With approximately 3.7 million users, PiggyVest is a platform that makes it easier for the average Nigerian to save and invest. According to COO and co-founder Odun Eweniyi, PiggyVest enables people to automate their savings so that they can achieve big ambitions such as buying a car, financing a goal to further study or start a business. Here, she talks about why she and her co-founders wanted to create a platform that democratizes saving and investing to better equip Nigeria’s younger generations for the future.
CIO Africa: What are some of the growth trends surrounding the investment and savings culture in Nigeria, and its understanding, especially among young people?
This year: Quite a bit of progress has been made in this area since we started PiggyVest six years ago. Nigeria and much of Africa have a savings rate of about 15%. This is really low. But given the proliferation of fintech companies opening up access to this space, we see that the savings rate has actually increased, especially among young people. For now, Nigerians should have around US$2,000 to take advantage of the most basic investment opportunities. But technology has largely democratized this by allowing people to invest with as little as 20 cents. This will allow more people to access and participate.
Who is your target audience?
I don’t think that digital innovations should be developed solely as solutions to the problems faced by unbanked people. There are groups of people who are considered ‘included’ but are not actually included because their level of digital literacy and access level are not where they should be. That’s why I think it’s important to sort this out for people who may seem to belong, but who don’t know or have as much as others. At the moment we focus on young people with smartphones. For us, this mobile population was the low-hanging fruit because they already have bank accounts and some financial knowledge. We can easily adapt and tailor our products to what they already use. And as smartphones get cheaper, the market is expanding, meaning more young people will have access to a device that allows them to save for their future.
Tell us about PiggyVest. How is it different from other fintechs out there?
When we started, there were 22 banks in Nigeria. So there was quite a bit of choice and yet young people kept their savings in wooden boxes under their beds. This showed us that while people may have access to financial services, they are not designed to meet their needs. There were different habits, behaviors and income classes that many of the existing banking products failed to address, so we created a product to fill this gap. PiggyVest is an automated micro-savings and micro-investment platform that allows users to automate savings for a specific purpose. We also have an investment market that makes investing easy so anyone can do it. PiggyVest allows users to save as much as they want, as often or infrequently as they want, be it every day, every week or every month. We just encourage them to start where they are and start with what they can. We offer quarterly free withdrawal days where users can withdraw money for free if needed. If a user wants to withdraw their funds earlier or outside these days, they will be charged a fee to discourage them from doing so.
Can you explain a little bit about how the technology works?
All technology is built in-house. We use payment processors such as Flutterwave and Paystack to facilitate bank account connections and payouts, but the rest of the systems are made by us. The backend contains a treasury management system. On top of that is a recurring payment system that allows us to instruct a certain amount of money to be debited from a user’s card on a certain date. This is actually a relatively new technology from Paystack that allows us to make recurring payments on a card. We provide users with virtual account numbers that allow them to interact with their PiggyVest wallet, just like they would interact with a normal bank account. As for other technologies, we use Metabase business intelligence and data visualization tools and Mixpanel’s analytics to better understand user behavior. And from a cloud solution perspective, we use AWS and Google Cloud.
Odun Eweniyi, COO and Co-Founder, PiggyVest
Let’s talk about the inclusion aspect of this technology. Why was it important to democratize financial services for younger generations?
I feel like I can empathize with our users because they are my generation. We are trying to solve a problem that my colleagues and I are facing. For me this is not a hypothetical problem. It’s a problem I’ve experienced first hand. Economies are better off if everyone can participate and do so sustainably. This is an overarching goal of ours: to bring people to a place where they have the freedom to make the right financial decisions so they can get what they want.
What motivated you to start this business as a woman running a tech start-up?
I think I’ve had an easier journey than most as I’ve known my two male co-founders for a long time and we’ve always moved as a unit. Very early on, we found an investor who has supported us for many years. That said, there is so much evidence showing that the journey you have to take to raise money is very hard on female founders. Every day we are confronted with depressing statistics about how little money is given to businesses started by women. And we also get more negative leading questions when we’re in a room with investors. I’ve learned to take this at my pace, move on, and just keep working toward my goal.
What stands out as some key lessons you’ve learned over the course of your career?
The journey to starting PiggyVest was not smooth. We had a number of projects and companies that failed before we started this. But we kept working and moving forward. We have put a lot of work into what we do. We are not a non-profit or impact company, but we have a sustainable business that aims to change lives. It’s about striking a balance between working to grow the business and having a positive impact on the lives of your users. Our goal is to become a one-stop shop for digital financial wellness and wealth management. This is where we’re going.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? Just start. Often people spend a lot of time preparing, wondering if they are ready and wondering if they can do better. But I don’t think you’ll grow or your product will ever be good if you don’t dive in. If you’re not ashamed of the first version you make, you’re not taking enough risks.