Startup snapshot: Mama Money allowing migrants to send funds abroad

Mama Money founders Mathieu Coquillon (left) and Raphael Grojnowski

South Africa-based Mama Money is a fintech remittances startup that allows migrants to send money to their home countries. Director and co-founder Mathieu Coquillon answers our questions.

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

Mama Money is a cross-border money transfer service allowing migrants to send money from South Africa to their home country.

The platform we offer is mobile based. This technology allows us to offer more convenience and lower costs. We pay out through mobile money networks across Africa, which solves the last-mile challenge of getting money to rural communities.

2. How did you finance your startup?

We bootstrapped. The first two years were spent applying for a licence from the South African Reserve Bank and building the technology. We have been operating now for three years using a small budget but really learning how to make every cent count.

Late 2017 saw Mama Money do an investment raise which has helped immensely during this hyper-growth phase.

3. If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?

Product development and marketing. There are endless opportunities to develop financial solutions which would solve real problems. The challenge is time and finding the talent. Once we have the solutions, it’s all about marketing it to customers.

4. What risks does your business face?

Knowing which project to take on next. There are so many opportunities in this space – you don’t want to miss out. But at the end of day it’s important to focus on what the customers need most.

5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

We run an agent network of entrepreneurs in the markets we service. Currently the network extends across South Africa and is made up of over 700 individuals. Going to our customers, instead of them having to come to us, has proven very successful.

6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

There have been many, but if I had to put it down to a moment it would have to be December 2017. Our business doubled over the course of a month, which validated the four years of hard work leading up to that point. It was that moment when you realise you’re really onto something.

7. Tell us about your biggest mistake, and what you’ve learnt from it?

When we started we tried to reinvent the wheel too early by not allowing cash payments for remittances. We quickly realised that the majority of our customers didn’t have bank accounts and that we need to find a way to accept cash at retail stores. The biggest lesson was: don’t try and force the market to make too big of a step away from what they’re used to. Do it slowly and you’ll get there in the end.

8. In addition to your own industry, name one untapped business opportunity in Africa.

Ninety per cent or more of Africans don’t have any form of insurance. Insuretech is a hugely exciting opportunity because with mobile phones and mobile money these startups will be able to access the market quickly and be agile in creating bespoke insurance products based on the needs and behaviour of their customers.