At the end of the year 2017, Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency have been established as the technology fields with significant promise in Africa. The following years witnessed a massive rise of players and a surge in investments.
SureRemit was one of the early players to find a way to harness the technology for good. The company began using blockchain technology to reduce the cost of remittance to Africa.
SureRemit is a voucher-based international remittance platform powered by blockchain technology. The platform uses cryptocurrency tokens to generate digital vouchers that can be used to transfer money. And, it provided an affordable, non-cash alternative for sending money to family and friends at home.
SureRemit was solving a significant problem.
This was at a time when, according to World Bank data, about 250 million global migrants transferred $601 billion to their home countries. More than a third of that sum went to developing countries. $39 billion of that sum came to Sub-Saharan Africa, with Nigeria receiving about $20 billion.
Many Africans had to pay significant percentages to middlemen to facilitate the transactions. According to a report, senders to Sub Saharan Africa pay the most fees, about 10% for every $200.
SureRemit claimed to charge low fees on transactions (as little as 0%) unlike existing platforms such as Moneygram and Western Union that charged a global average of about 7.45%. According to the company, it bypasses the traditional banking system by connecting customers directly to local merchants, who pay a small commission fee on each transaction.
Part of the SureGroup
Suregroup is the parent company of SureGifts, SureRemit and SureCredit. The group started out in 2014 as SureGifts, a platform for gift cards. The company was founded by Olaoluwa Samuel-Biyi, Adeoye Ojo and Babafemi Lawal to provide retail voucher solutions for gifting/ loyalty, for remittances as well as offer credit.
The 3 co-founders were former employees at Jumia Nigeria. Adeoye Ojo was a Senior Marketing Analyst/ Business Intelligence (Marketing). Babafemi Lawal was the Head of Business Intelligence (Operations) while Olaoluwa Samuel-Biyi was Head of Business Intelligence (Production and Purchasing).
SureCredit is a voucher-styled credit financing platform specifically for employees of some companies in Africa actually. Somehow, it did not scale to become a widely accepted token as much as one would expect.
Though its tokens cannot be redeemed for cash, they can be used to confirm payment for things such as utility bills, student tuition and online consumer goods. One important approved merchant is Jumia, a popular online African merchant.
Growth, raises and expansion plans
In January 2018, SureRemit raised $7 million in Initial Coin Offering (ICO) to scale its remittance with participation from companies like Hashed, “South Korea’s largest cryptocurrency fund”. Technext recorded it as one of the top 10 raises by Nigerian startups in 2018.
Just one year and six months later, SureRemit announced its plan to expand its operations to the United States, Europe and Australia. Alongside the announcement, the company claimed that it had on-boarded some America-based merchants on its platform.
This, according to a tweet, included “BestBuy, Walmart, Adidas, Chipotle, and more.”
Similarly, it announced that people in countries across Europe- which include Finland, Belgium, Turkey, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Austria and Ireland– will now have access to its zero-fee remittance offerings.
All seems to be quiet now…
The expansion announcements in 2019 were the last major updates made by the company. This seems to be followed by some inactivity. The social media pages, for instance, have consistently shared post updates but there has been no major product, milestones or expansion announcements.
That seems too regular for a fintech company with a $7m funding.
Also, the founders’ public profiles indicate that they may be combining roles at different outfits at the same time in recent years and are not likely focused on building the company full time any longer.
For example, Olaoluwa Samuel-Biyi‘s profile on LinkedIn indicates that he is Principal, ventures at Blockchain.com, a London based company that provides crypto wallets and provides an API that enables companies to build on Bitcoin. He has also been a curator at Cryptoeconomics.com for about 5 months now. He is still a director at SureGroup, for over 7 years now.
Co-founder and Director Of Sales Operations, Adeoye Ojo is now a partner at Hashed (alongside Olaoluwa), the company that reportedly led the $7m investment round in 2018. He has been for well over 3 years now.
Hashed Capital is said to have invested in similar startups and digital assets. These include wallet.ng and crowdforce.io, virtual asset exchange, Busha.co, and LifeHack Foundation, an organization that provides human capital support to the underprivileged.
Adeoye is also a full-time director at Busha, one of Hashed’s investees. Busha is said to have the mission to connect Africa to the new digital economy using blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Busha has been around for over 2 years but it is relatively unknown in the crypto space. He is still a director at SureGroup too.
Babafemi Lawal is still a full director, going by his profile. Omolara Awoyemi, a Jumia alumni was the CEO of the group until 2019. She later moved to Facebook and eventually founded Bumpa. The identity of the present CEO is uncertain though.
SureRemit arrived at the scene just when the crypto space was going to enjoy a significant leap in Africa. 4 years down the line, the startup isn’t among the leading players in the space anymore, despite a significant early raise.
This raises a lot of questions, questions which only the team at SureGroup can explain. And, we hope they do.
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