Meet Kwara

Introducing Cynthia Wandia, CEO of Kwara — a young Berlin and Nairobi based fintech on a mission to bring modern banking services to millions of under-banked people in emerging markets.

Cynthia Wandia, like her startup Kwara, is fast building an impressive track record. After graduating in electrical engineering from Yale and spending 4 years at one of the world’s largest energy utilities, she co founded her first company, specialised in advising energy providers on the relocation of power plants.

Although her advisory business thrived, she was increasingly drawn to the idea of creating a product-based solution. So after three years, she joined forces with a venture builder to investigate why small scale coffee farmers earned so little for all their hard work — a problem close to her heart as her grandmother was a small scale coffee farmer in Kenya.

Whilst researching the question, credit unions or savings cooperatives continually cropped up as being the first line of defense for coffee farmers — and indeed for a great many other people in emerging economies. Although credit unions were the most consistently successful provider of financial services in areas where traditional banks were less present, they seemed to have been left behind by the technology revolution.

She decided that, with the right approach and tech, this was a problem that could be fixed. So, with the help of her now cofounder, David Hwan, she launched Kwara.

Introducing Kwara

Kwara is bringing personnalised banking services to millions of under-banked by building a next generation neobank for emerging markets.

A large percentage of people in emerging markets today rely on credit unions, or savings cooperatives (Saccos) to finance both businesses and personal projects. These are user-owned financial institutions offering both savings and credit services to their members. They vary in size with member numbers ranging anywhere from several hundred to several million. There are estimated to be as many as 90,000 credit unions in 118 countries worldwide that serve nearly 400 million people.

Although widely established, credit unions rely mostly on outdated back office systems and manual processes — which are prone to fraud — to store data and handle financing requests.

Kwara isn’t looking to replace the credit unions but rather to update and supercharge them with a Banking-as-a-Service platform that upgrades and improves their back office operations.

And that’s not all, adopting credit union account holders get access to Kwara’s consumer app and therefore a whole array of digital banking services: direct deposits into credit union accounts, instant loan application and repayments and the ability to track finances and payments, quickly and seamlessly.

On a wider scale, Kwara is also helping to build a complete open banking infrastructure with an open API that allows credit unions to integrate with payment gateways, banks and third party vendors, therefore enabling a full marketplace.

Why Kwara ?

Breega co-Founding partner, Ben Marrel, met Cynthia and David whilst meeting with the very first cohort of European founders to be accepted into @Softbank’s European #Emerge program whose aim is to encourage diversity and inclusion. As one of five European VCs supporting the program, Breega gets to meet, exchange and invest in promising startups who don’t necessarily benefit from the same networks and privileges as many of today’s tech founders.

Ben was impressed by Kwara’s business model, track record and market potential. Having previously been backed by investors such as Kepple and Finparx, and supported by accelerators such as Norrsken Impact Accelerator, Google for Startups and Mastercard Start Path, Kwara had been able to develop their platform and finance a Nairobi-based office employing 40 people. When Ben met the founders, Kwara had already been adopted by 50 credit unions, had over 60 thousand end-clients, and was enjoying a 40% month-on-month growth rate.

Why Breega?

Rapid growth however requires resources and Cynthia and David were in search of the right partners for their next leap from Seed to Series A. Having already met with several potential investors, the pair were impressed by Breega’s knowledge of the fintech space and Ben’s experience of founding an African fintech (SME rating platform, Fifty four). They were also drawn to Breega’s hands-on entrepreneurial DNA and the team’s approach to working with and boosting early stage founders.

The fit being mutual, Breega agreed to invest and led Kwara’s 4 million dollar seed round in December of last year, alongside SoftBank and other world-class investors.

What’s next?

Since then, Kwara’s rapid growth has continued, now serving 72 credit unions and over 90,000 end-clients. Kwara has successfully launched in Kenya, South Africa and the Philippines and is aiming to build a global network that, by 2030, should serve hundreds of millions of people. Kwara CEO, Cynthia Wandia, says:

We are absolutely thrilled to see the excitement and enthusiasm among credit unions and their members, which is fast becoming synonymous with a superior user experience and the future of banking. Thanks to Breega and all of our investors, we will now be able to offer an end-client experience that is 100 times better than what they previously had access to. Cynthia Wandia

That looks like progress to us and we’re looking forward to supporting them on their journey as Kwara’s brings modern banking services to the millions of underserved, helping people, business owners — and small coffee farmers to boot — to thrive.

Kwara is bringing personnalised banking services to millions of under-banked by building a next generation neobank for emerging markets.

A large percentage of people in emerging markets today rely on credit unions, or savings cooperatives (Saccos) to finance both businesses and personal projects. These are user-owned financial institutions offering both savings and credit services to their members. They vary in size with member numbers ranging anywhere from several hundred to several million. There are estimated to be as many as 90,000 credit unions in 118 countries worldwide that serve nearly 400 million people.

Although widely established, credit unions rely mostly on outdated back office systems and manual processes — which are prone to fraud — to store data and handle financing requests.

Kwara isn’t looking to replace the credit unions but rather to update and supercharge them with a Banking-as-a-Service platform that upgrades and improves their back office operations.

And that’s not all, adopting credit union account holders get access to Kwara’s consumer app and therefore a whole array of digital banking services: direct deposits into credit union accounts, instant loan application and repayments and the ability to track finances and payments, quickly and seamlessly.

On a wider scale, Kwara is also helping to build a complete open banking infrastructure with an open API that allows credit unions to integrate with payment gateways, banks and third party vendors, therefore enabling a full marketplace.

Why Kwara ?

Breega co-Founding partner, Ben Marrel, met Cynthia and David whilst meeting with the very first cohort of European founders to be accepted into @Softbank’s European #Emerge program whose aim is to encourage diversity and inclusion. As one of five European VCs supporting the program, Breega gets to meet, exchange and invest in promising startups who don’t necessarily benefit from the same networks and privileges as many of today’s tech founders.

Ben was impressed by Kwara’s business model, track record and market potential. Having previously been backed by investors such as Kepple and Finparx, and supported by accelerators such as Norrsken Impact Accelerator, Google for Startups and Mastercard Start Path, Kwara had been able to develop their platform and finance a Nairobi-based office employing 40 people. When Ben met the founders, Kwara had already been adopted by 50 credit unions, had over 60 thousand end-clients, and was enjoying a 40% month-on-month growth rate.

Why Breega?

Rapid growth however requires resources and Cynthia and David were in search of the right partners for their next leap from Seed to Series A. Having already met with several potential investors, the pair were impressed by Breega’s knowledge of the fintech space and Ben’s experience of founding an African fintech (SME rating platform, Fifty four). They were also drawn to Breega’s hands-on entrepreneurial DNA and the team’s approach to working with and boosting early stage founders.

The fit being mutual, Breega agreed to invest and led Kwara’s 4 million dollar seed round in December of last year, alongside SoftBank and other world-class investors.

What’s next?

Since then, Kwara’s rapid growth has continued, now serving 72 credit unions and over 90,000 end-clients. Kwara has successfully launched in Kenya, South Africa and the Philippines and is aiming to build a global network that, by 2030, should serve hundreds of millions of people. Kwara CEO, Cynthia Wandia, says:

We are absolutely thrilled to see the excitement and enthusiasm among credit unions and their members, which is fast becoming synonymous with a superior user experience and the future of banking. Thanks to Breega and all of our investors, we will now be able to offer an end-client experience that is 100 times better than what they previously had access to. Cynthia Wandia

That looks like progress to us and we’re looking forward to supporting them on their journey as Kwara’s brings modern banking services to the millions of underserved, helping people, business owners — and small coffee farmers to boot — to thrive.

Originally published at https://www.breega.com on March 30, 2022.

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Breega is a European VC built by founders to propel high tech startups to global success.

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