Congrats to the IroFit team for finding investment via VC4Africa and today closing their USD 600K seed round!!
Nigerian-Finnish internet-free mobile payment startup IroFit has raised USD 600K in seed funding from a group of investors including leading Nordic early-stage VC firm Inventure, major Finnish payments industry software development company Solinor, and Nigeria based industry expert and angel investor Rasheed Olaoluwa.
“The angel investor from Nigeria, Rasheed Olaoluwa, found us through our VC4Africa venture profile, then reached out to us”, says Omoniyi Olawale, IroFit’s Founder and CEO. “He was the first investor we got in the group. So that says something about the impact VC4Africa is making.”
IroFit is one of the 40 startups that was selected to pitch their new products at DEMO Africa two months ago. Investor Rasheed Olaoluwa was present as one of the speakers at the DEMO Africa event in Lagos, Nigeria.
IroFit builds a mobile card payment system that allows merchants to accept card payments without an internet connection. They provides a seamlessly integrated mobile platform for small businesses to accept card payments and organize growing operations: all with a mobile app and an EMV-certified card reader. It also provides support for small business management tools – sales analytics, accounting, inventory management, CRM, loyalty management, and payroll support. One of the company’s unique selling point is that the proprietary technology works even in areas with no Internet connection, uniquely positioning IroFit to serve merchants in fast-growing emerging markets.
Founded in 2014 in Finland, IroFit has already won multiple awards for their innovative technology and service design. In addition to the funding round, IroFit simultaneously signed a major agreement with a leading financial institution, to be announced at a later date, which guarantees a hundred thousand payment devices will be available to the Nigerian market upon launch.
The funds raised will be used to finalize IroFit’s proprietary platform and launch the service in Nigeria. “Emerging markets are the fastest growing economies in the world”, said IroFit founder Omoniyi Olawale, “and they demand solutions designed specifically for their needs, rather than repurposed services originally built for Western markets.”
According to Ilkka Kivimaki, Partner at Inventure, leading the investment round, “the outdated payments infrastructure is undergoing disruption around the world. We believe IroFit has the team, technology, and service culture to address the peculiar dynamics in emerging markets in a game-changing way. They are ready for rapid growth, and we at Inventure are excited to be part of it.”
Want to know more on how IroFit reached this success? Below IroFit founder and CEO Omoniyi Olawale shares more:
How was IroFit started, and grew to where you are now?
“Trained as a medical doctor and business manager, I conceived of the idea while visiting Nigeria in 2012. I had tried to pay my mum’s medical fees with a credit card in a major teaching hospital while visiting Nigeria, but was told that they only accepted cash. As I stepped up to the ATM after 45 minutes on the queue, it went out of service! I had to move to another ATM and stay another one hour on the queue before I could get the money out. Important to know: 90.8% of the over $610 million card transactions done in Nigeria DAILY are ATM cash withdrawals.
This incident got me thinking, how does my mum – and how do other patients – cope when coming to pay alone? This is the daily reality for 180 million Nigerians, and billions all over the emerging markets. We experience this inconvenience in hospitals, pharmacies, shops, open markets, and schools… everywhere.
The company was started to solve a major problem in emerging markets: inability of many merchants to accept card payments due to bad Internet connection (required by all existing payment terminals). We provide merchants with a secure mobile Point-of-Sale system (mPOS) that allows them accept card payments from their customers wherever they operate – with no Internet needed.
Our team consists of mobile payments experts who have been involved in developing scalable mobile payment platforms, from Nokia mobile payments to Nets POS technology.”
What is the difference between what you offer and other mobile payment systems?
“We are the only mobile platform that can process card payments in real-time without an internet connection – thus we can provide merchants the convenience and reliability that none of our competitors can. Competing traditional POS terminals are expensive, clunky and plagued by dependence on data connections, which are poor in many developing countries.
Furthermore, they do not offer the flexibility, customization and scalability that our mobile system offers.
Mobile money or wallet solutions are still nascent and used mainly for person-to-person transfers of small amounts due to lack of interoperability and low level of KYC, among other reasons.
However, the major competition is CASH which accounts for over 90% of all transactions. But cash is too expensive for everybody to deal with – buyers, sellers, banks, and governments. So we are confident that mobile payments are the future in all our local markets.
IroFit is not just a payments company, we are a growth partner for small businesses: helping them serve their customers better and thereby increase sales and customer base.”
What do you hope to achieve with IroFit in the long run?
“The ultimate vision is for IroFit to become the leading provider of mobile payment solutions for the emerging markets. We want to make shopping and payments smooth and painless for billions in the developing world.”
What is your suggestion to other entrepreneurs who wonder what VC4Africa can do for them?
“VC4Africa has been a very resourceful platform to connect with other African entreprneurs, and build relationships with investors, mentors and potential partners. Our first angel investor found us through our VC4Africa profile, and he has been invaluable. VC4Africa also serves as a source of reliable information on the growing technology landscape in Africa. And it is a potent channel for creating awareness of our product.
I recommend VC4Africa to entrepreneurs who plan to be active in Africa. Whether you need network, funding, mentorship, or just to be part of an active community, VC4Africa has what you need.”
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