7 minute read
Startup Story

Flutterwave’s APIs help global companies process payments in Africa

Flutterwave group

African fintech “unicorn” allows merchants to make credit card, mobile, and ACH payments across borders

Africa is the world’s second-largest continent, but payment processing in Africa has always been challenging. While many global customers are accustomed to making payments in multiple ways—via credit card, debit card, or mobile payment—merchants and payment providers in Africa need to integrate each payment method separately, and banks lack seamless payments technology. Most African countries use different dominant payment methods, and those varying interfaces don’t always interact conveniently with each other. Business and personal transactions across borders typically have to be sent via Europe or North America, leading to costly and time-consuming transactions.

Frustrated by these inefficiencies, Nigerian entrepreneur Olugbenga Agboola and a team of ex-bankers and engineers started Flutterwave, a payment processing company that helps businesses make and receive payments across borders, using one API. Founded in 2016 and headquartered in San Francisco and Nigeria, Flutterwave aims to make it easier for Africans to build global businesses that can make and accept any payment, across Africa and around the world.

Flutterwave’s JavaScript API acts as a middle layer that payment service providers and global merchants can integrate with different payment methods and systems, allowing payments to be made by credit card, mobile wallet, and bank accounts in multiple African countries. Flutterwave provides multiple Software Development Kits (SDKs )and plugins, and businesses can use Flutterwave payments APIs to build customizable payments applications. In addition, the company’s collaboration with PayPal allows users around the world to make purchases from African merchants using the service.

“We help solopreneurs receive payments with our payment links, help small and medium-sized businesses receive payments with Flutterwave Store and Checkout, and facilitate payouts and collections for enterprise customers like Uber,” says Olugbenga.

Flutterwave also helps businesses like Uber expand into Africa. When Uber faced difficulty processing credit card payments in Lagos, Flutterwave worked with Access Bank to provide Uber with a payments solution that allowed them to process payments locally. Booking.com and Flywire are also Flutterwave clients; 900,000 businesses across the world use Flutterwave to process payments, in 150 different currencies.

“We also have Barter by Flutterwave, a B2C product that helps individuals send and receive money across borders, pay bills, and more,” says Olugbenga. Barter is a mobile app that allows users to send money across borders for free, request funds instantly, buy airtime, and pay bills.

Joining the Google for Startups Accelerator: Africa and the Google products ecosystem

In 2017, the Flutterwave team was looking at opportunities that would help them further grow and scale their business. They were selected to participate in Google for Startups Accelerator: Africa, a three-month program for high potential Seed to Series A tech startups based in Africa. During the program, they received training and mentorship on technical and leadership best practices from teams across Google and industry experts.

“We found that mentorship from Googlers and networking with other founders was the most valuable aspect for us,” says Olugbenga. “The mentorship we received helped upskill our people because when the attendees came back they were able to pass on these very important skills to various teams. We also kept in touch with other founders we met.”

Even before participating in the Google for Startups Accelerator: Africa, the team at Flutterwave used many Google products, including Google My Business.

“I recommend Google My Business to all small businesses,” says Olugbenga. “For small businesses, it is a gem. First, a lot of people are searching for solutions within their neighborhood. When they discover your product online, it makes it easier to order online or even visit in store.”

Olugbenga says he’s seen many small businesses combine Google My Business and an online store product, like Flutterwave Store.

“You search for their products, and their store pops up,” he says. “You search for them, and their Google My Business pops up. That’s a win-win for small businesses, and they are both free.”

Olugbenga says Google Search helps Flutterwave’s visibility, and Google Analytics provides them with a better understanding of their customers.

“Search is important to our activities because it shows that we are being discovered by people who have a problem we can solve,” says Olugbenga. “Analytics helps us understand our customers better and use the data to support them and build more useful products to fit their needs.”

Today, Flutterwave is valued at over $3B, making it the highest-valued African startup to date. The company’s $250 million Series D round tripled its valuation in twelve months. Since its Unicorn round in March 2021, when Flutterwave had processed 140 million transactions worth over $9 billion, the company now processes 200 million transactions worth over $16 billion. Olugbenga believes that the key to being a successful founder is to have a goal and a mission that is greater than yourself, and for him, that goal is to unite the continent of Africa, and ultimately, the world, via payments.

“You can imagine my response when a merchant came to our office and gave a very emotional testimonial about how our Flutterwave Store helped her business survive during the pandemic,” Olugbenga recalls. “Nothing beats the sense of purpose I felt at that point.”

Learn more about Flutterwave