FINTECH WINTER

Chipper Cash Reportedly Cut Its Valuation By 70% Amid Failed Sale

By  |  August 17, 2023

Over the past 10 months, word of the struggles at Chipper Cash, a prominent fintech startup enabling money transfers among African consumers, have dotted the public domain in Africa’s tech landscape. New details revealed by Forbes, based on interviews with Chipper Cash’s Co-Founder/CEO Ham Serunjogi, past employees, and several persons with knowledge of the matter, capture how the fintech underwent a tumultuous period of layoffs and strategic shifts that highlight the challenges faced by many fintech companies in the rapidly evolving African market.

Struck by an upheaval brought on by headwinds, the fintech startup initiated a series of layoffs in 2022. The layoffs began gradually, impacting various teams and eventually leading to a 30 percent staff reduction. At its peak, Chipper Cash employed almost 450 people.

This shift came as a surprise given Chipper’s track record of aggressive expansion and robust financial performance. Founded in 2018, the company managed to gather five million registered users across seven African countries within a mere four years. Its services spanned low-cost money transfers, bill payments, stock investing, and crypto trading. The startup reported revenues of over USD 75 M in 2021 and projected figures between USD 100 M and USD 150 M for 2022.

However, the fintech sector experienced a sudden sea change. Escalating interest rates and a turbulent stock market reshaped investor priorities, prompting Chipper to recalibrate its strategies. Additionally, an upheaval in the crypto market exacerbated by the collapse of FTX, one of Chipper’s backers, brewed uncertainty.

Amid these challenges, Chipper engaged in acquisition talks with Zepz (formerly known as WorldRemit), a UK-based international money-transfer firm, which unfortunately faltered due to difficulties in sharing financial data. The proposed deal would have valued Chipper at between USD 250 M to USD 500 M, according to Forbes, a massive drop off from the USD 2.2 B valuation it drew less than two years ago. This implies that Chipper could be considered an erstwhile African tech unicorn.

As the storm gathered, Chipper took decisive steps to navigate through the turmoil. Its internal valuation was cut by 70 percent, and convertible debt was raised as a means to bolster its business. Simultaneously, layoffs were executed. The startup also reevaluated its marketing efforts, which led to a temporary dip in active users, but underscored the company’s commitment to profitability.

Chipper’s CEO, Serunjogi, who initially splurged on rapid growth, acknowledged the need for a shift in strategy to balance growth with fiscal responsibility. The company would go on to offer USD-denominated accounts to African users and is recommitting to its core market while dialling down international expansion efforts.

For the Ugandan tech entrepreneur at the helm, this period demanded a balancing act between managing the emotional toll of layoffs and steering the company towards more sustainable business interests. The change in the company’s core values saw the replacement of “lead with empathy” with “be customer-obsessed,” signalling a pivot towards a more results-driven culture.

Despite these trials, Serunjogi remains cautiously optimistic about the company’s trajectory. The tumultuous period is not uncommon within the dynamic fintech space, where the drive for growth must be balanced with the realities of financial sustainability. Chipper’s journey highlights the intricate dance that fintech startups must perform as they adapt to the evolving landscape.

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