Ivorian fintech Julaya has raised $5 million to become a banking partner for businesses in Francophone Africa. • TechCrunch

Ivorian payments-led fintech startup Julaya has raised a pre-Series A round of $5 million. The company, which primarily uses mobile money channels for B2B payments in Francophone West Africa, has raised a total of $7 million in a financing round.

In the year In 2019, West Africa reported the most live mobile money services of any region, with 56 million active accounts. In Ivory Coast, the largest francophone mobile money market in Africa, 75% of the population has a mobile money account and 20% have a bank account. That’s why Julaya started its service in the West African country and then expanded to Senegal, where the mobile market has about 80% penetration, as well as other mobile money countries in the UEMOA (West African Economic and Monetary Union) region. Usage.

Small to large enterprises in these countries can use the Julaya platform to make bulk payments to other businesses and their non-banking employees through existing mobile money channels. But now you can get additional services, for example, the starter prepaid card – by Mastercard – for corporate expense management. The cards are tailored for businesses for travel needs, other online expenses and easy transactions to enter into their accounting systems, the CEO said. Mathias Leopoldi He told TechCrunch in an interview.

Our passion or strategy with the cards is to provide a complete service. Because if you only have cards, I don’t think you can build a very good start-up like you want, for example in the US,” said the CEO who founded the company. Charles Talbot. “The card payment industry, except in South Africa, maybe Nigeria and a few in Egypt, is growing and even if you can grow a business on it, it’s almost impossible in our region. [Francophone Africa]He said.

Leopoldi says that offering cards — most of them physical (based on customer requests) — is not the main strategy for Julia’s revenue growth. What sets fintech apart from competitors like YC-backed, he says, is a switch spending strategy that sees cards as a key driver.

More than 40% of the July 500 Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs), startups, large corporations, and government entities use the Corporate Expense Management feature. While the most significant sizes come from medium to large enterprises, fintech has seen surprisingly greater adoption by traditional and non-digital smaller customers, Leopoldi said.

Over the past year, the Ivorian-French startup has expanded its range of products to include “Cash & Collect” which enables “quick and secure” cash collection, particularly in the FMCG sector. Here, businesses can deposit funds from physical and field sales into their Julaya account through a mobile money agent branch without going to the bank.

Last July, Leopoldi said FinTech was handling more than $1.5 million every month. Those numbers have increased fivefold to more than $7.5 million, while revenues have grown by more than 500% year-over-year. Brands like Jumia and Sandi are some of Julaya’s clients.

Image Credits: July

European venture capital fund Speedinvest led Julia’s pre-Series A extension round. EQ2 Ventures, Kibo Ventures, Angel Syndicates Unpopular Ventures and Jedar Capital, existing investors Orange Ventures, Saviu, 50 Partners and Ivorian business angel Mohamed Diaby and professional footballer Edouard Mendy invested in the round.

Mendy’s involvement – the first in Africa and the second globally – highlights the growing involvement of athletes in the African venture capital scene. This week, TechCrunch announced Build Ventures, a $15 million fund targeting fintechs in Africa. The number of athletes involved as limited partners of the company is an interesting observation from the news. Some have made direct investments from various sources. Mendi is African, unlike the others who are mainly European. While he may be one of the first African athletes to support startups, Leopoldi predicts there will be more examples to come.

“I think it’s a little bit ahead of the curve. We see that football stars or high earners in the sports industry are beginning to see the need to invest in venture capital for two reasons. The first one, although it is a risky asset, brings huge profits. Second, they should use their image to show that they don’t just care about their sports career, but want to inspire their country. It made sense to Edouard Mendy because he is Senegalese.

Julaya received investment from CFO and Country Manager in Senegal. Proceeds from this financing round will support further expansion plans across Francophone West Africa as the fintech plans to open offices in Benin, Togo and Burkina Faso, hire talent and ramp up product development.

Enrique Martínez-Hausman, principal at investor SpeedInvest, the company’s portfolio company, is changing how businesses operate in a complex payment landscape in Francophone, which also has prominent players such as Cinetpay and Bizao. Looking ahead, the potential of Julia’s technology goes beyond its payment capabilities, gaining the opportunity to become the closest banking partner to companies in West Africa,” said Martinez-Hausman.

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