Ham Serunjogi, a Ugandan from a relatively stable family, recalled the challenges his father had to go through to transfer money to him to pay for his swimming lessons fees. At the time, he had been selected to be part of the Ugandan Youth Olympic team and his father had to travel to South Africa to pay his swim coach in cash while they were training there, according to Forbes.
After high school in Uganda, Serunjogi moved to Iowa, United States, for his university education where he met Maijid Moujaled at Grinnell College, a Ghanaian computer science major who was running a popular coding group.
As their friendship evolved, the duo thought of ways to make sending money to Africa not only cheaper but easier as well. With $30,000 and Moujaled’s salary as a software engineer, they launched a test version of Chipper Cash in 2018 which allowed customers to send money from Uganda to Ghana for free.
The subsequent weeks after the launch of the test version of Chipper Cash saw them pitch their startup to more than 50 VC firms. In November 2018, 500 Startups agreed to invest $150,000.
By 2019, Chipper Cash was available in Uganda, Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda and soon expanded to Nigeria, a hotbed for tech startups in Africa.
In May 2019, Chipper Cash raised $2.4 million in seed funding in a round led by Deciens Capital. Seven months later, it raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Deciens Capital and Raptor Group. Between these two periods, its users increased from 70,000 to 600,000.
To generate revenue, the fintech introduced a foreign-exchange markup fee of 2% to 5%. It also allowed users to trade in bitcoins for a fee. In late 2021, the company reached a $2.2 billion valuation. In addition, the company saw its transactions grow from $200 million in the first quarter of 2021 to $1.6 billion 12 months later.
The startup currently has 5 million users on its platform and processes an average of 80,000 transactions daily, according to Techcrunch.
In 2020, San Francisco-based Chipper Cash raised $30 million in a Series B funding round led by Ribbit Capital, a U.S based VC firm that invests in early-stage startups.
One of the participants in the Series B funding round was Bezos Expeditions, the personal VC fund of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.
Co-founder Serunjogi said at the time that having the backing of Bezos has incredible benefits beyond the venture. “It’s a big deal when a world-class investor like Bezos or Ribbit goes out of their sweet spot to a new area where they previously haven’t done investments,” he said, according to Techcrunch.
“Ultimately, the winner of those things happening in the African tech ecosystem overall, as it will bring more investment from firms of that calibre to African startups.”