Banking platforms as a service (BaaS) have grown rapidly across the fintech world over the past 18 months. By partnering with banks, the platform enables entities, from startups and fintechs to large corporations and banks, to provide tailored banking services and experiences to their customers.
Fintechs offering BaaS services in the US and Europe, such as Unit, Rapyd and Treasury Prime, have achieved significant scale due to the developed banking systems they enjoy in their markets. However, their counterparts are trying to replicate this growth in less developed banking systems like Africa, where the demand and scalability of the product is unproven.
In the latest development, Maplerad, the fintech described by its founder The miracle of Anyanwu and Obinna Chukwujioke as a global BaaS player targeting Africa, has raised $6 million in seed funding. According to sources, US-based Maplerad, which exited quietly, raised the round at a $30 million valuation. The founder declined to comment.
Maplerad’s journey as a company can be traced back to 2020, when the founders launched their first product, Wirepay. The app started by helping users make international payments by offering cross-border payment solutions in fiat and cryptocurrencies. However, it has moved on to a self-described all-in-one financial product that allows users to receive, hold and make payments in multiple currencies, create virtual and physical cards and pay bills.
Last year, Wirepay raised undisclosed pre-seed funding, including a $125,000 check from OnDeck. Golden Palm Investments Corporation, Greenhouse Capital, several Stash executives and Berrywood Capital were other investors in the round.
As Wirepay grew to more than 50,000 users, mainly in Nigeria, Anyanwu, on a call with TechCrunch, said businesses started asking about the internal infrastructure that powers the features on its consumer apps. “People want to use the infrastructure that powers Wirepay, our license protection and banking relationships,” said the CEO and CTO.
Anyanwu also mentioned that Maplerad (the parent company) always wants to change this infrastructure for other businesses. However, as external requests poured in, they finally arranged to launch the beta of Maplerad, an infra product that allows companies to embed powerful financial features such as accounts, payments, FX and cards into their products, this August.
“From day one, when we built Wirepay for our users, we knew the final step was infrastructure even though we didn’t start with the business infrastructure first. For anyone to build something related to finance, they have a lot of banking arrangements that they have to start with and before integrating features, they have to go through a lot of hurdles,” the chief executive said. “One of them is the banking relationship and compliance. The other is licensing. So Maplerad is solving the financial infrastructure problem for this business in Africa. We handle the whole stack and provide a best-in-class API to use that can get you launching a financial product in five minutes. So instead of a company spending 8 months and several million dollars to start building a fintech product, you can integrate with our API and go live.”
Banking-as-a-service platforms have become popular with companies trying to incorporate financial services into their offerings because large, incumbent banks have been relatively slow to bring their services up to speed with the pace of change in the world of technology and banking. Therefore, banking-as-a-service platforms see an opportunity to provide more personalized services and flexibility at a lower cost. The space is heating up — some of Maplerad’s competitors in Nigeria include Anchor, Bloc, YC-backed OnePipe and bigger fintechs like Flutterwave.
In an interview with TechCrunch this August, Anchor CEO Segun Adeyemi referenced the technical experience of his founding team, attention to security and scalability and the speed with which businesses can go live on his platform when asked about the startup’s advantages over others.
Asked the same question, Maplerad’s founder referred to the platform’s “broader range of banking relationships,” “unrivaled technology” and having “the best institutional investors/partners.” In line with this, James Fitzgerald, partner at Valar Ventures, speaking about the investment, said that since a large part of Africa’s population is still financially excluded despite the continent’s maturing economy, “there is a huge opportunity for Maplerad which is best-in-class banking. service solutions to provide businesses with the financial infrastructure to expand across Africa and globally quickly and seamlessly.”
The Peter Thiel-founded VC firm led Maplerad’s seed round, its third African investment after Horse and Yellow Card. Other investors in the round include Golden Palm Investments Corporation, Michael Vaughn (ex-COO, Venmo), Fintech Fund, Babs Ogundeyi (CEO, Kuda) Armyn Capital, Dunbar Capital, Strawhat Investment, Polymath Capital, Unpopular Ventures, Sean Mahsoul and MyAsiaVC . The founders said they also invested their money into the company.
While quietly, Maplerad processes millions of dollars every month for over 100 businesses acquired to its platform, including startups such as Pastel, Spleet, Bridgecard, Onboardly, Vella, Crowdforce, Dojah, GetEquity and several banks. It plans to use the investment to acquire more customers now that it is not in hiding, obtain additional licenses, build its team and strengthen its presence across Africa.