The Future Of Fintech Unfolds: How Evolve Credit Conceptualized A New Financial Reality
Evolve Credit Co-Founders Akan Nelson and Daniel Osineye have reimagined a future where every bank or non-bank financial institution–no matter its size–can operate as a global fintech. Here’s how their disruptive idea came to life.
When telling stories about tech entrepreneurship, there’s a temptation to make the story as simple as possible. We hear stories about innovators finding success overnight as the final iteration of their product lives up to their initial vision. But that’s not how things typically work–nor should they.
Rather than having a grand, overarching plan from the start–the most impactful companies are those who react and evolve their services around the changing needs and feedback of their customers.
This is the story of Evolve Credit.
As it stands today–Evolve Credit’s SaaS tool, known as Configure, is proving itself a disruptive force in the global financial world. Configure allows any bank or non-bank lender to operate as a robust fintech, by offering a no-code suite of tools for customizing and offering digital financial services.
What we’re seeing is the democratization of banking software–and the emergence of a new reality where access to the global financial system is available to all. With recent expansion into the North American market, Evolve Credit–Co-Founded by CEO Akan Nelson and CTO Daniel Osineye–now has a worldwide presence.
“The day-to-day mission,” Nelson says, “is getting humanity a globally inclusive and accessible financial services system as quickly as possible.”
But rather than discovering this mission from the jump, this calling came to Nelson and Osineye as they built out their business. A far cry from where they’re at today, Evolve Credit 1.0 began as a simple app that acted as Nigeria’s answer to fintechs like Affirm or Klarna.
“We were working with local small businesses,” Nelson explains. “The vision and the mission and our understanding of what we could control hadn’t crystallized in the way that it has now.”
These humble beginnings came about after a 10-day coding session taken on by Osineye, CTO of Evolve Credit.
“I was building out of excitement,” Osineye says.
Osineye, a passionate coder and the technical brains behind Evolve Credit has an origin story you won’t find anywhere else. A distant relative of a local Oba, or Nigerian king, Osineye was raised in a palace, though his family was left to the margins of this community and lived humbly.
“Although I didn’t have access to the resources around me,” Osineye recalls, “I saw what was possible in life through the wealthy, distant relatives I grew up with.”
Osineye’s parents worked hard to provide him a solid education–and he developed a love for programming that has carried the now Co-Founder to where he is today. In 2018, his skills earned him an IT internship at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa–in addition to a full scholarship to the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, as a MasterCard Foundation scholar.
It was at this academy that Nelson developed his gifts in entrepreneurship before attending University in Rochester, New York. Nelson first met Osineye when he was back in Johannesburg to help the school develop a fundraising campaign.
“People said, ‘hey, there’s another Nigerian guy,’” Nelson laughs. “‘Do you know him?’”
Naturally, Nigeria is a big country–and this was the first meeting between Nelson and Osineye. Nothing much came of their early interactions–but the seeds were planted for the larger partnership to come.
Their paths would once again cross while they were both contributing to The Bridge Program, a fellowship that was applying some of the African Leadership Academy’s principles to help university students with professional skills development. Nelson, who at the time was working at the United Bank for Africa, was invited to speak about his journey. Osineye, who had previously attended the program, was working as a volunteer.
Reconnecting, the two stayed in touch while Nelson worked in banking and Osineye continued to hone his programming skills in financial technology–while also spending some time exploring AR and VR technology.
“That was where I really started to see some of these opportunities for using technology to make a big impact in financial services,” Nelson recalls.
Nelson developed an empathy for the millions of people excluded from the financial system because the big banks won’t lend to them. In Nigeria, as it is in economies around the world, there simply isn’t enough incentive for major financial players to do so.
Seeing technology as a means to bridge this divide, Nelson reached out to Osineye with the initial vision for Evolve Credit.
As mentioned earlier, Evolve Credit 1.0 was a part-time project that introduced a buy now, pay later financing solution to the Nigerian market. Nelson and Osineye saw quiet success with their app–and saw the impact it brought to the businesses they were serving.
“Our customers were people who had been previously underserved,” Nelson says. “They were essentially invisible because no one had been able to figure out how to support them in a meaningful way.”
Evolve Credit, in its earliest form, reached towards addressing the problems that Nelson had seen in banking and finance. Empowered by this, the Co-Founders set their sights one step higher.
They were too small to become a lender themselves in the market–and it would take more than one new financial institution to close the multi-trillion dollar lending gap that the world faces.
“Instead of being a player on the field,” Nelson says, “we wanted to make the field bigger and better, enabling more players to start popping up around town.”
Evolve Credit 2.0 was centered around connecting borrowers with lenders by creating a centralized digital hub where both parties could meet. This idea caught venture capital interest from VCs like Future Africa, Samurai Incubate, and Microtraction.
It was around this point when Nelson quit his job, and Osineye deferred the opportunity to go to university in order to work on the business full-time. The early rise of this start-up saw its fair share of rocky moments–and this move was a huge bet for the two of them.
“At this point in the story, we’re battle-hardened,” Nelson recalls. “I said to Daniel, let’s go big or go home.”
Evolve Credit was built as a remote company, even before the pandemic. Working with a team from Nigeria, South Africa, Lebanon, and the United States, the company continues to be an innovator when it comes to this new model for running a business. This hasn’t always been easy–like when power outages would force Osineye to relocate to Facebook’s NG Hub, a tech community hub space provided in partnership with the local CCHub, just to get connected with Nelson–but such an environment pushed the company’s drive to innovate on a global scale.
With Nelson’s vision and Osineye’s technical execution, Evolve Credit 2.0 became renowned for its robust digital suite. The product was designed to connect riskier borrowers with smaller lenders who could serve them, but it was the digital infrastructure behind it that was most sought after.
“The small lenders typically didn’t have the technology to integrate in this high-tech system we built for our marketplace,” Nelson recalls. “They started expressing increasing interest in the technology tools that we had built for ourselves.”
This revealed an opportunity to open up the playing field for banks and non-bank lenders worldwide. By creating a no-code suite of tools for setting up digital banking services, Evolve Credit could change the way that people access financial services worldwide.
This idea was the birth of Configure, which would become the flagship SaaS tool that Evolve Credit is most known for. To develop this, the Co-Founders had to reimagine and deconstruct the processes behind every financial institution.
“At its core,” Nelson says, “innovation isn’t necessarily about creating new pieces but about putting existing pieces together in ways no one else has. That’s what we’ve done with Evolve Credit; we’re reimagining banking technology that’s more resilient and harder to replicate than anything else.”
Piece by piece, Evolve Credit–now with a global team working alongside the Co-Founders–built a modular, end-to-end system for customizing banking software to the needs of a specific financial institution.
Honing its technology with some of the brightest software developers and engineers in the African continent–and securing its legal roots in the United States–Evolve Credit is now a global ally for any financial institution trying to expand its reach through digital service.
“Having the best-in-class software to operate your bank or your financial service is no longer a privilege of the wealthiest organizations and fintechs that have been able to raise the most venture capital dollars,” Nelson says. “That is now the driving force behind everything we do–we’re looking to have a broad-based social impact.”With Evolve Credit recently arriving in the North American market, the story of Akan Nelson and Daniel Osineye is only getting started. To keep up with the continued unfolding of this revolutionary fintech, visit Evolve Credit’s website.