Brass, a Nigerian digital bank delivering easy access to affordable premium banking services for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), has raised $1.7 million in funding to address the heavily underserved banking needs of local entrepreneurs, traders, and fast-growing businesses.

Participants in this round include Olugbenga ‘GB’ Agboola (Co-Founder of Flutterwave), Ezra Olubi (Co-Founder of Paystack, acquired by Stripe), Hustle Fund, Acuity Ventures, Uncovered Fund, and Ventures Platform.

Brass will use the new funding to accelerate its expansion into South Africa and Kenya, as well as to launch a number of new product categories, including an expansion of the startup’s credit market presence as it seeks to broaden its customer base.

What Brass does

Brass, founded by Sola Akindolu (former Head of Product at Kudi) and Emmanuel Okeke (former Engineering Manager at Paystack) in July 2020, provides SMEs with a full-stack, commercial-grade banking service across various business classes, allowing them to gain greater clarity and control over their money operations as well as the ability to scale their businesses. The platform now offers a full suite of solutions designed to meet a wide range of business banking needs, including credit and payment services, payroll and expense management, API support, and a slew of other essential business services.

Brass has helped thousands of businesses to date, and has disbursed over $2 million in credit, and has recently introduced Brass Capital, a cash-flow financing solution to help even more fast-growing businesses. Many of Brass’ clients utilize the platform as their primary money operation service provider, including, Mono, and Eden, as well as restaurants, schools, and malls. Flutterwave has also partnered with Brass to help it expand across Africa.

To date, Brass’ past investors have included Olumide Soyombo of Voltron Capital, Leonard Stiegler, Fola Olatunji-David, Yemi Lawani, and two senior executives from prominent Nigerian banks.

Access to complete banking solutions services is now one of the most significant constraints for SMEs in Africa, with an estimated annual financing gap of over $136 billion in the continent’s formal SME sector. According to the World Bank, these businesses employ 80% of Africa’s population, demonstrating their importance to the local economy and emphasizing their need for additional assistance.

What they are saying

Commenting on the fundraise, Sola Akindolu, Co-Founder and CEO of Brass, says, “The basic needs of Africa’s SMEs are just as significant and unique as those of the customers they serve each day and now more than ever, we need innovative and world-class financial services solutions that meet their expectations. These local businesses have supported our economies for decades, forming the backbone of Africa’s success to-date and now is the time to bet on them.”

At Brass, we’ve made some great strides over the last year in tackling one of Africa’s most critically underserved customer bases but with an estimated $5.1tn credit gap globally, our work is far from over. This is why we’re delighted to welcome onboard a number of vastly experienced and strategic investors, whose expertise will not only play a vital role ahead of our expansion into South Africa and Kenya, but also in our future ambitions outside of the continent.”

Kola Aina, Founder and General Partner at Ventures Platform, says “We were immediately sold on Brass’s mission to make banking work for small businesses. For far too long banks have not worked for their customers. This challenge is even more chronic for small businesses; hence we are excited to be a Brass partner as they advance the mission to make banking work for African businesses – via their suite of products designed to help businesses succeed.”

Elizabeth Yin, General Partner at Hustle Fund said “We are excited to back Sola, and the Brass team who are providing critical financial technology to Africa’s businesses, starting with Nigeria’s ~41.5 million businesses. We believe Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and fintech sector is witnessing an unprecedented shift, and Brass is at the forefront of that, supporting local businesses and professionals with banking technology to supercharge their growth. We are excited by their vision, and honoured to be joining them on their journey.”

Lexi Novitske, Managing Partner at Acuity Ventures, said “The real market opportunity in digital banking in Africa is enabling small businesses. These businesses are looking for tools to responsibly scale; with a Brass partnership, they’re able to grow alongside a committed partner for the long term. Meanwhile, data sources in Africa are still nascent.

Novitske also stated that Brass’s suite of products including payments and dashboard services not only give small local businesses transparency and efficiency over their operations but enable Brass to provide banking products that meet the needs of these customers at lower risk.