2022 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Duplo, HEC Paris


HEC Paris

Industry: Payment, Fintech, Financial Services

Founding Student Name(s): Tunde Akinnuwa

Brief Description of Solution: Duplo enables businesses in Nigeria to easily collect payments from their customers and make payments to their suppliers and vendors.

Funding Dollars: $5.6m

What led you to launch this venture? In the Nigerian FMCG industry, payment is still predominantly cash-based. This creates a lot of issues for businesses and makes it hard for them to operate efficiently. For distributors of goods, accepting cash payments is inherently risky and also time-consuming because it can take on average 2 days a month to reconcile payments with customer invoices. These inefficiencies also compound and affect the manufacturer in many ways. Traditionally, the big FMCG players like Nestle and Unilever partner with Nigerian banks to provide payment solutions but their off-the-shelf payment solutions do not solve these issues in a meaningful way.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? It is still incredibly early in our journey to digitize and automate payment flows for businesses in Africa. We are seeing a lot of our customers make the change from “analogue” to “digital”. Helping these distributors, most of which are decades-old family businesses to make this switch has been exciting to be a part of. However, I don’t feel like l have achieved anything yet. There is still a lot to do.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? The program was instrumental in helping me understand how businesses think of their finances. In those early conversations with business owners, I was able to connect with them on the pressing challenges they faced with their business payments and the impact of such inefficiencies on their business. This empathy was instrumental in building the initial product, making sense of the failures, and producing subsequent iterations to get to a payment product they can rely on.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you?  My mum. Growing up, I helped my mum sell items in her general store every day after school and on Saturdays. Juggling being a mother to five children and a thriving business, my mum showed a great deal of tenacity and every time I look back, it is always a source of inspiration. My mum was the type of person who kept a ledger of her customers’ birthdays and important celebratory events so she could make her customers feel loved. She was doing CRM before I knew what CRM was.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Fundamentals of Negotiation. I really enjoyed taking Professor Schulte’s class because it helped me improve how I interact with people. My biggest takeaway (realized this much later), is that you can almost apply the learnings to every interaction that involves another person, not just on a financial transaction. Important concepts like building trust, anchoring, bargaining zone, creating a win-win outcome and knowing when to walk away have helped me a great deal while building Duplo. Whether in team settings working to find solutions or negotiating with banking partners, I think those concepts really helped me increase the chances of getting to desired outcomes.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? NA

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? I dare say the tech ecosystem in Lagos is the best in Africa. We are extremely lucky to be standing on the shoulders of ground-breaking startups like Andela, Konga, and Jumia, which have created a pool of local talent for us to tap into. On the regulatory front, the Central Bank of Nigeria has been very supportive of innovative startups. They have been quick to introduce initiatives and frameworks that are helping to increase financial inclusion which has opened opportunities for us to explore.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? Ultimately, we want to support commerce across Africa. It should be easy to pay suppliers or get paid by customers in different countries without the current headaches like lack of trust, FX, hidden fees, and delays.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.