Y Combinator Podcast: Helping African Businesses Get Paid, Shola Akinlade of Paystack

  • What is the one-sentence description of Paystack: We help merchants in Africa accept payments from their customers. (0:46) 

  • The best way to network: Founders think the way to network is to get out there and just be everywhere. But the way to build a strong network is to build something impressive. (12:28) 

  • The opportunity for Paystack: $150 billion in consumer spending in Nigeria. Only 2% of consumer spending is using credit/debit cards. (13:55) 

  • There is no room for mistakes with new customers in Nigeria: We tell ourselves that if someone has a problem with the transaction, that is someone that will never trust digital payments again. So we don’t take it lightly. (16:45) 

  • What is leading the growth of Paystack: Our customers have been growing rapidly. The first cohort that launched in Q1 2016 were doing 30x the volume by Q4 2017. (19:04) 

  • Why won’t an international [payments] company just come to Africa? Because it is very difficult. The local context is difficult. It takes a team that believes that this is why they exist. That is the very reason we created the company. (21:50) 

  • How Shola is learning to build a company: I run this company on google. I search how do you do this? How do you do that? (25:22) 

  • Expect to be criticized: When starting out in Nigeria, Shola was laughed at and doubted. People would say why would you build a payments company when your main competitor is a 14-year-old company with more than a billion dollars? Who are you? How would you figure this out? (34:52) 

  • It is a good time to be building products for Africa: Young, fast-growing population. By 2050 Nigeria will become the 3rd largest country by population globally. (40:28) 

  • Sometimes it’s easier to have excuses: Oh I don’t have money. I don’t have people. Now we have a little money and very good people supporting us. I have access. I have regulatory cover. Now I don’t have any excuses. (48:58)

  • Full podcast here.