Sparkle launched in the fourth quarter of 2019 by offering a personal account that lets individuals save, manage personal finances and send payment requests with one link.
In the period since, the startup claims to have more than 20,000 customers and processed $16m in transactions. Now, they are taking their journey a step further with small and medium scale businesses in Nigeria, by offering a suite of digital payments and business management services.
Uzoma Dozie, the founder and CEO, says the plan for the new product is to provide “a one stop shop, to help individuals to launch their businesses digitally, while meeting existing SMEs’ pain points, and allowing them to pivot to the next level of success.”
“We have been afforded this opportunity due to our extensive research and access to data, which allows us to know what exactly SMEs are looking for. We are truly excited about the initial results from the beta test and are looking forward to impactful results for small businesses in the near future.”
Sparkle for business will have four main components, according to the company; inventory and invoice management; payment gateway service; tax advisory; payroll and employee management.
Taken together, the new rollout is designed for small business owners who are familiar with digital platforms. The pitch is to help such entrepreneurs control payment requests, manage single and bulk payments, track business performance, calculate tax filings and administer employee benefits.
Sparkle users will find the services on the existing mobile app, though it is only for those who have registered businesses in Nigeria. New users are required to have a Tax Identification Number and an email address connected to the number.
The team at Sparkle love to emphasise that they are more than a digital bank or a mobile app. “We are not a bank, we are a tribe,” is the screaming slogan on their landing page. They hope to be at the intersection between individuals’ and small businesses’ finance and lifestyle aspirations.
In theory, that means relying heavily on data from the user’s behaviour and broader industry trends to recommend what might be suitable for each unique user. But as with other digital-only financial services solutions in Nigeria, Sparkle is still on a product-market fit journey and it is still unclear when any of the contenders will attain that height.
Dozie says Sparkle’s mission is to “allow individuals to be free,” a mission that is not unlike another Nigerian digital bank Kuda.
Dozie was the last CEO of Diamond Bank before it was bought by Access Bank almost exactly two years ago. The bank was known for experimenting with technological leaps in customer delivery. With Sparkle, the first-time startup founder’s agenda is to create a technology-first environment that challenges the banking status quo.
“We’re excited to roll out our new products and services, and to continue to grow an increasingly busy and entrepreneurial group of business owners who don’t want to accept that banking halls and physical paper trails are the only means of conducting business in Nigeria,” Dozie said.
After the business-focused product, Sparkle hopes to launch its full fledged banking-as-a-service platform soon, which they describe as their most important feature.