Finnish mobile payment startup IroFit has developed a platform for processing card payments in real-time even without an internet connection. With a recent $600,000 funding round the startup aims to improve the operations of small businesses in the emerging markets.
Despite only being founded in 2014, Finnish startup IroFit is set to launch a unique mobile payments processing platform targeted specifically at emerging markets. The platform allows small businesses to process card payments in real-time and manage their operations with a mobile phone. All they need is a free mobile app and an EMV-certified card reader.
What sets IroFit apart from other mobile payment providers is that the platform can be used in areas where there is poor or even no internet connection. Instead of relying on the magic of the internet, IroFit’s technology transmits encrypted transaction data via existing GSM channels.
－We are the first platform in the world to offer real-time mobile card payment processing without an internet connection, says IroFit Founder and CEO Omoniyi Olawale.
－ Our technology can be used anywhere where there is even the most basic GSM connection to make and receive calls. Basically it means we can expand the geographic coverage of card payments three to five times to what it is with traditional payment terminals.
First stop: Nigeria
It’s a value proposal that has raised the interest of investors. IroFit recently closed a seed round of $600,000, led by Nordic early-stage VC firm Inventure. Other participants were Solinor, a Finnish payment software developer, and Nigerian industry expert Rasheed Olaoluwa.
－It’s not only about the money we got, but the deep expertise our investors bring. Our investor from Nigeria has decades of experience in banking and financial services and has great networks in the market. On the other hand our Finnish investors are regional leaders in payments and venture capital, explains Olawale.
The investment will be used to finalise the development of the platform and to launch the service in Nigeria in early 2015. The first pilot tests in Nigeria will include 5,000 merchants. At the launch additional 95,000 devices will be rolled out to local merchants in cooperation with a major Nigerian financial institute.
Olawale describes Nigeria as the biggest market in Africa with over $200 billion worth of card transactions done annually.
In addition to payment processing, the mobile app will offer merchants business management tools like basic accounting, sales history and analytics, inventory management, payroll support, loyalty management and CRM.
Eyes open for talented developers
The idea for IroFit came to Olawale when he was visiting his native Nigeria a few years ago. Having lived in Finland for the past six years, he had become accustomed to being able to pay by card practically everywhere. However, in Nigeria he noticed that card payments weren’t accepted even in the biggest hospitals in the area and major reason for this was the lack of a reliable internet connection. While queuing for an ATM, Olawale not only grew frustrated but also started mapping out a solution.
－I’m a medical doctor by training, but I started doing lots of research on the topic and eventually convinced two engineers to start the company with me and build the solution, Olawale explains.
－Finland was a natural choice to locate the company: there is a lot of technical talent here for us to recruit for developing our platform and for ongoing R&D. Also Finland is internationally recognised for a high degree of trust and integrity, which makes it a great place to do business.
Currently IroFit has a team of four developers in its offices in Kuopio and Helsinki and is constantly looking for new talents. The company is hiring more developers for its R&D in Finland and is also planning to establish operations in Nigeria. If the launch goes well, the next step for the company will be expanding its service elsewhere in Africa as well as India, South-East Asia and Latin America.
IroFit is also considering opening up its payment APIs to enable other entrepreneurs and developers to benefit from the technology it has created.
－ We have built the whole platform from the ground up and are an ambitious company, but we can’t build all the possible products that could be integrated to our platform ourselves. This is an age where you don’t just keep things to yourself, but you use your product or software to help others to do what they want to do better, says Olawale.
－We are focusing on a huge market and our mission is to make life easier for people in those countries. For too long technology products that were developed for Western countries have just been imported into emerging markets. But the emerging markets represent the majority of the planet and they deserve products that have been designed for their specific needs.
Text: Eeva Haaramo
Article published in cooperation with Good News from Finland.