Photograph — Non profit law blog

Last year, the pandemic ruffled the financial world in unforeseen ways. Ideologies and behaviours changed, and so did the markets. Notably, it unlocked a chest of retail traders with high interest in platforms like Robinhood. Many also turned to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. Lockdowns eased, but this trend did not. Data from Statista shows notable growth in the number of users of cryptocurrency apps worldwide.

Africa is not exempt from this. The continent had the fastest cryptocurrency adoption rate in the first half of 2021. Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania have become top growth markets for cryptos despite government restrictions. Furthermore, the growth in Africa’s mobile app market has fueled demand for investment apps.

However, cryptos and stocks are known for high volatility. As much as people want to invest in these assets, learning the markets can be overwhelming for newcomers. Also, assets like bitcoin look expensive to the newcomer, which may be discouraging. To solve this problem, Zino Asamaige founded Accrue to help people use the simplest and safest investment strategy — dollar-cost averaging (DCA). 

Dollar-cost averaging is a simple strategy that involves investing a fixed amount of money consistently in an asset. It is ideal for long-term investors as it saves them the pressure of trying to time the market.

In this interview, Asamaige discusses how he uses Accrue to make crypto investments easy and affordable for everyone.

How did you start Accrue?

I’d say a series of events, but it all started with a conversation with a couple of friends. I was in Abuja with two friends of mine who are co-founders, and we were discussing investing. I have been dollar-cost averaging since 2019 because I prefer to invest in my favourite assets periodically. I find timing the market so stressful, and studying charts is difficult. But dollar-cost averaging has helped me a great deal. So when we spoke about it, it became a startup idea. 

I was hesitant initially because I wasn’t planning to start a company. Even after they told me they’ll invest in it, I still didn’t want to. But they showed me how important this solution is, and I went back to research. But even with capital, I still needed competent hands for this to work. I had never done this before, so it was delicate. I spoke with another friend who I know is a genius, asking if he could recommend anyone. But then he liked the idea and asked to be a part of it. It was both surprising and exciting for me because I have a lot of respect for him. It gave me that extra push to start the team for this company.

Honestly, it’s not like we had to do things nobody had ever done. We just found a way to make it simpler for people. We are dealing with assets that many people still don’t understand and are trying to figure out how to start. Most DCA platforms still require people to be experts. DCA is one of the easiest ways to invest and shouldn’t be complicated. So we decided to make it easy for everyone, even if you are a complete beginner.

Zino Asamaige, Founder, Accrue

You operate in Nigeria, where the central bank is against cryptocurrencies. Is this a challenge for Accrue? How are you dealing with it?

It’s a challenge because it doesn’t help our message. We get this same question from customers and investors. However, the CBN is very clear about where it stands. It is saying: “this is not illegal, but we don’t want you to use it through our banking system.” Regulators are still trying to figure it out and don’t want to be a part of it in the meantime.

It’s a matter of interest for us. I can say for sure that cryptocurrencies are not going anywhere. But we also have to build this with the CBN. Many stakeholders are working with the CBN to ensure they draft critical regulations for this space. In the meantime, we have to make it a responsibility to help lift Nigerians from the naira’s difficulty. The CBN doesn’t want us to use the banks, and we are abiding by that. One of the ways of depositing is through stablecoins.

Also, Accrue is in Nigeria but not restricted to Nigerians. Since we use stablecoins, there’s no currency restriction. Our KYC partners also make it easy for us to verify users from up to 80 countries. 

Do you intend to integrate financially excluded people into your services?

When you talk about financially excluded people, I believe you’re talking about people in rural communities. Most of these people don’t even have access to the internet. Integrating these people is difficult because cryptocurrencies work with the internet. Mobile payment solutions like MTN and Airtel will do a better job of achieving that.

Besides, what we offer is an investment — an easy way for people to grow their wealth. A lot of these financially excluded people live below the poverty line. So investing is not their priority — solving hunger is. You can’t be talking about Tesla stocks or cryptocurrencies to someone looking for his next meal. So, for now, sadly, the realistic answer is no.

Aside from the regulatory environment, what challenges does Accrue face?

We’re still in the early stages and operating in private beta mode. That’s because we know who our customers are, and we’re spending more time understanding what they want. We’re not yet facing any serious challenges. But we know they will come once we go public. We get a lot of positive feedback from users, and we have chosen to focus on understanding what they want. We want to ensure that it’s as simple as possible for everyone.

However, the education gap is a big challenge. Accrue doesn’t promise any returns or even tell you what stocks or cryptos to buy. We are only making it simple for users to invest in their favourite assets. But we still have a lot of people asking questions like: “if I buy one bitcoin today, how much will I make next week?” I don’t have the answer to that. 

Our customers are in different categories. Some of our customers are educated about these assets already. So they know what they want and only need our platform for ease. Some others know a little about cryptos and stocks, but they don’t know the best way to invest. But there is another category of people that don’t yet know anything about these assets and need guidance. This education gap is what we are planning to fill. We want to spend as much time as we can educating users. We want to make it ridiculously simple for users to make informed decisions, so we will even publish educational articles and videos. We plan to be as social about it as possible, and we have people in our community educating others about these assets already.

When is Accrue going public?

We are going public on the 1st of December. We would be starting with a public beta where everyone can download and use the app. We want to ensure that we have a great product-market fit. That’s why we spent so much time talking to users to ensure that we have just what they need. We are ready for everything that comes with going public on that date. Hopefully, it’s all good stuff.

Written by Oluwatosin Ogunjuyigbe

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