PiggyVest is 7! And as you can imagine, there are plenty of stories to be told about its origins, its growth and its big plans for the future. So, we reached out to PiggyTech COO, Odunayo Eweniyi, to share with us seven milestones from the life of this fascinating company.
1. On how it began:
The tweet that kicked it all off is still online.
In December 2015, our first startup, PushCV, had basically run out of money. In fact, in the middle of that month, we had to do the hardest thing we have ever done: lay off a large part of our team. This was so we could be in a better position by January 2016. Even so, it still wasn’t clear what January would look like, and we were trying to figure it out over WhatsApp.
And then a tweet about a kolo dropped while I was home in Ijebu-Ode spending Christmas with my parents; Somto was in Port Harcourt; and Joshua was in Lagos. A conversation started right there on Twitter between Joshua and I. Then he brought the tweet to WhatsApp. The one question we wanted to answer was: “Is there a way to digitise this?”
I said that the personal nature of the piggy bank had to be retained, and the consensus was, “Let’s build it.” Two weeks later, in mid-January, we had our MVP. And that is how PiggyVest (Piggybank at the time) was born. The first $12,000 we spent on PiggyVest was money we had generated from PushCV.
2. On what success looked like at the time:
At first, we were like, “If just 1,000 people use this thing…” It is funny now that we are nearing 5 million users, but that was a real conversation we had. I remember that line so clearly.
And yet by the end of our first year, we hadn’t reached that mark. We only had 700 users, but we knew it was going to be big. How did we know? I’m not sure, but I am a big believer in instincts. Plus, there was a lot of buzz being generated online. One day, we woke up to see that someone had written about how she bought her first car using PiggyVest, and this was in our first year. People just liked the product.
Then on December 31 of the same year, when people were withdrawing their money, Osi [Suave] of Beat FM tweeted about how he had been using it, and that tweet went boom! It seemed like everybody saw it.
On our end, we had posts that got a lot of traction too. For example, someone tweeted about the Hermes bag, and I went online to find out what it cost. I then tweeted about how you could save up to buy it. That tweet took off!
On Instagram, I posted something about going out when “there is rice at home.” The text was laid over a Kim Kardashian meme that I liked. I shared it on Twitter as well, and it was super popular there. Those two posts put us right in the conversation. Above all else, we just had random people talking about us within their own spheres of influence.
We crossed 1,000 users sometime between December 31st and January 3rd; I couldn’t tell you the day. It’s funny because that was our first major goal, and yet we had no idea when it happened. We just put our heads down to work and when we raised it, we had crossed 10,000 users. We don’t remember when that happened either.
But, as you can imagine, with more users came more problems. At 20,000 users, we were dying. It was insane! Nobody was sleeping. We were about seven on the team at the time. Even before then, it was intense. For instance, on the day Osi was talking about the app and people were withdrawing money, it was literally all of us hunched over a table, working to ensure that everybody got paid. Seeing all of the reactions made it worth it. Looking back, it was beautiful!
3. On PiggyVest raising money and our first salaries:
That was in our second year, 2017. We joined an accelerator called Village Capital, which is quite unique in that at the end of its programme, two companies are chosen to receive funding and these companies are voted on by the other companies in the accelerator.
In our time, we were one of the selected companies. That is how we got the first $50,000 injected into the company. That was in April 2017. A year before, we had made zero naira, but the Village Capital programme helped us figure out how to monetise what we had built.
I recall that we came back from one of their sessions and implemented what we had learned. It worked! That was how we got our first revenue. So, yeah, we are big experimenters. We started with the belief that we’d figure out revenue along the way, and we did. At this stage, we were not taking salaries. We just wanted to make it work first.
Then we decided to raise a million dollars. We thought it was the right time to get a round in, but the experience was not as easy as we thought it would be. We got unfavourable terms, passes and even got ghosted. Getting ghosted was really painful because they set a target for us that we had to push and push to meet. We hit the target far before their deadline and they still ghosted us.
After that, we decided to just focus on growth. But as it happened, we had a meeting with two angels through Mr Olumide, who is one of our long-time investors. We met them at The Wheatbaker, and they asked a series of questions. On our way from the meeting, Mr Olumide called to tell us the investment would go ahead. And that was that. It was so easy. We were shocked! And that is why it is a great story.
Not long after, we met Kola Aina of Ventures Platform at a Google event in Kenya; they came in to round out the raise. So by April 2018, the round was closed. We got an MFB licence, expanded the team and that is when we started to get a salary from PiggyVest.
4. On growing post-raise:
At the time we raised, we had 55,000 users.
I think the investors saw the potential for massive growth. And, also, we are a fantastic team, if I do say so myself. We work so well together. Of course, I am biased, but I think we have one of the most cohesive founding teams, even before you consider the product. I know that is one of the things I look out for when I’m investing. I like to know how well and how long the co-founders have known each other.
Our next goal was 100,000 users! But we got to 133,000 users within a few months of the Google event. And then we put our heads down and continued doing the work. Meanwhile, people kept on recommending us to friends and family.
5. On changing from PiggyBank to PiggyVest:
We started 2019 realising that we needed to change the name of the company, especially considering the user journey. We asked users why they were withdrawing their funds and many of them said they wanted to invest the money.
To help our users, we started working on including an investment feature. And with that, it became clear to us that the name needed to change. Later in the year, we came up with the Investify feature.
We just published "Introducing PiggyVest — The Future Of Savings and Investments" https://t.co/iWUljhXawq— PiggyVest (@PiggyBankNG) February 11, 2019
Our users trust us, so Investify was an immediate hit. Our problem, to be honest, is that the demand outstrips our supply. We have to do a lot of vetting before adding an opportunity to the platform. And everything gets sold out in minutes. But that’s a good problem to have.
By the end of 2019, we had over 700,000 users. Everything was up and up.
6. On the pandemic and Abeg:
During the pandemic, we changed a lot of things to ensure liquidity. We thought that people would have a higher need for money and so, withdraw more. It was a pandemic — no one had experienced this before.
But something odd started to happen: our users began to use the platform more. Many people turned to PiggyVest features during the pandemic. At first, a lot of people were using Safelock and then Flex Naira started to catch up. The growth was incredible.
More people started to get comfortable with using us, and by the middle of the pandemic, we met the Abeg team. We thought they were talented, and we were thinking about an ecosystem of finance products. The process around the partnership and acquisition was relatively smooth.
Then in 2020, we hit one million users. Once again, I can’t tell you exactly when. But by the end of the year, we had almost 2 million users. We were only about 30,000 users short of that figure, which we then reached in January 2021.
7. On Big Brother Naija:
We were trying to grow Abeg and realised that we needed merchants and users on the app. While we were trying to figure that out, we received a proposal to come on as an associate sponsor of Big Brother Naija (BBN). The proposal was for PiggyVest, but we talked it over and agreed that Abeg needed the exposure more.
In our response to the BBN team, we said that our parent company, PiggyTech, would prefer to be the headline sponsor, and that we have two products: Abeg and PiggyVest. We were going all in! They agreed after some negotiation, and the results were superb. Abeg got 2 million users in the three months that BBN ran for.
But having solved for users, “Abeg” no longer worked as a name for our now very good payment product. We had to quickly rebrand, two weeks before the new season of Big Brother. We needed a new name. I remember us racking our heads in the middle of a wedding reception trying to come up with one.
We eventually agreed on PocketApp. We adjusted the materials we needed for BBN and even managed to announce the name change before the show began. This time, we were going for the merchants, and we got them. Offline, the big merchants came on. And, once again, as the year ended, we put our heads down and got back to work.
Now, we have over 7 million users across our products, and our plan is to grow more and grow as a financial services ecosystem.
As for our 7th anniversary celebration, that’s up to Peace Obinani [Piggyvest’s Product Marketing Manager]. She has big plans for our users. All I can say is that things will be pretty chill, but everybody will feel the impact.