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Akimbo: the US social payments startup that should take a hard look at Africa

Here’s a pretty interesting concept. Akimbo Financial is a social payments startup from the US that allows users to connect up to five “allowance” or pre-paid cards to a primary bank account.

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While M-Pesa is top of mind as Africa’s go-to financial service for the unbanked, there’s potential on the continent for an Akimbo-like service. Akimbo requires that only one user has a bank account — cards linked to the primary account are all pre-paid and can be used anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted or at ATMs.

It’s useful for setting up auto allowances for family members, managing spending or budgeting, putting money away for emergencies or paying the babysitter — essentially any situation that could do without the bank account overhead. Money can be transferred, instantly (for free) or scheduled and sent via email, Facebook, or SMS.

Akimbo is also going after financial institutions. Think per diems — again in an African context, for an unbanked workforce — petty cash, or avoiding the liability of corporate credit cards.

Akimbo will demo a new adaptive display web app and account management platform at financial tech innovation showcase, FinovateFall. The startup will also begin offering a co-branding programme for banks and credit unions, allowing small to mid-size financial institutions the ability to quickly launch a unique Visa Prepaid product with little to no upfront investment.

Akimbo co-founder and CEO Houston Frost says that its future lies in getting cosy with businesses.

“While we’ve seen success selling directly to the consumer, it is a fairly expensive proposition,” said Frost. “We will continue to offer a cutting-edge prepaid card product to the individual, especially with our recent and upcoming updates to the web and mobile interface, but we’ll now primarily be partnering with small to mid-size banks and credit unions to scale distribution. We’ve heard over and over about customers walking into their local bank branch and requesting prepaid cards for their kids, family members, or themselves — the banks have the relationship, but not the product. It’s a win-win: we create a distribution channel to grow our volume and provide a unique, turn-key prepaid solution to the banks at no cost.”

In order to scale, Akimbo will be offering banks way to quickly offer their clients Akimbo-type services.

Akimbo’s turn-key solution is co-branded, which allows the financial institution to launch the programme rapidly at low cost. Companies can also brand the Akimbo HTML5 web app, mobile app, and enrolment portal.

These partnering organisations receive a revenue share and avoid operational expenses, allowing the banks to gauge customer interest in the product without making an investment in a new product launch.

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