Kippa, the Nigerian startup improving the lifecycle of small businesses across the country with its financial management and payments platform, has raised $8.4 million in an oversubscribed seed round.
The startup — launched last June by Kennedy Ekezie-Joseph, Duke Ekezie and Jephthah Uche — received investment from backers such as Goodwater Capital, TEN13 VC, Rocketship VC, Saison Capital, Crestone VC, VentureSouq, Horizon Partners and Vibe Capital. Kippa said the investment will allow it to develop financial products that help SMEs grow their businesses and grow its team in Nigeria.
The company announced its $3.2 million pre-seed from Target Global and other investors last November.
Before such solutions, many of these businesses ran operations such as managing money, inventory tracking and records of staff and suppliers offline, mainly with pen and paper or ledgers. All these inefficiencies, asides from being time-consuming, lead to errors and affects cash flow and finance, which is why almost nine out of 10 small businesses fizzle out in the first five years.
As such, startups have launched various bookkeeping solutions to digitize operations of these small businesses in a traditional retail sector worth more than $200 billion alone in Nigeria. With Kippa, small business owners can keep track of their daily income and expense transactions, create invoices and receipts, manage inventory and generally monitor how their businesses ebb and flow over time. In the interview with CEO Ekezie-Joseph last November, he said Kippa had more than 130,000 active businesses, ranging from small kiosks and street corner shops to local food vendors and high-end merchants. Although the platform has grown to accommodate over 500,000 small businesses, Ekezie-Joseph didn’t say how many were active.
Any company providing services to thousands of small and medium businesses across various cities in Nigeria has an extensive distribution network to build new products on top. And in Kippa’s case — the company’s merchants are spread across all 774 local governments in Nigeria — it has made meaningful strides in what offerings it provides to merchants.
The majority of small businesses in Nigeria aren’t formally registered due to costs and complexities in navigating the entire process. Thus, a few months ago, Kippa launched what Ekezie-Joseph described as one of the fastest incorporation products for small businesses. “We’ve built a product on top of the current Kippa product that allows businesses to register in 3 days for N15,000,” said Ekezie-Kennedy, indicating his platform’s alternative to help these businesses incorporate legally. This feature forms the basis for Kippa’s plans to stack financial products besides getting significant traction and driving more revenue, the CEO added.
Last week, the company announced it obtained a licence from Nigeria’s apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to operate as a Super Agent, just like agency banking players OPay and TeamApt. With the licence, merchants on the Kippa platform can, in turn, act as agents and offer financial services such as cash withdrawals and deposits, bank account opening, bills and utility payments, and insurance to individual customers who come to their small shops regularly to make everyday purchases.
“We have over 500,000 merchants on our app and there’s a lot of opportunities for us to do more for them and provide more financial services,” said Ekezie-Joseph. “The super agent licence allows merchants and typical neighbourhood shops who already use our bookkeeping app into a one-stop-shop for essential financial services for their customers.”
Getting the best hands to drive its blitzscaling efforts is critical for a young company growing this fast — Kippa claims its annualized transaction recorded on the platform has exceeded $3 billion, 10 times what it had last November. To that effect, the finance management platform has recruited ex-regulators and senior executives at startups like OPay, BharatPe, Khatabook, TeamApt, OKCredit, NIBSS and Unified Payments, amongst others. Some of them include Toyin Albert as executive director of payments services, Osagie Alonge as director of marketing and Niyi Ajao, the ex-deputy managing director at Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) as chairman.
Kippa has raised more than $11 million in a full year of operation. The company and its competitors have convinced investors that the market they serve is massive for every player to co-exist. Reports buttress that point as an estimated 49.3 million business owners run SMEs in the country. But as these platforms pitch different approaches to businesses — bookkeeping, connection with suppliers, banking and software services — credit is the glue that makes everything stick. However, Kippa’s credit and lending arm, which the CEO predicted last year as a revenue generator for the company, has been put on hold for the time being, hopefully not too long that it affects the startup’s ambition to be small businesses’ go-to financial service provider.
“Credit remains an insanely huge opportunity for us. And while we have a lending licence in Lagos and Abuja, we’re spending our time building out the arms of the business that provide and continue to expand transactional data that we have on businesses. This allows us to build a healthier loan book when we start lending.”