CIO Connects: Inspiring leaders for the year
Entrepreneur Ousmane Conde, who is headquartered in California, founded a financial technology company to help 360M unbanked people in West Africa escape poverty. The world of the unbanked will never be the same again because of his company. Ousmane is a trailblazer in the truest meaning of the word. He is a visionary who sits at the nexus of intellect and intuition.
A JOURNEY LIKE NO OTHER
Born and brought up in West Africa, Ousmane was raised by a single mother. He self-funded his education since high school, all while supporting his family. Growing up in a country in turmoil and despair, Ousmane had a dream to become more than what was the norm without allowing the unfortunate circumstances he was surrounded by to dictate what his future will become. Ousmane was always a visionary , at a tender age he understood that he had the responsibility to make a change so instead of focusing on what most people around his age will deem “cool” he took it upon himself to make it a mission to use his passion to better not alone himself but his family and society at large .At 18, he founded his first company and led another start-up (he previously founded) to become a top 20 Big Data Solutions provider in the US. Ousmane is a two-time Google Scholar and has received 12+ degrees and certifications in Computer Science and Leadership (UCLA, University of Lyon, Florida Memorial University, California Polytechnic, Pomona, University of Washington). In 2019, he paused his graduate studies at Harvard to focus on PayCruiser. Today he is a CEO. He has built and led information retrieval and A.I. teams for Fortune 100 companies (Europe & the USA) and led a diverse group of senior software engineers, machine learning engineers and mobile developers for the past 15 years. In 2015, he was a recipient of the prestigious Black Engineer of the Year Award, Modern Day Technology Leader in the USA.
Ousmane was one of the 300M unbanked people in West Africa, forced to carry cash around to pay for goods and services. To tackle what was one of the challenges he faced as a young adult before moving to the West, he decided to relocate back to the motherland of West Africa to build PayCruiser Africa, a reliable, scalable, and affordable payments platform for businesses and individuals to securely accept, access, and send money anywhere. PayCruiser leverages the power of Ousmane’s patent-pending technology to provide the one-stop SaaS platform for businesses and individuals to accept payments from the unbanked and securely send money anywhere, anytime.
PAYCRUISER: BANKING THE UNBANKED
PayCruiser is how businesses get paid by unbanked customers. They connect the world's 2.7 billion unbanked and underbanked population with the global financial ecosystem by turning their mobile devices into their bank account. This enables unbanked customers to buy and sell goods and services online, pay bills and send and receive money anywhere, anytime.
At PayCruiser, they aim to connect the global financial ecosystem with the world's 2.7Bn unbanked (and underbanked) people, starting with West Africa. To do this, they knew that they needed to, first and foremost, be a 'security first’ company. And so, the platform they built handles digital payments, cross-border payments, and fraud prevention (AML, KYC/B) with biometrics payments and verification systems.
The technological infrastructure is built on a security-first and proprietary distributed ledger; their fast and flexible end-to-end distributed technology platform allows them to scale globally while quickly enabling customization to address local realities. However, they're not only solving this problem with technology. It takes a combination of personal experiences, boots on the ground, flexibility, security, speed of delivery, and most importantly, a technology built with the unbanked in mind. For example, 65% of the unbanked population cannot read or write a western language and cannot open bank accounts by themselves. Their platform cost-effectively empowers this population to access the global financial ecosystem and engage in financial transactions independently. They are building and providing financial freedom to the unbanked community so that they can easily interact with the global financial ecosystem without the need for intermediaries.
With PayCruiser®, businesses can securely pay and get paid via mobile money, credit cards, check, crypto currencies, stable coins and cash, no matter where their clients are located.
As a Security-First SaaS platform, they offer advanced fraud protection and Anti Money Laundering (AML) solutions to financial institutions in developing countries: KYC/B, ID Verifications, Phone number verifications, OFAC, FBI, DEA, Interpol and +1000 Global Sanctions List Verifications. Their security platform is powered today with the world’s largest database for sanctions lists.
They are a team of black and brown engineers willing to change the world for the unbanked. The company’s mission is to include the 2.7B unbanked people around the world (which includes 25% of the U.S. population) into the global financial ecosystem so that they can strive and prosper on their own terms.
THE UNIQUENESS OF PAYCRUISER
There are 2.7 billion unbanked (and underbanked) persons worldwide, the majority of whom live in developing nations. Since they have trouble gaining access to the global banking system, the majority of their monthly expenses must be paid in cash. Due to a lack of available credit cards and bank accounts among the local populace, platforms like PayPal, Square, Apple Pay, Zelle, Venmo, and Stripe are not available in these nations.
Solutions like Western Union and MoneyGram are both expensive, involve trips to local stores by both senders and receivers, and create a real-life security risk resulting from the necessity of both parties transporting cash across town. To bridge these gaps, PayCruiser has created an enhanced digital payments technology platform that comes with robust built-in security. PayCruiser’s mobile banking platform helps the 96 percent of Africans already relying on mobile money to freely transact outside the bounds of their mobile phone carrier.
PayCruiser is an inclusive, interoperable and equitable financial technology built for the unbanked. And so, they’ve built an all-in-one super application that enables businesses and individuals to pay and get paid worldwide – hence, connecting the unbanked with the global economy. By default, unbanked people don’t have bank accounts or credit cards. As such, they built a technology that enables them to transact with the rest of the world by using their mobile device as a method of payment. Many women and girls in Africa are not fortunate enough to know how to read or write. This, by default, excludes them from the global financial market – So they created biometrics payments to enable this population (previously excluded) to freely transact at the world's scale – Using their voice as a method of payment (since they cannot read or write).
REVAMPING THE MARKET
96% of unbanked people in their target market now have access to connected mobile devices. Therefore, it was paramount for them to provide a mobile-first neo-banking solution to their unbanked customers, allowing them to send and receive funds anywhere, pay bills, make online purchases, and save money anytime. And so, they built the mobile pay patent-pending technology to enable businesses and the unbanked to do all of the above (which are basic things they all take for granted in the western world). By doing so, they are including 2.7Bn unbanked people (½ of the world) into the global financial ecosystem.
RECOGNITIONS AND ACCREDITATIONS
Ousmane has been recognized among the 30 Most Inspiring Leaders To Watch, and PayCruiser, Top 30 Admired Companies to Watch in 2021. He was accredited as the Black Engineer of The Year, Modern Day Technology Leader in 2015. Among his various achievements he also recognizes that PayCruiser built Africa's first mobile money POS terminal for businesses, enabling them to use their unbanked clients' phone numbers as a method of payment.
INSPIRING THE YOUTH OF TODAY
Ousmane has a ton of advice and insights for the youth of today.
He urges the youth to keep a “broke man’s mentality” and strive to become too big to fail. “Build your product with the broke man’s mentality, knowing that it will be used by 6bn people tomorrow (not in 10 years, but tomorrow). This will force you to think of concepts like security, scale, SLA, compliance, cost, reliability, brand, and trust–Most successful start-ups think of this when it is too late.
Don’t be that guy. Because, if you manifest that idea and build a product that people love to use, it will be used by people around the entire world and you will become too big to fail (with or without investors)” “The bread and butter: All you need to bootstrap your idea into a company is a computer, high-speed internet connection and an idea you are willing to sacrifice your time for. The rest will naturally come to you.” “There are the dreamers and there are the doers: You will need both. Start with the dreamers but make sure you always have the doers in your books. They are the ones making it happen for real. And when, in exceptional situations, you find doers that are also dreamers, give them a piece of your empire and treat them like family. They will make you fly faster and higher than you could ever imagine. A quick way to make the difference is to see if their motivation is the money or is it to make the world, a better place.” “Your product is a reflection of your personality. Build good software, fast and so cheap that the competitor will have to buy you out if they want to win. Keep everything simple stupid. Users should always be at most, 3 clicks away from what they want to do. And remember that, with mistakes, come opportunities.
Go big or go home. And remember what a great man said when he was almost knocked out: The ground is no place for a champ. Success is not about what you have. It is about what you can do with what you have.” “Fail forward: You will fail multiple times along the way. As long as you fail forward and get back up (like Denzel Washington says), you will move forward.”
“Be your first investor: Most start-ups fail; many investors are sharks. Most people won’t believe in you until you start becoming successful (basically when you don’t necessarily need them anymore). Most people will not trust you until the rest of the world does. You know, in reality, when it comes to investing in start-ups, very few want to be first, but everyone wants to claim the benefits of the first. That is: Everyone will want a huge piece of your pie while requiring you to (a priori) do the labour alone. To avoid a situation like this, follow Cardi B’s advice: Get a Lawyer. Your lawyer will (by law) never intentionally lead you to a bad deal. So, no matter how expensive it may be, get a lawyer in the beginning. This will pay off big time afterwards.”
“Go big or go home: Most of your early supporters will try to derail you into the « focus on only one thing» and the «start small» roads. From my own experience, this advice doesn’t work if you are building a company in West Africa. The reason is because, in Africa, most ventures fail due to volatile realities unrelated to the business (war, changes in regime, unfair competitors paying off regulators to shut you down, etc..) And such, you have to build a business that can adjust itself to the market conditions on-demand. If you think closely of how African countries were put together post-colonisation, you will easily see why laser focus on one product, one solution, is not the way to go in Africa.
Building a business that can adapt to harsh/hard-to-reach markets is the hardest thing. You must find a recipe that can do this for your business. Generally speaking, people will advise you to only focus on one thing because they don’t want you to fail and so, they want you to play safe (by minimizing the risks). But remember, how you started your company in the first place. It was not to help 5 people. You did not put your entire life on the line, to play small. So, go big, or go home!”