Tricia Martinez stood by a canal

Gamechangers: Wala

20 December 2016

This is my dream job. If I wasn’t building Wala I’d be building another company, solving another problem.

We created our products because we recognised that a lot of people who started coming to us in Africa were in need of financial support – they wanted to save more money or reach particular financial goals – and we decided the first step to helping them was giving them the tools to start getting on that path. That’s why we decided to utilise the financial management app and integrate it into a digital banking platform.

I wanted to be an entrepreneur ever since I was a child. I consider myself a problem-solver and if I wasn’t doing something valuable with my time I didn’t put a lot of effort into it.

I knew that an Accelerator would be really valuable. I wanted a programme that not only leveraged the resources and network that Barclays and Techstars offered but also brought in potential customers. We could get an understanding of what it’s like to work with a bank and how to get access to important stakeholders who could help us streamline our product.

London is the fintech capital of the world. It’s where the banks are, where the money is, so if we were going to go anywhere for an Accelerator, it was going to be London.

Most successful entrepreneurs have to go above and beyond as part of the job. We had prior contact with Barclays, which helped, and members of the Barclays team were pushing for us, so if you can get engagement with Barclays at some level it will be easier to get into the programme. Also, I was constantly networking with Barclays people to make sure they knew who we were and what we doing, and at end of the day it worked.

Wala logo

The contacts we made at the Accelerator have continued to be a network for us. It opened up the door to many other opportunities and it made our lives easier, because you go into the office every day and you have access to all these different global companies that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

Customers are becoming more savvy to the tech-driven solutions that are available, so more consumers are becoming less engaged in the system. We’re in this space because traditional banking in emerging markets doesn’t always work for mass-market consumers.

We’re waiting for a huge disruption to happen and want Wala to be a part of that, because consumers want to have a greater voice and they’re going to be using smaller start-up solutions that are more applicable to their lifestyle. Banks are going to have to figure out how they can work with start-ups and how they can innovate their products or business models.

I’m not from a corporate background. I’m from a background in behavioural development economics. I’ve never worked in the corporate world. I’ve had no desire to even apply.

If I was giving advice to my younger self, I would say that you should embrace failure. Even though it may be scary, actually you’re blessed, because you’ll learn so much from failure and become stronger and better for it.

My business hero is Muhammad Yunus, because he took traditional financial models and created an entirely new system targeted at underserved consumers. He took what already existed and tweaked it, which is exactly what Wala is doing.

Quickfire Qs

What three key words sum up the concept of being a gamechanger?
Passion. Grit. Perseverance.

What was the last book you read?
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

What’s your most used app?