Dear investors, colleagues, customers and partners:
I write this with a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for all of your support in the past few months. 2023 began with a wave of uncertainty and drama globally leaving no space for anyone to catch their breath. And yet — as I reflect on what we’ve achieved in the last 6 months — all I feel is a deep sense of responsibility to continue to build.
Our mission at Bloc is to help every company become a FinTech company. Such simple words have become an urgent need in our market today. Every day, we see this in action. More individuals and businesses are relying on technology to access financial services ranging from virtual account creation, lending, funds transfer, online payments, donations, virtual cards, and so much more.
The release of the Bloc API in Q3 2022 opened us up to even more possibilities. Our partners — signed-up businesses on Bloc — used our infrastructure to build even more use cases than we thought of. We have had the privilege to power startups that help kids & teens learn about money; a product that helps power financial transactions for international students; an app that pays out money with only your WhatsApp phone number; and a product that allows you to transfer money via a social media username. And this is only a tiny percentage of the dozens of companies who have signed up since announcing our beta release in July 2022.
Bloc 1.0 started by helping FinTechs and technical teams build their dream products because we provided all they needed — licences, compliance and infrastructure. But every company is not a FinTech product. In fact, FinTechs make up less than 1% of companies in Nigeria alone. Supermarkets, NGOs, manufacturing companies, FMCGs, supply chains, creators, merchants, etc make up a huge part of the market that needs access to financial technology.
Yes, FinTech products exist to help them manage and access these financial services — banking, loan disbursement, invoicing, and lending to name a few — but we do not have easily accessible options that empower these non-FinTech companies to distribute these financial services to their own audience.
For example, a supermarket cannot decide to issue virtual accounts and cards to their customers; a large church cooperative cannot run its own digital bank for its members; large organizations with 1000+ employees cannot provide captive banking services to its team.
This is a massive opportunity that these types of businesses cannot access because they don’t have a tech team or know that it is possible. Additionally, it is time-consuming and expensive to build and usually out of reach for these businesses.
Introducing Bloc 2.0
Bloc 2.0 was built for this.
Our goal is to make innovation possible for FinTech and non-FinTech businesses alike. In simple terms, we want to give non-FinTech businesses the ability to do everything that was previously only possible via an API. We dream that by doing this, we will open up even more possibilities led by creators, small businesses, merchants, serial entrepreneurs, changemakers, etc that will drive innovation and economic growth for the country.
Most importantly, what we have done implies that more businesses can now assume the responsibility of improving the financial inclusion rate of Nigeria. Bloc 2.0 is only a month old (launched in March 2023), but the weeks that followed our launch have made us very excited at the possibilities of what companies can do with Bloc.
Here are a few examples:
- Our new Dashboard allows a verified business to offer banking services to their customers. They can issue virtual accounts and NGN/USD cards to their customers, send money to any bank account in Nigeria, and power bulk transfers to up to 1000 accounts at once.
- Our payment orchestration product means businesses get instant access to the power of 12+ payment providers in one place. What was only previously possible by hiring a tech team to build for you has been reimagined as a tool that anyone, with or without technical expertise, can use and deploy for accepting online payments from their customers.
- Our Alias feature that allows you to create multiple virtual accounts with unique suffixes has made it possible for startups to build spend management features, offer digital financial services to kids/teens, build wallet infrastructure for their products, and so much more.
- In the coming weeks, non-FinTech businesses will be able to custom build and deploy their own app that allows their customers access these financial services being distributed via Bloc — all without needing to hire a tech team. Supermarkets can run loyalty card programs, NGOs can power subscriptions, and businesses can bank their employees, offering more perks such as lending, USD cards, etc.
- Companies will be able to offer agency banking services fully hosted on Bloc. Agent management, POS terminal procurement, settlements and reconciliation, and everything else managed on one Dashboard. At the same time, small and medium businesses also get access to POS terminals for processing offline payments or offering more services like bills payment.
Across different categories, we are delivering technology and tools that expand our opportunity to help these businesses unlock the power of financial technology, without the expensive cost and burden that usually comes with it.
We began the new quarter with the release of the first version of Cards. Businesses can now create and issue virtual NGN/USD cards with Bloc. However, this is only available on the API to customers who requested early access. In the coming weeks, we will be releasing it on the Dashboard to everyone.
We are also going live with our POS Terminals product allowing businesses to access/provide merchant and agency banking services. SMEs that simply need access to POS Terminals to receive payments, and businesses that want to manage an agent network to offer banking services will soon be able to do so on Bloc.
Finally, we’ll continue to improve the current API and Dashboard. Expect to see more performance improvements, new features, and security updates to the product. We’ll also commit to more community events to make sure that we learn more about how you want to use Bloc and teach you what you can do with Bloc.
To stay in touch, feel free to join our Slack community here.
Programs & Partnerships
Our new focus on non-FinTech businesses does not change our pre-existing commitment to helping our FinTech partners succeed.
In 2022, we completed a partnership with SMEDAN, the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, to onboard over 4 million SMEs in their community to financial technology products and services. As a part of this partnership, these SMEs will get instant access to a marketplace of all live products/services powered by the Bloc API.
This means that as a customer of Bloc, your product will be introduced/advertised to a potential audience of 4 million SME business owners via various marketing and communication channels in collaboration with SMEDAN.
We are also introducing a partner program at the end of Q2 2023. This gives exclusive perks and benefits to our customers across product, brand and marketing. The goal is to work with our customers and partners to increase their reach, grow their customer base and improve how they build their products.
Other perks include dedicated and priority customer support, phone support, startup programs, early access to new products and features, etc.
Security & Compliance
Building financial services infrastructure is a delicate responsibility. We know that we manage real people’s money and we have committed to making sure that we continuously upgrade our security systems.
Recently, we revamped our KYC upgrade process introducing face verification and a KYC revalidation feature in cases where you suspect fraudulent activities on your platform. We also have a security system that automatically freezes a virtual account if we identify any piece of suspicious activity happening on an account created by an organization in Bloc.
Additionally, we are consistently implementing new Anti-Money Laundering policies to protect our technology and your business from being used to break country laws and regulations.
Data security is important to us. Our infrastructure is PCI-DSS certified, meaning that sensitive customer information is encrypted and protected, compliant with the highest global standards of security. We also take how we transmit general information very seriously. Our ISO-27001 and NDPR certifications confirm that our Information Security policies are well-documented and implemented.
Excitement is all I feel when I think of the rare privilege of powering financial services infrastructure for both FinTech and non-FinTech companies.
I am encouraged by the support that we’ve received from our community, our employees (past and present), our investors, our customers and partners, and everyone who has continued to make our dream a reality in their own little way in spite of the environment we are in. If we continue to build and deliver, I’m confident we can all make our dreams possible.
If you are new and this sounds exciting to you, I would love to have you on board. To get started, please create your Bloc account here → https://app.blochq.io.