchange rate. Trouble is, there are a lot of other companies that do the same, so what makes a relatively early-stage Nigerian version different?

“Cross-border payments for Africans are plagued by three major issues – long transaction completion times, restrictions in terms of use, and steep fees. These issues mean that platforms for international transactions, especially peer-to-peer, are either unavailable to Africans or limited in their functionality,” Olalere told Disrupt Africa.

“For instance, WorldRemit and TransferWise allow Nigerians to receive from other countries but prevent them from sending. PayPal does the opposite, allowing Nigerian users to send but blocking them from receiving money. When the international funds transfer option is available, wait time to transaction completion could be up to four days, like with Western Union. In addition to this delay, Africans often have to pay higher than the global average.”

In being faster, cheaper, and allowing users to switch between currencies, Lemonade believes it fixes these problems, and plenty agree. The startup claims to have thousands of users across North America and Europe, and in the wake of its Y Combinator participation raised a US$725,000 pre-seed funding round that featured the likes of Microtraction, Ventures Platform, and Acuity Venture Partners.

Lemonade plans to expand to Ghana this year, and has various new product offerings up its sleeve as well, including bills payments and, most notably, its Cards feature.

“With this feature, users will be able to create virtual Naira and Dollar cards to complete transactions on local and international websites,” Olalere said. 

While they are not the first company to power this, Lemonade brings the added advantage of creating an unlimited number of cards, and allowing its users earn rewards with its cashback programme.

“Customers will be able to use their cards to pay for global services like Apple Music and its related services, Netflix, Spotify, Amazon, PayPal, and GooglePay,” Olalere said.

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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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