Nowhere is the importance of micro-SMEs clearer than in Western Africa where 50m of them line the streets and squares of Nigeria and Ghana alone. Two of the fastest growing nations in the world, these small businesses account for more than 70% of their GDP - a clear opportunity that Speedinvest could not let go!
Despite merchants and micro-SMEs forming the pillars on which these economies stand and even though phone penetration surpasses 70%, these businesses have been overwhelmingly ignored and neglected by mobile-based financial service providers. These points taken together mean that the market is not only extremely massive in volume, but also incredibly untapped.
Forget about sophisticated offerings like loans, payments or insurance; basic bookkeeping solutions are nowhere to be seen! Consequently, merchants are forced to finance their own versions of buy-now-pay-later solutions without any support. This restricts their options to serve their working capital needs, often forcing them to resort to expensive alternatives like payday loans. All the while, they’re still keeping track of their books with pen and paper. Clearly, there’s a better way.
The demand for solutions to address financial challenges in this market segment is apparent, a need that saw dramatic increase with the onset of the pandemic. Now West African micro- SMEs can rest assured, there is a solution that is tackling this problem head-on: Ozé!
Ozé helps capture, analyze and improve the performance of business owners in Ghana and Nigeria, while at the same time keeping their eyes on becoming a pan-African player. With their cutting edge and simple-to-use app, micro-SMEs are able to keep track of their records, receivables and payables, issue invoices and receipts, get paid by their customers, and even get access to credit. This holistic set of features ensures a massive competitive advantage for those using it. We were, therefore, not surprised when we found out about the tremendous traction that Ozé has already been able to achieve in such a short period of time: over 125,000 businesses!
The vision of Ozé on a macro-level, however, goes far beyond your traditional cashbook features. Becoming the only source of true data on the health of a business opens the door to an incredibly versatile product set and roadmap: catalog and inventory management, business insurance, online sales management for previously offline businesses, you name it! As the business helping these companies make the transition into the digital era, Ozé plays an important role in advising these businesses and influencing the choices they make going forward.
The opportunities for such a model are countless. And best of all, there are north stars that have paved the way in other markets. Companies such as Khatabook or Lommu (formerly BukuKas and where Speedinvest is a proud seed investor) have proven the model in India and Indonesia respectively. While their approach to the market and product features differ, the value proposition remains the same: enable small businesses to operate like large businesses by giving them the right tools at the right time.
Having partnered with the region’s biggest banks, such as Ecobank, fast growing SME banks, such as Suntrust, and fintechs like Kwaba, Ozé is able to provide its users with access to fair, collateral-free credit from traditional financial institutions, but with the seamless interface and usability of a social media platform, a critical first step towards real financial inclusion. With Ozé, getting access to credit at good rates is just a click away.
Behind all this sits a diverse and driven team led by serial entrepreneurs Meghan McCormick and Dave Emnett who complement each other perfectly with a combination of strong management skills and deep market understanding. It’s no surprise then that they have been able to attract an exceptional set of talented individuals coming from the region’s biggest tech success cases. When we got to meet the team, we immediately felt the passion and drive of the entire organization to create strong foundations for continued growth.
We are extremely excited to be part of Meghan’s and Dave’s journey to redefine and improve how micro-SMEs operate in Western Africa and can’t wait to see what they dream of next. If you’d like to join the team, you’re in luck. They’re hiring! All of us at Speedinvest are incredibly happy to be leading the round with Africinvest and backing Ozé for many years to come!