Mono, an African startup that helps connect consumers’ bank accounts to financial applications, has raised a $15 million Series A round, the company confirmed to TechCrunch today.
The round, led by Tiger Global — the VC firm’s third major investment in Africa this year after Flutterwave and FairMoney — also had participation from new investors Target Global (an investor in neobank Kuda), General Catalyst, and SBI Investment.
New investors were joined by existing ones including Entree Capital, Lateral Capital, Golden Palm Investments, Acuity VC, and Ingressive Capital, bringing Mono’s total raise to a little over $17.5 million since launching last year.
More than half of the population is either unbanked or underbanked. Open finance players in Africa like Mono — mirroring Plaid’s success in the U.S. market to theirs — thrives on the notion that access to a financial ecosystem via open APIs will improve access to financial information and lower entry costs for the underbanked.
With the likes of Okra, Plaid, Stitch and OnePipe also streamlining various financial data in single APIs, the battle to provide customers’ financial information to companies and third-party developers is heating up nicely, hence the need to ship more innovative products down the line.
In Mono’s case, two products give it an edge, according to CEO Abdulhamid Hassan. First, DirectPay, a product that helps Nigerian businesses to collect bank transfer payments from customers within their web or mobile app without using their debit cards. Think of what Flutterwave and Paystack have done with cards; Mono wants to do with bank accounts.
Next, Statement Pages allows businesses to access customers’ financial accounts without needing a developer; Hassan calls it the first of its kind in Africa.
But even with these additional features tailored to a Nigerian audience, Mono is going after other markets like Ghana and Kenya, first mentioned by the CEO in May.
Mono has delivered on only Ghana, for now, piloting with a few banks and fintechs such as Oze and Tranzo. Kenya, on the other hand, is still within its radar as one out of three countries (including Egypt and South Africa) Mono plans to expand into next year.
Hassan adds that Mono might complete the move to South Africa via a partnership with Absa bank this year.
When open finance startups in Africa began to gain some attention last year, the consensus was that each company could do significant business in the big individual markets they had first launched with. But it doesn’t seem that way anymore as Mono, Stitch, Pngme and Okra now operate in other African markets.
“I feel like Nigeria is capped in terms of how many businesses we can target,” said Hassan, who co-founded Mono with Prakhar Singh, over a call.
By the end of next year, Mono will be present in five African countries, a move that slightly suggests that the company might be spreading itself too thin.
Questioned whether investor pressure or competition was fuelling the need for Mono to expand quickly, Hassan reckoned that the company made such decisions solely because of its customers.
“Everything that we do at Mono is mostly customer-driven. Customers who want to launch lending or fintech apps in these countries say they can’t do so unless Mono is there,” he said. “Based on how we’ve built our relationship and the kind of products we’ve built in Nigeria, people rely on us and say when we go to a country, they would also want to launch there.”
There’s also a vertical expansion play for the company as it looks to offer enterprise solutions to FMCGs, law firms — non-tech and traditional industries with the capability to command more transaction volume.