Talking business with the founder of East African consumer credit platform Lipa Later

Eric Muli

Lipa Later is a technology-driven, consumer credit platform available in Kenya and Rwanda. The company was started in 2016. Founder Eric Muli (28) answers our questions.

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

Lipa Later is a risk free, payment option that allows consumers to purchase goods and services in monthly instalments. We work directly with retailers and consumers to make our goal a reality. Our overall mission is to enable people to live affordably by increasing the purchasing power of millions of Africans across the continent.

2. How did you finance your startup?

Getting funding for startups is hard; in Africa, things are even harder. When I started, I was very young and naive about just how much capital it was going to take for us to get this machine moving. I soon started to understand and realise the uphill road that lay ahead and really began to do everything I could to get capital through the door. I pitched to hundreds of people about what we were trying to do; the majority of them said ‘no’ over and over again but I was eventually quite lucky to find a few that said ‘yes’ and backed our crazy idea.

We then just buckled down to working as hard as we possibly could to build our business and we then proceeded to attract funding from institutional investors. It’s also important to shed some light on the challenges that local entrepreneurs face in fundraising here in Kenya. The majority of the capital is unfortunately not going to support local startups; there is an obvious systemic bias towards expatriate founders in the ecosystem that is making it very difficult for local entrepreneurs to thrive. It’s something that as local entrepreneurs we would need to address and resolve for the sake of our ecosystem and the country at large.

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

The education sector. I’m super passionate about the education sector and ensuring that young people have the right foundation that is required for them to succeed. Given $1 million, we would invest the funds in building innovative fintech products to support schools and students, ultimately making education more affordable and accessible across the continent.

4. What risks does your business face?

Our biggest risk is not growing quickly enough. Our product is in demand and the biggest risk we would face is not servicing that demand.

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

Word of mouth. Our network of partners and customers are our biggest and most powerful brand ambassadors.

6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

I remember the first time I secured our first institutional investor. It felt like I won the Olympics.

7. Tell us about your biggest mistake.

Building a company from the ground up is an extremely difficult task; you can’t do it on your own and you need to be able to put together the right team to make the dream work in good times and in bad times. The biggest mistake we’ve made in the past is onboarding a few wrong people onto our team. People with ill hearted intentions and people who overvalue themselves and devalue your progress will set your company back significantly. We have a great team now and we are only getting stronger.

Further reading

[June 2020] The Ethiopian entrepreneur who wants to disrupt the paper industry
[June 2020] Ghana’s Sumundi helps small shopkeepers to digitise their operations
[July 2020] Nigerian entrepreneur discusses the ups and downs of the waste recycling business
[June 2020] Using AI to identify the right fit for job seekers and employers in Botswana
[July 2020] Uganda’s MamaOpe fast-tracks the diagnosis of pneumonia through smart jackets