"In 2009, I worked at a private equity firm, and each day our office runner would make the rounds asking people if he could go to the bank for them to get cash," he writes in a Medium post.
The founder of one of Nigeria's most successful fintech companies shares 5 lessons he has learned as his company clocks 10
Today, April 3, 2019, makes it 10 years since Tayo Oviosu started Paga, a payments technology company.
"When going out to drinks or dinner with a group it was prudent to carry wads of cash to cover the bill without any embarrassment. If you were travelling, you had to go to the airport, line up and buy your ticket in cash. Till today most people travelling internationally from Nigeria pay with cash at a bank branch. In a world that was fast moving towards a digital age, we seemed stuck in the dark ages, reliant on cash for almost all transactions," he adds.
This problem inspired him to start the company which has since grown to serve over 12 million users and has a network of more than 20,000 agents. Oviosu says he started Paga with the aim of solving the "use of cash problem".
Over 2 billion people around the world find it difficult to transfer or leverage money. Also, 90% of the transactions around the world are done in cash, which is rather more expensive than many people know. For example, the use of cash costs countries between 5-7% of their GDP.
What Paga has done over the years is to make it easier for many people who normally do not have access to financial services to be able to send and receive money through their feature phones, smartphones, and laptops.
Now that it's been 10 years of growth, Oviosu shared with Business Insider during a chat some 5 important lessons that he has learned about business and himself along the way.
1. It's a long journey and it is better to go with people than to go alone
Oviosu says one of the biggest lessons he has learned is to recognise from the beginning that the journey is long and that it is better to go with people than to go alone.
He says, "If you want to go with people on a long journey, then you have to really focus on your relationships with them. For me, that means you have to be transparent with people, in all your conversations, whether it's your team, or whether it's your investors, your co-founder."
2. Be patient
“Though [Paga] started in April 2009, we took our services to market in August 2012. It took us 25 months to get our license from the Central Bank of Nigeria, and then another 7 months to close our Series A financing,” Oviosu says.
A lot has happened since then: Paga has grown from a team of 4 to a team of over 450 people. It also has over 12 million customers and has processed over 72 million transactions worth $4.6 billion. In addition, the company has raised $34.7 million since its inception, attracting investors such as Tim Draper, one of the earliest internet investors, Flourish, a venture of the Omidyar Group, and the Global Innovation Fund, amongst others.
But it didn't happen overnight. Oviosu emphasises on the need for entrepreneurs to stay their course especially when their startups are operating within industries that may look bleak in the short term but will bring in great rewards in the future.
3. From day one, make sure you're doing right by everybody
"I think it is important to, from day one, make sure that you're doing right by everybody," Oviosu says. "What I mean by this is making sure that you have your books in order. Separate your business accounts from your personal accounts from the beginning. It's very important to have your books in order."
This, he says, makes it easier for people to understand your business. He adds that it has helped Paga when it comes to fundraising. "It's easier for people to understand our business and to understand the books because what I tell them is what they find."
4. Understand the importance of people on the team
"I've also learned the importance of people on the team, understanding where we are going and how we're trying to get there.
"When we started 10 years ago and it was a small team of four, or even 10 and 20, we were all in one room. It may have been a crowded room, but we were all there and it was easy to have conversations. Now with 450 plus of us, it's a harder thing to do. But you still do it, you still have to figure out how to make sure that the vision and purpose of the company disseminate to everybody so that people understand fundamentally how their jobs relate with what other people are doing."
He explains that it is easier to work with people when you are empathetic and understand the demands of their jobs. This especially applies to people who work in different departments.
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