OZÉ, a Ghanaian fintech startup that provides digital recordkeeping tools with embedded finance products to medium and small businesses, has raised a $3 million pre-Series A round.
The startup’s new financing round was led by European early-stage VC Speedinvest, with participation from Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund, Savannah Capital and other unnamed angel investors. This news follows the $700,000 seed funding OZÉ secured last year.
In the past 18 months, several startups serving medium and small businesses with credit, bookkeeping tools and an operating system to manage their operations have increased immensely. A few of them include Kippa, Bumpa and Sabi Cash.
But OZÉ launched a while back before the space became hot owing to newfound investor interest in African startups. CEO Meghan McCormick and chief operating officer, Dave Emnett founded the company in 2018 following a series of travels McCormick made across Africa, where she noticed the challenges small businesses face and their dire need for financial and recordkeeping tools to thrive.
“Working so closely with small business owners, I understood the problems they faced. And having seen how small businesses in the U.S. operated as a child, and seeing kind of the tech stack or the service stack that SMEs have over there, I had a good understanding of the solution set,” said McCormick on a call with TechCrunch.
“And putting those two things together, we’ve been able to create a platform tailored to the realities of today. But also really pushing towards what’s possible for business owners in Ghana and Nigeria, who has a smartphone in their pocket.”
OZÉ boasts of a client base of more than 125,000 business owners in Ghana and Nigeria. That number is just a drop in the ocean of more than 100 million small businesses across West Africa that OZÉ says is its addressable market. Traditionally these businesses have operated as brick-and-mortar enterprises running on pen-and-paper. Now, as they look to build online presences, demand for technology and financial products to digitize businesses is increasing.
OZÉ’s business app helps these medium and small businesses collate sales, expenses, payables, receivables and customer data. This data is analyzed to provide businesses with support ranging from tailored recommendations, reports through daily business tips, monthly business seminars and access to an on-demand business coach.
Based on how businesses use the platform, OZÉ generates performance and behavioural data, which it uses to predict their credit risks and create alternative credit scores. The startup partners with financial institutions (banks and fintechs) to lend to businesses that need loans.
“OZÉ’s methods and relationship to business owners mean that loans made through the platform can be collateral-free, larger and paid back over a longer period without increasing risk,” the company said in a statement.
On the call, McCormick said credit is primarily provided to customers who are active on the OZÉ app for at least 30 days. The more robust the business’ behavioural component and credit score, the longer such business will have, she said. Also, businesses on the platform take an average loan of $5,000 while paying up to 36% APR.
Similar platforms provide credit and recordkeeping services, but McCormick quickly points out what makes her company stand out. “I think the tight integration between record keeping, credit and now payments is a real competitive factor in terms of the business model that we can run. And it sets off a flywheel in the way that just being a record keeper and company or just being a digital lender wouldn’t,” the chief executive said.
“Most of the small businesses know that they should be keeping records. But keeping any records, digital or not, is a behavioural change. And so, we’ve built a strong foundation of behavioural science into our app so that OZÉ becomes habit-forming.”
OZÉ’s positioning as the coach, partner and advisor of the businesses on its platform ensures that they have access to a community of other business owners, learn, grow and do commerce together. The platform is trying to take this idea of making accounting social, she said.
On the credit end, OZÉ can tap into businesses’ cash-based performance data and offer better loans after getting psychological insight into automatically recorded transactions.
The Ghanaian fintech recently launched a payments integration to allow its businesses to collect payments on the platform. In Ghana, businesses can accept payments via mobile money or card and a bank transfer or card in Nigeria. According to the company, businesses that use OZÉ as a choice of payment instead of using other platforms or cash will have higher credit limits and lower interest rates.
Last year, OZÉ’s active monthly users grew by 1,200%. The company said that the number of loans granted on the platform also increased by 200% from Q3 to Q4 of 2021. OZE also claims that 97% of business owners using the platform run businesses that are growing, profitable, or both.
On the company’s next steps following its recent funding, McCormick said OZÉ would build out its team, acquire more customers, deepen its presence in Ghana and Nigeria, and begin expansion plans into new African markets.