(Bloomberg) -- A pan-African money transfer business inspired by its co-founder’s grandmother plans to raise additional capital in coming weeks after growing transaction volumes 46-fold last year to $232 million.
Eversend, set up by Uganda’s Stone Atwine and Ronald Kasendwa in 2019, will seek to secure between $15 million and $25 million by tapping venture capitalists and through crowd funding, Atwine said in an interview. It’s only other capital raise was for $1 million, with almost all of that coming from crowd funding.
The jump in transaction volumes is a result of the company switching its focus from Africans remitting money home to cross-border businesses and cryptocurrency traders, said Atwine, its chief executive officer. Eversend this year started working with Binance Holdings Ltd., the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, and is targeting total transactions of $1 billion.
“We stopped focusing on migrants sending their money back to grandma and started focusing on people who are actually doing higher volumes,” Atwine said. “We grew big time last year.”
A migrant worker might send home $200 or $300 a month, while businesses will transfer as much as $100,000 at a time and cryptocurrency traders $1,000 two or three times a day, he said.
The company offers cross-border payments, virtual credit cards, currency exchange and cryptocurrency transfers.
There is ample room for Eversend and competitors to expand, said Lexi Novitske, a general partner with Norrsken22, an Africa-focused tech fund that was set up by Swedish startup founders and CEOs.
“Today’s small African business is no longer single-country by nature. Traders buy and sell across the continent, tech companies have to move capital cross-border seamlessly from one currency to another,” she said by text message. “Even as mobile money and payment infrastructure have been game-changers for financial inclusion, existing payment solutions are country-specific and lack real-time interoperability or conversion.”
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While banks charge between 5% and 7% in commission, Eversend charges 0.5% to 1.5%, with the money available immediately or within a few hours, Atwine said.
“Intra-Africa trade volumes are north of $90 billion per year, add on top of that the need for consumer and other continental remittance channels that are efficient and affordable and you understand the market size that companies like Eversend are looking to tackle,” Novitske said.
Eversend operates in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and Rwanda. Its investors include TechStars Central LLC, Atomico UK Partners LLP, Metsola Ventures Oy and Fast Track Capital, Atwine said.
Atwine, 39, who used to work for a software payroll company, said he came up with the idea of a money transfer business while living in Kenya. To get money to his grandmother in Uganda he had to draw cash from a bank and then have a transfer agent send it to her. His grandmother then needed to travel on a bus for 50 minutes to get the notes from another agent.
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“I started asking myself, I think it was in 2013, how do I solve this problem,” said Atwine, who now divides his time between Paris and Africa. “My grandma has MTN Mobile Money in Uganda, I have M-Pesa and I have a visa card. Surely we must be able to make these systems talk to each other.”
MTN Group Ltd., based in Johannesburg, is Africa’s biggest mobile phone company while M-Pesa is a mobile money service operated by Kenya’s Safaricom Plc.
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