Sika takes a bold step to challenge banks and mobile money services in Ghana with its low cost global money transfer service.
SIKA launches early next year and aims to become a global business that uses modern mobile and financial technology along with an intuitive approach to replace banks. The company is beginning this journey by first disrupting the high-commission model associated with foreign currency exchange and local peer to peer money transfers that has long benefited banks and specialists in the market.
With quite awesome payment systems already in the country, Paul Miller, founder of Sikaapp.com, is disrupting the market with unique features “lacking and missing in current platforms.”
Sika promises to be one never experienced before. Paul quits his job to devote time and resources to develop Sika with love and it’s the Next Big Thing. Let’s get into the world of our ambitious and visionary CEO in this short interview he granted TSH.
First off, can we have a little background information on Paul and what motivates you?
I’m Ghanaian born. From Amakom, Kumasi to be exact. I left Ghana some time ago. I won’t mention how long, haha! I feel ashamed to be away this long. I’m currently residing in Mountain View, California or Silicon Valley, as the world calls it. I’m a curious being so I’m always looking for ways to challenge myself.
What motivates me is my family, I’m a father. That’s the most important part of what I am as a man.
As the founder of Sika, let us in on what your platform is bringing unto the market and how long have you been developing this payment system?
We’ve been working on SIKA for about a year now. Mostly doing market research and talking to tons of potential users. SIKA is a personal finance app that replaces your bank with a smarter financial experience, directly from your mobile phone. We’re beginning this journey with a global money transfer service that undercuts hefty bank fees or the need to wait in long lines at the bank or mobile money kiosk to transfer money to anyone.
SIKA is making cash mobile without borders which gives metropolitan Ghanaians, expats and businesses a simple way to exchange or send money locally and globally in Ghanaian Cedis, UK Pounds, US Dollars or Euros at a low cost.
Brilliant! Enumerate some of the challenges currently in the system that motivates you to introduce Sika into the online payment space?
There are definitely challenges in the space. There’s also the hype around startups in Ghana. Don’t get me wrong. There are some great platforms that have been built by some startups. But most of them don’t excite the consumers to even want to use it. I think the biggest frustration is that the banks and mobile money services in Ghana are not consumer-facing enough.
The mere fact that banks monopolize the space is disturbing. They spend zero money and time on educating and developing efficient financial tools for consumers to use. They are known for their cumbersome fees without justifying it with a convenient user experience. This is something we want to change.
What are the essential features making your product a “Smart Alternative” from others out there?
You’ll have to wait and see. I wish I could spill it all. But, we’re very pumped to launch a product that helps both individuals and businesses leverage modern financial technology in new and exciting ways.
Cool. With Sika there won’t be the need to share financial information, tell us more about this exciting feature.
We’re building our own proprietary technology. So I can’t share the details. However, what I can say is SIKA user experience is very seamless. It’ll become second nature to users.
What concrete guarantee is there to assure clients’ funds are secure with you?
Great question! Security is a huge concern for many users as it should be. As such, we are 110% dedicated to keeping your money and transactions safe and secure. We believe that security is a core requirement of trust. This is why we monitor every transaction and continuously innovate in fraud prevention.
We protect your data like our business depends on it—because it does. We adhere to industry-leading standards to manage our network, secure our web and client applications and set strong security policies across our organization.
Sika is built at Silicon Valley. So will you conclude it has enjoyed superior technological advantage in its building process?
Yes, the team has tremendous amount of experience in data security, financial technology, user experience research, design and advising for some very successful startups in Silicon Valley. We bring this experience to Sika.
For those who can’t wait to sign up to enjoy all the benefits Sika promises, how do they get started and who are your target users?
They can simply go to sikaapp.com today and sign up. They will be on our priority list as we gear up for our launch. Our target market is millennials in both Ghana and abroad. SIKA is also useful for small businesses and NGOs in Ghana who are looking to leverage modern financial technology for payments in new and easy ways.
In which countries are you operational at the moment?
Upon the SIKA launch, users can use SIKA locally or in the US. We have plans to expand in the near future.
Give us an idea of your wonderful team including their strengths?
The team’s strengths varies. I’m most impressed with how much we challenge each other to think further beyond Sika. We’re not a bunch of yes men/women. We ask questions. I call them Navy Seal Team Six. This is purely because we all were many different hats and not afraid to break barriers.
One significant factor in starting up is financing, in your case, Paul, where are you getting initial funding for your business?
Financing is significant, yes. However, the single most important thing for us now is our diligent focus on adding value to our users. As such, we’re bootstrapping SIKA for now till we decide to seek funding at the appropriate time.
Who is your mentor and how has mentoring impacted your business concept?
David Sacks, is my mentor. Not sure if a lot of people know of him. He’s part of the “PayPal Mafia.” I’ve learned a lot from David. I worked for him at Yammer, which has been acquired by Microsoft for $1.2 billion. He’s now with Gusto (formerly known as Zenefits), which is valued at $4.5 billion. So this says a lot. David has impacted SIKA in a lot of ways. Specifically around value proposition, data-driven concepts and many more.
Exciting! What previous life or job experiences will you be applying to your company and what gives you a strong conviction your business won’t make it into the high startup failure statistics.
My team and I have worked at some U.S based financial institutions. What gives me a strong sense of the business is the fact that, I’ve lived the current frustration that exist with payment platforms around the globe. These frustrations range from hefty fees to poorly designed products. SIKA is more than a statistic. What we’re building at SIKA addresses these frustrations. So we’re here to stay.
Can you share some of the biggest entrepreneurial lessons you have learned personally, with fellow Africans?
Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. It has its ups and downs. If you’re in it just for the money, the bright lights or wanting to be the “next something” you’re doing it wrong. Do it for the right reasons and cause. And keep in mind, Google, Facebook, Twitter or MSFT aren’t going to acquire you.
Focus on building something people cannot ignore.
What is your business philosophy?
Entrepreneurship is something I learned at an early age. My dad was a Seventh Day Adventist pastor. So at an early age, my siblings and I would go door to door giving out bibles and other literature. People would sometimes slam the door on us. But, I learned to build rapport and overcome these objections.
My philosophy is, you have to build something that can scale. Something that pushes that status quo and continue learning from customers. Employ data and analytics as your best friend. Keep digging deep and challenge your own thoughts.
For an enthusiastic person who wishes to go into the financial technology industry, what will be your candid advice?
Do your homework! Turn your back on the crowd and focus on adding value to the end user. Most importantly, be authentic and know your stuff.
What are the major challenges you face in your line of business and how do you overcome them?
There are way too many to mention. But I’d say it’s not about the challenges. It’s about the learning experiences. I’m constantly looking for these opportunities to learn more about our consumers, the problems they face and build solutions to fix it.
Where will Africa expect Sika to be in five years?
In 5 years, I want SIKA to be a global business that transforms the banking world with 30% month over month growth and $1 million ARR (Annual recurring revenue). Ultimately, I want my team to look back at this success story and be proud of what we’ve done. This may sound crazy ambitious but I am confident we can do it.
What will be your word of motivation to the budding African entrepreneurs and a message to potential customers?
Don’t get into entrepreneurship for the money or accolades. If you’re in it just for the money, quit now! Also, you will be tested and challenged. Take those challenges and learn from them. It’s also OK to piss off the competition. My dad always said, “don’t compete, dominate”. So dominate!
Thank you, Paul.
Are you in-wait for the next big thing out of Ghana and Africa in terms of seamless online payment? Sign up to enjoy Sika which means Money in the Twi language of Akans in Ghana.
What business lessons have you learnt from this brilliant CEO? Kindly share what you picked up with us in the comment section below.
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Rahmon Ojukotola: StartCredits Hopes to Save Nigerians Billions of Naira
High interest rates on loans are a barrier to growth and economic prosperity, which is why StartCredits has developed an innovative way for Nigerians to borrow quick online loans without collateral on its loan market comparison platform.
It is the aim of this fin-tech startup to help Nigerians access finance and save money by comparing loan providers. Rahmon, the Director of StartCredits is strategically growing this company to be the preferred loan market for a number of online borrowers.
Rahmon Ojukotola currently sits on the advisory board to the Florida schools group and previously worked at the Bank of England and UBS. Our startup founder, is also a Chartered Accountant and a member of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and the Royal Economic Society.
With these credentials, he surely has what it takes to lead the competitive loan market. Let’s find out what Rahmon has brought into the market and his life as an entrepreneur.
How is StartCredits disrupting the traditional borrowing in Africa as you suggest?
StartCredits is disrupting traditional borrowing, as our product provides transparency and increases competition in the market to reduce interest rates for qualified borrowers. It also provides a new channel for Nigerians to borrow money.
From your enviable background why did you decide to leave all that to start a startup in Nigeria?
I worked in investment banking and central banking for a number of years and gained a finance MSc from the London School of Economics and chartered qualifications in accounting, investments, securities and finance. I decided to build a startup in Nigeria because there were opportunities and issues that needed tackling, and I thought I had the right skill set to do so. So I gave up a well paying job and decided to come back to try and build something that would hopefully contribute to the growth and development of Nigeria.
How unique are features of StartCredits?
We are the first and only business in Nigeria offering our services to all Nigerians who need loans. We have developed innovative proprietary risk models that accurately measure the borrowers probability of default. This improves our partner lenders’ ability to assess risk, and enables them to disperse more loans to qualified borrowers.
What has been the major achievement StartCredits has chalked since you commenced operation?
We have helped thousands of Nigerians to save millions of naira in interest rate so far and hope to save billions of naira in the coming years.
As much as people really need loans, Rahmon, what is your advice to stay out of debts?
My advice to Nigerians is to ensure you do not take out loans to fund lavish expenditures, loans should be used to finance good business plans. Also remember to budget for interest and other fees in any loans you do take, to stay out of debt. For more technical advice on debt management visit our website on http://startcredits.com
One of the notable features of your company is the stress on Data Science, how relevant is it?
Data science is at the heart of what we do at StartCredits. We utilise big data analytics to build innovative credits risk models, which help facilitate affordable lending to underserved qualified borrowers.
What great challenge are you facing in running your startup?
It’s pretty much to do with the adoption of the technology. Technology in general is all about finding the best ways to do things. In certain industries it’s easier to have the incumbents accept that, whereas in finance, people have become entrenched in how they do things. It’s highly profitable, so there’s more resistance to changing a winning formula. Finance is highly resistant to change, but people are slowly starting to adapt as you’re seeing with Blockchain technology, which I think has the potential to revolutionize the finance industry. The banks are slowly coming around, but are still highly resistant to change given the nature of the business. In Nigeria, it’s mostly trying to get the people to use the technology. People are highly suspicious of new technologies, so it’s a bit of a challenge
How do you foresee this industry going into the future?
The lending market in Nigeria will be one driven primarily by digital lending in the future, as it is more efficient. I also feel we will continue the cultural tradition of thrift lending (Ajo, Esusu), as it fosters community cohesion.
Tell us which African entrepreneurs inspire you and why.
I think all African entrepreneurs that have built successful business in the face of significant challenges deserve commendation. Saying that I find Ola Orekunrin’s work saving lives with flying doctors to be truly inspiring to all Nigerians and especially young girls. She is a role model who shows them if they study and work hard they can have a significant impact on the lives of many in Nigeria.
What financial advice can you share with fellow startup founders and aspiring entrepreneurs across Africa?
My advice to entrepreneurs across Africa is to make sure that everything you’re doing is simultaneously helping you achieve your goals and make profits as well. Don’t leverage too much and try not to grow too fast. Also, make sure that what you’re doing is what people want. The whole point of doing business is addressing the needs of society. So make sure you do your extensive research, go out and meet people to listen to what they’re saying, and make sure you have the right skill set to execute your plan. Once all of that is in place, you’re good to go.
Thank you, Rahmon!
To find out more about loan rates and the company, kindly visit startcredits.com.
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