In this interview with Business Insider Africa, he discusses some of the remarkable developments that have taken place since the fundraising. Enjoy the conversation.
BI Africa: Congratulations on your recent $3.2 million pre-seed fundraising. Can you tell us about some of the notable developments that have taken place at Kippah since the round was finalized?
Kennedy Ekezie-Joseph: We have focused on two important things: the continuous development of products and technologies to deliver value to merchants, and the growth of our global team with the most talented people. When you think about it, building problem-solving technology is only possible at the intersection of these two things. More importantly, we are able to think of bigger and larger-scale products, and that’s essential when trying to achieve such bold goals.
BI Africa: For the benefit of some of our readers who may not know you, could you tell us a bit more about what Kippa does?
Kennedy Ekezie-Joseph: Kippa is a full-service financial management solution designed for small businesses in Africa to manage their business finances. Merchants use Kippa to record their daily income and expense transactions, manage their inventory, and automate the debt collection process.
Before starting the business, we traveled across Nigeria and realized that at a fundamental level, these are the main reasons why small businesses in Africa stay small and don’t grow. 95% of small businesses in Nigeria (our main market) die within the first 5 years – generational business creation is not the norm in our part of the world. In trying to solve this problem, we also discovered the need for ease in accepting payments and selling to more customers for this category of business, so we are also working on products to solve these problems.
BI Africa: How did you come up with the idea of Kippah? Is there a particular problem you want to solve?
Kennedy Ekezie-Joseph: Before starting Kippah, we took a trip to our country, Nigeria. We visited merchants in different states to understand how they interact with finance in business. The result was the presence of a unique opportunity to respond to a hitherto ignored segment.
When we started, we wanted to help small businesses operate more profitably and sustainably. African businesses operate informally and this lack of structure allows businesses to lose millions of dollars each year. Unpaid debts, mishandled records and poor inventory management means these businesses are unable to grow like businesses in other parts of the world.
BI Africa: Kippa has been around for less than a year and has always managed to register significant success. In your opinion, what are the factors that stimulate the growth of the company?
Kennedy Ekezie-Joseph: The most critical success factor is the intimate and candid understanding of our users’ needs and the speed at which we innovate for small businesses in Africa. Traditionally, these companies are ignored and excluded from the current financial system. We see this as an advantage for us, as it gives us the ability to build more infrastructure and solutions for them, which consequently makes us more powerful at scale.
BI Africa: Considering the presence of other software as a service applications across Africa, what do you think sets Kippa apart?
Kennedy Ekezie-Joseph: This is the golden age of technology in Africa, and we are proud to be surrounded and supported by other companies that are building at breakneck speed. A few things set Kippa apart: our discipline around our customer segment and our product approach – building for merchants logging on for the first time requires a radically different approach to design and development. Our product ecosystem also allows companies to connect different aspects of their business on a single application, which in many ways simplifies the management of all the mobile parts of a company.
Bi Africa: In which other African countries, apart from Nigeria, is your service currently available?
Kennedy Ekezie-Joseph: Currently we are only available in Nigeria and that is because it is such an important market to solve and one of the best representations of the African market. However, as we consolidate our momentum in Nigeria, expansion into other African markets will become a priority.
BI Africa: Tell us about your projections/growth forecasts. Where do you see Kippah in the next 3-5 years?
Kennedy Ekezie-Joseph: Our goal is to build the end-to-end integrated software stack and be the premier provider of essential small business tools and services in Africa. In 5 years, we want every small business to be using software built by Kippa or using one or more of our services.
BI Africa: As a young tech founder in Africa, what has been the experience for you and what advice do you have for other budding young tech entrepreneurs?
Kennedy Ekezie-Joseph: Starting a business has provided me with the greatest opportunity to grow. It’s one thing to jump into solving such an ambitious problem, it’s quite another to lead a team to amplify execution on a larger scale than you started with. My advice is probably cliché, but there’s a reason some things are cliché: as a budding young entrepreneur, spend time determining if this is the best way for you to make an impact in the world. Usually the best way to do this would be to work at a fast-growing startup. Plus, surround yourself with smart, talented people you can have fun with while building and growing. A combination of courage, innate motivation and technical skills increases your ability to successfully create and grow a startup.