The road to entrepreneurship for Chijioke Dozie was a long one. The former Investment Analyst’s foray into fintech was borne out of the desire to build a greater Africa. In 2012, he and his twin brother Ngozi Dozie (who is also the Co-founder of Carbon), decided to abandon their corporate careers in the West to pursue business opportunities back home. The decision stunned many people, given their potential salary offerings and the rewarding opportunity for career growth they both stood to gain working at some of the top tier financial services firms on the continent.
Today, the duo’s FinTech startup – Carbon, is one of Africa’s biggest digital lender with over 2 million users since launch, serving as a resource for customers to access funds between $3 and $2600, and up to $50k for SMEs. The Carbon app also gives users access to payment services to pay utility bills and buy airtime. Other features include cashback feature, loan top-up, and the ability for users to invest with Payvest and earn up to 16% per annum interest rates.
Earlier this year Carbon announced that it has launched a $100,000 pan-African fund to address the lack of funding and support holding back budding tech entrepreneurs on the African continent – the first of its kind by an African fintech startup. Carbon also became the first Digital Lender in Africa to launch an iOS app making it the first digital lender in Africa to be able to initiate and complete an entire loan cycle on iOS…
Q: Please tell us about yourself?
A: I’m Chijioke Dozie, CEO and Co- Founder of Carbon, a company I cofounded with my brother, Ngozi. At Carbon, I oversee the development and execution of our business strategies. Prior to co-founding Carbon, I used to source direct investment opportunities for the International Finance Corporation [IFC] and Zephyr Management LP. I also hold an MBA from the Harvard Business School, an MSc in Risk Management from the University of Reading and a BA in Economics from the University of East Anglia.
Q: How did you discover your vision or what led you into this line of business/career?
A: The idea that became what is now Carbon first came to mind after I finished my MBA in 2008. I began to notice just how big the market for unbanked consumers in Nigeria (and across the rest of Africa) was and I was confident something could be done about it, even though I wasn’t entirely sure how to do so effectively and efficiently.
In 2016, we launched ‘Paylater’ and our first product was a paper-based service that required applicants to provide supporting documents to access loans. However, in a market like Nigeria where 60 per cent of working adults are in the informal sector, most of the people we were trying to serve did not have the documents we needed to deliver our services as effectively as we wanted.
Thankfully, fintech and alternative data presented us with the opportunity to circumvent these challenges, as well as reach a wider range of people at a fraction of what it would’ve cost to do so with the traditional model.
The use of technology opened up many more opportunities and as the suite of products we offered expanded, the name ‘Paylater’ became a little limiting. This is why we re-branded as Carbon in April 2019, playing on the universality of carbon to signal our intent to offer the most diverse range of financial services.
Q: What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before you started in business?
A: There are so many things you simply cannot know before you start any venture and things will inevitably go wrong so it can be easy to underestimate the road ahead. One thing I have found since being in business is that it is crucial to have the right team around you with a shared value for what you are trying to create. Additionally, prepare to fail quickly, learn from it and move on.
Q: Describe your company- name, services/ products, other information you would like to provide.
A: Carbon is a digital platform that empowers individuals with access to credit, simple payment solutions, high-yield investment opportunities and easy-to-use tools for personal financial management…
To read the rest of the interview, follow this link to Business Elites Africa’s Fintech Edition, ISSUE 109.
Note that this interview was originally conducted by Victor Oluwole.
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