Podcast Transcript – Series One, Episode 14
WOLE AYODELE JUNE 2020
[00:00:00]Wole: I’m really loving life, fully remotes, to be honest,
[00:00:02] just naturally gravitate towards engineering.
[00:00:05]I told all of my friends, I wanted to do something different,
[00:00:08]I started as an intern and within one year I became a manager in the firm.
[00:00:12]there was literally no cryptocurrency exchange platform and it took me about 15 minutes to make Nigerian founders are some of the most passionate people
[00:00:21]you would ever come across
[00:00:22]And over the next one month, we had over 800 businesses that joined.
[00:00:27] the waitlist
[00:00:28] from the beginning of the call, it felt so much like an interrogation
[00:00:32]It was one of the most…for the average black founder It’s not very easy.
[00:00:38]Dan: [00:00:38] What’s up Unfound Nation, Dan Kihanya here, your host for Founders Unfound. Thanks so much for listening in. That was Wole Ayodele out of Lagos Nigeria. He is co-founder and CEO of Fliqpay a company that helps businesses send and receive payments globally. It’s June 2020, and here in the US, we are still wrestling with how to balance re-engaging the economy with a seemingly persistent presence of COVID-19 and the coronavirus pandemic.
[00:01:06] Protests, unrest, and tough conversations are happening all over the country and all over the world. And everyone from corporate America to tech giants to investors is evaluating seriously, the ways that they can impact racial inequity, in their companies and in society. We encourage all of you in Unfound Nation to find a way to get involved and take action. This challenge will take all of America to address. Learn, and listen, speak up and donate. Participate.
[00:01:30] Our episode is sponsored by Valence great new community for black professionals. They have a special offer for Founders Unfound listeners. Find out more in the show notes.
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[00:01:52] Now on with the episode, stay safe and hope you enjoy.
[00:01:56] Hello, and welcome to Founders Unfound, spotlighting, the best startups you don’t know yet, we bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented backgrounds. This is episode number 14 in our series of founders of African descent. I’m your host, Dan Kihanya. Let’s get on it. Today, we have Wole Ayodele co-founder and CEO of Fliqpay a company that helps businesses send and receive payments globally. Welcome to the show Wole and thank you for making the time.
[00:02:34] Wole: [00:02:34] Thanks for the introduction, Dan. I really appreciate it. I’m really glad to be here.
[00:02:38] Dan: [00:02:38] Great. so you’re based in Nigeria, and not untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. let’s start off with, how are you doing? How’s your family? How are things overall there in Lagos?
[00:02:49] Wole: [00:02:49] Well, Lagos is slowly getting back so to speak. so just yesterday, right? The new ruling on lockdowns, I think curfew has been reduced to just 10:00 PM to 4:00 AM. So slowly businesses are recovered. Right now. my family and I remain indoors working from home now for the past three months, I guess it’s been pretty interesting the last couple of weeks, have been pretty interesting and relatively peaceful.
[00:03:19] Dan: [00:03:19] Well, that’s good to hear. it’s a pretty amazing thing. We’re all living through right now. And I imagine even in Nigeria, it’s, been pretty. Amazing and events that unfold and you have to deal with them day to day. And I’m glad to hear that everybody is safe and it must be amazing to try and run a small startup with everybody being remote.
[00:03:38] Wole: [00:03:38] Well, that’s initially a little challenge for our team but I mean I guess the previous experience that we had was really helpful for us. So before, before COVID-19, my team was used to working two days on sites, three days at home, or transitioning to a fully remote team had its challenges, but we’ve been able to optimize most of our processes and, you know, I’m really loving life, fully remotes, to be honest, I don’t think I want to go back.
[00:04:10] Dan: [00:04:10] Wow. Well, we’re definitely going to get into that then for sure. A little bit later, but, first of all, let’s let the audience understand exactly what is Fliqpay. How does it work?
[00:04:19] Wole: [00:04:19] Ok, So I’m just like you explained earlier, so Fliqpay we help businesses and financial institutions send and receive on payments globally
[00:04:29] right? And we do this using cryptocurrency as a mechanism for transactions, right? So essentially businesses that use Fliqpay can now accept, accept payments in their local currencies, or using cryptocurrencies. How we instantly settled them in any currency they want to and, you know, we do this reducing costs by 6%, and then in terms of the speed of settlements we bring down the time from about two weeks to about five minutes in some cases.
[00:04:59] Dan: [00:04:59] Yeah, it’s an amazing product. I think you really caught fire on something here with Fliqpay. And so, but, let’s first start off with understanding a little bit about you. so did you grow up in Lagos?
[00:05:13] Wole: [00:05:13] Yes I mean, I was born and raised in Lagos, lived here literally all of my life.
[00:05:18] Dan: [00:05:18] And when you were growing up, what was your ambitions?
[00:05:22]Wole: [00:05:22] Okay. So growing up at my very early age, I wanted to be an accountant by the time I got in high school, I think my priorities had changed. So I, you know, I wanted to be an engineer.
[00:05:35] Dan: [00:05:35] What made you, what made you want to be an accountant?
[00:05:38] Wole: [00:05:38] So I guess my mom always used to tell me that I loved math and I loved to do calculations. And I felt like accounting was the best use of my talents.
[00:05:47] Dan: [00:05:47] And what made that shift to engineering for you?
[00:05:50] Wole: [00:05:50] To be honest,I had a really weird childhood, right? So at some points in my childhood, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do anymore. So I just looked at the strengths I had while young I was very good with the sciences. And, you know mathematics and stuff, I just naturally gravitate towards engineering, but not for any strong will or passion.
[00:06:11] Dan: [00:06:11] Did you know anybody who was an engineer?
[00:06:14] Wole: [00:06:14] My brother, he was my major influence, yeah, my brother was an engineer.
[00:06:19] I had an older brother. Two years older than me.
[00:06:23] Dan: [00:06:23] And so did you start your career in engineering?
[00:06:27] Wole: [00:06:27] So I did. I started my career in engineering actually. I did a very short internship with Chevron but. shortly after that, I realized that engineering wasn’t where I really wanted to practice. So there was a bit of confusion for me, really, you know, studying mechanical engineering, doing an internship with Chevron and, you know, I was, I was social. Engineering wasn’t the path for me. Right. I literally made the career switch from engineering to marketing one month after graduating from the university.
[00:06:58] Dan: [00:06:58] Wow. That must have been an interesting discussion with your family, you know, sort of you’re on this path. And like you said, your brother is, sort of already on that path and has sort of, laid a roadmap for you. And then you realize, Hmm, I’m not sure this is for me. Maybe I should do something different. Yeah. How did you, how did your family take that?
[00:07:17] Wole: [00:07:17] To be honest, this is not a very strange thing in Nigeria. Right because like most people today, and that’s probably a reflection of the labor markets after school. Right? So you find out, most people end up doing something completely different from what they studied in school.
[00:07:32] Right. So, you know, someone being an engineer and ending up in the bank is not a strange thing at all in Nigeria right. So in fact, we would find people. who maybe it was studied, like languages, like…
[00:07:46] Dan: [00:07:46] so , but what gave you the confidence that you could just sort of switch? I mean, engineering is a pretty intentional path, I would say. Right? It’s you have to study differently. Topics and master certain concepts, what gave you the confidence that you could switch to something like marketing?
[00:08:04]Wole: [00:08:04] Okay. So I guess I just looked at some, I looked at the skills that I had. I’ve always had that with anything anyone wants to do all you really need to do is put your heart to it, and you’ll be able to figure it out. So in my own case, immediately I graduated from school. I told all of my friends, I wanted to do something different, so I was open to internships. So I was very lucky to get an opportunity to intern as a data analyst at a marketing firm. So within a few months of working as a data analyst, I was showing passion for a lot of markets and stuff and doing back then and I became one of the key accounts managers within the first four months.
[00:08:49] And that led me to manage accounts for telecoms giants like Airtel, MTN. So like, it was really an amazing experience for me. So I, I started as an intern and within one year I became a manager in the firm.
[00:09:03] Dan: [00:09:03] Wow. that is quite a rocket ship to be on. Did you stop and pause at any time and say, wow, this is, this is easy or I can’t believe that I’m making so much progress. I mean, how did that journey feel?
[00:09:16] Wole: [00:09:16] So it was a really, really exciting journey for me, right. Because I went to work every day and I knew that the challenged I had to face, like, was something that I never ever thought I would be doing like, especially all my yesterday school while, I mean, like , I had the very, very amazing boss, you know, she, she really helps me settle into the role.
[00:09:38] And I mean, it’s been really, really smooth to be honest. I have hardly had a break since I started on this course.
[00:09:46] Dan: [00:09:46] Wow. so tell us how did you move from this apparently successful start to your career in marketing to the financial services world that you’re in today?
[00:09:58] Wole: [00:09:58] All right. So it’s, it’s a really funny story, actually. So my relationship with my boss back then, you know, it became very, it became a bit more personal than just work stuff. So we had an idea together. To start up a new business. So I wanted to start a call production company in Nigeria, so I worked on the business plan, you know, we already started making plans to get this off the ground.
[00:10:23] And I had an opportunity to join one of the biggest African banks, right? So this was off an application I had done like a year ago. And when this opportunity presented itself to me, It was a bit of a conundrum, a bit of a dilemma, I would say, because like, this was a very good opportunity to not pass on. And on the other side, my career had been taking off so fast in marketing and I was literally about to start a new business with my boss,
[00:10:51] But we had some sort of agreements rights where I go to the bank for a couple of years while I get some more structure, you know, the learnings from the bank would really help me in whatever business or whatever career I wanted to take on then. So I feel like that was a major turning point from me, you know, the decision. So actually to let go of my career in marketing to go to the bank.
[00:11:16] So I guess I was a big year for me.
[00:11:18]Dan: [00:11:18] was the business idea, a financial services company, the one that you were working on the business plan for.
[00:11:25] Wole: [00:11:25] Okay, no, no. it was to start an alcohol production company.
[00:11:30] Dan: [00:11:30] Oh, right, right, right. So essentially your boss slash collaborator said, you know, let’s keep working on this idea, but in the meantime, why don’t you go and, , get, some other experience, with this opportunity, with the big bank. How did that feel though? Were you conflicted?
[00:11:49] Wole: [00:11:49] It was a very big decision to make at the time because I was opposed to the decision back then. I’m like she was so insistent. That even in her own career, one of the things that really helped out was getting that corporate experience and corporate structure for a couple of years and she felt that that was something I really needed to have because like, I was really, really bound for the world of entrepreneurship. Right.
[00:12:15] So in the end of what really made that decision for me was, you know, thinking about getting that experience right now, and this might be the only opportunity I might have working in the capacity in that capacity.
[00:12:30] Dan: [00:12:30] That’s the way a lot of entrepreneurs think. I think the idea that I’m going to use, basically my corporate experience or my non-entrepreneurial experience, basically as skill-building and experience building that’ll feed the entrepreneurial journey.
[00:12:46] Wole: [00:12:46] Yes that is exactly how she put it to me.
[00:12:50] Dan: [00:12:50] Well, there you go. So you spend two years at, at this bank, and obviously you get exposed to the world of finance and technology and how those intersect. So what happens next?
[00:13:02] Wole: [00:13:03] Okay. And so it was, this was a very curious morning and one of my very close friends called me and, you know, it was onto something really big that you’d be almost like, okay, you have been talking about cryptocurrency and he has been into currency trading, and this wasn’t popular in Africa, back then, and he called me.
[00:13:20] So, you know, I think we need some platform that will enable Africans to buy by ourselves. Cryptocurrency. I felt it was such a crazy idea, right? Because there was literally no cryptocurrency exchange platform in Nigeria back then, and it took me about 15 minutes to make a decision to leave the bank
[00:13:43] Dan: [00:13:43] 15 minutes!
[00:13:44] Wole: [00:13:44] Yeah, it was really crazy that morning. I go to message by like 5:00 AM, and 15 minutes later, you know, replied I was in and within one month I left my job at the bank, and we started building Quidax.
[00:13:56] Dan: [00:13:56] Wow. And so tell me though about that. What was going through your mind? I mean, how did you, how did you make that decision so quickly? I mean, what, was the thing that said, I gotta go do this?
[00:14:08] Wole: [00:14:08] I actually have been very keen on cryptocurrencies for a while and. You know, being at the bank and really understanding the structure of how financial flows are and, you know, cryptocurrency. You know, the value it can bring for Africa, that was like one of the really key things. I talk about much But even more than that. It was more of the trust I had in my friend. Right. So this is someone, like, I could literally trust is my life. Right. And if he would say we should start something together. I was so willing to take that risk right. I trusted the idea. I trusted him, I guess it was very easy decision for me to make.
[00:14:50] Dan: [00:14:50] Wow. Wow. That’s a, some, some sort of inspiration definitely must have lightning strike, at that point that’s pretty, that’s a pretty quick time to process that that’s impressive. So something must’ve been inside of you ready to go, ready to, make this leap to move so quickly like that.
[00:15:09] That’s amazing. And so then you start your entrepreneurial journey and tell us what was, what was that like? I mean, what was, that experience like?
[00:15:16] Wole: [00:15:16] So it was for me, was like, it was a very similar experience to when I started with marketing right, because it was an entirely new journey because working in a startup and not just any regular startup but a cryptocurrency exchange in Africa.
[00:15:32] By the way, probably just one of the first five cryptocurrency platforms in Africa. Right? So there was not a lot that we could learn from our, , so it was, it was a whole new experience, you know, my first time working in tech and I had to take up some roles that never had an experience with before. So I was leading products at Quidax , I was the chief product officer and was also leading business.
[00:15:54] So I had to do a lot of learning, a lot of 18 to 20 hour days. you know, learning, speaking to people, reading, researching other platforms, talking to users,. So, you know, it was like almost an entire year of doing that before we were able to finally come out with the products. I would say, I think that’s the one year is probably one of the most brilliant years of my life.
[00:16:18] Right? One year of my life, in terms of the amount of time, literally grinding, learning things, you know, staying awake and, you know, just trying to get everything. No. I really, really appreciate that experience for me is such a human experience.
[00:16:33]Dan: [00:16:33] yeah, I can imagine. I know what it’s like when you, when you hop into the startup world for the first time, the startup is insatiable in terms of its need from you.
[00:16:44] There’s never enough time in the day. There’s never an end to what you need to learn, what you need to focus on, what you need to understand. And execute against, it’s, usually a shock to the system and you can gradually get into it and then sometimes you’re just thrown into the fire.
[00:17:03] Wole: [00:17:03] Yeah, you’re quite right.
[00:17:04] Dan: [00:17:04] So how long were you on that journey with that first company?
[00:17:09] Wole: [00:17:09] so I was at Quidax for two years, Fortwo years and a couple of months, you know, very, very interesting couple of years before I started Fliqpay.
[00:17:19] Dan: [00:17:19] Okay. So we will take a short break to hear from our sponsor and we’ll be right back with Wole Ayodele from Fliqpay.
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[00:18:26] Dan: [00:18:26] So we’re back talking with Wole from Fliqpay.
[00:18:29] So Wole I, when we took the break, you were talking about your first startup. Tell us a little bit more about how you transitioned from that startup to Fliqpay.
[00:18:41] Wole: [00:18:41] For me the story from Quidax to Fliqpay was pretty, I think it was the most in my .career and I guess that’s because of how similar the industries are. So the founding team at Quidax was, I guess, was very, very key to how that experience was for me. I would say there were four co-founders and Quidax and all four of us were very close friends. Right. So we have known each other for a couple of years. We all went to the same university.
[00:19:07]you know, like we’re visiting friends, living together and building something amazing, you know, we’re growing really, really fast.
[00:19:15] Back then we literally, the only Nigerian crypto exchange,
[00:19:19] then we started to notice something about the businesses that were signing up and the way, the transactional flows were.
[00:19:29] Volumes that getting a lot of the demand was from our customers that wanted to buy cryptocurrencies and use them as a means to pay their importers in Asia, in China, people wanted to fund their gaming wallets in crypto and because they couldn’t use PayPal or any of the other funding options available. Right. So this got me very curious. Right. And I started to really look into it. Okay. So. Aside from people who just want to trade cryptocurrencies for speculative reasons, there were people with real use cases in making payments using crypto. And, so I, I believed that this was something that was so interesting because in Africa, right.
[00:20:10] It’s well documented of the lack of infrastructure that we have, especially with access to basic financial services. And then for the last year for businesses, right? There’s such a big issue with businesses trying to receive payments from other countries, or try to make the exchange from the other currencies. On the other hand, we have cryptocurrencies that have all these boxes that allow people to do it so easily.
[00:20:32] So I believe that. If infrastructure was built that will enable people to make payments using cryptocurrency. This would really help in solving a lot of decisions we have in Africa. So the next step for me was to just to do like simple experiments. I put out the landing page with the waitlist in Angel list for Fliqpay for businesses to sign up to receive crypto as payments. And over the next one month, we had over 800 businesses that joined the waitlist. You know, the interest was like really crazy. Yes. So we had 800 businesses without any markets join the waitlist. So I’m like, it looked like this was something that had to be built. So that was how Fliqpay started.
[00:21:17] Dan: [00:21:17] So, but tell us, how did you go about the decision that, that needs to be a separate company from Quidax and, how did that separation go?
[00:21:27] Wole: [00:21:27] Okay. So that’s separation really went smoothly. I guess that would be due to the relationship I had with my founders, because with the direction that we had at Quidax and what we wanted to build right. At Quidax we didn’t only just want to build a platform where people could buy and sell cryptocurrencies alone, we wanted to build an infrastructure for people, for other businesses to access crypto services.
[00:21:53] Right? Because like, we, we have a huge bet on how cryptocurrencies and futural on finance and for us to to also really enable that. Especially for Africa, we shouldn’t only be able to bring business individually to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. The focus was on getting businesses and order intakes to be able to access cryptocurrency wallets on their platforms and things like that.
[00:22:16] So with the direction Quidax had, and what Fliqpay was. It just didn’t seem like something that should have been part of the company. So I think it was pretty, we’ll try to live here as a completely separate entity.
[00:22:30] Dan: [00:22:30] Interesting. And so, so you decide that this needs to be a separate company and you have an amicable, sounds like an amicable separation with Quidax.
[00:22:40] Where did you, where did you go next? How did you find team members and collaborators to try and get this thing going?
[00:22:48] Wole: [00:22:48] So starting Fliqpay right, I, so there was David, my CTO today, who I’ve been really close to for about six years already. in the past we had worked on a bunch of projects. So we had the social advisory firm that, you know, was building software for banks and, you know, major telecoms companies.
[00:23:09] So we had done some small projects in pastime, you know, we’ve developed a very, very close relationship. So when I was I’m setting out to start Fliqpay, got together with David, spoke about it, and then funny enough, it was something that he had already been thinking about. So one idea was really passionate about and was actually going to build the product out of it.
[00:23:30] So it just made good sense for the two of us to team up and start Fliqpay. Between then and now I think David and I raised raising very early around from a local Angel. And, you know, we pulled in some capital and you know, that’s been the journey so far.
[00:23:48] Dan: [00:23:48] So tell us more about how it’s working. So give us an example of a, customer and how they would use Fliqpay right now.
[00:23:55] Okay. So, typical customer rights could be an eCommerce platform, right? So we have eCommerce platforms that have customers from all around the world and are unable to make payments to buy stuff on that platform. So they can now integrate Fliqpay and, and at the point of checkout. Yeah, the customer could now pay with their credit card, the cards, or they could also pay through cryptocurrencies, right?
[00:24:22] Wole: [00:24:22] And once that payment is made, the platform gets the local currency value instantly. So if this business is located in Nigeria, for instance. So anybody from Brazil, from us, from anywhere in the world could actually pay true cryptocurrency that store owner gets the Naira value for that payment instantly without any risk of chargeback and without any risk of fraud.
[00:24:48] Dan: [00:24:48] Interesting. And so for those who don’t know a lot about cryptocurrency, I mean, what sort of the pent up demand, I guess. How do you, how do you think about, like you said, people want to use credit cards, debit cards, PayPal, whatever other wallets, what’s the opportunity with people who want to spend with cryptocurrency? Is there a kind of a market assessment or is there a way to think about that?
[00:25:10] Wole: [00:25:11] from that, one of the key things that we did very early on was to really highlight the initial markets that we wanted to target. And we found that the people who have the most need for cryptocurrency as a form of payments today are the people who are literally frozen out of the current payments infrastructure that exists. So you find people, in the gaming industry, right, trying to fund their gaming wallets. Let’s take towards cryptocurrency because cryptocurrency enables them to do this very easily without paying so many fees from regular card providers or in a lot of cases, so it doesn’t give you an example of the issues that we face. So in Africa, you can’t access Paypal to make payments, and even on platforms like Stripe aren’t really supported in Africa.
[00:25:57] So most of the platforms today that want to serve like a wider range of people without having, so without pain to be integrating with different payments networks from all those currencies.
[00:26:15] Especially for financial institutions as well. And I think that’s the most curious case for me because financial institutions make cross-border payments and cryptocurrency reduces the cost and makes the settlement time a lot shorter.
[00:26:30] Dan: [00:26:30] Can you give us some reference points for that? What’s the difference?
[00:26:34] Wole: [00:26:34] Okay. So in terms of how we compare with regular payments rails a transaction, between Nigeria and Germany, for instance, using a platform like TransferWise vs a platform like Fliqpay, the rates from 6%. The cost of transactions on Fliqpay is about six times cheaper than doing that same transaction on TransferWise. And where it would take about seven hours for that transaction to be settled on TransferWise, about five days with a bank, using Fliqpay that transaction would be processed in about five minutes.
[00:27:09] Dan: [00:27:09] Five minutes versus five days. Did I hear you, right?
[00:27:11] Wole: [00:27:11] Yes. In some cases, it is actually as bad as two weeks, especially when you use the Swift network to make these payments.
[00:27:20] Dan: [00:27:20] Wow. That’s impressive. So when it’s that dramatic a change in benefit, you must have people that, and companies that are coming to you. How has the demand been? I mean, you talked about the sort of catalyst for the company being this, this idea of building a waitlist and demonstrated demand. How has been the growth of the customer base?
[00:27:43] Wole: [00:27:43] So our growth has been pretty huge since we actually launched our product in terms of the volume of process in the last nine months, we’ve processed about over $15 million in payments. And that has been on the 30% month over month growth. And right now we, we have a lot of, most of the biggest payments companies in Africa on our waitlist.
[00:28:08] to get on our cross-border payments network. So like the traction has been really crazy. So in the last two months, we actually doubled our user base, so we’ve been growing really fast. And I would say that a lot of that has been because of the changes that we made. So the changes that we made to our platform after Techstars.
[00:28:30] Dan: [00:28:30] Interesting and so that’s a lot of growth in just the last two months has the COVID-19 pandemic been something that has affected… I mean, obviously you talked about the impact on your structure and being remote and your team, but in terms of the business, has it been neutral, positive a challenge? How would you view its impact on your business? If you can kind of assess that?
[00:28:54] Wole: [00:28:54] So I think COVID-19 actually impacted our business positively. And, and that will be because of the macroeconomic factors. So for cross-border payments, there are the factors that affect the pricing of those payments like the availability of FX by the government. So in Nigeria, for instance, most of the outbound corporate payments are funded by FX provided by governments. So, COVID-19 costs the local economic issues. So that would mean that most, currencies were devalued.
[00:29:29] So most businesses that we’re holding a lot of these currencies for settlement transactions lost so much money. And then the exchange rates and the pressure on most local African currencies were really, really high. And that’s, that means that the banks are a no more feasible way to actually move this money. Right. So in fact, there’s almost no utility to do some of these transactions.
[00:29:50] And using crypto as a way to settle these transactions has even become a lot more imperative. So I think that’s one of the things that’s really driven the demand for our product as well.
[00:30:01] Dan: [00:30:01] Nice. So tell us what’s the future? I mean, where, does this go? How big can this get? What’s your ambition for Fliqpay?
[00:30:12] Wole: [00:30:12] So our ambition for Fliqpay over the next couple of years is to open up to 50 different on currency corridors and get to the points where different financial institutions across the world can now connect to our network to get an instant settlement for payments in all these currencies that we support.
[00:30:29] Dan: [00:30:29] And how big, like if you had to put a number on that, is that millions, hundreds of millions, billions of dollars potential. What do you think?
[00:30:37] Wole: [00:30:37] Right now we are processing somewhere between $2 and $3 million, and from our projections, we expect that to go as high as $500 million monthly in the next two years.
[00:30:50]Dan: [00:30:50] Wow. Amazing, amazing stuff. We’re going to take another short break and we’ll be back soon with Wole Ayodele from Fliqpay.
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[00:31:56] Dan: [00:31:56] We’re back with Wole from Fliqpay. So Wole, a great story with Fliqpay, let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about, you mentioned Techstars, and then that’s kind of how we met. Tell the audience about your experience with Techstars. You went through the most recent cohort, essentially as the coronavirus epidemic was taking off. So what was the experience like? Wole: [00:32:22] So my experience with Techstar has been, not too short of beautiful, I mean like it’s one of the best decisions we’ve made for our company since we started. I mean, I guess corona could have affected it… I mean, I was very, very, very, very lucky for on the amazing team and how they were able to manage the switch to a fully virtual program.
[00:32:43] So I think about three to four weeks into the program we had to go fully virtual due to the impact of the lockdown but in terms of the network we’ve been exposed to, it’s been really, really, really amazing. So, Techstars introduced us to so many mentors that have helped us think about this in a much better way. you know, like we do design thinking workshops and all of the hands-on approach that you get from the entire Techstars team. It’s almost like a new family.
[00:33:17] I mean, I would recommend Techstars to any, any startup, any African startup.
[00:33:23] Dan: [00:33:23] Wow. That’s a nice endorsement. what do you think was the biggest challenge? Once the program went remote, essentially?
[00:33:32] Wole: [00:33:32] I would say that once the program went remote the biggest challenge was connecting with other founders and cohorts. One of the things I was really looking forward to was those connections with the other cohort members, you know, both.
[00:33:50] mostly beyond the official program, you know, TechStars really tried and we were able to bond and even still now like we’re still all friends. And that, I think that was the greatest challenge in terms of the value that we’re getting from the program, I don’t think COVID-19 affected that in any way.
[00:34:08] Dan: [00:34:08] That’s really good to hear because probably for the foreseeable future, a lot of these programs will have to be virtual and remote. And I would imagine, like you said, one of the biggest challenges is that you’re in this collaborative learning environment with other entrepreneurs and not being around them or in that day to day, sort of common physical space would present some challenges, but it sounds like Techstars is adapting.
[00:34:33]so tell us about, your fundraising journey. So you talked about the fact that you raised some angel money initially to get Fliqpay off the ground. are you thinking about raising money? Have you raised other money? What’s the experience been like for you?
[00:34:46] Wole: [00:34:46] Well, so we we’re currently in the fundraising process.
[00:34:51] The experience I think, has been going as well as it gets. Especially considering the global situation, economic situation, one, I’m pretty confident about the round. We’ve gotten commitments from, you know, really good investors, raise some funds from Techstars and, you know, a bunch of other angel investors committed as well.
[00:35:12] So I, I believe over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be having some announcements on completion of the round.
[00:35:19] Dan: [00:35:19] Oh, that’s great. That’s wonderful news. That’s good to hear. So tell us though. I mean, one of the things that I think is a challenge for founders of African descent, both here in the US and probably in Africa, do you view that your perceived or your opportunities perceived differently being that your, your foundation and your sort of headquarters and your origin comes from within Africa and Nigeria?
[00:35:45] Wole: [00:35:45] Okay, so Fliqpay is actually headquartered in Toronto, right. Perhaps that could be one of the reasons why it’s easier for us. But I must say that raising money as a black founder, it’s definitely, there’s definitely an effect and you can actually see it. So there are lots of funds that, you know, would not even invest in Africa-focused companies by default, right?
[00:36:10] I mean, that’s like 40% of the people you’re speaking with as a black founder. And, you know, you would have cases like a situation that had very recently of a potential investor that actually committed and, you know, I’m speaking with some racial undertone. So it’s actually pretty difficult. So I know that even though we have had it a bit easier for us at Fliqpay and a lot of that is do to the business we are operating in and some of the unique circumstances. But for the average black founder. It’s not very easy.
[00:36:47] Dan: [00:36:47] Yeah. I mean, as I talked to other founders, I mean, this seems to be a common refrain. So you mentioned the last experience. Can you unpack that a little bit? You said that there were some racial undertones with that.
[00:36:59] Wole: [00:36:59] So it was, yeah, it was a very recent experience I had actually, a couple of weeks back, you know? So I, I mean, I was expecting to usual where we talk about what we are trying to build…
[00:37:10] And go through. Some of those, like really basic things, you know, from the beginning of the call, it felt so much like an interrogation and I hardly had any time to speak, and like he actually made some, the VC actually made some comments, you know, about how he hates Germans…you I would really not like to go some much into it, cause it’s not a very nice experience to really recount.
[00:37:36] Dan: [00:37:36] Wow. , so an investor felt comfortable enough to just lay that out there for you.
[00:37:42] Wole: [00:37:42] It was one of the most shocking conversations I’ve ever had, it was so terrible. And this was after weeks and weeks of conversations, and commitments already made. This was really at the final stage speaking with one of the partners. I mean, I was, I was certain I couldn’t work with a firm like that so I had to pull out of the deal, five minutes after the call. It was, it was a very bad experience.
[00:38:07] Dan: [00:38:07] Wow. I’m sorry that you had to go through that. And unfortunately, you’re right. It’s, more common than a once in a while thing. So it’s still out there. It’s still a challenge. So have there been any organizations, individuals, mentors that have been beneficial to you or have helped you along the way, especially as a black founder.
[00:38:29]Wole: [00:38:29] so I’ll say that Techstars has been one of the most impactful organizations I’ve actually worked with in the past couple of years. Right? So I would say, I would say, Techstars has been really impactful, you know, expose us to, lots of mentors that really helped us along our journey. You, Dan of course, are one of the mentors, one of the mentors and Shamani, Sara, you know I’ve had so many amazing mentors from the Techstars network that have been really, really helpful along the journey so far.
[00:39:02] Dan: [00:39:02] That’s good to hear. So you mentioned that the company was, is headquartered in Toronto. How did you decide, as Toronto for a headquarters?
[00:39:13] Wole: [00:39:13] Toronto was. I mean, it was very, very strategic for Fliqpay, and that’s because of when we setting Fliqpay up, we were down as a vision for the company and trying to set up on the regional one is working.
[00:39:28] So in terms of regulation, so we are getting regulated in Canada and, you know, operates out of that structure, out of the Canada structure for the global products we are building. You know, having the structure from Canada, from Nigeria, that like they’re very helpful for us.
[00:39:46]Dan: [00:39:46] Makes sense. Especially with the FinTech industry, like you said, you have to be strategic just because of the regulatory aspects and the ability, especially like you said, your company’s focused on cross border and, and the ability to have payments and money that can exchange between regions. I would imagine you have to be very strategic about where your governing headquarters or the regulations that govern your headquarters are.
[00:40:14] So tell us Wole. So one of the questions we like to ask is a retrospective question, so to speak. So if you could go back, let’s say to pre your startup journey. so maybe when you’re working at the bank and talk to that version of yourself, that Wole a back, you know, a few years ago, and give him advice from this Wole, 2020, seasoned entrepreneur, in terms of how to go about starting the journey, what kind of advice would you give him?
[00:40:45] Wole: [00:40:45] Well, I would say to read more. So, you know, I only started like reading a couple of years ago. Right? So I’d love to have started a lot earlier, but it’s never too late and another thing, I think. was how to code. I think that’s one of the skills that I’d like to learn. I mean, it’s, it’s still something I plan in the next couple of months and years, depending on how things turn out. ,
[00:41:14] Dan: [00:41:14] yeah.
[00:41:15] Nice. Yeah. It’s always easy to go back in hindsight to say these things. So I, I find it interesting to hear what people have to say about their, mentorship of themselves. I guess one question that we can, we can kind of wrap up with is we have a lot of audiences here in the United States.
[00:41:30] What’s, what’s one misconception that people have about business in Nigeria. But, another way to think about it is what’s something that people don’t know about Nigeria, that you wish more people knew.
[00:41:42] Wole: [00:41:42] Oh, okay. So I wish more people would know about the passion of Nigerian founders so that Nigerian founders are some of the most passionate people you would ever come across. They would be willing to like literally do anything to ensure that business succeeds and grow. I mean, even working out some tough conditions, sometimes it really takes a lot of grit to really keep trying. And I would really, really love people to know that about us.
[00:42:13] Dan: [00:42:13] If you are any indication Wole, you’re certainly a positive data point on that fact for sure. Well, this conversation has been so great. I really appreciate all the time. but before we go, why don’t you tell the audience. if there’s a way to get ahold of you or to find out more about Fliqpay, how would they do that?
[00:42:31] Wole: [00:42:31] To find out more about Fliqpay, you can just head out to Fliqpay.com. F-L-I-Q-P-A-Y dot com or so. Yeah. And then you could also pick me up at firstname.lastname@example.org or that’s w-o-l-e at Fliqpay dotcom.
[00:42:48] Dan: [00:42:48] Awesome. Awesome. Well, again, thank you so much for taking the time. This has been a great conversation. we really appreciate it.
[00:42:55] Wole: [00:42:55] All right, Dan, thanks so much for having me.
[00:42:57]Dan: [00:42:57] We’d like to thank our guests Wole Ayodele and our sponsor Valence. Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts or simply go to foundersunfound.com/listento, that’s listening, T-O. And follow us on Twitter and Instagram @foundersunfound.
[00:43:12] This podcast was produced by Dan Kihanya. Social media and other promotions by Omama Marzuq.
[00:43:18] Our music was composed by Neil Cross, Blaine Green, Enrique Molano Jimenez, Argyris Ottas, Marshall Usinger, Michael Vignola, and Bruce Zimmerman.
[00:43:28] I am Dan Kihanya and you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound.
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