African mobile money provider, Wave has raised $200 million in a Series A round valuing the company at $1.7 billion. This is the largest Series A round raised for the region.
Investors in this round include Sequoia Heritage, a private investment fund and a subsidiary of Sequoia, Founders Fund, payments giant Stripe, Ribbit Capital, Partech Africa, and Sam Altman, the former CEO of Y Combinator and current CEO of OpenAI.
Wave was launched in 2018 by Drew Durbin and Lincoln Quirk, the founders of popular remittance and YC-backed company, SendWave.
SendWave, allowed users to safely and instantly send money from North America and Europe to numerous countries across Africa and Asia.
WorldRemit acquired Sendwave for up to $500 million in cash and stock. After this acquisition, Durbin and his team turned their attention to their mobile money product, Wave.
Drew Durbin, founder of Wave told Techcrunch, “We saw an opportunity to make a bigger impact by trying to build a better, much more affordable mobile money service than the telcos are building throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa. We didn’t see any companies besides the telcos trying to solve that problem.”
According to Techcrunch, The two-year-old startup claims to be the largest mobile money player in Senegal, and over half of the country’s adults are active users. Wave wants to replicate this growth in Ivory Coast, the second market it officially expanded to last year.
Wave plans to deepen its presence in Senegal and Ivory Coast and grow its already 800-strong team across product, engineering, and business. The startup also plans to expand into other markets it feels are regulatory-friendly like Uganda.
Wave is the first unicorn from Francophone Africa and joins OPay and Flutterwave as the newly minted unicorns in Africa this year
What they are saying
Tidjane Deme general partner at Partech says “Since 2018, we’ve supported Wave because we were convinced mobile money is still an unsolved problem in Africa. Wave has great product design, stellar execution, and a strong financial trajectory. We are proud to see it become the first unicorn from Senegal.”
Sam Altman, former CEO of YCombinator said “I’ve known these founders for a long time, and I think they’re like off the charts good. I’ve been super impressed with their ability to figure out what users want and how to grow. I think the company is solving the most important problem around money transfer in Africa and fixing the inefficient agent networks.”