Riby: How a Fintech Got Traction By Helping People On Accessing Financial Services In Africa – with Abolore Salami [Ep#8]

Here we go to Africa, where we find many people who work hard but have difficulties in earning a good income as well as in saving for their futures.

And these are exactly the issues that our next guest, Abolore Salami, is addressing through his  startup: Riby.

Riby provides cooperatives a platform to organize their businesses as well as to help their customers to engage in financial activities as receiving, payment and saving money.

Want to see how Riby has generated traction? Don’t miss this episode!


SHOW NOTES

TWO PROBLEMS AND A SOLUTION

Start by telling us about the problem that Riby is solving today…

Primarily, we have found two problems as fundamental to our users.

Number one is they already do a lot of work—a lot of hard work—but they don’t make enough income. So, the problem that we want to try to solve is being part of a system that ensures that people have a liveable income.

The second problem is people are working really hard, they work for several years and they don’t have any significant savings that are controlled by them, outside of pensions and other things like that, which—as we’re finding out, now—are not very sufficient.

So, how do we make sure that when people have worked for several years in their lives, even being on desirable liveable income, they have put enough money aside, to be wealthy, to be rich, to live comfortably, even after they stopped working? […]

What kind of solution does Riby offer to solve these problems?

[…] We do digital banking for cooperatives. We search for any system around the world that solves this problem that is not controlled by the government—or controlled by a large corporate—and we found only one system. In the US it’s called the Credit Union.

Here in Nigeria and South Africa called cooperatives or circles. And what we found is that these cooperatives are created by several people coming together […]

What they do is, they save their funds together, they lend money to one another, they support their own businesses, and they do other things like build homes for themselves.

This is a system that we’ve identified with and that we think we want to help scale. We want to help bring into the digital age and to modernize.

This is a system that we’ve identified with and that we think we want to help scale. We want to help bring into the digital age and to modernize.

So, our solution is a digital banking platform or a digital platform that seizes the ability of cooperatives to be formed and to be prosperous. Because we think that when cooperatives are created, and when they are successful, they create better living income for people and they allow people to create wealth—better than the current systems that we know today. […]

Riby platform

December 2012, that was when the original idea started, then 2013, 2014, 2015, we did some research on product testing, and then may 2016 we launched. [In 2012] I was about 26. I’m going to be 32, now.

VALIDATION JOURNEY

What were your first steps since December 2012?

The idea was to first document everything. We started writing our plans, we sketched what we think will be the platform. We’re doing a lot of research, just put up ideas, sketch it on paper, a good and enough number of hours to build web platform that is pretty simple. We did that in about three months.

Early 2013, we’ve got into an accelerator program—about May of 2013. In June that program started. […] It’s like an incubator program—pre-incubation. And we ran on for about three/four months. At the end of the program, we’re not launched. We still had to do a lot of research about idea, about what we built, about what we were to build out of this product, at this time.

2013 had gone, we’re still hadn’t launched it, because we just wanted to make sure we had it very clear before we launch and it wasn’t something that was just going to flame and that was going to die off. And because I had experience in running a business, I wasn’t just going to start something that eventually I wasn’t convinced was going to run.

2013 had gone, we’re still hadn’t launched it, because we just wanted to make sure we had it very clear before we launch and it wasn’t something that was just going to flame and that was going to die off.

What kind of research did you do?

It was mostly desk research and consumer preference testing. We actually did a product-based research. We launched a product, we tried to get people to use it and see the kind of difficulty they had, see if it worked or not, and things like that, that was kind of research. So, it wasn’t like a structured academic research as it were. […]

It [the prototype] was always coded and you could interact with it. It allowed you to do two major things. Number one is to set a goal and number two is to save towards that goal. All what we were doing was monitoring how you were doing at your goal. You couldn’t process money for people as it was.

So, we couldn’t really help people to save, but we could ask them to upload their bank statement or we could check their savings towards their goals. Of course, was inefficient and we scrapped it in 2014—which at the time, the company I did the incubator with wanted to launch a product. […]

How did you fund this work?

As a little bit of background, I had done consulting a bit. So, I used to write business plans and things like that. As we’re making income on the side—I mean, significant income on the side. And then I took a job with the company. So I was making significant income actually, and I use that income to fund the business. […]

When did you find validation for the business?

There were two critical things.

The first was back during the accelerator program. I got a lot of advice and a lot of learning from the founders of the accelerator. And more importantly, there was one of our mentors doing the mentor sessions—office open hours. […] He said: “You need to find a strong partner who is also interested in this vision and this mission, because you will need a lot of resources. And you might not be able to afford it from the beginning.” And I kept that close to my chest.

THE RIGHT TIMING

While we’re still doing the research and all the preparations—in 2015/2016—a few things came up and the Bank of Industry—here in Nigeria—said: “Hey, we want to lend money to cooperatives.” And we had a platform, they didn’t have a platform. We said: “Hey, this is our opportunity. We want cooperatives to use our platform, you want to lend to cooperatives. Okay, we’ll give you our platform so that the cooperatives can use our platform to access the credit.”

Team

That was how we’re able to launch. That gave us the opportunity, the right timing to— number one—be able to get the cooperative that would love to use our platform. That would’ve, of course, costed a lot of money to do, but we were able to get it because they would definitely going to be attracted to the credit. And number two, we’re able to sell our platform B2B to a potential customer who helped us make our initial income to start the business. […]

TECHNOLOGY IS NOT THE PRIORITY

Many of those people are not really familiar with technology or maybe there isn’t technology available for them. Do you face such difficulties with this target users?

Yes, we do. Actually, it’s one of our big consideration. For our customers and us, frankly, technology is not the priority. Technology is just the tool. And what we’ve done is that we’ve innovated around it.

For our customers and us, frankly, technology is not the priority. Technology is just the tool. And what we’ve done is that we’ve innovated around it.

AGENTS

For a customer that cannot interact with technology, someone—in Nigeria, they’re called “banking agents”—will operate the technology on their behalf because, at the end of the day, it’s not interacting with technology that is the goal. It’s, actually, meeting financial stability. So, we have web, we have mobile, we have agents, which are people that operate the account on behalf of end users.

USSD

And more importantly, there’s something that is growing very powerfully across Africa and it’s called “USSD”—Unstructured Supplementary Service Data. Usually short codes and SMS on your mobile phone without an internet to access services that originally you would need internet for. […] That is done without the internet and completely replaces the function that a mobile app would have performed.

MARKETING STRATEGIES

How did you get people coming for the platform?

AFFILIATION

The first [way] has been sort of affiliations. Okay, let me put it this way, there are two types of customers: enterprise customers and retail customers.

Enterprise customers are directly acquired, like: you make a phone call, you talk to someone you know, they do you some of the introductions or you just walk into their office and say “this is what we’re offering, this what we think is a value to you, and would like to be your partner or your vendor”—or any other thing that is always of interest to both parties. […] So far, we have about 25 corporate partners, overall.

For retail, some of our key partnerships are designed to give all distribution to the retail customer. For example, banks have a lot of cooperatives that are their customers, but they don’t have a platform for those cooperatives. So, we partner with the banks, give them our platform, so that we can both share that customer. And we both make incremental income, while the customer becomes a better asset. So that has been one of our channels for acquisition.

For example, banks have a lot of cooperatives that are their customers, but they don’t have a platform for those cooperatives. So, we partner with the banks, give them our platform, so that we can both share that customer.

ACTIVATION PROGRAM

Another [way] is, for example, we do activation programs. We have a sales team, they go into the market, they go into companies, they go into clusters of people, and we pitch our product. Usually, we will prefer to have inch point. For example, we’re working with a community in the next few weeks to launch a cooperative for that community. […]

Riby platform

INBOUND MEDIA

Sometimes we get a lot of inbound from media, press mentions. For example, when you publish this, people go to our website, and they feel their interest to want to set up a cooperative and we set them up.

What piece of advice would you give to startup entrepreneurs that are trying to build their startups around FinTech and to impact people that live in rural areas?

A BETTER SOCIETY

In financial services and in these new ages, we shouldn’t just think about financial services as a way to make money, but rather as a way to create a better society, as a way to make people better secured in their lives. If you have that core fundamental belief on creating a better society, you will not stop, because that’s what we all do every day and you need that grits, you need that dexterity, you need that ability to stick with it and that is very important. […] Be sure about the goal you’re trying to achieve and again—me being biased—be sure that it’s for benefit of the people.

STICK WITH IT

Stick with it. Put all you can to it. Doesn’t matter that you can’t start now. Do whatever it is that you can do. Get a job. Do your part-time job somewhere. Consult for another company. Be an entrepreneur resident for a year or two years. Save up enough income. Start somewhere and just get going as slowly as you can. Forget all the hype. You don’t have to be successful from day one or from year one or from year two.

Of course, nobody expect you to run not all successfully for 10 years before quitting, but give it your best shot. And just be sure about what you want to do and believe in it.

BE PROFITABLE

Be very careful to make sure that the business is one that can be profitable. Otherwise, you’re wasting everybody’s time, you’re wasting precious resources that could be put to use in something else. […]


MORE ABOUT THE FOUNDER

Abolore Salami - RibyAbolore Salami (LinkedIn; Twitter) – “I desire to see a better world and I want to be a part of making that happen. I’m primarily interested in startups and early-stage growing businesses; I Design, Develop and Bring them to Profitability. For 5 years between 2012 & 2016, I was central to $10m in revenue and managed about $30m in business value. During this period, I founded Riby, a FinTech company that focuses on finance management for Cooperatives (Savings & Trade Groups) and that help the groups & their individual members Save, Borrow & Invest, Together. The goal here is to see every one using our system achieve a sustainable and repeatable Business & Personal Finance Growth.”

MORE ABOUT RIBY

Riby LogoRiby (Website; LinkedInTwitter; Facebook; .is a Finance Technology Company that provides a simple and smart finance management platform for groups and their members. Our solution automates the financial and business activities of cooperative.

  • Mission: To create better access to finance and enforce prudent finance management.
  • Vision: Be a leader in Africa’s Open Banking System.
  • Goal: Easy access to finance for 100 million Africans.

 

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