YC-backed Miden has big ambitions in challenging virtual card space

Dom Okiemute and Ini Udoh started Miden to increase the speed of card issuance in Nigerian financial institutions.

For a fintech startup, cards are essential to drive payment volume and grow customer base.

However, issuing these cards can be complex and time-consuming because fintechs do not have the size and resources to join major card schemes like Mastercard, Visa, and Verve directly. To work around this, Fintechs partner with established banks that act as issuing partners.

The average time to build a card integration system within a bank was about 6-12 months,
say Okiemute and Udoh, who have a combined 13 years of experience building financial systems across Nigerian banks.

Miden’s solution, which moves the wait time for cards from months to weeks, earned them a place in YC’s winter 2024 batch.

Miden lets businesses issue virtual cards in USD and Naira through customizable and easy-to-use API—a drag-and-drop interface—and pre-built integrations with flexible customization options. According to its website, Miden has issued over 100,000 cards and operates in four countries.

“Card penetration is directly proportional to financial inclusion in Africa,” Okiemute told TechCabal, emphasizing the link between card penetration and financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa. The impressive financial growth in Latin America, partly driven by the success of Pismo and Pomelo, which focus on card payments, drives home his point.

“We decided to go into the space and solve the problems,” he said.

Getting into YC’s latest batch was the icing on the cake and validated their decision to build in stealth for six months.

Now approaching its first year, it claims to serve 25 businesses while processing ₦3.5 billion ($3.2 million) monthly. The business also recently said it has $100,000 monthly recurring revenue (MRR).

“We’ve been able to acquire not just users of other platforms, competitors now leverage our platform,” he said.

Miden makes money by charging transaction fees on the cards they issue. It also charges subscription or usage-based fees for businesses accessing their platform and issuing cards. The business claims to have a 99% uptime.

Miden’s speedy entry into the $134.4 billion card market has not been without its challenges. According to Okiemute, Miden has struggled to find talent to build its solution. “People with localized domain knowledge are scarce,” he said.

While Miden’s plans are ambitious, the startup is playing in a field rocked by chargeback fraud, costing businesses hefty fees and potential shutdowns. In November 2023, Union54, a Zambian fintech shut down after an attempted $1.2 billion chargeback fraud. Additionally, fluctuations in the Nigerian currency pose risks for USD-based virtual cards.

Looking ahead, Miden says it will expand its ambitions beyond virtual cards, aiming to become a full-fledged core banking provider offering physical USD cards and potentially other functionalities.

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