After previously starting and shutting two startups, Duke Ekezie, Kippa’s new president is ready to combine his extensive career experience with the lessons learned to lead the fintech startup into its promising future. Speaking to TechCabal, Duke Ekezie tells us why the timing is right for him to take on this new role at the company, what he and his team plan to do to keep Kippa on its current upward trajectory, and all about Kippa’s expansion plans and new products in the works.
Kippa, a leading fintech software solution, helps small businesses record and keep track of inventory and business dealings. With Kippa’s simple accounting solutions, business owners can send receipts and invoices, and keep track of transactions and collect payments.
Founded in February 2021 and launched in June of the same year, Kippa has been on a meteoric rise since its inception: raising $3.2 million in pre-seed funding in a little under a year, growing from a team of 10 to 60, and reporting almost 300k+ small business accounts on its platform.
Kippa was founded by Duke Ekezie, Kennedy Ekezie-Joseph (Duke’s brother), and Jephthah Uche. Kippa’s leadership team combines extensive finance background and experience with tech knowledge. With previous collaborative work experience, Kippa’s founding team has seen products rise and fall and are now taking all that they’ve learned to build one of Africa’s most needed fintech solutions.
Nigeria is home to over 39 million Medium and Small Scale Enterprises (MSME) making entrepreneurship and small businesses vital to the economy. A large population of these small businesses still keep records manually, which can be unreliable and unsafe for record-keeping.
When Duke and his co-founders set out to build Kippa, they realized that over 90% of small businesses in Nigeria still run their business—from finances, records, sales, expenses, and operations, to how they manage employees—manually. Kippa’s founders saw an opportunity in the market and took it, and the market has since responded favorably.
“We looked at other markets and we discovered that there are some solutions that try to solve this problem for business owners and provide them with the ability to manage their finances and business operations generally, but the larger problem we were seeing was the presence of a credibility gap. Because you don’t have a directory where your business finances are domicile, it is almost impossible for you to approach a financial institution like the World bank, IFC, or CBN, and request for loans or working capital.”
Duke said, adding that “The major reason why a lot of businesses fail is not just the absence of proper records or the absence of proper management but it’s also a problem of capital to move forward. It was a multifarious problem we were seeing and we decided to build a simple platform that solves that.”
By starting with the initial problem, Kippa found product-market fit as evidenced from both the user’s point of view and adoption and also from a fundraising perspective. This product-market fit is what Duke thinks makes Kippa stand out this time from his other previous startups.
“In our previous startups we were not able to find the market fit and it was very glaring. If the market doesn’t need what you’re building or if you know the market needs it but you don’t see it scaling beyond the plans that you have, you simply have to pivot. The difference between these two companies and Kippa right now is we’ve had success with users and of course a lot more money in the bank.”
Kippa’s recent funding provides them with new expansion opportunities, both internally and externally. In a bid to run smoother business operations and help Kippa transition into its next phase, Duke has been appointed as President of Kippa. As President, Duke will take full ownership of Kippa’s internal operations including the marketing, product, finance, operations, and HR teams.
Serving previously as COO in charge of growth and business development, Duke has hands-on business development experience and is the mastermind of an operation. He had a short stint working at KPMG and at Citibank and also an internship at TikTok, alongside his brother and current Kippa CEO, Kennedy Ekezie-Joseph, where they were amongst the first three Africans to work with TikTok on their expansion into Africa. Duke also worked as a development expert at Y Combinator-backed startup, Releaf.
According to Duke, Kippa’s progress so far is rooted in its ability to move very quickly and not be hindered by any external factors. In just about 4 months since the recent funding Kippa has experienced user growth and been able to show investors, advisors, and employees their ability to solve problems on the go.
“What we’re simply turning into now is a broader payment and financial landscape for business owners. We’re trying to own the money button for businesses in Africa. So whenever business owners think of payment; receiving or sending money, credit and loans, budgeting and saving for business, whatever transactions they perform informally, we want to mimic that and bring them into the digital landscape.”
Kippa hopes to help businesses access credit and debt financing options, and become the go-to fintech solution for transactions in Africa.
The most important lesson Duke has learned from running 3 startups is not to glorify solutions at the expense of other accomplishments. Noting that tech founders are always looking to disrupt industries by creating solutions they think will be needed in the market, Duke thinks focusing on the problem is a more effective approach. Some essential problems he thinks potential startup founders should focus on include the day-to-day business dealings from basic things like rent for office spaces, and water, to what potential users need to access a startup’s products, instead of just a quick run into building solutions.
Looking ahead, Duke predicts private markets are going to get shaken up in the near future as more startups are launched in Africa and valuations get even higher.
“I feel very strongly that private markets are going to get bloody within the next 6 months to a year and it’ll be interesting to see,” he said. He added that last year saw “a lot of startups and private market activity, but this year with a lot of companies going public and a lot of them bringing down their valuation 50x less, which begs the question of whether startups are getting overvalued and are we looking at the fundamentals of companies before we invest. It’s a question we started overlooking, but I think investors are now beginning to pay more attention. So a lot of startups and business owners will have to start paying attention to the fundamentals.”