Duke Ekezie-Joseph and his brother Kennedy are solving one of Nigeria’s business sector’s basic yet complex problems and transforming the lives of the traders in the streets and marketplaces.
Kippa, launched in June 2021 by Kennedy Ekezie-Joseph, Duke Ekezie and Jephthah Uche, is a Nigerian fintech services platform digitizing Africa’s SME sector. It provides a variety of business, financial management, and payment solutions for African small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Initially set up to focus on digital bookkeeping services, the fast-growing SaaS platform is now powering merchants across Africa. It has provided over 500,000 businesses on the continent with financial tools to manage and operate their businesses profitably.
Duke claims among the many factors attributed to the creation of the platform is having to see their father’s business crumble due to a lack of proper management and record keeping, which is key to any profitable business.
This was one of the big inspirations for us because we knew that while talking to many business owners, we discovered it wasn’t just a problem he had but a common problem with many businesses.
“We saw a lack of proper management around their operations, how they paid employees on time, how they record, how they did proper accounting and bookkeeping for their businesses, and how they handled payroll down to receipts and payments. this was a big problem for them”, he added
Another inspiration was the need to replace the manual form of recording business transactions and stocking for business owners left with worn-out papers and misplaced records, sometimes due to their unreliability.
Duke has been in the finance sector with KPMG and Citi in deal advisory and investment banking roles. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Calabar in Policy and Administration.
Duke, who had previously served as Chief Growth Officer (CGO), was chosen as President of Kippa in 2022. This move was made in an effort to manage the demands of Kippa’s quickly growing customer base.
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What is the idea with Kippa?
SMEs have become a viable contribution to the GDP of Nigeria, and it became pertinent to provide solutions that would make these businesses operate easier and more efficiently. Kippa is a digital platform where bookkeeping can be done seamlessly for businesses,
“We looked at the contribution of business owners to the GDP of the country, case in point Nigeria. 90% of the contribution to the GDP is being made by small business owners and is being accounted for by SMEs. But if you have tons of contributions made by them and they are managing their businesses badly, then it begs the question of what can be done to make it better for them to contribute a lot more.”
How does the role of the President differ from the CEO
As mentioned earlier, Duke was named President of Kippa last year May. The appointment came after the launch of the company’s new products that year, a digital payments solution ‘Kippa Payments’, and a business registration service ‘Kippa Start’.
Duke explains his role as more of an ‘internal supervisor’ of the company’s operations, including marketing, advertising, product, finance, operations, and its HR teams. He says:
“As CEO, Kennedy handles a lot of investors relation and the overall general productivity of the company, managing all teams while I report to him directly. I handle critical roles within the company. I handle the sales, growth and marketing and general operations teams.
The difference is Kennedy’s role is more externally facing and deals with the broader length of the company, whereas I deal with more specific areas of the company, which are important productive areas of the company. I report to Kennedy, who reports to the broader organization at the end of the day.”
How Kippa simplifies the operations of SMEs
The best of any innovation is that it meets the fundamental needs of people who lack access to its solutions in the easiest, most simplified and most affordable manner. Without this, such innovation might be lacking in real value.
Duke claims that the idea and value created by Kippa get to the last businessman and woman in the streets and helps their business operations and profitability seamlessly. He says:
“We provide three services: The core Kippa’s software allows businesses to manage their entire record keeping. It has a bookkeeping layer, with which they manage their receipts and payments, employees’ payroll, total inventories and stock data so businesses can detect goods in demand through our quantitative data. We also help them with general things like issuing business cards and recording receipts and invoices.
Now, another important layer in demand is the provision of Point of Sale (PoS) terminals we provide for businesses to accept card payments from customers and sell financial products to their customers. Business owners become agency bankers that can sell cash-out, cash-in services, and transfer services, the same way PoS agents do in the street. Business owners can now turn into that and sell products.
Finally, we help business incorporate their business with the CAC in Nigeria. They can incorporate their business name and full business with them, and right now, we are launching a service that allows businesses to issue tax identification numbers to these businesses; they can get their TIN and be very compliant with these institutions in the country.”
Duke confirms that Kippa has also successfully transitioned into a fintech and financial management platform for businesses.
Duke Ekezie-Joseph’s journey into tech
Duke is a Public Administrator by training but became self-taught in investment banking in his third year in school, which exposed him to the finance industry. However, he was not to remain there as he later launched an outsourcing platform with his brother in 2019.
I got into tech from Investment banking. I decided to move into tech when my brother and I decided to build a software outsourcing platform for businesses in the UK in 2019, but we shut that down when covid came and then scrambled with another startup.
After that, we went around to start understanding the challenges that businesses face in Nigeria, and that was when we built Kippa. So I have been in tech since 2019.Duke Ekezie-Joseph
Internship with TikTok
Duke also interned with TikTok, and when questioned on the influence of that on his career based on the experience, he says that experience has been pivotal to what he is currently doing with Kippa.
“My role was TikTok was mostly around influencer marketing, and that has been pivotal in my understanding of what marketing techniques work and what don’t because that was what TikTok was trying to do then, and I was providing that sort of advisory. All of these have been pivotal to my understanding of what works especially working with influencers.
I’m also working with local content producers, as today I lead the marketing team at Kippa, and a lot of the understanding of different local nuances that have to feed into our marketing techniques and strategy was formed by most of the things I learned hands-on when I was at TikTok. This has also influenced the type of influencers we have worked with and the content we decide to put out for our users.”
For Duke, Kippa has come quite a long way since its launch regarding the number of businesses it has onboarded and the expansion of the product it offers its customers.
Since launch, we have onboarded over 550,000 business owners to the platform, people who are actively using the platform to manage their processes and transactions. We are also deploying terminals to a bunch of individuals too.Duke Ekezie – Joseph
In terms of the new products the company is looking at adding to the platform, it is looking to “expand to the financial services side of things and make their PoS terminals much better than more mature competitors. We are also looking to improve service delivery for the terminals because an important part of businesses today is the speed of delivery,” he said
Another is to add a lot more products to what we currently have, such as savings and insurance for business owners, to ensure that they can do everything on Kippa and not have to go to other platforms to get the products that they need. At the end of the day, we want to remain the final money button for customers.
Things could have turned out differently for Duke Ekezie-Joseph if he had pursued one of his other interests instead of delving into tech and becoming one of the founders at Kippa Africa.
I would probably be in the creative space and be doing something like managing brands in that space, brands that have to do with fashion. I’m also interested in Music, so I would also be managing artists and managing brands that have to do with artists. Another thing would be a foray into finance, but I find finance boring so, it’s either finance or music.Duke Ekezie-Joseph
Asked if he had previously delved into the music industry, the huge lover of Afrobeats superstar Burna Boy says, “not yet, but he provides general commentary on music sounds and artists.”
Everyone needs to be inspired, even the bravest men who are inspirations to others. For Duke, not wanting to fail plays a big part in his thriving despite his many challenges.
For fun, Duke parties and spends time with friends. He tries new restaurants and cuisines and loves seeing movies, which he claims are the general stuff people do to have fun. As for the misconception that techies are introverts, he says he does not relate to that.
Founders that inspire him
Among the many founders in the Nigerian tech industry, Duke says Obi Ozor, the founder of Kobo360, particularly inspires him.
Having recently read his story about how things turned out at Kobo360, it even made my admiration and respect for him grow. Also, the founders of Paystack, because they are the very first that have successfully exited the market after creating something great.Duke
Successful 2023 for Him
The year’s first quarter has already begun and is progressively winding down. Founders have started experimenting with their ideas and strategies in an effort to turn sales into profits for their investors. For Duke, it is the same across the board. He says:
“I think a successful 2023 will be that we are able to meet every customer at Kippa at every point of their financial need. And we are able to provide every one of the services that customers have been knocking on our doors for, together with providing all the financial suites that we hope to offer customers on the Kippa app.”
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