African fintech unicorn Chipper Cash lays off about 12.5% of staff

Chipper Cash, an African cross-border payments company valued at $2.2 billion last year, has laid off a portion of its workforce.

Yesterday, a few affected and non-affected employees took to LinkedIn to reveal the news. TechCrunch has learned from sources that more than 50 employees were affected across multiple departments; the engineering team took the biggest hit, with around 60% of those laid off coming from the department, according to people familiar with the matter.

“This morning a significant amount of Chipper staff were let go in a layoff. While I was not among them, many of my close colleagues and friends were. If you’re looking for talented engineering leadership, engineers, technical program managers, analysts, or IT staff…,” Erin Fusaro, the VP of Engineering at Chipper Cash said in her LinkedIn post.

Per LinkedIn, Chipper Cash has about 400 employees, so the layoffs affected 12.5% of its workforce. TechCrunch reached out to Chipper Cash for comment.

Last November, the African cross-border payments company raised $150 million in a Series C extension round led by Sam Bankman-Fried’s now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange platform FTX. The investment came barely six months after Chipper Cash closed its first Series C round of $100 million, led by SVB Capital, the corporate venture capital arm of SVB Financial Group. Since its inception, Chipper Cash has raised more than $305 million from investors, including Deciens Capital, Ribbit Capital and Bezos Expeditions.

CEO Ham Serunjogi founded Chipper Cash with Maijid Moujaled in 2018 to offer a no-fee peer-to-peer cross-border payment service in Africa via its app. Its services are used across seven African countries — Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya. The company began making strides outside the continent last year. It expanded to the U.K. — allowing people to send money from the European nation to Chipper Cash’s African markets — and the U.S. — to facilitate peer-to-peer money movement from the U.S. to Nigeria and Uganda. Chipper Cash says it has 5 million users across these markets.

Layoffs have become the norm as rising interest rates and an extended bull run that swept across private and public markets over the last couple of years, among other factors, combine to make life difficult for tech companies. Amidst recession fears, investors are being stringent with their money, mainly toward growth- and late-stage startups. As a result, startups have had to cut costs and trim down workforces to survive; those who have had some success raising capital have had to adjust to pre-pandemic valuations.

Economic headwinds have hit the global fintech space hard. Companies such as Stripe and Klarna have had to lay off employees and prune their valuations. While there have been whispers of African unicorns slashing valuations internally, only half of this trend has publicly manifested itself so far within this select group. This June, Wave, an African unicorn that offers mobile money services in part of Francophone Africa, laid off about 15% of its workforce. Chipper Cash has joined the fray with this news. SWVL, 54gene, Sendy and Twiga are examples of mid-to-large-sized companies on the continent that have also trimmed their workforce.

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