Many businesses looking to set up pan-African operations are often met with the challenge of establishing payment services that are appropriate for each country they go to. Most of the payment services merchants working in the continent have solutions that are limited to specific regions, meaning that businesses have to sign deals with multiple providers to cater for the unique preferences of their users in different countries. This is a gap that Talk360 is looking to bridge as it creates a new payment platform that will integrate all available payment options across Africa. This product, it says, will open up businesses to the largest pool of localized payment options in Africa.
Meanwhile, the startup is also looking to expand its international calling operations across Africa after closing a $4 million seed funding round, led by HAVAÍC. The 4Di Capital and a number of angel investors that include Gaston Aussems (ex-Mollie), Robert Kraal (ex-Adyen), Gabriel de Montessuss (President WorldPay International) and Marnix van der Ploeg (ex-Booking.com and EQT), also participated in the round.
While saying that the calling business will continue to grow in Africa, Talk360 co-founder and managing director for Africa Dean Hiine told TechCrunch he anticipates great growth for its payment platform, which he says will also make it easy for international merchants to sell to users in Africa too. He added that the startup decided to build its own payment platform informed by the need to make payment and checkout easy for its users in Africa.
Currently, the startup works through integrations with older payment service providers, which are majorly limited by region-specificity. Hiine says his new platform will bring all the “scattered payment methods” across Africa on a common platform, which he believes will positively impact Talk360’s bottom line, and that of other merchants that will use its platform.
Talk360, a leading Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) player in Africa, enables people to make international calls through its app for a fee, and it is built in such a way that only the initiator needs the app and internet – a smartphone– to make calls.
“In our calling business we identified some unique problems around digital payment in Africa. The payment methods are scattered and payment processes are lengthy…And we could see that this problem had a serious impact on our bottom line in terms of conversion rate we were seeing in Africa…It is a problem we experienced and we are trying to solve for other merchants with a presence in the continent too by making the process fast and easy,” said Hiine.
“We are building the platform to actually increase our conversion rate by giving the user experience one single checkout, and to some level, offer predictive analysis– to tell the preferred methods of payment for that region and offer them as top options for the user,” said Hiine, also Brooklyn Ventures Africa co-founder, a vc firm that has invested in startups in technology, media, and oil and gas sectors.
The Talk360 calling app connected 2 million people last year and has paying users in 170 countries so far, and this number is set to grow as the startup begins ramping up its marketing efforts and expansion plans, which include setting up a hub in Kenya.
Talk360 was co-founded by Hiine, Hans Osnabrugge, and Jorne Schamp in 2016 as a traveling app (used to avoid roaming charges). However, the co-founders were forced to rethink their strategy after social media apps like WhatsApp introduced internet calls.
They rebuilt to accommodate the digitally-marginalized individuals by removing the requirement for the person at the end of the call to have an internet connection or the app.
Talk360’s partnerships with agents like PesaPoint in Kenya and Flash in South Africa, also enables users to purchase airtime vouchers from a network of over 750,000 physical points of sale.
South Africa, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are some of the markets where the calling app is widely used.