OZÉ, the fintech startup which provides digital recordkeeping tools with embedded finance products to MSMEs across West Africa, announces it has raised $3M via a pre-Series A round led by major venture capital funds, Speedinvest. Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund, Savannah Fund, and several Angels experienced in operating and investing in global fintech also participated in the oversubscribed round. OZÉ, which now has a client base of more than 125,000 business owners, will use the funds to expand the capabilities of its platform and increase access to affordable finance in Ghana and Nigeria through its partnerships with well-known commercial banks.
The team will continue to utilize deep on-the-ground networks to understand and build solutions for the micro and macro challenges faced by the 100 million-plus small businesses across West Africa. Traditionally these businesses have operated as brick-and-mortar enterprises running on pen-and-paper. Now, as they look to build an online presence, demand for technology and financial products able to digitize businesses is increasing. As co-Founder and COO of OZÉ, Dave Emnett, adds, “the last decade has seen a huge transformation in the digitization of business. Accelerated by the pandemic, we are now seeing an even greater demand for solutions to financial challenges like accepting payments, understanding cash positions, and securing loans to increase stock for busy periods.”
The OZÉ platform is unique in Africa in that it provides tools for business owners to understand and improve their performance as well as access to capital to fuel growth. Business owners use the platform to record transactions, stay on top of receivables, get paid by their customers, access business coaching, and can apply for a loan right in the app. Competition in this space is limited. Other platforms offer single services, but OZÉ’s holistic approach fosters real growth; 97% of business owners using the platform run businesses that are growing, profitable, or both.
It also provides OZÉ with a proprietary data set of performance and behavioral data giving the company a competitive advantage in understanding and scoring a company’s credit risk. Financial institutions partner with OZÉ to provide small business loans. OZÉ’s methods and relationship to business owners mean that loans made through the platform can be collateral-free, larger, and paid back over a longer period without increasing risk.
Last year saw the number of monthly active users on the OZÉ platform grow by 1200%. The number of loans granted increased by 200% quarter-on-quarter from Q3 to Q4 of 2021. The synergy OZÉ creates between business owners and banks creates real confidence in the West African economy; business owners are able to access the finance they need, and banks have seen stability in repayment rates thanks to more accurate digital recordkeeping.
Co-Founder and CEO of OZÉ, Meghan McCormick, added: “During grad school at MIT, I was flying back and forth between Cambridge and Ghana. One day I would be buying things at the market, the next – sitting in a lecture theater with the technologists building the future of finance. Straddling both worlds has allowed us to build a platform that leverages advanced technologies and maintains a deep understanding of customer needs on the ground. Our role is to build a platform that works for 100 million-plus businesses today and supports the creation of the future of commerce in Africa.”
Philip Specht, principal at SpeedInvest said, “There has been a lot of interest in the digitization of SMEs in Africa over the last year. We have also observed the space carefully as we believe that there is tremendous potential in building the financial operating systems for African MSMEs. We are extremely excited to partner with the OZÉ team as we believe they have the right leadership and strategy in place to build the strongest platform in this market.”
The team remains focused on building their winning solution in collaboration with African business owners.