Thepeer, an African tech infrastructure startup connecting businesses’ wallets, has raised a $2.1 million seed round led by the Raba Partnership. The news comes a year after the startup raised $220,000 in pre-seed from a handful of angel investors, including Paystack CTO Ezra Olubi and Edenlife CTO Prosper Otemuyiwa.
Participating investors in Thepeer’s seed round include Rali_cap Ventures, Timon Capital, BYLD Ventures, Musha Ventures, Sunu and Uncovered Fund. African fintechs Chipper Cash and Stitch invested too.
Thepeer isn’t a pure fintech play; it sits at the intersection of data and finance. Like other API-based startups, it powers infrastructure for mainly fintech businesses, from small to medium-sized. However, the problems Kosisochukwu Chike Ononye and Michael ‘Trojan’ Okoh wanted to solve when they first launched the company in August 2021 affected fintechs more than any other segment.
Last year, the number of African fintechs increased 17.3% to 573, from 491 in 2019, according to local publication Disrupt Africa. Most of these fintechs cater to businesses and consumers, offering different services such as payments, neobanking, lending, investing and trading. While they provide digital wallets to help facilitate money transfers, there’s a lack of mobile wallet interoperability outside their ecosystem; in essence, moving money from one fintech wallet to another fintech or non-fintech wallet (in the case of an embedded finance play) is hard.
Thepeer says its APIs provide an alternative network where fintechs and businesses can embed different sets of products into their applications and websites for easy money movement by their customers.
Send, the offering it launched with, allows customers of businesses who integrate with its APIs, such as Eversend (a cross-border fintech) and Nguvu Health (a teletherapy platform), to send money across both platforms using identifiers such as emails or usernames.
“I made a purchase from a vendor and couldn’t pay after using several apps and couldn’t move money from one wallet where I had cash to another,” said CEO Ononye, narrating why he and CTO Okoh started the company, to TechCrunch in an interview. “After we launched our first product [Send], we went back to the drawing board because there were things we needed to get right. In that process, we discovered more consumer and business problems.”
After Send, Thepeer partnered with Flutterwave — the unicorn whose API gateways are the most extensive in Africa for mobile wallets and bank accounts — and built on its platform to gain more reach. The partnership has helped it launch two additional B2B2C products: Direct Charge and Checkout.
Direct Charge lets customers of about 15 businesses fund their wallets from each other. Here’s how it works. As a user of Nguvu Health, there are different methods to fund a wallet, such as cards and bank transfers; Thepeer is another option. So, when Nguvu Health users select Thepeer, they can choose any of the 15 wallets, integrate them with their Nguvu Health wallet and initiate a direct charge transaction.
“One amazing thing about Thepeer is that it has made it easier for people to pay for therapy on Nguvu Health app, which makes it easy and affordable for Africans to access therapy from their smartphones,” said Nguvu Health CEO Joshua Koya about Thepeer’s integration. “Our users now have options with Thepeer’s integration with other fintech wallets where they can pay for therapy.”
Checkout works similarly, however, on the sites of businesses such as online food and clothing stores. Thepeer shows up as a checkout method when customers shop online and lets them pay for items from Bitsika, Eversend, Chipper Cash and Paga wallets.
The one-year-old fintech startup has seen an average month-on-month transaction growth of 161% since its launch. And with the launch of Send, its new product focused on helping businesses send money between one another via its dashboard (not the consumer-facing one), its monthly transaction volume has grown over 65x to “eight-figure” million dollars.
“We see our product as a platform powered by APIs that helps connect fintechs, consumers and businesses by offering seamless money movement,” said Ononye. “Today, there are nearly 600 fintechs across the continent, most of which operate siloed wallets. Our goal is to make it possible to connect and make payments from any wallet. We are building an operating system so that businesses can offer more services to their customers.”
What started as a challenge for the founders moving value around their various apps has become an infrastructure with multiple businesses integrated and providing more value for their users. This progression is what made Raba Partnership lead the round. George Rzepecki, its founder, in a statement, likened Thepeer’s move to unify Africa’s wallet ecosystem to how Flutterwave entered the fragmented card and mobile money payments space in 2015.
“With the proliferation of consumer and B2B fintechs across Africa, Thepeer is building a foundational API-based payments layer where fintechs can enable money movement natively from within their respective wallets and apps,” he continued. “We are incredibly excited to support this ambitious team building a next-generation network.”
Thepeer continues Raba Partnership’s long list of fintech investments in Africa. Although it has invested in some consumer platforms like Thndr and Djamo, Raba is a known backer of infrastructure plays such as Flutterwave, Yoco, Stitch, Axis Pay and OnePipe.
What next for Thepeer? According to Ononye, the startup is looking to roll out more functionalities and wallets in other currencies (its current platform deals with Naira wallets) as well as hire more talent and invest in product development. “Our focus remains on product innovation and serving our customers who operate across different geographies,” he said.