Nigerian fintech Bankly raises $2m seed funding to digitize informal thrift savings

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Tomilola Adelana, Bankly CEO and co-founder.

Nigerian fintech startup Bankly has announced that it has raised $2 million in a seed round.

Bankly digitizes financial services for people in the informal sector, usually small-scale traders who save through rotating savings and credit associations, colloquially known as “ajo” or “esusu” in Nigeria. 

The startup founded by Tomilola Adejana and Fredrick Adams went live in July 2019. Last year, Adejana told TechCabal of their plans to scale up in Northern Nigerian.

Bankly is mostly used in cash-based communities. The startup aims to solve some challenges associated with the offline world of group savings. 

Trust, security of deposits and proximity of each contributor to the main collector are among such challenges. To tackle these, the startup has developed an agent network over the last 18 months to close the access gap as well as increase confidence among potential users.

But according to Adejana, the CEO, an agent network is only a first step in their “three-phase process” of achieving financial inclusion through digitalisation.

“Just in the same way mobile inclusion happened, you need to then focus on acquiring customers who, after transferring cash to their mobile accounts, use it to buy airtime or make payments,” Adejana told TechCrunch.

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Right to Left: Tomilola Adelana and Frederick Adams, Bankly’s CEO and Chief Product Officer respectively

The startup reports having 15,000 agents currently and plans to build a customer base to 2 million in three years. That mission will be helped by the investment it has now received from companies also in the fintech space in Nigeria.

Vault is the holding company for VANSO, a fintech company that was acquired by Interswitch. Plug and Play Ventures, Rising Tide Africa and Chrysalis Capital also invested in the round.

Idris Saliu, partner at Vault, told TechCabal that he invested in Bankly’s pre-seed round when the startup first entered the market.”I’ve seen their growth and how hungry they are and it made sense to double down in their new funding round.” 

“There are still many unbanked Nigerians looking for access to financial services. This lack of access is still a problem that needs to be solved. Bankly is one of the few companies who are going into these communities and tough places to solve this difficult problem.

“Vault is invested in Bankly because they’re doing a difficult job and I like difficult things.” 

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