Nigeria-based Piggybank.ng is an online and mobile app savings platform targeted at millennials. Odunayo Eweniyi, co-founder and COO, answers our questions.
1. Give us your elevator pitch.
Piggybank.ng is an automated savings platform that gives Nigerian millennials the opportunity to save money periodically towards a target. The free platform allows users to put aside as little as US$1 a day to save up to a target, and restricts withdrawals until a convenient date set by the user. Piggybank.ng securely makes saving possible by combining simplicity, discipline, convenience and flexibility to enable users to grow their savings, manage their finances better and achieve financial freedom.
2. How did you finance your startup?
In the early days, we bootstrapped, using our own savings and small amounts of angel investment. However, we were always focused on building a revenue-generating product; in Africa, especially, very few startups have the luxury of being in a position to build a product that doesn’t have a very definite revenue model. We are now financed to the tune of $1.1m, thanks to a local investor, Olumide Soyombo, co-founder of LeadPath, who worked with us to secure our seed round.
3. If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?
Well, we have secured just over this amount in our first VC fundraise, and we will be investing in product development, licence acquisition and marketing spend. We plan to be conservative with our spending, because we are still a startup. However, in order to grow as aggressively as we plan to, there are certain aspects of the company that we need to invest in heavily, in order to maintain our aggressive growth trajectory.
4. What risks does your business face?
There is always a risk of incumbents entering the market, however, competition does help to keep you sharp, and we are confident in our ability to retain our very loyal customers, as well as continue to grow our user base very quickly. We are also often compared to banks and their savings accounts – people ask why they would use a dedicated savings app, rather than just a bank. For us, because we lock in the money for agreed periods of time, we are able to support our Piggybankers with better financial and savings discipline, whereas with a regular bank account, savers can access their money at any time.
5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?
We haven’t undertaken any above-the-line advertising to date. In fact, we can attribute our 20-35% month-on-month growth in user traction to peer-to-peer recommendations and our referral scheme, Piggybank Stories. We’ve initiated grass-roots social media campaigns, where people are rewarded for sharing their stories on how they’ve interacted with Piggybank.ng. This influencer-focused marketing approach has seen tremendous growth so far; consumers are more likely to try a new product, especially a financial services product, once it’s been validated and loved by people in their immediate networks.
6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.
The most exciting entrepreneurial moment I’ve had was at the end of 2016. Despite all odds, at the end of 2016, we saved 21 million naira ($58,000) for our users. No marketing, no profits or revenues, just bootstrapping, sheer customer goodwill and our need to make this product a success. Twenty-one million naira will probably remain an exciting number for me, and the team, because it stood as proof of what we could accomplish if we just kept plugging away.
7. Tell us about your biggest mistake, and what you’ve learnt from it?
The biggest mistake I ever made, was expanding and hiring too fast. When I worked on a previous startup, we raised some money, much smaller than this even, and we hired too many people too fast. The startup hit bottom and we had to let a lot of people go – and effectively hit “reset”. We built the company back up, but we learnt a valuable lesson: always stay lean.
8. In addition to your own industry, name one untapped business opportunity in Africa.
Real estate. It’s been done, but no one has come close to perfecting house renting online. I think that if anyone were to fully explore the idea of digitising the house-search process comprehensively, the way Spotahome has done across Europe, we would be well on our way to solving a very pertinent issue in Africa.