Months after raising $3 million, the Nigerian fintech PayDay is in talks and hopes to conclude a sale of the company soon.
Six months after raising $3 million in a seed round led by Moniepoint, the Nigerian fintech startup Payday is actively speaking to buyers. Favour Ori, the startup’s CEO, confirmed that PayDay is entertaining conversations with potential acquirers. “Active conversations are being had with people who reached out and expressed interest in buying,” Favour told TechCabal.
In March, one publication reported that Moniepoint was in discussions to buy Payday; a journalist at that publication said privately that the deal would be closed in three months. “Favour himself leaked the news,” One source close to the situation said. “Moniepoint had issued a letter of intent to acquire Payday, contingent upon specific performance benchmarks being met. It was a matter anticipated in the near future.” But by May, there had been no update about the deal.
A highly placed member of PayDay’s management said the company was open to being acquired before its seed round. Despite this openness to being bought, the Moniepoint deal did not go through, with one source claiming that Moniepoint’s board was not keen on the deal. One source at a VC with equity in Moniepoint claimed that they first heard about the potential acquisition of PayDay in the media. Despite Moniepoint pulling out of the deal, TechCabal confirmed that talks to sell the company are ongoing.
A wave of bad press may have complicated attempts to sell the company. In August, PayDay acknowledged that it suspended access to customer accounts after it noticed some customers had lost funds to fraudulent activities. While an employee familiar with the matter refused to disclose how much was lost, they admitted that PayDay temporarily disabled access to several accounts to recover funds stolen by people who exploited a loophole in Payday’s infrastructure that enabled currency arbitrage. “The company didn’t publicly acknowledge that it had restricted accounts until a prominent blog accused the company of misappropriating customer funds,” a source told TechCabal.
As the company pushed back on bad press, it also had to deal with internal issues.
A contentious salary adjustment at PayDay
Current and former employees said PayDay slashed salaries of some Nigerian staff in July—three months after the $3 million raise. “They told us that it was because the company wanted to be domiciled in Nigeria and was obligated to pay its resident employees in Naira,” a current employee said. While employees expected the Naira equivalent of their salaries to align with their dollar salaries, the actual amounts fell short, amounting to 30-50% reductions. The company said the cut was necessary to adjust the wages of employees in Nigeria to the regular pay for such roles in the country. A highly placed source claimed that less than 10 of the company’s 60 staff were affected and that PayDay planned to assign stock options to the employees as further compensation. PayDay employees told Techcabal that the stock options that were promised had not materialised.
The displeasure of employees was complicated by the fact that Favour, who shuttled between Rwanda and the U.S maintained his monthly salary of $15,000. “I went months without a salary before we raised it,” Favour said. “After we did, I earned $15,000, but that has been slashed to reduce the burn rate.”
Those salary reductions coincided with the exit of several employees, including co-founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Ogechi Obike. Obike’s exit note cited a misalignment of goals as the reason for her departure. Three current and former employees described meetings in which Obike and Favour argued. “During meetings, he provoked arguments, particularly when she proposed alternative approaches different from his own,” said a company insider. The same source claimed Obike was omitted from conference calls involving service providers, investors, and other stakeholders. A source at PayDay’s management denied these claims and said that Favour often had praise for Obike, and she left by mutual agreement.
Favour Ori’s shiny object syndrome
Sources say that many of Favour’s decisions often came out of the blues. “There were instances when we would wake up to discover upcoming features through Twitter, and even the product team had no prior knowledge of these developments,” one person said. “At times, he would suddenly take control of the company’s social media account to respond to customer complaints.” An employee insisted that Favour’s behaviour was typical of founders in the early stages and not necessarily odd or worrisome.
Several people said that Favour had a pattern of hiring top talent from renowned startups, primarily through social media. Once he had recruited them, he rarely allowed them to implement their own ideas instead of compelling them to conform to his directives, effectively stifling their ability to apply their expertise. A member of PayDay’s management who asked not to be named pushed back on some of these claims; ”The team is dealing with a lot, and everyone is stressed, the source said. “I don’t know that anyone left because they were dissatisfied.”
The impulsiveness of the company’s founder was sometimes costly. Some customers lost money while trying to create virtual cards, while others could not access their accounts. “All of this happened because Favour abruptly switched from our previous Mastercard provider to a new one, with minimal to no prior vetting. As soon as the switch happened, we were inundated with a wave of customer complaints,” said an employee to TechCabal. The company claims that it has refunded all the affected customers.
Lately, Favour has reduced his involvement in the company. “He is no longer as active as he once was on the company’s Slack channel, except for a few occasions when he drops messages in the engineering channel,” a source told TechCabal. A source also disclosed that while he is occupied with attempts to sell the company, Favour has worked full-time at GitHub. “Early in the year, during a team hangout, Favour showed us his Github work ID when introducing himself, implying that Payday was a side hustle.” Additionally, PayDay’s co-founder Elijah Kingson is employed at London-based fintech Revolut. Both co-founders declined to comment.
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