Y Combinator’s Top-Earning African Startup Is A Bit Of A Surprise

By  |  June 29, 2023

Senegalese fintech unicorn Wave has been named in the 2023 Y Combinator Top Companies list by Revenue, a compilation of 50 current top revenue earners in the coveted YC portfolio.

Wave, the only African startup that made the list, is a Dakar-based company disrupting the mobile money mobile scene which notably became valued at over USD 1.7 B when it landed the largest-ever Series A for an African startup in 2021.

Its unique take on mobile money encapsulated by its widely popular service which took off by charging a flat fee of 1 percent on transfers—a radical shift from the traditionally expensive telco-based model—has pushed it to the top of the mobile money totem pole in Senegal while making significant strides in five other countries, amassing more than 10 million customers with its online-offline approach. 

Led by co-founders Drew Durbin and Lincoln Quirk who went all-in on the mobile money service after selling their remittance company Sendwave to WorldRemit, Wave has established itself and grown rapidly, since 2018, in the previously telco-dominated mobile money arena in Francophone Africa and also become the first non-bank and non-telco to secure an e-money license in the region, boosting its neobank ambitions as insiders have speculated.

While Wave has faced some turbulence which resulted in a layoff exercise at the startup last year and a possible valuation slash amid the global tech downturn, the startup would be looking to deepen its penetration.

Wave is also named in the earlier YC Top Companies List by Valuation released in February, the second-highest ranking African startup on the list (in 49th place), trailing only Flutterwave, a prominent IPO-chasing African fintech player which surprisingly didn’t make the latest list highlighting the top revenue earners in the portfolio of YC, considered the world’s top startup accelerator.

YC’s top revenue earners list comprises prominent names such as Coinbase, Zapier, and Stripe, showcasing a remarkable blend of industry leaders. Collectively, these companies boast a workforce exceeding 70,000 employees, with only 22 percent maintaining international offices beyond the borders of the United States. An impressive display of their success, these enterprises have collectively amassed a staggering USD 40 B in funding while generating revenue surpassing USD 50 B throughout 2022.

While Y Combinator refrains from disclosing specific revenue figures for individual startups, it affirms that each company included in the list has met a predetermined revenue threshold, further emphasizing their substantial achievements.

Y Combinator, known for backing notable hits like Airbnb and DoorDash, has recently stepped up investments in African startups. The accelerator now counts 86 African startups in its Startup Directory and its 2022 Winter Batch admitted 24 of those.

Despite having landed just one exit in Africa thus far, with the acquisition of Lagos-based fintech company Paystack by global payments giant Stripe in 2020, Y Combinator’s enthusiasm for identifying successful ventures in Africa’s thriving tech industry has only grown

This interest now extends beyond the traditional fintech scene, encompassing various other sectors. Moreover, the prospect of witnessing the first publicly-listed African startup backed by Y Combinator, with Flutterwave poised to achieve this milestone, generates a sense of optimism within the ecosystem.

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