The drive to increase financial inclusion among Nigerians has continued to assume an increasing recognition among policymakers and investors.
Introducing Tayo Oviosu, the founder and CEO of Paga, a financial mobile payment platform which was founded in 2009 with the aim of solving the financial payments problem in the country.
The payment platform was recently presented with an award by Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems Plc (NIBSS) for the mobile money operator’s outstanding performance and achieving the highest transaction count on the Global Mobile Regulatory & Monitoring Platform in 2017. This is the third year in a row.
Oviosu was born some 40 years ago and had his early years in Nigeria before leaving for the United States in 1994.
He earned his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Electrical Engineering, from the University of Southern California in 1998. He later proceeded to have his Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University in 2005.
For Tayo, success didn’t come overnight. According to an earlier interview with Techpoint, after his graduation, he landed his first job with a small startup, which was into the development of digital imaging in Los Angeles, U.S.A.
On one occasion, he was saddled with the responsibility of designing a chip that was sent to Taiwan for fabrication. Having tested the design on several occasions in the lab, he was confident that it was going to work. But the Prototype was returned as a failure, thereby embarrassing his company and costing them money. The incident also led to his sack, just three months into his first job after graduation.
After being thrown into the unemployment market in California, he worked in a mail-room, and a call centre to make ends meet. He later got a job as a database administrator before joining Deloitte Consulting in 1999.
While at Deloitte, he worked on cases of five industries such as high tech, telecom, pharmacy retail, government, and healthcare. He was primarily responsible for leading technical implementation teams.
Oviosu also served as Manager, Corporate Development, at Cisco Systems in San Jose, California, where he was responsible for strategy, acquisitions, and private equity investments in four technology sectors, namely Virtual Computing, Application Networking, Security, and Network Management.
He also led Cisco’s investment expansion in Africa including the $130 million acquisition of Reactivity and investments in Aquantia and Guardium. He was also responsible for the private sale of 22% of Cisco’s South African operations to a consortium of investors in 2007.
He moved back to Nigeria in 2008 having worked for some 13 years in the United States, to be part of the economic development of the country. According to him, his personal mission was to help build the financial ecosystem in Nigeria.
Oviosu bootstrapped the startup for the first six months, relying solely on his savings from his previous job. He also employed the services of friends to work in different areas. Some early investors include his former boss, whom he worked with for about three years, friends and relatives.
In his interview with Guardian Newspaper, he recalled how a friend invested $5,000 in the early days of Paga. He also acknowledged Goodwell Alitheia Capital as Paga’s real angel investor. Currently, the number has grown to over 34 investors.
Since its launch, Paga has continued to grow, with 8.2 million users that processed over 2 million transactions worth over $131 million in March, 2018. It has also processed over $3 billion worth of transactions from 48 million transactions since inception.
The mobile money platform currently has the largest agent network, with over 15,000 transacting agents serving its dedicated communities in 35 states across the country.
It has also partnered with the apex bank (Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN) on the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facilities initiative (SANEF) to grow the reach of agents providing financial services to 500,000 in order to ramp up inclusion for all Nigerians.
His thoughts on various issues
Oviosu recently caused a stir on social media when he posted on his twitter handle that 95% of tech entrepreneurs in Lagos should go and get jobs.
Starting to think US based accelerators/incubators investing in Nigeria without any strong ground knowledge aren't good for the ecosystem…
— Tayo Oviosu (@oviosu) August 2, 2017
For ~95% of tech entrepreneurs I meet in Lagos, my sense is they should stop & go get a job. Learn, grow, develop as a person/leader first.
— Tayo Oviosu (@oviosu) July 19, 2016
While throwing more light on this, Oviosu advised young tech founders to first build their skills and experience, instead of rushing to become CEOs or Founders. He noted that investors will only put their money if they are confident in the ability of the founder or entrepreneur to execute the business and deliver returns.
He also advised investors to understand the Nigerian market before making decisions on which businesses are solving relevant problems, and have the opportunity to scale with reasonable returns.
According to him, he embarked on the Paga journey to solve two problems: First, is making it easy for people to pay and get paid, no matter if they are individuals, business, banked and unbanked. Secondly, delivering financial services to the mass market. Oviosu dreams of dual listing Paga on the NSE and NASDAQ in the nearest future.
Oviosu said he hopes to transform lives by delivering innovative and universal access to financial services.
In his words:
“We think about the market in a broad and holistic way. Our services are for everyone banked or unbanked and businesses of all sizes.”
He also advised entrepreneurs on building strong teams that will drive the vision.
“If you do want to go far, you need to bring people around to your idea. It shouldn’t be about ‘me’. You want other people to come in to actually help take the idea to another place.”
He is married to Affiong Williams, Founder of Reelfruit, one of the most successful startups in the agro-allied industry in the country.