By Adedapo Adesanya
Financial technology company, Wave, has joined the list of African unicorns – the first in French-speaking Africa – as its valuation jumped to $1.7 billion following its new Series A funding round of $200 million.
The new funding round was carried out by Sequoia Heritage, Founders Fund, Ribbit Capital and existing investors such as Partech Africa and Sam Altman, the former CEO of Y Combinator and current CEO of OpenAI.
Founded by Messrs Drew Durbin and Lincoln Quirk in 2018, Wave was launched as a mobile app in Senegal.
In the past year, up to $500 billion has moved through the accounts of 300 million active mobile money users in the region.
The startup is a by-product of WorldRemit acquired company, SendWave, which allows customers in the diaspora to transfer money across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
Leveraging Wave’s platform, affordable and instant transactions can be done between the US, UK, Canada, France, Italy, Spain and Ireland to Kenya.
The platform allows cash deposit, withdrawal, and peer-to-peer and business payments.
With the new injection of funds, Wave is expected to continue building a financial infrastructure where account fees are not required, it entails instant availability, and is accepted everywhere.
The company is solving the problem of poverty, lack of access to affordable saving means, and access to capital needed to establish businesses, meeting required individual necessities.
Wave does this by building a radically inclusive and extremely affordable financial network with technology. It affirms to have moved over 3 per cent of the GDP of Senegal and has rapidly created an impact across the continent.
The firm plans to make more impact by strengthening its presence in Senegal, Ivory Coast and reaching markets across Uganda. The startup projects to expand its team, adding creative and innovative minds to its 800 teammates across product, engineering, and business.
Speaking on this, co-founder, Mr Durbin said – “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. We didn’t see any companies besides the telcos trying to solve that problem.”
The uniqueness of Wave’s Unicorn attainment is that, unlike OPay, Jumia, Interswitch and Flutterwave, whose Unicorn attainment was through a Series C funding round, Wave achieved this via a Series A funding round.
The company aims to expand into new African markets such as Uganda and Mali on the back of the fundraise, deepen its existing presence, and enhance digital offerings and operations.
Former Y-Combinator CEO and Partech Africa investor, Mr Sam Altman added: “Wave is solving the root problem with financial services in Africa by making it easy and affordable for anyone to save and send money. They’ve built a product that millions of users love and the engagement is on par with the top consumer tech companies in the world.”
“Since 2018 we’ve supported Wave because we were convinced mobile money is still an unsolved problem in Africa. Wave has great product design, stellar execution and a strong financial trajectory. We are proud to see it become the first unicorn from Senegal. This funding is a game-changer in helping Wave bring a better mobile money service across Africa,” said Mr Tidjane Deme, Partech general partner and Africa Fund co-lead.