Flutterwave, an African fintech, has secured $250 million in a Series D round, bringing its worth to almost $3 billion in just twelve months.
The San Francisco-based and Lagos-based startup raised $170 million in a Series C investment from Tiger Global and Avenir in March 2021, valuing the company at $1 billion. Flutterwave has raised a total of $475 million since its founding six years ago (it raised a $35 million Series B in 2020 and a $20 million Series A in 2018), confirming a Bloomberg scoop from October.
Flutterwave has surpassed the $2 billion valuation set by SoftBank-backed fintech OPay and FTX-backed cross-border payments platform Chipper Cash last year to become the most valuable African startup at $3 billion.
Flutterwave, led by founder and CEO Olugbenga “GB” Agboola, uses a single API to facilitate cross-border payments transactions between small and large businesses in Africa. The firm also assists companies from outside Africa in expanding their operations on the continent. Booking.com, Flywire, and Uber are some of its international clients.
“Since TechCrunch covered Flutterwave’s unicorn round last year”, the company has grown at an exponential rate. The payments company claimed to have processed 140 million transactions worth $9 billion at the time. After a year, the African payments behemoth has grown to process 200 million transactions worth more than $16 billion across 34 countries on the continent.
The number of companies that use its platform has also grown. It was 290,000 in March 2021; now, 900,000 businesses use Flutterwave to process payments in 150 currencies and across multiple payment modes, including local and international cards, mobile wallets, bank transfers, and Barter, the company’s consumer product.
THE DRIVE FORCE
While Flutterwave’s market share in enterprise payments has been the driving force behind this expansion, retail and consumers have also played a role.
“We did it on purpose because we saw an opportunity in the SMB space, and how they require the same technology pie that the Ubers and Netflixes of the world require,” Agboola said. “One example is how we expanded the Flutterwave Store, which allows small businesses in any part of Africa to set up an online e-commerce shop at no cost.”
The Flutterwave Store, which first opened in April 2020, was renamed Flutterwave Market in November of last year. The e-commerce platform has grown to over 30,000 merchants, allowing customers to shop for a wide range of products. Flutterwave launched Send, a remittance service that allows users to send money to and from African recipients, in December.
Customers use Send — described by Agboola as “Flutterwave’s fastest-growing product” — to pay for things like family support, gifts, and tuition, according to the company. In its first full month of operation, Send processed 4,729 transactions, generating a total payment volume of $3.59 million. The majority of its clients are from Nigeria, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
“We’re becoming what we set out to be: the infrastructure for all types of payments,” said Agboola. “There isn’t a single sector in Africa today where Flutterwave isn’t taking a piece of the pie and enabling merchants and consumers to grow and scale.”
Flutterwave has expanded its services to Egypt and Morocco after scaling its payments product across Sub-Saharan Africa. Flutterwave’s expansion into these countries, according to Agboola, is the first step in the company’s move into emerging markets like the Middle East and Latin America. “We want to shift our focus away from Africa and toward emerging markets, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe.” He stated, “Our goal is to ensure that our infrastructure powers those corridors.”
Despite the fact that Flutterwave’s headquarters are in the United States, the company has no operations there. The majority of its business in the United States involved forging alliances with fintech behemoths like PayPal, Visa, Discover, and Worldpay FIS to facilitate global payments with Africa.
That changed in August, when Jimmy Ku was hired as head of growth to spearhead the company’s expansion into the United States. Flutterwave now has an ACH network in the North American country, with a few customers making ACH payments, collections, and payouts through the platform. In a similar vein, Flutterwave launched Grow in September as a service that assists African businesses in registering and incorporating in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Flutterwave will be able to develop more complementary products with the new funding. It will also aid the company in accelerating customer acquisition in existing markets and expanding through mergers and acquisitions, according to a statement.
The acquisition of creator platform Disha for an undisclosed six-figure sum was Flutterwave’s first public deal. Some observers were perplexed by the purchase because Disha did not fit Flutterwave’s core payments business. Despite the fact that Flutterwave acquired Disha’s 20,000 creators or businesses (not all of whom were active at the time of acquisition) and intends to play the long game of participating in the global creator economy, the immediate goal of the deal appeared to be to save a failing startup and provide it with a solid payments checkout system.
Flutterwave plans to make acquisitions in the future to strengthen its position in the fintech industry. As the payments behemoth expands its reach in the SMB and consumer fintech space, we can expect smaller startups, including those it has backed, such as CinetPay, to become acquisition targets.
“We intend to grow inorganically through acquisitions, and we’ll do so when we find a good fit and see a company that shares our core values or culture, as well as our goal of making payments easier in emerging markets.” So we still have plans for that,” said the CEO, who has personally backed several startups as well as the recently launched $200 million pan-African fund Norrsken22.
While some global investors have expressed concern about startup valuations in the face of falling public tech stocks, others are increasing their risk appetite, as evidenced by Flutterwave’s deal. B Capital Group is the lead investor in this Series D round, with Alta Park Capital, Whale Rock Capital, and Lux Capital as participating investors. Avenir Growth, Tiger Global, Glynn Capital, Green Visor, and Salesforce Ventures are among the existing investors who have increased their stakes.
“Flutterwave may eventually build one of the most consequential fintech businesses in the world, enabling hundreds of thousands of merchants to transact online and connecting Africa to the global economy,” said Matt Levinson, partner at B Capital, in a statement.
But as one of Africa’s tech unicorns (currently the most valued of the lot, which includes OPay, Chipper Cash, Andela, Wave and Interswitch) and the poster child for African fintech (a sector that received between 50-60% of venture capital last year), tech stakeholders are counting down to the days Flutterwave will go public. That’s not in the fintech giant’s immediate plans, though, as it looks to continue blitzscaling, according to its chief executive.
“At the moment, no IPO,” Agboola said. “The goal is to continue to grow and scale. But obviously, we plan to be IPO-ready from a maturity perspective, which means continue to build the infrastructure, cross our Ts and dot our Is if we choose to go that route.”