Flutterwave recently attained unicorn status after the payment services fintech received $170 million in its Series C funding. The injection of funds pushed the fintech’s valuation past a billion dollars, making it the third African unicorn in fintech.
Interestingly, this funding series comes about a year after the Series B funding of about $35 million in January 2020. The co-founder and current CEO of the payments company, Olugbenga Agboola, recorded both achievements under his leadership as Chief Executive Officer.
Our profile for the week looks at this serial entrepreneur who has had two successful exits.
Agboola was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and had his early schooling in Nigeria before traveling to the United States of America. He bagged an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management, Cambridge. He also has a master’s degree in information technology security and behavioral engineering. He got the standard IT security certifications from EC-Council University, headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He then received his Project Management and Advanced Computing degree from the University of Westminster in London, England.
He later completed the Fundamentals of Finance for The Technical Executive in November 2012, as well as the Developing a Leading Edge Operations Strategy in April 2013, both at MIT. He added the Supply Chain Strategy and Management programme to his arsenal, and the Essential IT for Non-IT Executives, both in November 2014 at MIT.
Agboola is not just a financial technology engineer, he is a certified ethical hacker, certified security analyst, and Microsoft certified system engineer.
An eventful career
Agboola worked as an Application Developer for British Telecom Professional Services from January 2003 to January 2004 and worked at Paypal as an application engineer from 2004 to January 2005. He then joined the Enterprise Infrastructure Solution Development team for Guarantee Trust Bank from January 2005 to March 2009, before moving to Standard Bank Nigeria. He worked there as the Technology (e-business) Product Developer/Project Manager for a couple of years and came up with a Biometric Payment Solution for the bank.
At different times, he also worked as the Google Product Manager at Google Wallet, and as the Head of Mobile Financial Services at Sterling Bank. He was the Head of Digital Factory and Innovation at Access Bank from November 2014 to May 2016 and was part of the Management Programme at the Wharton School in 2015.
Before assuming his position as CEO of Flutterwave, he served as the Senior Entrepreneur in Residence at Africa Fintech Foundry from May 2016 to August 2018 and was part of the Strategic Marketing Programme at Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management, Evanston, Illinois in 2017. Since October 2018, he has served as an entrepreneur at Royal Bank of Scotland Business.
A payment solution for Africa
The knowledge he got from working with these institutions quickly opened his eyes to the payment systems problem in Africa, and how a single innovation could provide the solution. Agboola recalled in an interview that though African countries had strong payment systems in their countries, none of these solutions could interoperate with each other and allow users to make and receive payments across international borders. Flutterwave came in to resolve this challenge.
“Africa needs three major things, logistics, payments, and commerce. Flutterwave is taking care of the fragmented payment system in Africa. The fragmented system needs a central means of payment to facilitate commerce within the continent. That is what Flutterwave is out to do,” he said.
Together with Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, and a team of another tech, banking, and African payments veterans, he founded Flutterwave in 2016 to build an Africa-wide payments infrastructure to connect all payment types in the continent and bring a single-use payment solution to any merchant or small business. This solution would later allow businesses to accept payments from anywhere.
In other words, Flutterwave allows business owners to accept payments from customers without having to worry about compliance requirements, infrastructure technology, or having to deal with multiple payment providers. The company is headquartered in San Francisco with a presence in the United Kingdom, and countries across Africa and Europe.
Aboyeji served as the first CEO, while Agboola was the Chief Technical Officer, until October 2018 when Aboyeji stepped down and Agboola took over as the company’s CEO.
Agboola led the firm through a Series B funding round, which injected $35 million into the company with investments from MasterCard, CRE Ventures, Fintech Collective, 4DX Ventures, and Raba Capital in 2020. Even when other businesses were groping in the dark, Flutterwave was keeping the lights on by helping businesses all over receive payments and arrange deliveries. According to Agboola, the company processed more than 80 million transactions, worth $7.5 billion, in 17 African countries in 2020. The company also went ahead with plans for greater expansion so that a customer in South Africa, for instance, could seamlessly use her Kenyan digital wallet to buy products in Senegal.
In the words of Agboola, “Africa is not a country, but we make it feel like one.”
Agboola also has a mobile money project which he started in 2011 to offer banking services to people, such as opening bank accounts, accessing card services, money transfer services, bill payment, merchant services, and cardless withdrawals on ATMs via their mobile phones.
He was also part of the Corporate Cards Product Development Project from April 2011 to December 2011, providing solutions for the cash management needs of multinationals through online tools for card management.
Recognitions and other interests
Agboola has two patents: C4T DATA Encryption Tech and QR code Payment. He was also part of the Young African Leaders Initiative at the Young African Leaders Initiative Network from May 2014 to June 2015.
In 2019, he became a member of Fast Company’s Impact Council, consisting of entrepreneurs, technologists, corporate chieftains, and designers. He also sits on the board of directors for the Corporate Council on Africa and chairs the Board of Directors at the Great Ife Alumni Association Inc. He was a part of the panel for the US Africa Business Summit in Maputo, Mozambique, and spoke during the session of Transforming African Economies Through Digitalization, on 20th June 2019.
In 2019, at Endeavor’s 87th International Selection Panel in Madrid, Spain, Agboola was selected as one of six African entrepreneurs to join Endeavor, a non-profit organisation that supports high-impact entrepreneurs around the world. Also in 2019, Olugbenga Agboola was listed as one of the Quartz Africa Innovators 2019 in recognition of his input in the fintech space.