Why Are Comcast, Tencent Investing In A Nigerian Payments Startup, And What’s The Trump Connection?

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Paystack, one of Nigeria’s most hotly anticipated tech start-ups, has just secured $1.3 million seed investment from international and homegrown investors, Forbes reported.

The investors include Tencent and Comcast Ventures. Tencent is a Chinese media, internet and mobile conglomerate with a 46-percent ownership stake by South African media company Naspers.

Comcast Ventures is the entity formed in 2011 when U.S. telecommunications conglomerate Comcast and NBC combined their venture arms into a single unit, according to Business Insider.

Comcast is the largest broadcasting and cable TV company in the world by revenue. TV network NBC is a Comcast subsidiary.

U.S. President Elect Donald Trump is affiliated with NBC because he once played host on NBC’s “Apprentice” reality game show. Trump is keeping business ties to Comcast and said he plans to remain executive producer for the spin-off “Celebrity Apprentice” series, Salon reported.

From Forbes. Story by Mfonobong Nsehe.

Paystack, one of Nigeria’s most hotly anticipated tech start-ups, has just secured $1.3 million seed investment from both international and homegrown investors. The investors include Tencent, Comcast Ventures and Singularity Investments, with participation from Spark, M&S Partners, Tokyo Founders Fund, Blue Rinc Capital, Pave Investments, KIBS-CFY Partners, Michael Siebel, Justin Kan, Olumide Soyombo, Leonard Stiegeler and a number of angels.

The company, founded by Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi, initially caught the eye of industry commentators as it was one the first Nigerian tech company to be accepted into the world-famous Y Combinator progam, based in Silicon Valley.

Since then, having taken Paystack through private beta, and securing $120,000 early-stage investment from Y Combinator, Akinlade (CEO) and Olubi (CTO) have quietly been building the company, working to secure this seed investment round, whilst also building a network of partner merchants in Nigeria, over 1,500, who are now using the platform to accept online payments.

I spoke to Paystack’s CEO, Shola Akinlade, to find out how the company is working to fix Nigeria’s fragmented online payments system.

“The challenge was to solve the issue of online payments in Africa, somehow connecting the super-fragmented aspects of the sector. What we did was develop multi-channel payment options for merchants across the country, enabling them to accept payments from around the world, via credit card, debit card, and direct bank transfer on web and mobile. It’s taken two years of non-stop hard work to grow it from idea stage, to the product we have today.

“I’m excited that Silicon Valley is now paying attention to African companies, with Mark Zuckerberg, Y Combinator and 500 startups all betting on African startups this year. I’m optimistic that as long as African startups keep building great businesses, funding will continue to flow in our direction.

“Payments are really fragmented in Africa and Nigeria, because people pay in different ways here and our problems are a bit different from the rest of the world.”

Paystack is available in Nigeria. Do you have any plans to scale the company outside of Nigeria and across Africa?

“Oh yes, we are already having early conversations in Ghana and should support a few more countries in 2017. Building out across the continent is absolutely critical to our growth strategy. The entire African payments market is, I believe, up for grabs.

“The growth potential for fintech is enormous. Nigerian businesses collected about $150 billion last year, most of which was collected offline. However the digital economy on the continent is growing fast, and Nigeria alone currently sees 6 million new internet users every year. Such a high proportion of payments are still conducted offline, but with more people coming online every year, the growth trajectory is staggering. It’s easy to see that there will be more digital transactions this year than last year, and this is a trend that will continue for a very long time.”

Read more at Forbes.