The story of Chipper Cash’s cofounders begins in Africa, passes through Iowa, and winds up in Silicon Valley (with a cameo by Joe Montana). And the ending might just revolutionize mobile payments throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Chipper Cash is a cross-border payment app in Africa, where some 700,000 people use it to send and receive money. It facilitates payments in and between Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Nigeria—all for the reasonable price of free.
“We had the privilege of growing up on the continent and being trained in the West,” says Ham Serunjogi, who, along with Maijid Moujaled, founded Chipper Cash in 2018. “We thought, ‘How do we leverage that? How can we build something impactful?’” Both founders grew up in Africa—Serunjogi in Uganda, Moujaled in Ghana—and emigrated to the United States for school. They met at Grinnell College in Iowa, where they bonded over their shared interests and status as international students.
At the time, Serunjogi was studying economics. Moujaled, two years older, was already designing and building apps as part of an ad hoc group he called Grinnell App Dev. (One project: an app for the university’s food-service program called G-Licious.) In Moujaled, Serunjogi found not only a good friend but a mentor who introduced him to a broader world. “He took me under his wing,” Serunjogi says. “It was like being a fly on the wall while all this great stuff was happening.”
We thought, ‘How can we solve some of these problems facing people in Africa?’ That’s what pulled at us.
After the two graduated, their careers took them everywhere from the Bay Area to New York to Dublin. Yet wherever they traveled, the concept for Chipper Cash stayed with them.
“At one point, we drove down the coast to L.A. and listened to podcasts about fintech and cryptocurrencies the whole way. We thought, ‘How can we solve some of these problems facing people in Africa?’” Serunjogi says. “That’s what pulled at us. It was a really hard problem.” (The name came from the idea of chipping away at the problem.)
Chipper Cash launched in October 2018. By the end of 2019, the app had 700,000 users, almost entirely through word of mouth. Investors include a group led by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana.
The plan for 2020 is more growth, more countries, and more connecting the continent, which both men say is the real goal of the app. Serunjogi does admit to a side benefit: football advice from Montana, one of the all-time greats.
“The index finger is what controls the trajectory of the football,” he says. “That’s the secret.”