Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: Hard-Earned Lessons Building Flutterwave
Today's guest is Olugbenga Agboola, better known as the one and only GB - the Co-founder and CEO of Flutterwave.
It's been a trying last year or so for Flutterwave with issues of fraud, allegations of impropriety inside the company, regulatory hurdles, and the general challenges of scaling a fintech in a tough operating environment.
Yet through it all, Flutterwave has "technology reach" in 34 countries, they've continued to ship new products beyond their core payments technology, including their rebranded remittance product Send App, and there are rumors swirling about the near-term timeline of their planned IPO.
In this episode, we'll hear from GB about many of his recent lessons, his perspectives on product and expansion strategy, and we'll ask many of the questions we've been wanting to hear from him about, including the big one about Flutterwave's IPO.
00:00 - Intro
03:13 - When is Flutterwave going public?
04:56 - What about the allegations?
09:24 - Sharing more for the benefit of the ecosystem
11:17 - Growth and expansion
16:13 - Did Flutterwave grow too fast?
21:09 - Fundraising and the African growth story
27:11 - GB's angel investing activities
30:29 - Lessons from GB's banking and big tech background
32:08 - Why did GB start Flutterwave in the first place?
33:49 - Are payments still broken?
35:55 - The vision for the future
38:02 - Final words of wisdom
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: We're playing the long game. We're here for the long term as a company. We want to be here for a long time.
Justin Norman: What ultimately compelled you to decide to found Flutterwave and start your own business?
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: The biggest one was really just seeing that payment is broken in Africa.
Justin Norman: GB is unquestionably a leader in the African tech ecosystem, but until now he's largely remained quiet.
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: We had a very long year last year as the organization. There's also been a year where we had to rebuild so many things.
Justin Norman: A lot of people in the ecosystem will want to hear from you about, you know, the various allegations that were made against Flutterwave over the past year and a half.
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: I'm not sure if I've talked about this before in any forum...
Justin Norman: Today's guest is Olugbenga Agboola, better known as the one and only GB, the Co-founder and CEO of Flutterwave. It's been a trying last year or so for Flutterwave. With issues of fraud, allegations of impropriety inside the company, regulatory hurdles, and the general challenges of scaling a fintech in a tough operating environment.
Yet through it all, Flutterwave has technology reach in 34 countries. They've continued to ship new products beyond their core payments technology, including their rebranded remittance product, SendApp, and there are rumors swirling about the near-term timeline of their planned IPO. In this episode, we'll hear from GB about many of his recent lessons, his perspectives on product and expansion strategy, and we'll ask many of the questions we've been wanting to hear from him about, including the big one about Flutterwave's IPO.
This episode of The Flip is sponsored by MFS Africa. MFS Africa is the leading digital payments gateway, which connects over 320 million mobile wallets across over 600 cross-border corridors, and in over 30 countries across the African continent. Throughout this season, we'll hear from the MFS Africa team about their work to create a borderless world.
In this episode, we're joined by MFS Africa's Founder in Residence for crypto, Gwera Kiwana, about the role of stablecoins in cross-border payments today.
Gwera Kiwana: Our mission at MFS Africa is to make borders matter less. We've spent the last few years building some really great solutions and infrastructure and rails that actually facilitate cross-border payments and make it really easy for our partners to plug in and have access to our 400 million-plus mobile money wallets.
Stablecoins really present a really interesting opportunity and I think the killer use case for crypto adoption, especially in the global south, in places like Africa, to move money without really needing too many intermediaries. So basically, Making cross border payments cheaper, faster, but also without having to get our end users to have the heavy lift of understanding Web3 and crypto in general, mass adoption of crypto is going to be driven by fintech like ourselves, MFS Africa, we're using fintech in the front.
So fintech is really, really good at UX, so user experience, building things that people actually use and like and want, and meeting customers where they are, but in the backend powered by DeFi or crypto. And by definition crypto is borderless, it is 24 hours, it is non-discriminatory about where you're from, your background, so it really is the next frontier for African innovation. We want people to use the technologies that they're used to, the methods of sending money they're used to, but bring that cost significantly down.
Justin Norman: I think there's a lot of questions that I'm expecting to ask you and that a lot of people want to, will want to hear from you about, the first one, of course, is when is Flutterwave going public? I don't know if you can give any insights into that.
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: Hey Justin, great to be here. This has been a long time coming. I think like we had this chat about this podcast, I think it was in 2021, right, but here we are finally after so many attempts to set up. Going public is a big deal, right? And it's a very important decision that I think a company like Flutterwave has to do, right? Obviously for me as a person, as the CEO, for the team, for our customers, for investors, for our entire village, it's a massive, massive milestone.
Obviously the goal is to obviously think through all possible options or possible opportunities to get this done and make the right plan for it. So I would say right now we're trying to be IPO ready, which is basically, you know, dotting our I's, crossing our T's as a company, right, which is priority. And part of that, in my opinion, is obviously the focus, the extreme focus on building quality and great products to serve our customers efficiently as we grow and scale.
So the short answer to that is we're working on it. It's a work in progress and a big piece of that is ensuring that all our T's are crossed, I's are dotted and that's in progress.
Justin Norman: Well, like this interview that was a long time coming I think it's "good things happen to those who wait", so no rush, but I know everyone in the ecosystem is very excited for it, that's all. In all seriousness, the premise of this series is to speak to some of the most experienced founders and operatorsto share lessons from their experience for the benefit of the ecosystem. And I think it's a particularly interesting time to do it during this, you know, so called market downturn where a lot of people are reflective.
I think the other question really that a lot of people in the ecosystem will want to hear from you about is the various allegations that were made against Flutterwave over the past year and a half. And I don't want to relitigate anything and I know that there are certain things that you can't really talk about, but what I do want to ask is if there are certain things that you want to share or what you want the public to know with respect to everything that's been talked about with Flutterwave over the past year and a half.
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: We had a very long year last year as an organization. And for me personally, I appreciate the chance to talk about this. I'm not sure I've ever spoken about this before in any forum. So this is the first time I'm talking about this.
I think for me and for most of the Wavers, that's Flutterwave, my Flutterwave colleagues, it's really just learning that as a company grows, we're going to face so many scrutiny. We have to obviously ensure that we prioritize what is important to prioritize. And I think for me, it's really just. Knowing the stakeholders that we have, which obviously the biggest are our customers, both enterprise, retail, SMB customers, the amazing people that work in Flutterwave, who put in their efforts day in, day out to ensure that the company keeps running, our amazing partners who are somewhat required to help us to grow and scale, and obviously our investors, our board, all over Africa and globally as well.
For me, the biggest thing for last year was, if I'm speaking particularly on maybe Kenya for example, is that we were cleared, we were cleared of any wrong doing in Kenya, which is a big deal for us, for me personally, for the company, for my team, and for our customers as well.
And that is going to help us to focus on our goal of being the best payment infrastructure for customers on the continent and making sure that obviously we continue to serve our clients and enhance the ecosystem as we should. While it's been a long year for us, it's also been a year where we have to rebuild so many things in the firm, right? We had to rebuild how we communicate, we had to rebuild what we are perceived to prioritize. We have to understand that sometimes perception, while it's not reality to some people, might look like reality. And obviously when you don't tell your story yourself people get along with any narrative they see out there to tell your story on your behalf.
So I think we have to come out of our shell as a company. We've already thought about, you know, our job is to build technology infrastructure, stay in our lane, do our thing, keep it moving. But it's not, it's just not that. We also need to tell our story as we're building and staying in our lane, right?
So a lot that we've learned as a company, as a team, and we're still learning as well. But the biggest one for me is we're learning our customers and we're focusing on serving them at a scale that nobody would imagine possible in the ecosystem. Which was seen in recent times, the things that we've done, the new Send App that we just relaunched, Tuition that we just built, our Microsoft partnership, which I will probably talk about later in this conversation, but the goal really is we're learning, we're growing, we're evolving, we faced scrutiny, we're prioritizing transparency, integrity as a company.
And for us it's just really, we're playing the long game, right, we're here for the long term as a company, we want to be here for a long time. We want to be here, we want to be the story of a company that started from zero and became something in Africa. That's our story. We started from zero and we've had to restart from zero, but what is going on here is that we've been able to, we're still here and we're thriving, which is very interesting.
Justin Norman: There's this narrative that we hear a lot about in the ecosystem, about needing to be protective of the ecosystem and maybe trying not to share too much bad news because it's going to scare away foreign investors. And I'm wondering if things like that ever went through your head or what you think about this idea of being transparent and sharing lessons and the role that you have and Flutterwave has in sharing lessons for the benefit of the ecosystem so that the ecosystem can grow and thrive and prosper.
How do you think about that?
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: There are different perspectives to every conversation, but I now believe in the fact that your story needs to be told, our story needs to be told by ourselves, we have to take the lead in telling our story. When there is a vacuum, people will obviously make a variety of assumptions, because obviously they are trying to invent or imagine a story that might not be there.
And that's I think my job as the leader here and our job as a team in Flutterwave essentially that we tell our story the right way. Because now we understand that hey, they will write us wrong stories anyway. They'll put us out there anyway. So why don't we just tell our story ourselves? Why don't we go out there and do what we have to do?
And I think that is what is important here, learning that, understanding that being able to just be very open and transparent. Obviously, not every story can be told immediately. Some would require, obviously, ensuring that every stakeholder involved is aligned. But I think, in the long run, it does serve the ecosystem, if we are able to tell our stories,with all the facts at hand.
Justin Norman: Yeah. And telling stories about both the good and the bad, right? I know that the telling bad stories is always painful, but you guys have a lot of good stories to tell as well. And I think inside of everything that's happened, you guys have still grown considerably. I know you say technology reach in 34 countries, a number of different products that have extended far and wide beyond your core products.
You mentioned just relaunching the remittance product, Send App, partnerships with Microsoft and for things like that. So can you talk a little bit more just about from a business perspective, how you've approached this question of growth and expansion in particular from a product perspective.
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: When we're starting Flutterwave, a major core thesis has always been about, aking Africa feel like a country.
It's not a country ,that when it comes to Flutterwave... let's make it feel like one at Flutterwave. And we invested a lot in that philosophy because we believe so much in the fact that payments should be simple in Africa. Payments is extremely broken Africa, but it can be simple in Africa, right? And that's obviously meant a lot of expansion that people did not even imagine possible.
We're the largest payment network today in Africa. We have the most licenses in Africa today. We have the most reach Africa today. But imagine what that would require, what we require to do that. It's a lot of work, a lot of expansion, infrastructure,initiative, playbooks built, tried, tested, reused, discarded if it doesn't work.
So many of that was done and I think we've learned both the good and the hard way that that thesis makes sense. But that said, we have always followed our customer's journey. I talk a lot about our customer is Uber, which of course Uber has been a customer that has defined our growth, our growth as a firm.
We helped Uber to scale across Africa and we follow them into every market that they were going to go into. So, our expansion and growth story can be linked to our customer requirements and it can also be linked to our philosophy about making payments simpler across Africa and simplifying payments for endless possibilities.
So for us as a company, it's really just about how do we make sure our customers can scale on our platform? How do we make sure our customers can go to a new country in Africa and all they have to do is just flip a switch literally on our dashboard and they can just go live in their new market?
So our growth has been customer defined. Our expansion is always customer driven. Where does the customer want us to be? We listen to customers a lot in Flutterwave. Extremely... we have an extreme customer obsession in Flutterwave when it comes to what our customer wants and how to deliver to the customer.
Justin Norman: So how have you managed it though? I mean, obviously the goal is to make expansion seamless for customers like Uber, but inside of that is a lot of hard work. And I think that there's this perception as well, that fintech expansion is very hard because you're dealing with regulation on a country by country basis, you're dealing with currency, cross currency, all of that kind of stuff. So can you talk a little bit about how Flutterwave has approached these particular obstacles to expansion and scale?
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: It's been hard, speaking very frankly, it's been really hard when you attempt to build payments infrastructure across 30 countries, 30 different central bank licenses to apply for, 30 different requirements of compliance to adhere to.
We're one of the most complex companies in Nigeria, I say Nigeria, in Africa today, because of one big reason: we have a board in every country, a board in Nigeria, a board in North America, a board globally, as well. Regulatory requirements fulfill across board. I think one thing that we've learned is following your customer's path is very important, right?
Ensuring that you build the required resilience to go through with our objective is even more important, right, because you get obstacles. Every time I was in Kenya, if I know in Kenya, I have a problem in Kenya, for example, just imagine having to deal with that kind of issue in 30 countries, try at the same time, right?
It's a lot of work. But I think we are arguably the only company in Africa that has navigated Africa licensing the way we've done to be able to do it at that scale and get it done properly as well.Till today, if you get an Uber in Cairo in Egypt, if you get an Uber in Johannesburg, Uber in Lagos, Nigeria, Uber, it's a Flutterwave infrastructure, right?
If you, and that is so important because we've been able to build that technology to scale it that way but what is more important here is we've also been able to build the regulatory rails to be able to scale that as well across all the markets that we're operating in.
Justin Norman: And I know that your expansion and growth has been customer led and customer defined. Do you think that you've grown at an appropriate pace? I think that there's this question about what does fast growth look like in Africa in light of a lot of these regulatory challenges, in particular. Should you have grown as fast as you have? Or is it now that maybe to develop this resiliency and to build a foundation means like slower growth than,perhaps some investors would expect out of these sorts of markets? How do you think about that growth question?
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: I think that question depends on the industry you're in, right? It's a scale game in payments. You have to land grab. If you don't land grab in payments, it's hard for you to compete at a scale you want to compete in. If I have a customer wants to collect money in 20 countries, I only do two for them they will find another player who can do 20 and you've lost the two that you have, right? So it's a defensive strategy. To defend your turf, you have to scale. That's one thing that we have to do. We have to defend our turf by scaling. So it's not like we're going, we're trying to go too fast.
We're trying to defend our business. Obviously some markets are more important than some markets. Some markets require a lot of work. Some are more friendly than others. Some markets are obviously extremely volatile, right? As we've seen in our story, right, we've been able to obviously learn the market as we grew and we've been able to invest in making sure that all the infrastructure required to scale that market were put into place. To scale at a growth rate that is required for our business and to defend the little market share that you have, you really have to scale the business. There's no other way to grow that,beyond our approach.
Justin Norman: Yeah, and in these markets with the regulatory complexity and the cross border complexity and the sort of fraud complexity there's I guess inevitably going to be challenges and speed bumps along the way when you grow as you need to in order to defend your turf as you just said. It's inevitable do you think, some of these challenges and speed bumps in the markets in question?
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: I think part of the ecosystem growth as well is to understand that there's level of growth you get to I mean, it's like 0.5 percent fraud, right? Fraud attempts or whatever in your business. 0.05 percent fraud is okay by any payment standard in the world, right?
But that said, .05 percent of $20 billion, not the same as $1 million, right? Right. So that is the scale. So sometimes when someone says, oh, there is a fraud of XYZ on that platform, the question is, what's the percentage of fraud to be processed, right? That context is required. So sometimes people don't communicate that way and don't understand that even on the global platforms, right, from Block to anybody else, there is fraud happening there every day, right? And that is just the thing about payments, there's no way there won't be fraud in payments. The questions are you doing the right thing to make sure that you have all the systems in place?
Are you stopping the fraud? Some could be even attempted fraud. Maybe not a real fraud, but you're going to have it in your system. The question is, are you building the right monitoring infrastructure in your platform? Do you have the right people, the right tooling, the right infrastructure, the right technology to get it done at scale?
That's the question, right? I think you just need to grow, you need to scale and grow and learn that, if you know how much fraud happens in, for example, US ACH fraud, it's crazy, or for the attempt as well, but the percentage of the fraud to the volume being processed might be negligible, right?
But that said, and that's just the way it works. And I think part of what we need to do as an ecosystem is to share more information. What can be shared so people can understand that, hey, it's relative, right? It's not just like, oh, if this is what it is, and that's it, no. It's actually relative to your TPV, to your model, to your processing, to your payment type as well.
And not all fraud are lost. Some are just fraud because it happened, it doesn't mean that you lost the money, right? There are two different things there. So I think loss ratio, fraud, attempted fraud, submitted fraud, they are all different things that are used at the same time. People have no idea what they're talking about sometimes, because they haven't gone deep into that data.
Justin Norman: Yeah, I like that. One thing that I like to talk a lot about is that some of these problems that people think are specific or unique to African markets or African startups are definitely not unique to just African markets and African startups. Back to this idea about, you know, needing to protect a nascent ecosystem.
I'm sure that your investors understand that fraud is ian inevitability, just a certain percentage of it. But Flutterwave, you know, you guys have been very successful at fundraising and telling the Nigerian and the African story to global investors and US-based investors, you know, over $500 million raised, the most recent Series D last year was a $250 million round. Can you talk a little bit about your experience pitching and selling not only Flutterwave, but this story of Nigeria's growth or of the Africa opportunity to global and Western investors?
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: It's really about the Africa opportunity and Africa growth story, right? We are a 1 billion people continent, as you all know, average age, 20 to 30, as the numbers say. This is the next billion continent. It's the opportunity continent, right? After India, the only continent that has the mass that we have in Africa beyond here. I think it's really about showing them the opportunity here and the fact that capital can unlock that opportunity if properly deployed. That potential is just there.
And I think it's very obvious to see, for example, look at remittance numbers into Africa, the World Bank numbers, they are crazy. The growth is outstanding, right? And the opportunity is there for anyone who can build at scale to be able to do it for the right ROI for the right investors as well as we see it.
Yeah, it's just really about the transformation, the transformative power of technology. How, you know, the likes of MTN has used that for scale. Africa went from no phone to mobile phone, for example. We skipped it land lines, it's happened in payment as well, we're skipping the traditional payment rails.
We're going straight to digital payments as a continent. An opportunity is right there. We are seeing it across. And we're one of the first to show the opportunity. Safaricom is an example of that, M-Pesa is an example of that. They already see that. MTN MoMo is an example of that. Airtel money is an example of that.
There's so many stories that you can tell that shows that yes, this is not just a story. It is real. The opportunity is there, the same way where MTN captured the telecom market in Nigeria, for example, MTN became the market leader and they showed that the African opportunity is there.
So I think we are just building on that same narrative and data that yes, any investor willing to bet on this opportunity with the right people and the right infrastructure, it's going to be amazing, literally.
Justin Norman: I'm always curious the extent to which global investors are interested in a specific company. So they wanted to back you and Flutterwave as opposed to the Africa story or are those two things inextricably linked? What's your experience been in terms of also, you know, you talked about needing to back the right people. So I suppose in that case, it's you and Flutterwave, but is there ever a sort of conversation about why this is the right opportunity to back in Africa versus backing the Africa story in general?
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: Yeah. I think backing us or anybody that's in Africa is still backing Africa, right? That's one. Two, I also believe that the opportunity here can also be linked to the ambition size. What is the size of your ambition? If you're trying to build an infrastructure to do payments in across Africa, that is bankable. If you're trying to build for just a niche market in one country, maybe you don't need to raise VC, right? But for me, I think it's one and the same.
I guess it's just a matter of what's your vision size. Do you have the track record to prove you can do this at scale? And do you really want to do that scale? And that's the way it works for me.
Justin Norman: This episode of The Flip is sponsored by Norrsken22. Norrsken22 is a $200 million growth-stage fund backed by over 30 unicorn founders and advisors who, beyond capital, are committing their time and network to help the fund's portfolio companies grow into unicorns themselves. And throughout the season, we're going to share pertinent lessons and wisdom from members of the unicorn board. In today's episode, we're joined by Niklas Adalberth, a Co-founder of the Swedish buy now, pay later company Klarna, the founder of the Norrsken Foundation and a founding partner of Norrsken22.
Niklas Adalberth: I was 23 years old when I started Klarna together with two friends and we were very lucky. Things went quite well and the company grew from zero to 2.25 billion during this time. I thought money would make me happy and reach nirvana when reached my financial goals, but I felt nothing. Since then I decided to quit and instead devote my life and time and money on a foundation called Norrsken Foundation.
When we started the foundation, we started to do some smaller investments out of the non-profit and we saw that the demand for capital to impact companies was much greater than we could support. So we went out to the investor market, the LP market, and try to see if they want to build a fund.together with us. But they all said the same thing that you cannot combine impact and financial return. You have to choose.
It turned out that the cases that had the best impact, they were the ones that had a proper business model so that they could scale the impact with the revenue and hire even more people. And by that doing every more revenue. We realized that, hey, it is not a contradiction. You can combine impact and financial return. And a little bit the same thing with the our fund in Africa that when we started looking into this in the beginning, people said that, hey, it's not a great financial return if you invest into Africa.
But I think that now when people have a smartphone in their hand and are much more digitalized, I think it's like the best business opportunity in the world. And investors start to see this now. And that's why we're so happy that we're able to get a $200 million fund into investing into Africa.
Justin Norman: So just while we're on the topic of investing, I know, especially the past couple of yearsyou were well noted for your angel investing, I think maybe 25-plus fintechs in Nigeria and across the ecosystem.
So can you talk a little bit about why you chose to invest so heavily in the ecosystem? And how are you seeing things now from the investor perspective now that we're in this, you know, so-called market downturn and fintech winter of 2023?
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: My investments approach is really about my belief in ecosystem, right? I believe a lot in what I see on ground in Africa. I am seeing operators who have been able to build amazing products. I'm seeing a lot of Flutterwave ex-employees out there building great, amazing products. From likes of Femi building a lending infrastructure, that's Venda, likes of Dami building a remittance product, Ridwan, remittance product. There were so many Flutterwave alumnis who have built amazing, building amazing companies. I think the first part for me was I wanted to back my team, back them when they work in Flutterwave, back then when they leave Flutterwave. That was where it started from, especially the tech investment.
And for me it's really about seeing amazing folks out there who have great ideas and hey have the courage to also go after those ideas. And also, when we were starting, we didn't get, I didn't get that much help, literally, we had to fund ourselves at the beginning, right?
With family money, with personal money. We all had to invest, bring our network to the table to raise capital for Flutterwave at the beginning. So I think, helping, you know, not everybody has hat privilege that we had when we were starting Flutterwave. So basically helping other folks to get started is a big deal.
We see the ecosystem I believe in the potential of African technology. I see what we're building. The best engineers are in Africa. I see it every day. The best product guys are in Africa. I see it every day. So it's really just putting your money where your mouth is. That's where I see it.
Justin Norman: Yeah, I think we hear a lot about ecosystems growing through founders who have exited and reinvesting in the ecosystem or starting or launching funds.
And I think for me as we talked about before, also ecosystems grow by sort of sharing lessons from the founders who came before. And those lessons allowing this iteration and this growth for the next generation of founders. So how do you think about that? You've been around for a long time, both on the banking side before and now with Flutterwave and now as an angel investor. Do you feel like the ecosystem is evolving and turning over to the extent that you hope that it should? Or is it a bit slow going given the inherent market challenges?
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: I'm not able to measure the ecosystem growth, to be very honest, but from what I see, I do think, yes, it is evolving.
That's for sure. The rate of fundraising, the rate of scale, building great products, solving problems, they are evolving massively, right? And that is very good. We need more, obviously, we need more scale, we need more growth, we need more exits in the market. And I think that's the way it's supposed to be.
Justin Norman: Thinking ecosystem wide, you are also noted beyond, I think, your role in the ecosystem for your banking background. Before Flutterwave, AccessBank, GTBank, you had a stint at PayPal. I think there's a really interesting question about the background of entrepreneurs and what makes good founders good founders from an experience perspective.
I'm curious to know how you think about your experience at these more corporate institutions, what have you learned? What were your takeaways and how, if any way, has it influenced how you've built and led Flutterwave?
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: I think it varies for every founder, right? I don't think that's ... while experience I think is great I don't think that it's necessarily what makes a founder a great founder. It's really just a function of different experiences across board. I've had opportunities of working for the best companies in the world, if you ask me, from PayPal to GTBank to Google to... Standard Bank, Stanbic, to Access Bank, to Sterling Bank.
Each of those companies, I learned something. And each of them contributed in a way to where I am today, to get me to where I am right now. But as I said, every founder's journey is different, right? There's no... you can't write out the DNA specifics for how a founder should come.
It's just, it's different. And everybody's journey contributes in getting to where they are going to be as they grow and scale the business. So I don't think... I've seen founders who drop out from school who are doing pretty well. I've seen founders who have experiences who are not doing well. There's thse who are doing really, really well as well.
I've seen everything. So it doesn't really matter. Different things shape different experiences if you ask me.
Justin Norman: For you, what ultimately compelled you after all of your experiences with, you know, you said the best companies in the world, what ultimately compelled you to decide to go out on your own and start your own business and to found Flutterwave after several years working for bigger organizations?
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: The biggest one was really just seeing that payment is broken in Africa. I recall when I was working for a particular bank, we were trying to help a large corporate get paid. They were going from India to South Africa, andit was hard to do so, and it wasn't because the bank had worked there and couldn't do it.
We just had technology infrastructure, the will, the scale to get it done and part of what we had to basically do was look for ways to solve the problem, but still the customer wasn't satisfied because it wasn't a great solution. And we're constrained by the bank.. So I saw that as an opportunity for a non bank player to come in here and partner with banks and build an infrastructure that relies on banking rails, but built a layer above that and make it smoother and smoothing out the speed bumps in the banking infrastructure.
That's what we've done. So I think it was really solving problems. I wanted to solve problems for corporates. But that said, I'm very solution oriented. I think of solutions typically, and I'm an engineer, I'm a product guy, been there, done that. So I think all those really helped me in saying, okay, let me just put my skills to work and try this out.
And here we are on podcast with Justin.
Justin Norman: You guys have obviously come very far rom those days, but I think there is still a bit of a narrative that payments are still broken or the problem hasn't been solved. And we're talking every day now about new types of payments rails and crypto and different things like that.
How much further do you think we need to go or what is the sort of grand big picture vision that Flutterwave is building towards and your vision for the tech ecosystem in Nigeria and beyond? I guess, does the payments problem ever get solved or what does the evolution look like there?
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: That question can be answered in multiple perspectives. If you're a consumer, if you want to send money to anybody, use Send with Flutterwave. We have, we've solved that. We haven't covered every country yet. We're gonna get there, but the major ones haven't been covered. Nigeria is covered. Kenya is covered. South Africa is covered, Rwanda is covered, UK, US, Europe is covered. You can send money from here to Africa and it works. Literally, it works. You don't have to worry about the technology behind it. Just a simple product, go in there, you have your card, you've got an account in a bank in UK, Europe, in South Africa, wherever you are, you want to send money, it works.
In a way, we've solved it for consumers for the markets that we are in. For SMBs, similarly as well. If you have Flutterwave for Business, there's really no where you can't send money to or get paid from, literally, if you are Flutterwave for Business.
I think what we have to do is a lot of market education because people are not even aware that they don't need to have that problem. They think that problem is there, because they imagine, okay, I have to use this, use that. Behind the scene, we'll get it work. If we have to get on a plane and go and take that money there for you, we'll make it happen. But the point is, it's not 100 percent solved yet, to be very honest but to the extent where we're allowed to do by regulation, it is definitely done.
Justin Norman: So then what does the near-term vision look like? Does it look like new products or does it look like new countries or combination of both?
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: It's really about combination of both and more like more market education. You see a lot of what's out there now compared to before, because we want people to know that, I mean, I see it online every day, oh, I can't send money, it's not working. I'm like, have you tried Send by Flutterwave? Oh, you haven't, that's why you, okay, try it. I mean, beyond, you can try so many other products, they all work, but people are not even aware they work. Now, people are not even aware as well how to navigate the complexities in this area as well. So I think a lot of education is required from us.
For the future, it's really just... we want to still be that payment bridge for Africa, connect everywhere together, enable consumers, SMBs and enterprises to pay and get paid in Africa.
And I think for the tech ecosystem at large, it's really about how,we contribute our quota to build a connected and vibrant ecosystem. I think that's very important. And also basically keep on innovating our way out of poverty in Africa, I think that Africa needs to come through for Africa. I really believe firmly in that.
And I will end there by saying, I believe very strongly in three major pillars for Africa, that if we can do that properly, that can unleash the next wave of innovation in Africa, which is basically payments, commerce, and logistics. If those three are solved, and we are working on the payment side of things, obviously, if the main three are solved, the next Amazon will be born in Africa in the next ten years, for sure.
Justin Norman: I think maybe we talked about payments is a hard problem to solve, but payments is maybe the easiest of those three pillars.
You're definitely looked up to by a lot of Nigerian and African founders in the ecosystem. And, you know, the intent of this series, as I said, I think is to try and share lessons from those who are the most experienced founders and operators across the continent.
So I'm wondering if there are any other lessons that you'd like to share, a piece of advice or even as an investor, mistakes that you're seeing young founders make? Any sorts of experiences that you hope to share the betterment and the evolution of the ecosystem across the continent?
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: I would say stay resilient, be very adaptive. One thing I think I learned from YC is make what customers want, right? So I will evolve that to be, put your customers at the center of everything that you're doing. That's very important.
And, it's a long hard road, right? When I was starting, someone told me it was a 10-year journey. I was like, nah, 10 years, no way. Eight years, seven going on eight. So they are right, it's a 10-year journey.
That said, a journey is as important as a destination, right? So then we optimize for, oh, that exit, you know, that end goal. But I think if you get there, and by the time you are there, you are ragged, you are not in any way, shape or form to actually enjoy that value, then what's the point? So I think the journey is as equally as important as the destination as well.
And also it's just a job. That's important for you to remember. It's just a job.
Justin Norman: Yeah, I think for a lot of people, they feel that they're solving really important problems in the context of the development of the continent, right?
So there is a bit of weightiness to it though. So maybe what you're saying is it doesn't have to be as heavy as some people feel sometimes when it comes to solving these big problems.
Olugbenga 'GB' Agboola: In reality it's heavy because a founder's life, it's a rollercoaster, right? One day you are on top of the world, the next day you are just like trying to find air to breathe under the carbon monoxide, right? That's where life works. But that said, again, the journey is as simple as th destination. Just have fun. And it's a job. Yeah, it's just a job.
The other thing I want to mention is just how very inspiring I am of my team, the Flutterwave team. Oh my gosh, the best people in the world, you know, ride or die folks. Literally, I've been lucky to work with the best people in this ecosystem, basically both previously and currently. But I think the people are just amazing, people that have been here, come rain, come sunshine, great folks.
So I think Flutterwave today is built on the back of all of us, literally. It's not more a GB thing or whatever. It's actually, it's a village, a village built Flutterwave, and still building it.