[Startup Interview] Babatunde Akin-Moses, CEO, Sycamore, Nigeria
Tell us about Sycamore
Sycamore is a peer to peer lending platform which connects lenders to borrowers. Our purpose is to ensure that individuals and businesses across the developing world are financially empowere to achieve their dreams. My role as the CEO of Sycamore, is to ensure that we fufill this purpose.
Who are your clients?
Our clients are primarily medium to small businesses, as well as individuals in paid employment.
What gives your business the competitive edge?
Loans are disbursed within 24 hours – corporate or individuals. Many people find it hard to believe but its true. There are other players who do same day disbursement but they mostly cater to salaried workers. Once the process is completed, even our corporate applicants get their funds within hours.
How has the market responded to your services? Why do you think that is so?
The market has responded extraordinarily well I most confess. We have disbursed loans well in the 9-figure region, and signed up hundreds of customers within just a few mosts of commencement. We believe that this is because of the our swift response time, and a loan application process that is entirely on-line. Customers who have experienced our service have described it as excellent and phenomenal.
What is Sycamore bringing to the financial services, specifically lending to small businesses that isn’t present at the moment?
Our process involves a psychometric and character evaluation assessment, which is embedded in our backend loan approval process. This means our considers behavioural analysis in making lending decisions – which is very rare in financial services. This differentiating factor makes our system robust and one of a kind in the lending space.
What is your contribution to the growth of small businesses in Nigeria?
We have provided hundreds of small businesses with access of capital. Some of these people have not been able to qualify for loans elsewhere. Our contribution to small businesses has therefore been to give them access that no one else has.
What do you consider the biggest threat to your business?
Our biggest threat is potentially government regulation. It is difficult to determine which way government policy will swing. A good example is the recent ban of motor cycle on major roads in Lagos Nigeria. Even though we are licensed, we still keep a close watch on the potential effect a drastic change in government policy could have on our business.
What in your opinion is the future of the financial sector in Nigeria and the region?
The financial sector in Africa will continue to change as we have seen over the past decade. Fundamentally, financial services will come to meet people where they are as opposed to the reverse. These include both online and offline channels. For online channels, mobile means of payments will continue to drive financial services: this inlcudes, mobile apps, web channels, USSD banking among others. For offline channels, there will be a rise in different forms of agency banking as institutions start to target more of the financially excluded.
What kind of collaborations do you expect and need for Sycamore to succeed?
We need the collaboration of investors (retail and institutional), and the government. Investors to keep the lending going on our platform, as the demand for borrowing is enormous, and far outstrips the demand. We also need the colloboration of government (regulators), to be carried alonf and involved in any major decision which may alter the landscape fundamentally.
Where do you want to take the company in 2020 and in the long term?
In 2020, we intend to play big in the financial inclusion space, and take credit to the very bottom of the pyramid – even much lower than those we currently serve. There are so many people who are almost digitally and financially invisible. We have designed some products to address specific niches in this market. We cannot disclose more than this for now so just watch this space.
Beyond 2020, we intend to start to take our services outside Nigeria, with emplasis on sub-saharan Africa.
What is the latest news from Sycamore?
Sycamore will be one year old in March 2020! We are super excited for the progress made so far. We will also be commemorating our launch with the unveiling of our new online platform, which will make it even easier for lenders to connect with credible borrowers.
Africa Business Communities is conducting a series of interviews with startup businesses in Africa.
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