The payment landscape in Africa is still fragmented, with several payment operators providing different payment options to customers as well as businesses. Due to this fragmentation, payment failures are inevitable due to factors such as invalid cards, inactive accounts and high dispute rates.
One of the few startups working on payment orchestration to address this fragmentation is Revio from South Africa. Ruaan Botha, the co-founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that he started the fintech after learning how much time and manual effort businesses spend collecting payments across various providers and engaging customers on outstanding and failed payments.
“Digital payments are growing rapidly across Africa, projected to reach $146 billion in 2023, before taking into account almost $500 billion in mobile money transactions,” explained Botha. “However, there are unique market challenges and opportunities in how payments are made and collected on the continent. The most glaring is the immense fragmentation of the payments ecosystem, with more than 280 licensed payment service providers, 42 currencies and the unique consumer payment cultures that exist.”
The two-year-old startup assists companies in streamlining their order-to-cash lifecycles while handling issues brought on by employing various payment options via its APIs. In the latest development, the startup has raised $5.2 million in seed funding to strengthen its efforts in tackling these failed payments that cost digital businesses billions in recurring revenue yearly.
This is the second round of funding that Revio has received in the last 12 months. In November, it secured $1.1 million in pre-seed funding from investors, including Speedinvest, Ralicap and Everywhere VC. These investors wrote follow-on checks in the QED-led seed round, joined by growth-stage pan-African VC Partech.
The participation of QED and Partech, which are typically known for their growth-stage investments, in Revio’s seed round, according to co-founder and chief operating officer Nicole Dunn, is a testament to the relevance of its product (Partech Africa invests in Series A and B deals, and this is QED’s first seed check in an African startup after Moniepoint’s pre-Series C and Remedial Health’s Series A).
She remarked on a call with TechCrunch, “I think it’s a great signal for the ecosystem, not only for us but hopefully to the rest of the ecosystem. This should also encourage some of those investors that had committed to investing in Africa and started deploying before the downturn to follow the example that QED set by coming early into a seed round, even in this current market, especially in an African context.”
Orchestration reduces the cost, risk and complexity of payments
When a business operates in different countries and accepts various payment methods, using payment orchestration platforms becomes increasingly crucial. Just as Primer, Spreedly, and Zooz, via their APIs, handle this heavy lifting in the U.S. and Europe, Revio and similar upstarts, including Egypt-based MoneyHash, do the same for Africa.
Dunn stated on the call that Revio has developed an order-to-cash lifecycle or end-to-end payment value chain that merchants can use to collect revenue from their customers. Through its API, these merchants connect to more than 70 payment methods and service providers, giving them access to transaction routing, automated failover and retries, and real-time customer engagement workflows to increase payment success rates.
In addition, Revio recently unveiled a revenue recovery use case based on the realization that payment failure in Africa isn’t always due to technical difficulties; it might also be the consequence of insufficient funds or an abandoned authorization. To that end, the platform drives real-time action via channels like email, SMS, WhatsApp and push notifications to re-engage consumers in the checkout process and provide them with a more convenient payment method (cash or flexible payment plans). “It’s really around bridging the merchants’ need to connect with the consumer realities on the ground. And that’s been quite differentiated in the broader market context,” says Dunn.
Another reality is that payment orchestration platforms need broad coverage to serve businesses that transact across different markets to capture enough value for them. The Cape Town-based fintech says it has made strides in that regard, expanding its scope to encompass over 25 African markets.
Even though Revio has roughly 50 customers, less than half of them — enterprise and mid-market customers — are mostly responsible for this growth in coverage. Last year, Revio described its customers as large-scale enterprises to midmarket corporates and fast-growing scale-ups involved with recurring revenue businesses and high transactional volumes. However, due to learnings over the past year, Revio concentrates more on large-scale enterprises with complex payment requirements.
“We’re not actively going for a high volume of clients. We’re going for very high-value clients that have very complex payment needs. We’ve switched off things like product-led onboarding to being able to build and dominate in the enterprise sales,” the COO said. “These companies are typically in multiple markets but headquartered in Africa or recurring revenue businesses that are somewhat underserved and have unique risks and complexities around collecting payment tokenization and tackling high failure rates. They’re the ones that benefit from Revio’s services.”
These clients include four of Africa’s largest insurers and two of the continent’s largest telcos (Old Mutual, MTN’s aYo, Innovation Group and Standard Bank are examples).
According to Dunn, Revio, which has seen its revenue increase by 1,000% in the past year, also plans to target global retailers servicing the African market during its next development phase. She said the startup has begun interactions with a few of these merchants to understand better what it would take to service them effectively, mainly as it builds capabilities around cross-border reconciliation settlement. The newly injected capital will develop the company’s technological capabilities in this regard and expand its team by hiring talent within and outside the continent.
“We have a strong conviction that payments in Africa hasn’t been fully solved. Revio is building a platform that can unlock increased e-commerce and digital payment activity on the continent and help global and local merchants reach new customer segments,” said Gbenga Ajayi, partner and Africa lead at QED Investors. “We are excited to back the exceptional team that has proven they can execute even in tough market conditions and localize very strongly to win enterprise customers.”