In Depth

‘Square Of Africa’ Recounts Struggles On Eve Of Expansion

Known colloquially as “the Square of Africa,” it’s safe to say that mobile payments processor Kopo Kopo had some hefty expectations to live up to when it entered the East African market in 2010. However, recent developments suggest the long quiet company may be finally hitting its stride.

Kopo Kopo closed a $2.6 million Series A funding round this November, a sum that dwarfed its $1 million in previous venture round funding (Jump to 5:21).

But, success in 2014 and beyond was and is far from assured. One of the biggest challenges faced by Kopo Kopo in the early stages was that Kenya-based telco SafariCom had already cornered the consumer payment market, and many observers didn’t think it would relinquish its grasp to allow a competitor.

Today Higgins is still fighting to define his company’s relationship with SafariCom. Speaking with PYMNTS.com, he downplayed assertions that Kopo Kopo is “struggling to sign up mom and pops one by one” while SafariCom goes after the “bigger fish,” the narrative that has been portrayed by media outlets like PandoDaily.

The point of confusion for many observers, according to Higgins, is that the market had become so big, SafariCom and Kopo Kopo both began acquiring different segments of the market, each catering to its specific strengths in different verticals. Higgins believes he and Kopo Kopo have persevered, turning a potential competitor into a partnership that has propelled it to the cusp of international expansion(Jump to 1:28).

“We realized they had a massive opportunity around capturing the merchant market, which is a much, much larger market than just microfinance, this is any retail merchant in Kenya…” Higgins told PYMNTS.com. “We took many months talking with Safaricom, getting them comfortable with the idea moving M-Pesa to the point of sale.”

Higgins indicates that Kopo Kopo is currently in hiring mode (Jump to 6:15), and is seeking telcos and banks in emerging markets as it gears up for 2014.

Still, the success was hard fought. How did Higgins evolve his model from its original concept (Jump to 0:25), what has he learned from his time in the market (Jump to 3:17) and how does he lead when cultural differences (Jump to 4:27)?

To learn more, listen to our full interview with Higgins below.

 

*If you have trouble with the audio player above, click here.

 


Dylan Higgins, co-founder, CEO, KopoKopo
Dylan Higgins is an experienced entrepreneur using technology to improve access to financial products and services.

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