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Senegal-based Mobile Money Platform Becomes Francophone Africa’s First Billion-dollar Startup

Photo credit: Wave

 

Senegalese-based firm Wave has raised $200 million in Series A round funding, the largest-ever Series A round for the region, Techcrunch reports. This takes the value of the company to $1.7 billion.

According to Tech Crunch, the round was led by Sequoia Heritage, a subsidiary of Sequoia Capital, with the participation of Founders Fund; payments giant Stripe; and Ribbit Capital. Other investors included Partech Africa and Sam Altman, the former CEO of Y Combinator and current CEO of OpenAI.

Wave prides itself on being similar to PayPal in terms of the way it makes it easy for money to be transferred between peers without bank accounts. With Wave, customers simply visit a physical agent, deposit, or make withdrawals without a fee. Alternatively, customers could use Wave’s smartphone app with a flat 1% cut of the money being sent.

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Besides Senegal being its largest market, Wave plans to expand to Uganda, Mali, and other African markets. Wave claims to have between 4 million and 5 million users and that its platform is 70% cheaper than telecom-led mobile money. It says whenever there is a transfer problem, refunds are made instantly.

“I think there’s a pretty broad array of countries that have strong central banks and clear regulations are open to new players, or even want new players to come in and try to compete with the telcos. And so we have a lot of licenses that are in progress, and we’ll try to prioritize the countries where we’re able to get started sooner over the ones that it takes longer,” CEO and Founder Drew Durbin said.

Wave is a spinoff from Africa-focused remittance provider Sendwave, which was founded by Durbin and Lincoln Quirk in 2014. Sendwave became a subsidiary of WorldRemit last year after the global fintech company paid up to $500 million in cash and stock for Sendwave.

Prior to the acquisition, the team was working on a mobile money product which it piloted as Wave in 2018. “We saw an opportunity to make a bigger impact by trying to build a better, much more affordable mobile money service than the telcos are building throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa,” Durbin told TechCrunch in an interview. “We didn’t see any companies besides the telcos trying to solve that problem.”

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