Ethiopay is a platform that meets the payment needs of Ethiopians in the diaspora. While other platforms are a one-size-fits-all, Ethiopay isn’t.
They support the unique payment needs of Ethiopians including payments for school fees, telecom, utility bills, and other needs that are close to your heart.
Daniel Hadgu is in charge of any financial piece of the companies as well as brand development.
Connect With Daniel Hadgu on LinkedIn.
Michael Gizachew is business strategies and international relations development in Ethiopay.
Connect With Michael on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Mobile Money in Africa
- Remittance in Africa
- How FinTech is rapidly spreading into Africa
About Our Sponsor
OnPay’s payroll services and HR software give you more time to focus on what’s most important. Rated “Excellent” by PC Magazine, we make it easy to pay employees fast, we automate all payroll taxes, and we even keep all your HR and benefits organized and compliant.
Our award-winning customer service includes an accuracy guarantee, deep integrations with popular accounting software, and we’ll even enter all your employee information for you — whether you have five employees or 500. Take a closer look to see all the ways we can save you time and money in the back office.
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio brought to you by onpay Atlanta’s new standard in payroll. Now here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:24] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Atlanta Business Radio, but this is a very special one, because these are the ones we do with partnering with GSU ENI program at Georgia State University. And today on the show, we have Daniel Hadgu and Mike Gizachew with Ethiopay. Welcome, guys.
Michael Gizachew: [00:00:45] Thank you.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:46] Well, before we get too far into things, tell us about Ethiopia, how are you serving, folks?
Daniel Hadgu: [00:00:51] Yeah. So if you’ll pay is our platform that allows us to connect Ethiopian diasporas in the United States to Ethiopians in the Ethiopian. And we will directly allow users to invest in the US capital markets, directly pay bills, transfer funds and reload and redistribute airtime minutes and data.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:12] So this helps folks in Africa kind of get money in and out of Africa, from the United States, from their relatives or friends or family.
Daniel Hadgu: [00:01:21] Yeah. So we will say predominantly there, but as well as the diaspora here in the United States, we’re just trying to really kind of be the bridge that allows individuals to be able to support financially their loved ones in Ethiopia due to a lack of convenience, affordable options or just overall transparency.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:41] So how is it being done now? How are they dealing with it?
Daniel Hadgu: [00:01:45] Yes, I’ll say right now, at least the way it used to be. People would go to these long manual places like Western Union. You know, my mother and I and even Michael used to do it as well. You would have to stand in these lines. And so really, for my mom, especially with the pain in her knee, it was especially painful for her to stand in those long lines. And then you would have to deal with the individuals, you know, the agents at the, you know, respected entity like Western Union fill out the slip and then they ship it over. But that whole process can take close to hour and especially with your busy day or with paying your knee. It just makes it that much more painful to kind of go through. And so that’s how we kind of came up with this, a centralized platform that allows individuals to do it through a web application or mobile application, so you can do it from the click of a finger.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:39] So you could do it from your house and it will go to the house of the person in Ethiopia.
Daniel Hadgu: [00:02:44] Yeah. So either you can transfer through peer to peer and send it directly to the individual’s wallet or something that we’re bringing in, which is a unique feature, is we’re partnering up in the private sector and public sector. So instead of us just giving the recipient the money directly, you just tell us what your bill is. Give us your account number and we can just pay your bill.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:05] Oh, so like if they have a power bill or, you know, any type of bill in their home, you can pay it here from America.
Daniel Hadgu: [00:03:15] One hundred percent. And so that does allows, you know, that the individual bills get paid. So you get the confirmation, the statement and allows just for a more seamless process.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:26] And then I would imagine the the bill company doesn’t care. They’re happy to have it. They don’t care who’s paying it right?
Daniel Hadgu: [00:03:33] 100 percent, you know, at the end of the day, it’s what’s they just want to make sure that they’re getting paid each month. And I think when they can get it directly from the individuals that have the funds because majority of the times, the individuals that pay it and it’s the Opia are getting the funds from a diaspora such as Michael or myself. So it just makes the process easier for us to pay it directly for them.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:56] Now what stage are you at in this adventure?
Daniel Hadgu: [00:04:00] Yeah, so we’re pricey. But post product to the point that I said right now, we’re currently on a fundraising campaign to be able to raise our seed fund. However, we already have built out the first phase of our project, which is available on the web based application and mobile application so you can find in the iOS store or in the Google Store as well. And so. Right now, we’re just trying to kind of gain a little bit more traction so that we can show a little bit more solidity to our customers and to the individuals who are raising the capital from.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:37] So is it possible right now if I had a relative in Ethiopia that I could pay a bill today?
Daniel Hadgu: [00:04:44] From a technological standpoint, yes, the app does work and you could. However, it’s not that simple. I think when you’re dealing with mobile money, you know, legalities and regulatory things play a factor. So doing your due diligence on your customers through KYC, AML, SaaS, things that sort. And so right now, we’ve been consulting with various amount of law firms to make sure that we have all that together before we officially launch on the platforms and allow people to do that.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:16] Now, could I send money directly to someone in Ethiopia?
Daniel Hadgu: [00:05:22] You would be able to yes, that would be one of the features that we would have on our platform where you can send money over there and have instant deposit into their wallet. Yes.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:31] So is that available now or is that going through the same regulation
Daniel Hadgu: [00:05:36] That’s still going through the same regulations when you’re dealing with, you know, the moving of money, mobile money, things out of sorts?
Lee Kantor: [00:05:44] Ok, so anytime you’re moving money, I guess internationally, then there’s more regulations involved.
Daniel Hadgu: [00:05:51] Yeah. So like here in the states, you know, you have your money transfer licenses and things of that sort. But then even in Ethiopia, there’s a license that you need for any mobile money movement of banks. And so, you know, we’re kind of dealing with the legal side of of both of those, whether it’s domestically or internationally.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:11] But you have the technology to transfer the funds. It’s just all this regulations is kind of you want to make sure that you’re doing that all perfectly legit. So everybody feels comfortable with the transaction.
Daniel Hadgu: [00:06:22] One hundred percent to that point that you just said, on the technical side of things, things are up and running and ready to go.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:30] So like right now, could you use your. Could I use your? Could I pay you something right now if I wanted to? Like with your system, or it only works internationally?
Daniel Hadgu: [00:06:42] Yeah, no. You can do it here as well. And so we’re trying to build an ecosystem of sorts and offering a variety of products, not just to kind of do dashboards and, you know, in the states, to Ethiopians and Ethiopia, but we want to even have user engagement in the states. So similarly to Venmo or a cash app where you can do peer to peer transactions. That’s something that you would be able to do as well on our platform.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:05] Now what was the kind of I heard that you say that this was a pain your mom was having her, you were you felt felt there was a better way to do it based on what your mom was struggling with. That’s where the idea kind of started, I guess. But how did you move from having that idea to actually now having kind of a working app and then obviously now build a business around that concept?
Daniel Hadgu: [00:07:29] Yeah, and I think even Michael would have a better shot at this. You know, the pain with my mother and her knee, that was my reason for joining on. But even Michael, I think his the genesis of it came from his visit to Ethiopia. So Mike, if you want to jump in and tackle that question.
Michael Gizachew: [00:07:51] Yes, so to add on to what Daniel was saying essentially came from real life situations where we personally experienced the hardships of trying to financially assist or support loved ones in Ethiopia. And you know, there were stages for Ethiopia initially started off as a web browser or a web based application, and from there we transformed it into a mobile application, understanding the market over there. There were way more mobile phones available to people than actual computers, so we just try to match the product with the market and apply it in that sense where we want it to be as successful as possible for our market.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:35] And then once you started kind of playing around in this space, is that when you realize, hey, there’s a lot more regulation, it’s not just technology, there’s a lot of kind of regulatory hoops I’m going to have to jump through. I better get some expert help here.
Michael Gizachew: [00:08:49] Yes. Absolutely, right. There’s more. I mean, I guess what I’m trying to say is that the regulatory side is a little more complicated than the technology side because, like you said, we’re talking about moving money across international borders and not just from America to Ethiopia, but obviously across other markets as well where we want to offer our services. So there there’s Ethiopians that live all around the world, not just in America, and we’re trying to service all of them. So we want to make sure and with money, obviously it being such a serious matter when it comes to being able to track it. Every government wants to make sure that we’re doing it by the books because there’s so many other things that can be involved with moving money around if you’re not compliant in all their rules.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:33] So now how did kind of the GSU, any program help you with moving this from idea to an actual, you know, product?
Daniel Hadgu: [00:09:43] Yes, I’ll say, you know, when we joined any, we already kind of had a product built out, but with the funding that they were able to provide us and with the the mentorship that they constantly giving us allowed us to kind of scale to the next level. So with the funds, we were able to, you know, start phase two of our technology application. And then in terms of the the mentorship we’ve been getting, it kind of gave us a perspective on things that we didn’t necessarily think of, especially with these seasoned veterans in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. So it kind of gave us value on both sides.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:23] Now, have they helped you kind of with the fundraising because, you know, raising funds is a totally different business than, you know, building an app or even getting the regulatory issues taken care of.
Daniel Hadgu: [00:10:35] Yes, I think what they’re doing, you know, keeping the end goal in mind, my dad always says is, you know, the uncle was Demo Day and I think they’ve been prepping us from, you know, the beginning of the Main Street program up until this point and leading to Demo Day to be able to be ready to pitch to investors and have the opportunity to get that exposure. So I would say yes, they they have been contributing through this, you know, breeding us and making sure that we have the right store. We had the right material and then we have face time with these investors.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:09] Now what’s the most rewarding part of this adventure for you guys?
Daniel Hadgu: [00:11:14] Yeah, so I think it’s just the journey itself. I think that, you know. Just being able to kind of start from ideology and, you know, being able to get it to where we were going right now and having people believe in us and allowing us to join the program and keep on scaling, I think that’s been the most rewarding thing to me. So having people buy into your your story and walking this journey with you
Lee Kantor: [00:11:44] Now, has it been frustrating having a product that works and not being able to use it to see if you know, the public will buy into it?
Daniel Hadgu: [00:11:55] It could be a little bit, but, you know, to the point, it’s just part of the process. So I think when you know that in the back of your mind, that is part of the process. A lot of people, I had great ideas and they had to go through the journey. Then it kind of humbles you and just lets you know that you’re on the right track. Just keep on moving forward.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:18] Now, any advice for other maybe students in college or folks that are considering being an entrepreneur rather than go the more conventional route of getting a job and working somewhere?
Daniel Hadgu: [00:12:31] Yeah, I’ll say this. Dream big. I think honestly, the only barriers that are here in our everyday lives are the artificial barriers that we put on ourselves. I think if you I’m full believer, like manifestation and, you know, daily affirmation and rooting for yourself. So I think honestly, as long as you can dream big, you write it down. Be vocal about it speaking into existence. Anything and everything is possible. So, you know, take big chances.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:05] Now tell me about the folks your peers are. Do they have that same philosophy or are they kind of more conservative in taking a more? I don’t want to say safer, because in today’s world, any job you think you have meaning you may not have, so you know, the rather the more conventional route?
Daniel Hadgu: [00:13:26] Mm hmm. Yeah. So I’ll say that, you know, there’s different groups of friends. And so, you know, I have group of colleagues that, you know, work, you know, the Wall Street job or the corporate job and that perfectly, OK. You know, my parents done it, you know, I done it. So that’s fine. But I think there’s another group of people that, you know, have bigger aspirations for themselves, and we have that group of friends, too. So it’s kind of just having different groups of people that have different ideologies and and different beliefs, and you want to be able to hang out around them because you are who you hang out around. And I think most recently, I’ve been hanging out around a lot more entrepreneurs.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:10] And if somebody wants to learn more about your venture, I would imagine right now you’re open to having conversations about funding. You’re open to having conversations about help with the regulatory if somebody wants to learn more about your product and service. Is there a website that exists right now that maybe they can get on the wait list or maybe contact you?
Daniel Hadgu: [00:14:31] Yeah, 100 percent. So you can connect with us on our website, which is the OPay Center. You can also connect with Michael and myself through our email. So for me, it’s Daniel at Ethiope center, and Michael, it’s Michael at your pace intercom. And you can also connect with us on LinkedIn as well, which is our full full name as well. And we’re more than happy to have discussions, whether it’s funding everyday advice or just an overall good conversation.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:03] Well, congratulations on all of the success. You should be very proud of yourself. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Daniel Hadgu: [00:15:10] Thank you so much. We really appreciate that.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:12] All right, this is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on GSU ENI radio.