What do Vint Cerf, Paylater and MuayThai have in common…?
….They were all at the recent Google LaunchPad Accelerator!!!
So we didn’t know what to expect when you mix 23 startups from the emerging markets and over 100 mentors from a cross section of the globe in one massive space. But 2 weeks is a long time away from work, so the bar was always going to be high. Especially as Paylater is all in on Google’s platform; we give loans via an android app and do a lot of customer acquisition via online advertising.
If I had been forced to to define what success would like, I would have said that it would be coming back with a CTO (we are hiring!!) and a truckload of Google’s AI secrets . Little did I know that the highlights of the 2 weeks would be far from technical and rather involve 1) Training with a world champion Muay-Thai fighter, 2) moved to tears at a mentors recanting his life story 3) becoming an ardent convert to ux research and design thinking.
What a ride!
It really is about the customer
We’ve all learnt about how we need to know about the customer, empathize with them, all that fluff; never been a fan of all that hug a tree or rabbit nonsense. But people, I am a new convert. It seems so obvious but the best way to picture my previous approach to our user’s on-boarding experience would be the following scene:
Paylater — How much do you need? Why?
Customer — I need N28,00 because my son has school fees ….
Paylater: (interrupts customer) — Oya take.
Customer — and if i don’t pay by next week…
Paylater: I said take na, why are you still talking!!!
I exaggerate for dramatic effect. But we haven’t done as much on studying the user experience and this is going to be a key focus over the next few months. Thanks to Hai Habot for bringing me home and framing our product as a means to reduce friction in our customers lives or ease some frustration. And thanks to madam (Aishetu Fatima Dozie) for the clearest depiction of how design thinking can be powerful in creating new and innovative products. Have desire. Have people. Watch this space.
We were treated to a lecture by Vint Cerf, one of the “fathers of the internet”. If I tell you I understood everything he said then you will know I am a pathological liar. But what was impressive was the vision that he and other internet pioneers mapped out in trying to predict what the future would look like. Even today, he is actively engaged in the setting up on an “interplanetary internet”. Are you kidding me?
We have a bold vision for how Paylater will evolve but have always been shy about sharing this, especially with investors, for fear of being regarded as unfocused. Or even new recruits in case they ask for more money!! But seriously we have always seen it as a platform. It began with loans, and now we have incorporated bill payments and funds transfer . The journey has just begun and we’ll be sharing more of our bold vision.
And, Vint, thanks for making Chijioke Dozie look a bit intelligent! Picture will look good in our pitchbook!
Open the door for others
Before I forget, I must thank all the organizers and mentors who gave of their time to make the Launchpad a success. But special thanks must go to Paul Kewene-Hite, an INSEAD Professor, for bringing me to tears (no he didn’t beat me up in a fight) and also introducing me to MuyThai, where I was trained by an ex-world champion. But back to the tears. Paul randomly walked up, introduced himself, and then shared a few stories about opportunity and random acts of kindness. There are some stories that can’t be shared — you had to be there and I am grateful to Paul for the lessons and the advice. Its been difficult over the years to articulate our mission at Paylater but Paul summed it up nicely — we are a for-profit company with a significant social spillover! If you want a simple version, it would be that we try and open the door for others or be that lucky break. Stories like that of Austin on Valentine’s day are what move us to do more. We are working tirelessly to bring down the cost of borrowing and if we can get long term debt capital (IFC are you hearing me?? Waiting for your call!) will do so immediately .
Till then we are focused on trying to help as many as we can to manage those unexpected financial shocks. Thanks again to Google for the opportunity — you didn’t give Emeka Mordi or Corne that Pixel they coveted but we are all still grateful. So many mentors gave us practical gems but it would be impractical (see what i just did there) to mention all their names but but we hail adamberk, Surbhi Vermani and Melina Mattos for keeping us in check.