What happened to Kudi.ai??

I was surfing on twitter some weeks ago when I stumbled on the tweet below:

I thought to respond directly there but then I figured a better approach will be to address @bigbrutha_’s question and share additional information with others who are curious about what we’ve been up to.

Kudi (https://kudi.ai) launched on 5th January 2017 to facilitate payments through messaging channels for Africans. True to that goal, Kudi helps our customers buy airtime, pay bills and send money to friends and family via messaging applications like Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Skype and Web chat.

To the question: “What happened to Kudi.ai that went to YC??” The simplest answer is ‘they are back from YC and they’re making progress’. To shed more light on that answer, I thought to share more information on what we’ve been up to and why we’re doing this.

Why we chose Messaging? Distribution. Nobody wants a new mobile app. I don’t wake up looking for the next mobile app to install. On the other hand, an average smartphone user has one or two messaging apps installed on their phones (including my mum and dad 😊). So why not layer payments on top of that?

We did just that and the big question was will Nigerians use it? Let’s take a look at the numbers:

We launched our service on 5th January, 2017 and we processed ₦998,830 (~$2774) throughout the month of January.

Fastforward 6months later — June, 2017 we processed ₦61,766,272 (~$172k).

So far in December, we’ve processed: ₦294,284,099 ($817k). These numbers are not particularly huge considering the biggest players in the space are probably doing multiples in a day. However, we realise some have been at it for years (some over a decade) and since our numbers are certainly growing, all we’re focussed on is doubling down on things that have worked for us so as to keep delighting our customers and pushing things up.

Kudi Transaction Volume by Month (Jan-Dec, 2017)

What have we learnt :

1. Payment is Omnichannel: payment happens everywhere; Web, Mobile, USSD, Online, Offline. To survive in payment in these climes, it is important to be accessible across as many channels as possible.

2. Monetize early: most of our services were free (without a service charge) from January to June. While offering a service for free can help acquire customers initially, charging paints a true picture of the people that are really keen on using the service. We gradually slapped fees on our transactions from June and by October we started charging for funds transfers as well. While we had a few customers that dropped off, this helped us identify our key users and honed our focus to serve them better.

3. Marketing doesn’t work: that’s a big and bold statement but let me clarify 😊. Marketing is expensive and it requires consistency to get something useful out of it. That consistency comes at a cost, typically a huge one for startups. We’ve experimented with a few channels; online and offline and we’ve not gotten much from it to justify the spend. We therefore stopped the spray and pray approach and focussed on ways to grow the numbers without the traditional marketing channels. This is why you’ve not seen Kudi on bill boards :). We took some cues from PG as well as seen in the quote below:

“In practice there is surprisingly little connection between how much a startup spends and how fast it grows. When a startup grows fast, it’s usually because the product hits a nerve, in the sense of hitting some big need straight on” — Paul Graham. http://www.paulgraham.com/aord.html

As a summary, the answer to the question “What happened to kudi.ai?” is that we are alive, thriving and making great progress in making consumer payments seamless for Africans. Thanks for checking on us @bigbrutha_. We look forward to an even more exciting year in 2018. You can say hi to Kudi here and you can drop us a mail through hello[at]kudi[dot]ai.

Cheers to 2018!