Herconomy, a fintech startup focused on empowering women through financial services, providing jobs and networking opportunities and capacity building has secured $600,000 in a just-concluded pre-seed round. The funding round was led by members of Herconomy’s community and saw the participation of Oui Capital and angel investors, Nkiru Ayemere, Ehi Onwudiwe, Ope Makinwa, Ama Akpate, etc. The startup got the commitment of over $5.5 million within 24 hours of announcing the funding round but stuck with its decision to accept only what it needed – the $600,000.
The women-centred startup plans to expand its product offering with the funds it raised as well as continue to provide more opportunities for women. Herconomy was founded by Ife Durosinmi-Etti, author of Accessing Grants for Startups popularly abbreviated as AGS. The book encapsulates opportunities and ideas that African entrepreneurs can benefit from. She has been posting most of this information on her personal Instagram page and eventually started what she calls the AGS Tribe which is a community where women can get access to worldwide opportunities. Speaking about her brainchild AGS Tribe, Ife Durosinmi-Etti said that “I just wanted to create a place where women could get access to opportunities, grants and fellowships. When people saw how much value we had to offer, they started following us and discussions around these opportunities grew. It was at that point we knew that it was more than just an opportunity board, it was a community”.
The AGS Tribe grew into thousands of following within months and eventually Ife Durosinmi-Etti had to give full attention to the budding community and develop it into a platform where people could get access to the opportunities she had been speaking about for months. A web platform was launched on the 6th of December, 2019 but unfortunately, it crashed. The community, however, continued with a Telegram group and was offering access at N5,000 ($12) for a month or N50,000 ($120) for a year. A year after, it has amassed over 1,500 paying members accessing the community’s opportunities and started having workshops focused on a number of topics from finance, capacity building, investment, health, etc.
According to the startup’s founder, scaling its operation has been quite a challenge. Maintaining the community’s Telegram platform was fast becoming a problem for the AGS team. The founder said that “It was a bit hectic. We had such a large number of people in one group. Logging off for hours could mean you’d return to see thousands of messages in the community. And because opportunities are shared between conversations, people would sometimes have to read through every single message to find what they want. It was imperative to find a solution.”
Herconomy came around during the pandemic that saw many people lose their job as a result of the lockdowns that follow. Women were more affected by the effect of the pandemic and lockdowns, hence Herconomy. Herconomy was launched with the idea that not all women would be able to pay membership fees and could lose out from opportunities. Herconomy, although has to be paid for, has a free membership option. “The mobile app also included a free membership option”, Durosinmi-Etti said.
Herconomy has a three-tier membership structure. Its Gold subscription gives users full access to the community’s network as well as some added benefits. The Silver membership gives members access to the community’s capacity-building workshops called the Lightbox. Lastly, the free subscription called “freenium” subscription gives members access to the community and opportunity board for free.
Herconomy has at least 15,000 people and at least 20 percent are paying members and is planning to launch financial services such as a savings feature to its members. According to reports, most of Herconomy’s funding has come from bootstrapping and has gotten funding from various individuals and corporates who contributed grants and gifts in kind for its community members. Herconomy claims to have disbursed about ₦30,000,000 ($71,600) in grants to forty-two women and men as part of its annual grants programme.
Speaking about raising funds, Ife Durosinmi-Etti said that “I pitched the idea of Herconomy to several investors but we didn’t get any yeses at first. I quickly figured that many female-led startups do not get funding easily, so I decided to create a table for herself. In the end, we had 509 people who pledged $5.7 million, but we only needed $600,000. We also noticed not everyone could afford our $20,000 minimums, so we decided to create a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for the people who couldn’t. They did this because it was extremely important for their community members to be part of this raise. So we went on GetEquity, created a private deal room and invited specific people that had indicated to invest”.
It is pertinent to know that 70 percent of Herconomy’s community members who participated in the funding were women.
Olu Oyisan, Managing Partner of Oui Capital said that “Our thesis is that community is very key to the future of consumer fintech in Africa. The company has a very strong community element, and also focuses on creating financial products and prosperity for women- who have historically been underserved with financial services. We like the company very much and are happy to be on this journey with the team”.
Herconomy’s founder concluded that “It all worked out for the best. We were able to ensure that women could easily invest. I’m excited about creating the mindset of investing in women which is what we preach at Herconomy.”