How to build high-growth, high-valuation startups like Flutterwave

How to build high-growth, high-valuation startups like Flutterwave

Flutterwave is now worth more than some of the biggest banks in Africa as it joins the exclusive league of billion-dollar tech companies after raising its latest series C funding round.

For anyone who might not know, Flutterwave is a payment company that started less than 5 years ago and has now successfully positioned its brand, tech stack, and resources as the single payment API to connect Africa to the rest of the world. Achieving a billion-dollar valuation in Africa is considered a rare feat. Before Flutterwave, only 3 other companies have achieved this valuation (Jumia, Fawry, and Interswitch). 

For founders looking to build high-growth, high-valuation businesses, here are 4 inspiring business lessons and frameworks to learn from Flutterwave.

1. Choose a problem that has a huge impact when solved.

Building a high-growth company is a combination of how big your target market is and how much revenue you can make per user.

Startup scale = Addressable market (market size) +  revenue potential per customer (margin). 

How does this apply to Flutterwave? 

Flutterwave leverages the combination of the big addressable market for payment in Africa with low and high margin revenues by providing key services to both consumers and enterprise customers like banks, telcos, and multinationals that contribute high revenue potentials.

And it is not just Flutterwave.

The opportunity in payment is huge. I know this firsthand as my previous Fintech employer competed with, worked with, and even became a potential acquisition target to some of the most notable players fixing Africa’s payment landscape (Paystack, DPO Group, Flutterwave, and Interswitch). As of today, all of them have announced significant raises and exits in recent years.

Here are some of their numbers:

  • DPO Group: the Kenya-based company was acquired for $288 million.
  • Interswitch: Sold 10% stake to VISA for $200m, worth $1billion.
  • Paystack:  Was bought by Stripe in a deal worth over $200million. 
  • OPAY: Already raised more than $170m through its parent company.

The lesson here is that to build a high-growth company, founders need to be very clear about the market opportunity: its size and average revenue per user (ARPA).

If your goal is to build a business generating at least $100million in revenue, then Christian Janz’s classic published here and updated here is worth your read.

Flutterwave team

2. Make things simple and modern.

Building a great startup is not only about building something new, but also, focusing on making existing things work better together. Flutterwave understood this secret and this sums up why YC invested in the company

“When you look at how payments work in the developing world, you start to realize that it’s a lot more complicated than in the US. There’s a huge number of different payment options and different reasons for people to use each. By making it easy for any merchant, no matter where they are located, to process all of the available payment options, Flutterwave is changing how money moves for an entire continent. That’s a huge idea, E has an incredible team to attack it.” – Aaron Harris, Partner at Y Combinator

 

According to this Quartz article, Flutterwave says it is doing the plumbing job

To put this in context, Flutterwave bundles together the checkout flows for multiple 3rd party payment providers and offers it in a single API for anyone to send or receive money in Africa and beyond.

What underlines this business model is the aggregation construct

Flutterwave created value by aggregating multiple payment options offered by other providers in Africa into a single API and removing the complexity around payments. By doing this “plumbing job”, it did not have to invest in costly infrastructure in the multiple markets it operates before it can create value. This is similar to how platforms like Google created value by aggregating content and making the web searchable. 

3. Build partnerships to accelerate growth. 

In business, you need to go fast and far to build a business that has scale. Partnership deals unlock big-ticket transactions which translate to more traction for you.

This tweet aptly sums it all up.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Here are some of Flutterwave partnerships deals: 

  • – With VISA, it built its consumer business (Barter) to 500,000 users.
  • – It launched channel partnership with MTN, Booking.com, Uber to access enterprise markets that brought significant deal flows
  • – It expanded globally by partnering with payment heavyweights (Alipay, WorldPay by FIS, and recently PayPal) to connect up to 2 billion users.
  • – As a back-office for enterprise businesses, it provided the transaction highways for banks, financial institutions for cross-border processing.

The lesson here is to go for the big deals.

You can’t build your business on the back of consumer growth alone. Building partnerships can take time and resources, that is why you need to be strategic with the type of partnership and the scale it brings to your business. 

Focus on deals that position you as a leader in your market and attract other players to you. 

4. Build Moats to create competitive advantages.

For you to grow and sustain your growth long term, you need to have a moat. A moat is a single (or multiple) competitive advantage that is hard to copy by competitor.

To put this in context, Flutterwave’s moat is its ecosystem of products and platforms. No other payment provider in Africa has this scale and moat. It’s not just a payment company: it is a payment platform powering new business models for others. It has a portfolio of products – consumer products, API, SaaS and enterprise solutions, multiple 3rd party integration (e.g Xero, intuit), and partnerships (Alipay, Paypal) that enable its customers to access global markets. 

All these capabilities are hard to copy and replicate at once.

As the business matures, you continue to build more moats to make it defensible (Flutterwave’s launch of Stores which is one of such double play strategies).  Here is a list of other helpful playbooks to build and sustain the moat for your business. 

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One thought on “How to build high-growth, high-valuation startups like Flutterwave

  1. Highly insightful material for potential billionaires. Thank you Sir. Please Prof Ndubuisi can you permit me to publish this writeup in the next issue of Lekki people magazine due out May 2nd? Our audience will find it very useful. All credits will be given to the institute.

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