Chris Maurice and Justin Poiroux co-founded pan-African cryptocurrency exchange platform Yellow Card. The duo had banked over $40,000 from selling bitcoin on eBay in 2013, but the dollar rain stopped after they hit a credit card snag. They re-strategised, and that strategy got them out of the woods, giving them the idea of Yellow Card.
They built the trading platform that’s now regarded as the easiest and most convenient way to buy, sell and store cryptocurrencies, with thousands of users spread across over 12 African countries.
Business Elites Africa spoke to Yellow Card’s Director of Operations in Nigeria, Babatunde Oparinde, on the journey so far, the $15 million series A in 2021 and how they’re navigating the crypto ban by the Central Bank of Nigeria, among other issues.
It seems like Africa has an abundance of crypto exchange platforms; what’s different about Yellow Card?
I would say our unique selling point is, first of all, our competitive pricing, our local business insights and our understanding of the African markets. Hence, we created a product that can be used by virtually anyone in Africa, irrespective of their demography and educational background.
Aren’t you concerned about the anti-crypto regulations by some African governments?
We are, especially with what is happening in the Northern part of the continent. But I also understand that African leaders are particularly concerned about the bad actors in the space. And as such, they are trying to create regulations that could clamp these bad actors. At Yellowcard, we are always open to working with the government and their regulatory bodies to ensure that user funds are safe. And we are not considered as one of the bad players in the space.
So far, what are some of the challenges you have faced operating in Nigeria?
I’ll highlight the most important one. And that is, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) disallowing commercial banks from operating with crypto entities or individuals dealing with cryptocurrencies. I feel that has limited our onboarding processes, and I wish that the CBN will into that policy and make the space a bit friendly for us. I know the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) is working on something.
Pending that, how are you navigating the challenges?
We’ve just been very creative and looking for solutions that are out of the box for now.
With Nigeria’s current inflation problem and foreign exchange crisis, people are constantly looking for safety nets. Are there stable cryptos that could hedge against inflation?
Yes. There are. Whenever there’s a noise in the crypto space, people spread the news about how speculative and volatile cryptocurrencies are, especially with what is happening in the market right now, because there is a nose dive across all platforms, even stocks.
But the truth is there are stablecoins that are pegged to the US dollars. And one of them is USDT but most importantly, USDC. These are stablecoins that would not fluctuate, and you could use that to hedge against inflation. Whatever happens, the price remains the same.
What would be your recommendation for someone who wants to start investing in crypto?
My simple advice would be to go to www.yellowcard.io, sign up with us, and begin your crypto journey. But what we’ve also done is that we have an educational platform built by Yellow Card and called Yellowcard academy. It’s for beginners and easy to use for first-timers.
Beginners can go to the academy and learn about cryptocurrency and begin their journey with us. It’s an interesting one. I’m sure they won’t regret it at the end of the day.
Let’s talk about funding. You guys raised about $15 million in 2021. How has that impacted your business, and have you secured more funds since then?
I can’t disclose certain information, but I would say the 15 million we raised last year has really impacted our business. One, we have more funds for operations and expansion.
And also, we are able to triple down on marketing and recruiting of more workforce across the continent. We are also looking at raising some more money and channelling it to the same angle – operations, marketing, and recruiting more staff.
There is a global slowdown in startup investing; what does this mean for African startups?
I’ll say it’s a global pandemic. It cuts across cryptocurrencies, FinTech and stocks. Everyone is going to be hit because I suspect a recession is coming. I would even say it has started, but we would continue to fill it.
At Yellowcard, we have risk management in place to help us handle this kind of scenario. We’ve cut down on certain internal costs and are looking to survive the whole recession period.
I’d say other startups should just do what they must to stay alive. Do not burn out, and let’s see what would happen at the end of the day.