Olugbenga Agboola: The Journey of a Fintech Pioneer
Trailing an African tech genius
Having gained tech skills from across the globe, Olugbenga Agboola returned to his hometown Nigeria with optimism for the nation’s financial services industry. He believed that the digital transformation of Africa’s business scene was reliant on the continent’s ability to harness payments services, logistics and e-commerce.
Agboola noticed that the payment systems in Africa were highly fragmented and this made it difficult to send and receive money across local and international borders.
Inspired by this challenge, the tech genius decided to embark on the journey of building a common payments infrastructure. An online platform he hoped will streamline transactions for individuals and businesses across Africa, regardless of location or the originating country’s payment type.
In 2016, Olugbenga merged experience with his serial entrepreneur friend, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, and the duo co-founded Flutterwave, one of Africa’s foremost payments services companies which recently joined the list of unicorns on the continent.
“For Africa to leapfrog we need to have three things, logistics, payments and commerce. Africa’s payments are highly fragmented. From Nigeria to Kenya, the payment types are diverse but they work, so our job at Flutterwave is to build a common payment infrastructure that connects everything together and make it easy for a business to accept payments online”, he said.
Where it all Started
Agboola grew up in the vibrant city of Lagos, Nigeria, where he obtained his early education. Having had a feel of his motherland, he travelled to the United States and gained an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management, Cambridge. One could say he was getting himself ready to take on the challenges of the business world.
Driven by his passion for tech-driven solutions, Agboola went on to acquire a master’s degree in information technology security and behavioural engineering. He got a standard IT security certification from EC-Council University, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He then received his Project Management and Advanced Computing degree from the University of Westminster in London, England.
Down the line, Agboola mastered several programming languages and development tools across retail banking and IT security. He is a Microsoft certified system engineer.
Having equipped himself for the tech industry, Agboola launched his career as an application developer with the British Telecom Professional Services in 2003. Over the years he has driven several tech-based innovations across Paypal, Guaranty Trust Bank, Access Bank, Stanbic IBTC Bank and Google Wallet.
It’s easy to see why Agboola couldn’t overlook the payments gap in Africa. He had gotten a feel of some of the world’s leading financial ecosystems, as well as back home, and could see the crucial need to bring Africa up to speed.
Flutterwave’s digital payments infrastructure enables companies, payment services providers, money transfer operators and even banks to provide a variety of payment options across over 30 African countries. The platform facilitates payments via bank accounts, local or international card payments, mobile money payments, Flutterwave Barter and a lot more.
The Birth of an African Unicorn
It’s been five years since Flutterwave entered Africa’s fintech ecosystem and the company is now worth over $1 billion making it the third fintech unicorn of Africa, following Interswitch and Fawry.
Flutterwave’s groundbreaking valuation follows a series of funding that started in 2018 with a $10 million Series A and a $35 million Series B in 2020. And the most recent being a $170 million Series C in 2021.
According to Agboola, the company’s revenue grew by 100% in the last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also served as a boost to the company’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 226% from 2018. He attributes this massive expansion to what he refers to as “COVID beneficiary sectors”, describing industries that benefited from the COVID-19 pandemic. This sector comprises streaming, gaming, remittance, e-commerce, and other internet-based businesses.
Agboola states Flutterwave will continue to ride on the growth of these sectors, and the company’s swift response in launching the Flutterwave Store for merchants during pandemic-induced lockdown speaks to this resolve. According to the fintech giant, its e-commerce store currently serves over 20,000 merchants across 15 African countries.
A Dream Come True
It’s safe to say that Agboola’s vision for payments across Africa has gained massive traction, as Flutterwave reports over 290,000 businesses use its platform. The payments solution supports 150 currencies and a variety of payment methods.
Agboola told TechCrunch that the company is active in 20 African countries and has networks in over 33 countries on the continent. We can only expect Flutterwave to continue its butterfly effect across the continent.
A Hopeful Founder and CEO
Agboola remains positive that the Nigerian government could play a pivotal role in the realisation of the country’s technology potentials. Over time, the government has faced several criticisms by the tech community for the excessively complex incorporation processes which have caused a good number of Nigerian startups to be incorporated in the United States. And the recent introduction of a regulatory sandbox for fintechs, which could slow the pace of innovation in that industry.
However Agboola is optimistic that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) could foster the growth of fintech startups, applauding the CBN’s introduction of the BVN and NIP solutions, and the role it played in scaling Flutterwave’s services.
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