Nigerian fintech startup, Cleva is arguably the first African company in Y Combinator's 2024 winter batch to feature in the accelerator's directory. On Monday, Cleva announced raising $1.5 million in a pre-seed round to facilitate the creation of USD accounts for African users to receive international payments, starting with Nigeria.
According to Tolu Alabi, "The problem that [Cleva is] trying to solve, which is enabling people to receive international payments, is not a Nigerian problem nor an African one. It’s a global problem; people in Latin America, Asia, and even Canada need to receive dollars for their work and service. We’re starting with Nigeria because we know the market and it’s also a big market. But we feel like because of our backgrounds, we’re very well positioned to solve this problem at a global scale."
The pre-seed round was led by 1984 Ventures, a San-Francisco-based venture firm, with participation from The Raba Partnership, Byld Ventures, and FirstCheck Africa.
Cleva will compete with other African startups like Payday (recently acquired by Bitmama), Geegpay, and Grey Finance, all offering similar banking solutions for freelancers and other users across the continent. According to its website, Cleva distinguishes itself from competitors by being easy to use – allowing users to open a USD account in minutes, built by experts with over 10 years of experience within the US banking system, affordable with capped deposit charges not exceeding $20, and customer-obsessed, aiming to provide the best USD banking experience.
"We believe in going above and beyond for our customers to have a great experience. This is the feedback we’ve gotten from customers. They know that when they email us or reach out to our customer support, it won’t take one week or two weeks," Alabi told TechCrunch.
Currently, Cleva users can accept ACH or domestic wire payments from any US bank account. Additionally, freelancers can receive payments from various platforms including Payoneer, Upwork, Deel, Fiverr, Amazon, and more.
Founded in August 2023 by Tolu Alabi and Philip Abel, former employees at Stripe and AWS, this Nigerian fintech is officially registered as a Money Service Business (MSB) with the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Since its inception, Cleva claims that it has processed over $1 million in monthly payments, experiencing a 100% month-on-month revenue growth.
“The team is uniquely qualified to address this given their experience building banking products at Stripe and robust platforms at AWS. The impressive early growth is a testament to the team’s unique capacity to execute across Africa and the US," says Aaron Michael, partner at 1984 Ventures.