Nigerian fintech startup Okra has secured a US$3.5 million seed funding round in order to expand its data infrastructure across the country.
Launched last year by Fara Ashiru Jituboh and David Peterside, Okra is an Open Finance platform that enables businesses and developers to build personalised digital services and financial products for customers. Its API creates a secure portal and process to exchange real-time financial information between customers, applications and banks.
The company, billed as Africa’s first API “super-connector”, raised funding from TLcom Capital last April, and has now banked a US$3.5 million seed round led by the US-based Susa Ventures. TLcom Capital is again an investor, while the round also features Accenture Ventures.
Okra’s latest round also includes three “super angels” – Rob Solomon, chairman at GoFundMe and a former partner at Accel; Arpan Shah, founding engineer and ex-head of data platforms and data products at Robinhood; and Hongxia Zhong, founding engineer and ex-senior engineering manager at Robinhood.
The capital will be deployed to expand Okra’s data infrastructure across Nigeria. Since launch, the fintech infrastructure company has provided its services to high calibre financial institutions, startups, and government agencies, including Interswitch, Access Bank, uLesson, Aella App and over 100 digital-first platforms. In just under a year, it has seen an average month-on-month API call growth of 281 per cent. In addition, the company has analysed over 20 million transactions and analysed more than 5.5M transaction lines in March 2021 alone.
“We build the tools that businesses need to achieve full digital transformation and we are excited to be welcoming some highly strategic global investors as we scale our Open Finance-as-a-Service operations. The opportunities to collaborate and grow together are significant and we are now in a strong position to continue to build and scale in the African, and global API space,” Jituboh said.
Peterside said the companies that will dominate the business landscape over the next decade are prioritising a digital-first experience for their customers today, and will leverage data and personalisation to win market share over time.
“We share the same vision on Open Finance in Africa and are excited to be working closely with the team at Susa. Having Accenture Ventures join us at seed stage speaks volumes about our team’s ability to execute at a global scale,” he said.
Leading the round, San Francisco-based Susa Ventures is known as one of the premium seed stage funds in Silicon Valley, with notable early investments including Robinhood, Flexport, Andela and Fast. Susa is also known for co-investing with top tier firms like Peter Theil’s Founders Fund, Index Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, General Catalyst, Andreessen Horowitz, and Accel Partners.
“We’re thrilled to partner with Okra as they enable developers across the African continent to transform digital financial services. We’re blown away by the quality of Okra’s team, pace of development, and the excitement from the customers building on their API,” said Seth Berman, general partner at Susa.
Omobola Johnson, senior partner at TLcom Capital and former minister of ICT in Nigeria, said her firm had been consistently impressed with the quality of the Okra team.
“Fara’s technical depth and expertise, which when combined with the entrepreneurial acumen she and David bring to the company, leaves us confident that they are building Africa’s most stable and robust API infrastructure. TLcom is delighted to continue partnering with Okra,” she said.
Accenture, a global professional services company with leading capabilities in digital, cloud and security, also participates in this round, with Tom Lounibos, managing director at Accenture Ventures, saying Okra had a compelling vision and value proposition.
“We believe Okra’s powerful technology can address critical challenges in the African financial market. We look forward to working together to help Okra scale its solutions for maximum impact,” he said.
Credit: TOM JACKSON