The names Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi may not ring a bell for most of us out there but chances are high that you have probably used the popular online payment platform they developed. Known as Paystack, Akinlade and Olubi have given many African businesses the tools to unlock their potentials as we go into the future. They have also placed their country as well as the entire continent on the global fintech map.
From just two employees in 2016, Paystack has grown into a giant of the fintech industry in Africa. It now boasts of over two dozen employees and processes payments that top ₦1 billion monthly. It is performance such as this that has made many companies scramble to buy the organization. They have now said yes to a $200 million offer from American payment company, Stripes, but it must be known that this is no sell-out situation as the duo of Akinlade and Olubi will remain on board to continue to pursue their mission of accelerating payments on the continent.
Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi are Both Alumni of Babcock University, Nigeria
Even though the world has some famous college dropouts who have gone on to succeed in various spheres of life, the fact remains that the importance of education can never be over-emphasized. Indeed for the duo of Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi, the education they received at various levels contributed to the incredible achievements that they have recorded now.
As per credible reports, Shola Akinlade was born in Lagos, South-West Nigeria, in the 80s. He completed his secondary school education at Gregory College Lagos before going on to study computer engineering at the foremost private university, Babcock. During his days at Babcock, Akinlade excelled in his studies and received his degree in 2006. While he was blazing through Babcock, future collaborator and partner, Ezra Olubi, was also doing something similar.
A native of Ibadan in Oyo State, South-West Nigeria; Olubi was born on the 12th of November 1986. He also obtained his secondary school education before going on to enroll at Babcock University to study computer science. While at Babcock, Olubi was an active programmer and participated in four annual software exhibitions. He also took part in the national science competition in his penultimate year of 2005 and was an active member of the school’s computer club. Given such enterprise, it was not surprising that at some point he would cross paths with fellow highflier, Akinlade, and they became acquaintances.
Our MCMs Ezra Olubi and Shola Akinlade have made Nigeria's name great again.
They are the founders of Paystack who which was recently acquired for over $200 million by Stripes
It's tagged as “the biggest startup acquisition to date to come out of Nigeria"
Well done👏 #mcm pic.twitter.com/a0RVuyuoTI
— Jekalo (@jekaloHQ) October 19, 2020
They Worked for Several Organisations Prior to Their Founding of Paystack
Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi both graduated from Babcock University in 2006 and subsequently proceeded on different paths as they sought to realize their dreams of achieving big things in life. For Olubi, he worked as a web and applications developer for companies such as North Ocean Logistics and Solutions Ltd and Softcom Imagio Ltd between 2006 and 2010. He then left and joined other organizations such as Delivery Science Inc. and Jobberman Ltd as their chief technical officer.
Whilst working for these organizations, one of Olubi’s most innovative works was the development of a unified payment system for eCommerce companies known as Eyowo.com. The project did not succeed as much as he would have liked but this disappointment would later become a blessing as it was the experience that made his future partner, Akinlade, bring him on board.
For Akinlade, prior to joining the fintech world, he initially worked as a management and database trainee for Heineken between 2006 and 2008. The job was one that many people longed for but the young man wanted to be able to create things rather than work up his way to some routine managerial position. He thus quit Heineken after two years and joined hands with a friend of his to found a software development company known as Klein Devort.
Klein Devort tasted a measurable degree of success and many banks flocked to Akinlade to help them with their software. It was in the course of doing this that he got the bright idea for an online payment platform.
.@shollsman co-founded @paystack, a start-up out of Lagos, Nigeria that was acquired by American financial services company @stripe for $200 million. 😲 😲
In 5 steps he tells us what it took to build a successful business.
📸🎥@Miriam_OD1 @GeorgieNdirangu pic.twitter.com/qb8bQKYjdE
— BBC News Africa (@BBCAfrica) January 4, 2021
Akinlade and Olubi Created Paystack To Solve Payment Challenges on the Continent
As earlier stated, it was Shola Akilande that first got the idea of developing an online payment platform and this idea came to him while working for some banks. In the course of his work, the young man discovered that several African businesses were still having challenges with their payment system. He figured that his world-class software skills could develop a helpful technology in that regard and so he swung into action. Akinlade didn’t go solo though as he recruited Olubi, who previously had experience developing a payment system. The duo got to work immediately and the result was an online payment system known as Paystack.
In the early days of business, the company had it tough and only operated with about two employees. Their prospects however brightened when they were accepted into the Y Combinator Silicon Valley program – a prestigious accelerator program that intensively trains and mentors start-ups. At the end of this, the program gives these start-ups seed money and also provide them with an opportunity to pitch their product to potential investors (known as Demo Day).
Paystack was Acquired by American Fintech Company, Stripe, for $200 Million in 2020
Paystack was the first Nigerian company ever to make it into the Y Combinator program when they joined in 2015, and they got seed money of $125,000 (₦32.5 million) to expand their growth. They also got an additional $1.3 million on Demo Day but even more important than the money, the feat gave them visibility and credibility. As such, they attracted a legion of customers while high net worth individuals and companies flocked to them in order to invest their money.
Paystack was able to raise about $8 million in their Series A funding in 2018 and the income generated helped them in growing further. Today, the company is a leading provider of online payment solutions. Thanks to their multi-channel options which enable merchants to accept payments from around the globe through credit card, debit card, and direct web transfer, Paystack boasts of hundreds of thousands of organizations as clients. Transaction volumes of up to ₦1 billion are also concluded on the platform monthly.
It was such feats that made one of Paystack’s early investors, Stripe, shell out $200 million for the company in 2020. The deal, the largest in Nigeria’s history, is seen as a watershed for the fintech sector in the country. Thankfully, the duo of Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi are not going anywhere anytime soon as they will still remain in charge and drive the push to take the company global. On a personal note, it is a coup for the young men as well as for the people who had the foresight to buy into the company at its early stage.
- Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi are the two Nigerian engineers behind the payment platform, Paystack.
- Paystack was acquired by the American company, Stripe, for $200 million in 2020.
- Prior to this feat, the duo had studied computer engineering at the foremost private university, Babcock University. They both graduated in 2006 and went on to work for several companies, building software and solving technical challenges.
- Akinlade and Olubi would get together in 2015 to work on an online payment platform known as Paystack. The platform made it into the prestigious Silicon Valley Y Combinator program and was able to raise funds for its growth.
- Paystack is now one of the largest online payment service providers in Nigeria and is also available in Ghana and South Africa.