by Riley de León
Founder: Olugbenga Agboola (CEO)
Headquarters: San Francisco
Funding: $225 million
Valuation: $1 billion
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 0
Sub-Saharan Africa is thought to be one of the world’s fastest-growing digital payments markets, with the largest population of underbanked and unbanked people in the world. In 2016, Flutterwave set out to bridge the gap, building a digital infrastructure that would provide a variety of payments services to African businesses through its API software.
The fintech company started out in San Francisco, but after taking part in the prestigious start-up accelerator YCombinator, set up its operational headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria. Today, just five years later, Flutterwave says it has processed over 140 million transactions that amount to $6 billion in payments worldwide.
Flutterwave was established by “a team of ex-bankers, entrepreneurs, engineers.” The team includes Olugbenga “GB” Agboola, a graduate of the MBA program at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and former software engineer at Paypal. Agboola’s resume also touts experience in product management at Google, where he helped build Google Wallet.
At the start of the pandemic, Agboola was quick to notice how temporary lockdowns were impacting the businesses Flutterwave worked with. He also noted the impact on smaller shops, many of which were not yet operating online, along with the greater demand for e-commerce. In response, Flutterwave devised an e-commerce platform to enable businesses to set up their shops online, with payments and delivery services integrated. The company’s expansion into e-commerce builds on its existing payments business, facilitating global transactions in local currencies in Africa.
Now operating in more than 15 countries, Flutterwave says that more than 290,000 businesses use its platform to do business, including Facebook and Netflix. In June, the company partnered with Uber to launch Uber Cash, a digital wallet for users in Sub-Saharan Africa. The feature also allows users to make and accept transfers through Flutterwave’s Barter app, which the company pioneered with Visa in 2019.
In February, Flutterwave closed $170 million in financing, led by New York City-based investment firm Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger Global Management, minting the company as a unicorn worth more than $1 billion. Additional investors include Khosla Ventures, Mastercard, Salesforce Ventures and Social Capital. Additionally, the company is partnered with Alibaba’s “Alipay.”