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A Boston-based Startup Is Enhancing Consumer Finance Access

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

Ibe Imo writes about how this startup is driving inclusion for migrants from emerging markets

Ibe Imo, Contributor

Kingsley Ezeani and his co-founder Scott Morgan are building CashEx, a financial access and inclusion venture focused on simplifying international funds remittance and enhancing access to consumer financial services across United States migrant communities. Ezeani’s venture is currently focused on a $100 million beachhead market of 400,000 Nigerian migrants and plans to scale quickly to newer markets estimated at $2 billion across Africa and the Caribbean.

Ezeani’s experience as a Nigerian migrant inspired his venture’s mission. The challenges he faced emigrating to the United States create an opportunity to alleviate obstacles migrants face in sending funds internationally, and while accessing mainstream consumer finance services. Ezeani is a graduate of Harvard Kennedy School and Oxford University. He also served as a Leader for Nigeria at the Obama Foundation. CashEx, Ezeani’s venture, won the 2022 Harvard Business School New Venture Competition Grand Prize. CashEx also won the 2022 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge.

Beachhead Market Background And Summary

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 abolished racial restrictions and created a path for African and Caribbean migration to the United States. Since 1952, the Black migrant population has continued to grow. Pew Research Center estimates that one in ten Black people in the United States is a migrant. By 2060, the total Black migrant population in the United States will be 9.5 million. An $11.2 billion opportunity exists to provide financial inclusion for migrants from emerging markets.

Target Market Pain Points And The Opportunity

Recent migrants from emerging markets experience invisibility and exclusion when they arrive in the United States. Annually and on average, African migrants send about five thousand dollars to support family member’s healthcare, education, and feeding,” Ezeani said. “Fees and costs to send funds is approximately 10 percent of each transaction amount.” The current United States consumer banking is skewed to better accommodate migrants from developed markets.

The United States Consumer Banking infrastructure implicitly excludes migrants from developing or emerging markets. These problems manifest from inadequate digital identification and consumer credit infrastructures in emerging markets and become exasperated upon arrival to the United States. The invisibilities and exclusions migrants face present the following opportunities:

  1. Simplified ways to open deposit bank accounts

  2. Reduced obstacles to accessing United States consumer credit

  3. Fast, secure, and affordable methods to send and remit funds

Venture Solution And Product

CashEx, Ezeani’s venture is a mobile application product that provides United States migrants simplified and affordable funds remittance and access to consumer financial services. Cashex has acquired over 20,000 users since its launch in October 2022. Ezeani said, “we focus on migrant mid-career professionals continuing their professional and educational careers in the United States.” Core features of Ezeani’s mobile application are:

  1. Simpler KYC Process

  2. Multi-Currency Wallet

  3. Zero Transaction Fees

  4. Safety and Security

CashEx also provides banks lower costs of customer acquisition for banks and financial institutions. United States Banks and Financial institutions can expand addressable markets by acquiring customers in emerging markets.

Raising Venture Capital

Since CashEx’s launch in October 2022, Ezeani has raised $750,000 in pre-seed rounds led by Pillar VC, angel investors, and Google Black Founders Funds. Inherent and inadequate infrastructure in emerging markets creates win-win opportunities.

A year ago, Harlem Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm focused on Black and Latino founders, announced its first deals in Africa and Latin America. “Minorities are the majority globally,” said Henri Pierre-Jacques Managing Partner at Harlem Capital. Harlem Capital led seed rounds of USD $2.9 million for Pariti‘s – a Kenyan-based community marketplace focused on building the digital infrastructure for startup ecosystems.

Since seed funding, Pariti has raised over $150 million with a valuation of over $1 billion. While there is slightly more risk because there is less vouching capital, the challenge for United States Venture Capital firms is to align with founders focused on emerging markets and build long-term partnerships. Pierre-Jacques said, “the reality is that traction would matter more in these markets.”

Ezeani and Morgan are raising seed capital for CashEx. Like Pariti, CashEx is poised to become another emerging market success story. Though historical, demographic, cultural, and economic nuances come into play for Venture Capital firms investing in emerging markets, they present a multi-billion dollar opportunity.

Ibe Imo is a feature writer, photographer and Harvard graduate student focused on journalism and digital storytelling. Ibe enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking and trail cycling.

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