OZÉ, a fintech startup that provides MSMEs in West Africa with digital recordkeeping tools and embedded financial products, has raised $3 million in a pre-Series A round led by major venture capital firm Speedinvest.
The oversubscribed round included Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund, Savannah Fund, and several Angels with experience managing and investing in global fintech.
Through its partnerships with well-known commercial banks, OZÉ, which currently has a customer base of over 125,000 business owners, will use the funds to expand the capabilities of its platform and enhance access to affordable finance in Ghana and Nigeria.
The team will continue to rely on deep on-the-ground networks to better understand and address the micro and macro challenges faced by the 100 million-plus small businesses across West Africa.
Traditionally, these companies have been run as brick-and-mortar enterprises using pen and paper. Demand for technology and financial products that can digitize businesses is expanding as they strive to create online presences.
“The last decade has seen a huge transformation in the digitization of business. Accelerated by the pandemic, we are now seeing an even greater demand for solutions to financial challenges like accepting payments, understanding cash positions, and securing loans to increase stock for busy periods.” co-Founder and COO of OZÉ, Dave Emnett, adds.
The OZÉ platform is unique in Africa in that it provides business owners with tools to understand and improve their performance, as well as funding to help them grow.
Business owners may use the platform to keep track of transactions, manage receivables, get paid by customers, get business coaching, and apply for a loan right from the app.
There isn’t a lot of competition in this market. Other platforms provide specific services, but OZÉ’s comprehensive approach supports actual growth; 97% of business owners who use the platform run profitable, growing, or both profitable and expanding firms.
It also gives OZÉ access to a proprietary data set of performance and behavioral data, giving the company a competitive advantage in assessing and scoring credit risk.
Financial institutions partner with OZÉ to provide small business loans. OZÉ’s methods and relationship to business owners means that loans made through the platform can be collateral-free, larger, and paid back over a longer period without increasing risk.
Last year saw the number of monthly active users on the OZÉ platform grow by 1200%. The number of loans granted increased by 200% quarter-on-quarter from Q3 to Q4 of 2021.
The synergy OZÉ creates between business owners and banks creates real confidence in the West African economy; business owners are able to access the finance they need, and banks have seen stability in repayment rates thanks to more accurate digital recordkeeping.
Co-Founder and CEO of OZÉ, Meghan McCormick, added: “During grad school at MIT, I was flying back and forth between Cambridge and Ghana. One day I would be buying things at the market, the next – sitting in a lecture theater with the technologists building the future of finance. Straddling both worlds has allowed us to build a platform that leverages advanced technologies and maintains a deep understanding of customer needs on the ground. Our role is to build a platform that works for 100 million-plus businesses today and supports the creation of the future of commerce in Africa.”
Philip Specht, principal at SpeedInvest said, “There has been a lot of interest in the digitization of SMEs in Africa over the last year. We have also observed the space carefully as we believe that there is tremendous potential in building the financial operating systems for African MSMEs. We are extremely excited to partner with the OZÉ team as we believe they have the right leadership and strategy in place to build the strongest platform in this market.”