Four years ago, Yellow Card Inc. launched to power Africa’s cryptocurrency ecosystem. By the end of 2023, CEO Chris Maurice says his company is targeting a $1 billion valuation.
If that becomes reality, the company would become the next crypto-focused startup to become a unicorn in Atlanta. Last year, crypto-exchange company Bakkt was valued at $2.1 billion after it went public in a special purpose acquisition company merger. There are at least six other startups that have reached the $1 billion milestone, many of which in the past two years.
Maurice’s growth projection comes after reaching $57 million in funding. Last month, Blockchain venture capital firm Polychain Capital led Yellow Card’s $40 million Series B round.
The recent raise comes as the future of crypto has come into question due to rapid fluctuations. As of Oct. 10, the news outlet CoinDesk reported that Bitcoin was valued at less than $20,000, down from an all-time high of $69,000 around the same time last year.
At least 40 unicorn companies worldwide are crypto-based, according to Fintech Labs. Some of which include Coinbase,, OpenSea and FTX.
Yellow Card is competing with Atlanta-based Bitcoin ATM provider Bitcoin Depot to be the next local crypto unicorn. CEO Brandon Mintz told Atlanta Inno last month his company’s valuation will be as high as $755 million following a recent SPAC deal. Atlanta is recognized as a leading financial technology and payments hub. In recent years, it has also garnered a presence of successful companies in the cryptocurrency space.
Yellow Card’s growth plans
Yellow Card likens itself as the “Coinbase” of Africa. It allows Africans to buy and sell crypto using cash, mobile money, card or bank transfer.
While the company is fully remote, its headquarters is registered in Atlanta. It has 212 employees across 21 countries. Members of its executive team, including chief technology officer Justin Poiroux and chief monetary officer John Colson, are based in Atlanta.
Its platform is active in 16 African countries including Cameroon, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda. By the end of the year, Maurice expects its footprint to reach 21 countries. Its long-term goal is to be in all 54 African nations.
Inspiration for the company came to Maurice at a Wells Fargo bank in Auburn, Alabama. He met a Nigerian man who was charged $90 to send $200 to his family, and wondered if Bitcoin, which doesn’t have an exchange rate among countries, would benefit him. A month and a half later, Maurice took his first international flight. A one-way ticket to Nigeria to start the business.
In June 2019, the company launched its services in Nigeria. Less than a year later, the platform reached Botswana and South Africa. It slowed expansion in late 2021, but also expanded to Senegal since then.
Last year, it raised $15 million to increase hiring and continue expansion. That round was led by Valar Ventures, Third Prime and Castle Island Ventures with participation from over 10 other firms. It was named one of 22 Startups to Watch by the Atlanta Business Chronicle in March.
Crypto in Africa
Yellow Card is one of the most well-funded Web3 startups in Africa, according to Forbes. Comparatively, South Africa’s Valr has raised $54.9 million, Congo-based Jambo Technology has raised $37.5 million and Nigeria-based Mara has raised $23 million.
With that, Maurice says it’s the company’s “responsibility to formalize the crypto industry in Africa, rather than just operate and make money in it,”
The crypto market in Africa has grown by over $100 billion since 2021, according to Techpoint Africa. Digital currency is viewed by some as more stable than nation-based currencies which may fluctuate because of political instability or debt crises.
“It gives people on the ground a way of being able to participate in the international economy despite instability and archaic banking rails that exist within their country,” Maurice said.
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