With 500,000 freelancers and remote workers using its platform, Raenest is profitable and ready to take over Africa

Why nearly half a million freelancers and remote workers across Africa rely on this two-year-old startup's product to process tens of millions of dollars monthly

With 500,000 freelancers and remote workers using its platform, Raenest is profitable and ready to take over Africa

Sometime in 2022, Francis Nwani got a job from a US client but there was a lingering issue. The client insisted that he share a US bank account or the project would be cancelled. Nwani, a User experience designer and writer with a domiciliary account, was frantic until he learned about Geegpay, a platform by Nigerian fintech startup Raenest which allowed freelancers like him to open foreign accounts and receive payments without hassle. 

He opened a Geegpay account, executed the project and received payment. Nwani's experience, one of many, exemplifies the horrid struggles millions of African freelancers and remote workers face when receiving money from abroad.

For African remote workers, securing payment for their services can be a frustrating hurdle.  Opening a domiciliary account, a seemingly straightforward solution can be a weeks-long ordeal. They must not only navigate paperwork but also secure references from two current account holders, adding another layer of complexity.

When the account is opened, the employer or firm sends an international wire transfer from abroad to the freelancer’s local domiciliary account. This can take a painstaking two to five business days leaving freelancers in limbo, with the nerve-wracking possibility of the transfer failing altogether. Coupled with high transaction costs, this frustrating experience explains why foreign firms are hesitant and why platforms like GeegPay are a lifeline for freelancers like Nwani.  

This critical need is underscored by the fact that nearly half a million freelancers and remote workers across Africa rely on the two-year-old startup's product to process tens of millions of dollars monthly. In a conversation with Victor Alade, CEO, and Richard Oyome, COO, the Raenest co-founders discussed the company's first two years, achieving profitability earlier this year, and their future plans.

Solving how remote workers in Africa get paid

As far back as Victor Alade – who’s spent most of his career as a remote worker – can remember, getting paid was often more tasking than doing the work he was paid for.

“I’ve had some recruiters retract some job offers because there was no way I’d get paid,” Alade says over a call with “There was even a time when about 15% of my salary was going to cross-border payment fees and unfavourable exchange rate.”

Victor Alade, CEO Raenest

Alade didn’t fully grasp the enormity of the challenge of receiving payments until he joined Andela from Jumia. While at Andela, he noticed a recurring trend when new developers joined: they always asked for the best options to receive payment for foreign gigs. There were also always people with foreign currency looking to convert to local currency (Naira). 

Even after he left Andela to lead the engineering team at Acumen where he rebuilt the company’s learning platform and managed a team of remote engineers, the issue still lingered.

“I was managing different engineers in different countries. They’d all send their invoices to me, and I’d send them to the company for an international wire transfer. Something about these transfers gave me an idea,” Alade says.

After almost three years at Acumen, Alade partnered with Richard Oyome (COO) and Sodruldeen Mustapha (CTO)  –  his former colleagues and the best minds he’d worked with – to solve this problem. In March 2022, they pulled together personal savings and started building a new platform that’ll make it easier for freelancers and remote workers in Africa to receive payments from abroad.

L-R: Richard Oyome (COO), Sodruldeen Mustapha (CTO) and Victor Alade (CEO)

“I noticed that people were looking to solve for remittance from the diaspora but there wasn’t anyone solving specifically for the remote workers,” Alade says.

The Raenest approach and rapid growth

The solution they came up with was to consolidate local bank accounts (from different countries) into a unified system: modern multi-currency accounts domiciled in foreign countries. Think of these multi-currency accounts as equal to owning a Wells Fargo bank account (US), Barclays account (GBP) and Deutsche Bank account (EUR) from Africa. 

Unlike traditional domiciliary accounts, this streamlines the payment process and eliminates the risks and delays associated with traditional wire transfers. For foreign firms, the payment being made is a local one since it is to a US, British or European bank account, as opposed to an international one. The freelancer or remote on the other end can easily convert to their local currency on the platform and withdraw. 

In March 2022, Raenest kicked off and within three months of its launch, they onboarded  80,000 users without a single dime spent on marketing. 

“In the early days, we expanded through word of mouth, and as we grew we started using more marketing campaigns and strategies,” Oyome explains. “We simply advertised on the platforms – Twitter, Google – where our customers were and also used influencers.

This turned out to be a game changer as the platform usage grew exponentially with users growing by 150% and revenue by 300% between 2022 and 2023. Despite the exponential growth experienced through diverse marketing channels, the founders still maintain that word of mouth remains a strong growth lever. “Based on a review of our data, we’ve been able to deduce that each user refers at least two other people,” Alade says.

The Raenest team

As the users grew, the product functionality expanded. The Raenest team expanded the currency support option from only US dollars to Pounds and Euros. 

To sustain this exponential growth trajectory, Raenest raised a pre-seed round of $700,000 in 2022 from leading investors such as Techstars, Voltron, Ajim Capital, and Ventures platforms. A few months later, they also got backed by the Google Black Fund.  In the first quarter of 2023, they raised a seed round of $2.6 million from notable investors such as P1 Ventures and Tent3, with participation from existing investors, enabling them to build more product features and expand to new territories. 

This firepower enabled them to expand operations to other African countries such as Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda in 2023.  

“Our understanding of the African market is evident in the little things such as the stability of our platform,” Alade says. “Our onboarding process is also seamless because we have a robust KYC system.” He shared that Raenest partners with three companies for KYC onboarding. To combat fraud, they built a robust internal fraud monitoring platform, which is paired with a third-party fraud engine. 

Raenest for business and becoming profitable 

As more users signed up to use the product, the team noticed that businesses were also signing up to use Geegpay. Recognising the need for a business-focused solution, Raenest launched business accounts in February 2024. The new offering has already attracted a growing number of customers including Helium Health, Fez Delivery, Fluna, Tunga and Curacel.

“We’ve seen a good number of startups signed up to use our business account. We now process payments in 30 countries and the best part is that 80% of payments are instant,” Alade says. The businesses can also use the platform’s multicurrency invoicing system to manage receivables. 

The company also became profitable earlier this year, a milestone that validates its business model and positions Raenest for continued growth and expansion into new markets.

To empower freelancers further, Raenest recently revamped its virtual card and is planning to launch a physical card for convenient spending anywhere in the world. Demonstrating their commitment to serving a wider African market, the company also plans to expand to Egypt later this year.

“There’s a need for an African-based company that understands the challenges to solve this problem,” Alade says. “We believe we’re positioned to do this.”

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