The rise of API fintech companies has made it easy for businesses to access real-time banking data. The adoption of API shifted into top gear in the United States when tech API company, Plaid, launched and made access to data easy. Many finance apps like Venmo, Coinbase, and Robinhood currently use Plaid’s API infrastructure.
For fintechs, the ability to easily verify and leverage consumer data makes it possible for them to offer a myriad of financial services to their customers. For instance, if you are a digital lender, having instant and verified access to users’ financial information, account balances, and history will allow you to make better, more informed and data-driven lending decisions.
In Nigeria, we have also witnessed the rise of API startups like Okra, which has created a secure portal and process to exchange real-time financial information between customers, applications, and banks. Okra has dug its heels in, connecting to all banks in Nigeria with a 99.9% guaranteed uptime.
Since its launch in 2020, the startup has recorded an average month-on-month API call growth of 281% and has also analyzed more than 20 million transactions. Tech companies like uLesson, Carbon, Interswitch, Indica, Opay, Credpal, etc. leverage Okra’s technology to power their businesses.
In an interview with David Peterside, Co-Founder and COO at Okra, he explained what Okra does.
What was the inspiration for founding your startup?
Consumers are demanding full digital experiences of products/services. The businesses and startups trying to build out these solutions simply didn’t have the right tools to build an end-to-end personalized digital experience for customers — so we decided to start a company focused on building out the necessary tools to enable the fintech industry to thrive.
What does Okra do and what sets you apart from other fintech startups?
We enable developers and businesses, especially in financial services build personalized digital products. The difference between Okra and other fintech startups is simple; Okra is the tool that other fintech startups use to build out personalized financial products/services like lending, savings, investments, etc.
Is your API only restricted to the fintech space?
The companies currently building with our API include startups, banks, and government agencies.
Do you believe Nigeria is truly ready to adopt an open banking system?
The data from other markets clearly show that Open Banking as a service is a net positive for the economy, businesses, and most importantly, consumers. We’ve also learned that the US approach to Open Banking as a service is by far more efficient than the UK/EU — when you compare the time (to build), adoption, and growth of fintech in both markets. The Open banking principle is great but narrow. It’s not only about digitizing banking but wealth management, insurance, and investing. Okra is in the business of Open Finance. The global standards are clear. NDPR, GDPR (EU), and the Dodd-Frank (US) clearly establish that consumers should have control over their information and have the ability to permission their information to any third-party service of their choice.
What would be the role of API companies such as yourself in encouraging open banking in Nigeria?
It’s very important for the developers, banks, and businesses building digital products/services to have access to standardized data. This is available today with the Okra API.
How do you address concerns on data privacy and web security?
As an infrastructure company, we invest a lot of capital and resources in privacy & security. We are also NDPR and GDPR compliant. We also give consumers the ability to stop sharing information at any time.
What are your plans for expanding into other African markets and how soon do you propose to implement such plans?
The focus is currently Nigeria, we see the African continent as our total addressable market but I can’t give specifics on the timeline.
In case you missed it
Nairametrics earlier reported that Okra closed $3.5 million in a seed round led by U.S.-based Susa Ventures.
So far, the API company has raised a total of $4.5 million in two funding rounds.