Rich Tanksley used to be SimplePay’s COO , before he left to join Ringier Nigeria, publishers of Pulse.ng. But not before the startup called in the cavalry. Seedstars, the first and as of now only investors in the Nigerian payments startup are sending in three of their top brass from Geneva to take on senior management roles in the company, alongside its original Nigeria founder, Simeon Ononobi.
Pierre-Alain Masson, co-founder of Seedstars will be the Vice President Finance; Benjamin Benaim, also a co-founder at Seedstars is joining as Vice President Products; Luis Rodrigues, Seedstars’ CTO in charge of technology development across the investment company’s group.
Why is Seedstars throwing this much capacity at one startup in its whole portfolio? Replacing one person with three might seem like overkill in any usual circumstance. And these are not any random three people.
But then again, the circumstances are not quite usual. SimplePay is a mobile payments company that is going up against entrenched payments juggernauts, mostly Interswitch and PayPal. It will need all the brawn and cunning it can muster to stand a chance against the heavyweights. Even though it’s been rapidly signing up merchants like Nairabet, Hotels, Jovago and more to its platform, it will need an even more ingenious strategy to drive the adoption and scale it needs to achieve cruise altitude.
My theory is that:
1. Seedstars must be extra bullish on the opportunity in electronic payments opportunity, in spite of the competitive, technical and regulatory difficulties.
2. SimplePay has a special place in Seedstars’ investment portfolio. And it’s not a small portfolio. According to their website, Seedstars has active interests in 35 countries around the world
In addition to the three expats, Tomi Davies, one of the most visible (and connected) angel investors in Lagos, has joined SimplePay’s board and will be advising the startup.
Asides from his role in the angel community via the Lagos Angel Network (LAN) and the African Business Angels Network (ABAN), Tomi is notably involved in other successful ventures like Strika Entertainment, Sproxil and Slimtrader.
In the past, SimplePay has hinted that it is working towards a million dollar funding round. That raise could happen very soon, and possibly from local investors. Simeon tells me that Seedstars’ support has raised the profile of the startup, and piqued the interest of local financiers. Sometimes it takes foreign interest to inspire local action, it seems. We wait to see how that works out for SimplePay.