By Michael Faye, co-founder and CEO
Simply put, Taptap Send is the next chapter in a journey with co-founder Paul Niehaus to make it as cheap, fast and convenient to transfer money into the emerging markets as possible. GiveDirectly first did this for philanthropic capital; Segovia for businesses, and now, Taptap Send for individuals. The mobile money revolution, by which more than a billion people have gone from no financial access to a digital bank in their pockets, has made this possible. More specifically, it has allowed us to offer a simple, instant, no-fee1, mobile-to-mobile remittance service focused on those from underserved markets. This may sound surprisingly obvious, commonplace and even easy, but in the markets we’re working it requires significant behind-the-scenes financial and technical infrastructure to make it possible, along with an expansive network of international partners. Building that infrastructure, and translating it into a better experience for customers, was a challenge we wanted solved-- especially now, in an era of anti-immigrant backlash.
Cross-border payments are not only a large market -- $540B through formal channels alone, with the informal sector estimated to be almost as large --- but are also the central source of capital for low and middle income countries: remittance inflows exceeded foreign direct investment plus official development assistance in 2020. And they’re growing quickly: more than 7x since 20002. So it should come as no surprise that the United Nations included lowering the price of remittances to 3% as a top-level indicator to “reduce inequality” among their Sustainable Development Goals. The cost of global remittances is simply that important to the reduction in inequality. We’re proud to be the only remittance company (of which we’re aware) that has publicly committed to hitting that goal.
The last year has been a difficult one, and especially painful for those that lost loved ones or saw their lives turned upside down. Nowhere has this been more true than the emerging markets, which are expected to experience the first increase in poverty in over 20 years3. These issues have only been made more complicated by lockdowns and social distancing mandates in the developed world, whereby old means of transfer (i.e., going to the cornershop) are no longer viable. Digital payments have gone from a nice-to-have to a must-have. And as the World Bank put it, “Digital financial inclusion was a development priority before the COVID-19 emergency; now, it is indispensable for both short-term relief and as a central element of broad-based, sustainable recovery efforts.”
We’re proud to be part of this solution, and are grateful that in the very early days COVID, when much of the world was freezing in uncertainty and the World Bank was predicting a steep decline in remittance volume, Canaan Partners (read their blog) and Reid Hoffman took a chance by leading our latest round of $13.4M. They were joined by a mix of new and old investors with deep fintech and emerging market backgrounds. And as it turned out, we did not see the predicted decline; in fact, COVID has only accelerated the shift to digital payments with Taptap growing about 5X over the remainder of 2020.
With this additional funding, we’ve been able to expand our impact by bringing our product to even more markets, and at even greater scale. We’ve launched 7 new markets since the investment, including Cameroon, Kenya and Morocco -- and opened our services to those sending from Canada. We’re looking forward to many more, and continuing to serve immigrant communities on their most important financial needs.
As important as the “what we’re doing” is the “how we’re doing it” and more specifically, the values of the organization and the team. They are the most critical ingredient to achieving our mission. Our first value is “impact first”: the fact that we will only build products and adapt strategies that are in the interests of our customers; we recognize this involves a tradeoff of leaving money on the table from harmful, but profitable products, deceptive marketing and the like (i.e., things we won’t do). We’re glad to be making that tradeoff. Our “love the particular” value celebrates the community and its individuality: it avoids a one-size-fits-all mindset, and ensures we’re tailoring the product to the specific local needs. Our team already comes from 25 countries and speaks over 30 languages, with folks calling Casablanca to Nairobi to Singapore home.
Put differently, our customers and the communities they represent are not an afterthought; they’re the people for whom we’re ultimately working. We consider ourselves to be our communities' teams, whether its technical or operations. We listen to what they need, we create the products they ask for, and we fight on their behalf – whether it's lowering fees in the payment chain, or figuring out clever ways to increase the speed of transfers. At the same time, we're making serious, important work fun – whether that’s classes on how to cook Chicken Mouambe given by our Congolese team members or dance parties with our Ghanaian users.
We’re excited for this next chapter, and deeply appreciative for everyone that’s gotten us this far. And if anyone is interested in joining, please do take a look at our openings and reach out.