Building A Payments Application For African Creators And Gen Z

Published: February 16th, 2021
David Nandwa
Founder, HoneyCoin
from Nairobi
started September 2021
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi! My name is David Nandwa & I’m the Founder & CTO of HoneyCoin. We help creators and internet businesses monetize their audiences & Gen Z and Millenials manage their cash & crypto all in one place. Whether you’re crowdfunding for something you believe in, studying abroad and receiving money from your parents, spending online on your favorite stores, or joining the current Bitcoin hype train, you can do it all with HoneyCoin and more.

Our main offering is monetization & remittance features that allow users to send, receive, spend, & manage FIAT currency (KES, NGN, USD, UGX, etc.) as well as Cryptocurrencies such as (BTC, ETH, USDT, and more).


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

The product initially started of frustration - I was getting paid by someone who was in the US through Paypal, and out of nowhere my account was frozen and it took me about 2 weeks to get a response from support and when I did they simply said, “Your account has been closed indefinitely because you opened it before turning 18 and even though you’ve submitted your KYC details now, we’re keeping your money.” I had never used the account before turning 18 but that whole process left me with a bad taste in my mouth and I vowed never to use it again.

That planted the seed that caused me to start researching alternative platforms and all were dead-end - either too expensive, lots of restrictions for young people, and extremely unfriendly UX-wise. Crypto-wise most did/still are very complicated to use for someone with zero-knowledge about the space. Cryptocurrencies despite what many might say are still very, very niche. The on-and-off ramping process with HC is intentionally built to feel like you’re using regular currency (KES, USD, NGN, etc..) and as affordable as your local payment methods (M-Pesa, Bank Transfer, etc). Only then will we see more mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies.

The final nail was listening to a podcast conversation with Sahil & seeing a GumRoad’s Creator Report, Here’s the most recent one:


Some creators made $1,000,000 last year! I find that absolutely fascinating because I strongly believe that there’s a list of independent creators in Africa to make that I don’t doubt can make that much and more. What’s even more exciting is there are creators with 1-2k audiences that can make more than comfortable living doing what they love.

Here’s a little math - If you as an individual have an audience of 1,000 people, and they support you by paying at least $10/month, you’re now earning $10,000/month with your ‘small’ audience. This is still not possible even if the math is attractive because platforms like GumRoad or Patreon were not built for the African market, neither do they accommodate it in terms of cashing out. HoneyCoin is building the foundation for individuals in Africa to become their own independent success stories. We won’t own their work, won’t be able to take the credit for their effort, and will only have built out a successful product when we make other people successful. I love that.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

I initially spun up a quick MVP to validate the product with little focus on the design and a heavy focus on validating the idea. This took about 3 days for V1, I tested it out on my own and with a few close friends & family. This quick test was a success, and that’s when I decided to go all in. I spent about a week working on the design, and the rest of the 3 weeks leading up to the launch coding. I was on an extremely tight budget so I couldn’t outsource anything initially. Here’s an early version of how the homepage looked:


The app was supposed to be called Macro and I honestly don’t remember why. Here’s a recent GIF of a few of the screens:


There’s a lot of exciting things you can do with HC, if you have any questions, shoot me an email directly or DM me on Twitter!

Describe the process of launching the business.

I initially bet on myself by putting $1,000 of my own money into the business to provide liquidity for instant settlements, it was either this or focusing on raising money first to provide liquidity to our users. I saw this as impractical without first validating the product so it was a personal risk I was willing to take to validate the product and one that paid off in the end. HC is now profitable because the neat thing about our business model is the revenue and earnings users make covers the liquidity the platform needs to still offer instant settlements.

One funny story about this though - So I had done the math and capped our volume to $1,000/month in the early beta days but never anticipated that we would get a huge influx of users during the time of the pandemic! At our peak we were processing about $9,800 a day, these were the best and worst days for me because now we had to explain to our users that they would only be able to get paid a week or so later, this was hard, but our users were surprisingly forgiving and understood. Consequently, we did lose some, but this was a great lesson I learned to never assume or underestimate your product’s potential if you have strong value propositions.

Since then - we’ve been able to increase our liquidity to $10,000/week, and the platform is operating profitably every single month. If I’m being honest we’re also delaying our launch because I’m afraid about the number of people who will sign up and running into the liquidity problem again.

For this reason, we’ll be raising money this year to be able to handle the increased demand after the public launch. We’ve experienced very clear early indicators of product-market-fit and at scale, I don’t want capital to hinder our growth.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Interestingly - building in public is what’s helped the most for me. I don’t do it as often as I should but when I do, we get 2x the number of waitlist & platform sign-ups on an average day.

Building in public is essentially being fully transparent about the product on wherever social medium it is you use as well sharing lessons learned, traction, updates, and such. I’ve found this to be personally rewarding as well as it’s helped me become a better communicator in terms of distilling information into bite-sized portions that effectively communicate with any reader while also being captivating enough to make them want to dig deeper.

I don’t believe in stealth startups if you already have an MVP ready because why are you keeping it a secret if what you need is more users? If the problem you have with building in public is accountability and receipts perhaps the issue is you’re not being completely honest with yourself first.


How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We’ve been in Private Beta since we soft-launched in October, and by soft launch I mean I just tweeted and shared the product through my socials haha. In terms of the team, it’s just me for now and I’m just barely managing. The unit economics don’t yet make sense for me to bring on full-time staff just yet, but I am actively looking for a co-founder.

Traction-wise, we’ve onboarded 504 people and have more still on the waitlist. We’re operational in 11 countries at the moment and looking to expand further this year after the public launch

Revenue-wise, the platform processes an average of $10k/m in Revenue, from that and other monetized features within the application we make between $1-$2k/m in Net Profit.

The plan is to launch publicly next month in February, at the moment we have an Android & Web platform, and so we’re working round the clock to publish the iOS version to prepare us for the public launch.

In terms of goals, my three main goals for this are as follows:

  • Get the platform to $100k/m in Transaction Volume.
  • Help 10 Micro-Creators (1-10k audience) make a comfortable living doing what they love.
  • Grow to 10,000 Monthly Active Users.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

The most important thing starting HoneyCoin has taught me is if you focus on providing value and how you can better serve your users, your revenue is bound to increase. Products/Ideas don’t make you $$$, providing value does.

Outsource some things if you can afford to earlier, for the longest time I was a one-man band with HoneyCoin, this didn’t affect the product but it affected my personal health. Nothing is ever worth it enough to sacrifice your mental or physical health for, take care of yourself.

If your product and niche are a fit for an accelerator, try and get into one as soon as possible or surround yourself with a network of founders ahead of your current stage. I can confidently say the best decision I ever made with HoneyCoin last year, was joining Pioneer. I know the product would have been miles behind where it is now if I hadn’t joined the tournament, competed, and won.

Why I love and recommend Pioneer to a lot of founders who reach out is because their process is the most unique and helpful to founders even as early as the idea stage. Even if you don’t get in, the value of the community & tournament structure will help your product in so many ways. You get to find out if your idea has legs, have fun doing it, and meet amazing people along the way. I’ve also been exposed to so many successful people that I would’ve never met without joining the accelerator! If you asked me to choose between $100,000 in funding and joining Pioneer, I would still pick Pioneer 10 times out of 10.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Firebase - Most of our data is stored on Firebase. I’ve still not found a Backend Tool as robust as Firebase, whenever founders or developers ask me what back-end I would recommend I always recommend Firebase. One con about Firebase though is you need to be careful when you’re on the Blaze Plan and configure your database & cloud functions robustly, Firebase charges for everything so even though their free tier is generous when you’re on the Blaze Plan, set price alerts and monitor regularly.

Google Cloud - Most of our servers are stored on Google Cloud. Not for any sp

Very Good Security - We store sensitive data with Very Good Security to be able to assure our users 24/7 that they’re safe with us.

AppFlow - We use AppFlow for our CI/CD pipeline.

ConvertKit - I chose ConvertKit because it makes managing our product newsletter and collecting emails super easy & minus a lot of the unnecessary fluff that other tools come with.

LogRocket- Added this recently because whenever users would report a platform bug, it would take hours to get to the bottom of the issue because users are great at reporting a problem but not what the actual problem is, Log Rocket helps us squash bugs before our users even reach out.

Netlify - This might actually be my favorite on this list just because of how easy & affordable it is to use. If you’re validating an idea or need a robust & affordable way to host your project, I can’t recommend Netlify enough. It’s free to host an unlimited number of sites, they provision an SSL certificate if you don’t have one, and setup time takes 2 minutes tops. No, I’m not affiliated with them in any way, I just love them so much haha!

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I’m not a book junkie but two books that completely changed my perspective on life were Outliers and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Outliers in particular because it taught me that the environment and people you create around yourself plays a significant role in achieving or doing exceptional things. Surround yourself with things & people that are in line with your ambitious goals, you’ll be surprised how much of a difference it makes if you haven’t already.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

The best advice I can give you is once you’ve done your research, found a key thing that differentiates you from other competitors already in the market, talked to a few people, and gotten feedback, don’t wait - start. There’s no such thing as the perfect time, waiting for the stars to align to launch your product will do more harm than good.

Another thing is imposter syndrome is real, but don’t let that stop you from starting. Every single person who built or did something successful didn’t have all the answers at the time. And even now, we’re all just figuring things out as we go along. Learning from the experiences and lessons others have is great but there is no secret sauce others have that you don’t, go make the world a better place in your own special way, today not tomorrow.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!