The process of sending and receiving payments in a $1.5 trillion B2B payments market in sub-Saharan Africa is one where merchants commonly use manual invoices and inefficient processes that burden merchants and make them struggle with their businesses.
Duplo, a B2B payments startup that solves these issues by enabling African enterprises to collect payments from their clients and partners and make payments to their suppliers and vendors, has raised $4.3 million in seed funding. The news is coming just seven months after Duplo announced its $1.3 million pre-seed investment; in total, the YC-backed startup has received $5.6 million since Yele Oyekola and Tunde Akinnuwa launched it last September.
The Nigerian startup went live with FMCG distributors as its first set of customers this January. FMCG distributors can onboard retailers in their network on the Duplo platform, collect payments digitally and access real-time insights into business performance. Co-founder and CEO Yele Oyekola told TechCrunch over a call that this distributor-retailer channel has been a source of viral growth for the startup. “One distributor can cater to over 1,000 retailers and onboard them on Duplo. Those retailers can become Duplo customers as well. And then it becomes easier for us to digitize how payment moves between retailers and distributors,” he added.
FMCG distributors can also track and reconcile payments while automating payments to vendors, manufacturers and suppliers, with instant payments enabling them to transact in larger quantities.
Meanwhile, Duplo now serves finance teams of midsize and enterprise businesses not to be over-reliant on a particular market. For finance teams, the B2B payments startup automates invoice generation and processing, receiving and approving bills, collecting and disbursing funds, and completing account reconciliation. Beyond that, Duplo integrates directly with accounting and ERP platforms popular with Nigerian businesses such as SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, QuickBooks and Sage, so payment that goes through Duplo automatically syncs with these platforms in real time, saving the finance teams time and cost while reducing errors and fraud.
“When we think of payments in the continent or even Nigeria, for example, there’s a lot of focus on merchants collecting payments from the customers. And from the B2B angle, what startups help them with, is just collection and payout. Still, there’s a massive value in assisting them in tracking and reconciling payments in real-time, which is where we play a significant role.” Businesses can cut time spent on administrative tasks such as account reconciliation by up to 50% and reduce payment-related costs by up to 85%, according to Duplo.
While Duplo handles payments for B2B payments within Nigeria, it has recently received requests from some of its customers to facilitate payments to businesses out of the country over the last couple of months. As a result, the Nigerian startup surveyed 1,000 business owners across Kenya, South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria to better understand their wait times for receiving payments from business customers and partners globally. About 44% stated that they have to wait over 24 hours; 34% acknowledged that it takes up to a week, while 17% said they wait for a month and 3% noted 30 days as the minimum wait time.
Duplo said it currently facilitates payments from merchants in Nigeria to other regions like the U.S., U.K. and Europe; Oyekola said settlement time ranges from 24 to 48 hours. Such product upgrades have seen Duplo increase the number of businesses on its platform by 1,000% over the last three months, while total payment volume (TPV) processed in the past five months has grown by 4,200%, the company claims.
There’s room for more growth, Oyekola insists. While Duplo has a robust accounts receivable arm that allows businesses to collect money across cash invoices and virtual accounts, it needs to improve account deliverables where businesses can schedule payments, set invoices and generally enhance the platform across different use cases.
“We’re also trying to expand into new verticals,” the chief executive noted. “Initially, we started with the FMCG industry; now we’ve seen interest in the construction industry, telecoms, and these major mid-sized enterprise businesses, and set up the foundation to scale across the continent hopefully in the next nine to 12 months.”
The seed funding, raised to help the company launch new products and expand into new business verticals in Nigeria, included participation from investors such as Liquid2 Ventures, Soma Capital, Tribe Capital, Commerce Ventures, Basecamp Fund, and Y Combinator and existing investor Oui Capital.
“The Duplo team has built an incredible suite of products that improve how businesses make and receive payments from each other,” said Peter Oriaifo, principal at Oui Capital. The growth that the company has experienced since our initial pre-seed investment in 2021 has been nothing short of impressive. It is for this reason that we are excited to back Duplo once more.”