Last year in December, Gibson Sigauke, MGM ‘23 graduate student at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, presented his company, Xiga Money, at the ASU Venture Devils Demo Day (Fall 2022) and made a winning presentation, securing $10,000 in seed funding. Xiga Money is a fintech company focused on creating financial inclusion for the unbanked in Africa it has a remittance platform to send and receive money from Africa and other regions across the world. This interview was conducted by Uswa Ahmed (MGM ‘23), Creative Director of Das Tor, Thunderbird School of Global Management.
Gibson, tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Gibson Sigauke, and I was born and raised in Zimbabwe. I trained as a pharmacist, and I worked in the pharmaceutical industry for a period. I came to Thunderbird in 2021 as a recipient of the prestigious SHARE fellow scholarship. At Thunderbird, I am concentrating in venture capital, private equity, and startups. I am also the President of the Private Equity & Venture Capital Club, which is doing phenomenal things here at Thunderbird.
What inspired you to launch a start-up, and what goals did you set out to accomplish through Xiga Money?
Concerning what really inspired me to launch a start-up, I can say I have been an entrepreneur for a long period of time. I love to start things, and in fact, I describe myself as a person who wants to help other people become better versions of themselves. And being an entrepreneur or starting a business is one way to do that, especially if you are doing it as a social enterprise where you are solving an institutional void or solving problems that are particular to certain countries. So, I was inspired by the fact of who I am and that I need to make other people become better versions of themselves. If you look closely at Xiga Money and what we are doing, we are trying to accomplish what we call the ‘creation of creditworthiness’ among the people who are unbanked in Africa. We are focusing on eliminating the invisibility that is found among people who are unbanked in Africa- they are not considered credit-worthy in any way, and we are trying to solve that problem to ensure that once they get a great score or creditworthiness, they can get access to other financial products like insurance, loans so that they can do their small businesses and just live their lives in many other ways that everyone else is doing.
What are the values and key strategies that drive Xiga Money?
The values of Xiga Money, as a company, are enshrined in financial inclusion. By saying ‘financial inclusion,’ we are looking at and leaning toward economic development in Africa. Because once we include everyone in terms of access to financial products, it means those people can have liberation to do their business and to also protect their assets. The ultimate effect is they will have a better life for themselves and bring better economic value to the economies of their countries. We want to develop Africa, and we are going to do that through financial inclusion. This is exactly what Xiga Money is representing and trying to do. And the key strategies for us to do that are based on making use of technology, understanding our customers, and understanding the problems that our customers have so that we can provide solutions to those problems in a sustainable way.
What makes it different from other fintech companies?
A lot of fintech companies are focusing on money remittances or just issuing debt. Our company is a super app that is remitting money to Africa and issuing debt at the same time. However, our competitive advantage is that we are set on creating creditworthiness for people in Africa.
As an entrepreneur, what opportunities do you see for a fintech company in Africa?
There are a lot of opportunities for an entrepreneur in Africa, in the space of fintech, especially right now. I say that because, in Africa, there are a lot of institutional voids that are not being filled. So, if a fintech comes in with technology to fill the gaps, there is an opportunity to produce a business with a sustainable model. There are a lot of opportunities. A lot of people in Africa are not banked, and a lot of people don’t have access to financial products. I think that the fintech space can fill that gap where traditional finance and banks are not even trying to do something in those spaces.
Where do you see Xiga Money in the next 5 years?
We aim to go global and intend to operate from the United States, South Africa, and Zimbabwe within the first one and a half years, and then move to other regions in Africa. We are planning to move to different continents in a period of 5 years. In 5 years, we see ourselves in other countries, regions, and continents with a diverse portfolio of financial products that are addressing the problem of financial inclusion, especially for the underserved and unbanked populations of the world.
What would be the biggest challenge, in your point of view, of managing a company?
The biggest challenge, in general, would be making the right decisions because entrepreneurship is solving problems, difficult problems, and many problems, so, you have to be a multi-potentiality kind of individual where you are solving a lot of problems at the same time. A lot of challenges come forward when negotiating with different stakeholders or trying to be understood by all stakeholders. Withing your start-ups, for example, you are talking to your investors, they have things they are pushing for, but at the same time, you are looking at your customers and doing customer development. So, you have multiple stakeholders with different expectations. As an entrepreneur, you must make sure that all stakeholders are okay with whatever you are doing and believe in you, that’s the most difficult thing that comes with being a start-up. Running a start-up, in most cases, is like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. As you are falling, you are trying to assemble the parachute so that you would land properly. Still, the problem is that sometimes you don’t have enough resources to assemble that parachute, or the climatic conditions are too harsh or indifferent to allow the parachute to open. I think that’s exactly what entrepreneurship is, and that’s the most difficult part of it: uncertainty and managing that uncertainty.
What is your advice to fellow t-birds wanting to launch their own start-ups?
The first piece of advice that I would give to fellow t-birds wanting to launch their own start-ups is they should take classes that are related to start-ups, like Entrepreneurship taught by Professor Ault. You need to take the class seriously if you are going to launch a start-up. Then there is a class taught by Professor Chavez, Building a Global Start-up. Another class is, Start-up Investing which is taught by Professor Rebecca Hwang it will help you to understand how investors think when they are investing in a business. So those are the classes that I would recommend. The second piece of advice is to participate in clubs that are doing start-up things like Thunderpreneurs. You can participate there and get a lot of feedback from colleagues and guests, and you would learn a lot through the interaction that you will get within the community. I would also encourage people to participate in the Venture Capital & Private Equity Club, that we launched recently- you can evaluate companies and understand what other companies are doing and get to speak with people who are in the venture capital space who invest in startups. Because ultimately, what you need is to be believed by investors and to be understood by customers, and that’s very important. Those two things if they are not there, it is very difficult for you to have a successful start-up. Because ultimately, what you need is successful customer development, and you also need funding from people who can invest in your business. My third advice is to participate in the ASU start-up space. ASU has a lot of start-up spaces/resources like Venture Devils- you will learn a lot through feedback, coaching, and participating in Venture Demo (like I did) and get a chance to receive seed funding. These are my top three recommendations. The general advice that I would give to those launching a start-up is that you must do something that is within your experience, your capacities, or your connections. This is important because investors believe in your ability to execute if you have got an experience, connection, or story that relates to the problem that you are solving or the customers you are serving.