Your social reputation online could be the one thing that stands between you and access to credit
By Bade Adesemowo
I am currently CTO and Co-founder of Social Lender. I am a partner at Bincom ICT. I summarise what I do in One word “Best Use of Technology”. Yes. I know that is actually 4 words but it is one word to me … not just a phrase.
To be honest, I have always been in Tech. The industry “Fintech” as we know it now is really less than 10 years old. Before then, I was in Technology.
I started out doing some self-learning and freelancing right after secondary school and also in university. So I always knew I would be in Tech.
The interest in financial technology came a lot later. We did a lot of consulting for banks in my early career. This was the start.
For me, financial space has taken most of my time now because of Social Lender.
Technology has evolved so much that sub specialisation is now important.
Social Lender helps banks and financial institutions lend to people based on Social Reputation.
We found that there was a huge need in this space. There were so many people that lacked access to formal credit. We also figured out an innovative way to serve this market while bringing down the cost to lenders for lending in the segment.
Social Lender helps people borrow money from banks and other financial institutions guaranteed by their Social Reputation bringing these people (most times for the first time) to the formal credit system.
Social Lender solves the problems of prohibitive cost to serve the market, inadequate financial history, unreliable credit score and lack of collateral for these people that hitherto prevented our partner financial institutions to serve this market.
The main asset is the Social Reputation Score which is a new way of determining Trust. Beyond lending, the solution can be used anywhere we need to digitally determine Trust. We are exploring using it in Insurance next after Lending.
With Social Lender, we have had to bootstrap and grow organically until recently. Growing like this is super slow. Raising investment in the Nigerian environment has not been an easy feat.
We still haven’t cracked it. Between investors that expect a significant return within 1 year (higher than treasury bills) to investors that simply don’t understand the significance of our invention, we have seen all sorts.
This has been a significant struggle. We have been growing gradually though.
We have invested heavily in building a digital credit solution for the space so that no one else has to do it.
Our model also means we are a B2B2C play and not simply B2C. This meant we needed to sell to Banks. You know how Enterprise sales can be.
It took us several months to on-board a partner. Within those times when someone significant exits the client company, we often had to start the conversations from scratch. This was rather frustrating.
Let me leave it at those 2. There is no point rehashing all our regular Nigerian problems like staffing issues, infrastructure issues, corruption and being able to trust that the law will protect you.
Making a Difference
We are enabling people who normally would not have gotten access to formal credit from Banks. With our technology, people (some previously unbanked) can now request for cash and get it in their bank account within 5 minutes.
The technology is super useful because currently, over 50% of adult Africans lack access to formal credit. Focusing on Nigeria, we currently have a financial inclusion drive to move the needle on unbanked people to 80%. Our solution fits right into this agenda. We are helping SMEs grow.
Dear Young Nigerian
Think Big, Start Small, Grow Fast. It may sound like a cliche … But this is my advice.
First of all, the person should just start. A lot of times, we let a lack of capital limit us instead of letting it drive us to find other ways to test the idea or business model.
I am super glad now that our company did not have all the cash we needed at the start.
To be honest, we would have “burnt” the cash back then. We have adjusted our model severally since after testing at a small scale. This I believe is the best way.
Once you start depending on what it is, then sell the idea to family and friends. If you are unable to raise small capital from your immediate social network, you should really check yourself or the idea. I don’t expect you will get all you need.
You should, however, get enough to take the next logical step. Also, capital is not just the cash. Someone can give you a seat in their existing office… that reduces rental cost. Someone could give you their old furniture …
As long as the idea is not to build the next refinery … There should be a small way to start … My point is “just start!”
I Wish I Knew…
I wish I knew earlier that an overnight success can sometimes take years … that things will not always go as you planned … that the favour of God on what you do is important (some people call it luck) … that even with favour you must be super prepared when that door of opportunity opens.
Work Hard, Play Hard
I enjoy what I do so I am generally on my system catching up on technology. I watch random Youtube videos like “Have you wondered why Captain America could finally lift Thor’s hammer?” Ok. Seriously. I can’t commit to all those series with seasons on TV but I like a good sci-fi movie. I also hang out with friends.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.