Abuja-based CrowdForce, has raised a $3.6 million pre-Series A funding.
The equity-and-debt round was led by Aruwa Capital Management, with participation from HAVAÍC and AAIC.
In order to triple its active agent network of 7,000 this year, the firm intends to use some of the funds to grow its personnel, regional operations, and marketing.
In 2015, Oluwatomi Ayorinde and Damilola Ayorinde started the company as MobileForms, a data collection agent network.
In 2018, while working on TraderMoni, a small credit scheme for micro traders pioneered by the Nigerian government, the company had its first big break.
With its 20,000-strong agents, MobileForms performed KYC on 4.5 million eligible traders and registered them for the TraderMoni program.
Then, there was the challenge of getting money into the hands of these traders.
Because the majority of them were unbanked, sending money to bank accounts was impossible, and for those who did have accounts, banks were located distant from their homes.
CrowdForce, a financial services distribution network that can turn any merchant into a mobile bank branch, saw an opportunity and opted to rebrand as such.
CrowdForce, which is supported by YC, continues to operate its MobileForms products. But it’s PayForce, the company’s second product, that’s in the driver’s seat currently.
PayForce is a POS-enabled system that merchants — who also act as agents — use to provide ATM, transfer, and bill payment services to customers in locations where banks are normally absent and where there is a great demand for cash.
So, over 200,000 agents across Nigeria often refinance their working capital walking considerable distances to the banks or the fintechs they work for like TeamApt.
There are even newer methods, like YC-backed float-as-a-service startup Moni, where agents are offered low-interest loans through a referral and vetting system.
But CrowdForce uses another approach. The company collaborates with larger brick-and-mortar businesses like gas stations and turns them into mobile bank branches that provide float services while storing their cash on a PayForce digital wallet.
CrowdForce also distributes its POS terminals to other businesses like pharmacies and reseller networks.
Ayorinde said CrowdForce will use the funding to distribute more POS terminals to its partners in the next 12 to 18 months.