Recent grads cross borders with inventive payment platform in five African countries

Nov. 07, 2018 — Sending and receiving money in Africa, as well as doing business within and outside the continent, has long been expensive and difficult.

Depending on the country, as many as 60 to 90 percent of the population doesn’t have a bank account. While mobile money accounts based on cell phones somewhat fill the need, they are costly and difficult to use when users don’t share the same mobile provider.

That’s where Chipper Cash, a payment platform recently launched by Ham Serunjogi ’16 and Maijid Moujaled ’14, comes in. Currently operating in Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, the free application allows users to send money from one country to another, and from one mobile money service to another, at no charge.

Ham Serunjogi ’16 and Maijid Moujaled ’14
Maijid Moujaled ’14, left, and Ham Serunjogi ’16 talk at Burling Library.

“Africa has the highest cost of sending money in the world, but it’s the most mobile-connected continent in the world,” Serunjogi says.

Chipper uses live exchange rates for cross-border transactions, and links the user’s mobile money account directly to the Chipper wallet – similar to linking a checking account to PayPal.

“If we want to see our continent improve, we felt we had to get the payment platform to work,” Moujaled says. “If you as a country can’t trade with others outside your country, you get left behind. And we wanted to make it easier for people to send money across the border and within the country.”

Serunjogi is from Uganda while Moujaled hails from Ghana. On a road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back in 2016, the two brainstormed about how they could make a positive impact on Africa by leveraging technology.

“We had the insight of being born and bred there but also the insight and training from studying in the U.S. at Grinnell,” Serunjogi says.

Based in San Francisco, Serunjogi is CEO and focuses on investors and hiring. Moujaled is the company president and focuses on engineering while New York-based Patrick Triest ’15 is chief technology officer. Their corporate secretary, general counsel, and one of several mentors is Mark Gottschalk ’83.

The company was launched in August. They have 10 employees with plans to hire dozens more and offices in two U.S. cities, Nairobi, and Accra. Current plans are to expand Chipper to seven more African nations plus parts of the United Kingdom and U.S.

Serunjogi and Moujaled met at Grinnell College through Grinnell’s AppDev (Application Development) group, which was co-founded by Moujaled to help students learn to develop mobile apps.

“Mobile apps were becoming a thing so we said, let’s have students learn to build them and get jobs doing this,” explains Moujaled, who came to Grinnell intent on being a doctor but fell in love with computers and helping their owners when he worked at the help desk. G-Licious, which shows the week’s dining hall menus, was his first app, built with another computer science major.

After graduation, Moujaled worked for Yahoo for a year and then Imgur; after three years he left the U.S. because of visa issues and traveled, then returned in March 2018 and eventually transitioned to working full-time at Chipper.

Serunjogi was an economics major at Grinnell, as well as a swimmer. He gained his business experience as Student Government Association treasurer, overseeing a $500,000 budget and managing 100 students on the payroll. He credits AppDev with launching his entrepreneurial career path.

After graduation, Serunjogi moved to Dublin, Ireland, where he led Facebook’s partnerships with some of its larger clients in Europe. He left that job early this year to work full time on Chipper.

As for the name?

“That’s what wakes me up every day, making the product better,” says Moujaled. “Chipping away at the problem. We’ve been on the phone at 2 a.m. talking to customers and learning about how they use this, and that makes me happy.”

—by Anne Stein '84

For your information:

To download the app, search for “Chipper Cash” on the Google Play Store or Apple Store or go to the Chipper website. Check out the AppDev web pages for more about Grinnell’s student organization dedicated to creating software applications.

To read more alumni news, check out our news archive.