Launching BFX, a B2B Digital Brokerage Platform focused in Africa.

Product Context

Internet and smartphones penetration rates have been growing (slowly) across the African continent, mainly due to cost reductions and better infrastructure and accessibility. These may be leading indicators of potential digitalisation opportunities, everywhere. However, changing behaviours is a completely different story. It needs strong value propositions and a ton of work on education. And being too early has the same consequences as being too late… It’s all about timing.

What did we do?

Being too early has the same repercussions as being too late, but not the same potential.

  • When you are playing in the too-late zone, you aspire to get a piece of the cake.
  • When you are playing in the too-early zone, you are cooking the cake.

If it got baked properly, you aspire to own the cake, or at least, to have a much bigger part. You simply have a competitive advantage, as you got there first: you already built and you know more. Others have to catch up to get to where you at now, just to be able to compete 1-to-1.

So, we knew that we wanted to be in the too-early ground, but we were worried about spending a lot without achieving much. We needed to de-risk the situation. Well… In fact, this is part of the Art of Product Management.

What did we build?

We develop a B2B digital brokerage platform for African businesses, including:

  • Engineering infrastructure based on micro-services to enable scalability and fast delivery.
  • Digital onboarding journey, collecting business information, structures and documents.
  • Digital transactional journey, from booking the trade to check rates to negotiating the price to execute the trade.
  • Digital semi-automated internal flows, from KYC/AML to treasury operations to reconciliation.

Other basics functionalities were also introduced, like transaction history, and account, security and privacy settings. Everything responsive.

Were we too early? 

We were a little bit early but close enough. As it happens in trading, perfect timing on buying stock when is at the lowest, or selling when is at the highest is practically impossible, yet you just need to get close enough to catch the trend. We were able to manage timings as we followed an iterative approach de-risking any point of no return, as well as focused not on delivering but on learning as much as we can on every step forward. Actually, the most important things are what we didn’t do:

  • We didn’t build all micro-services at the beginning. Actually, we just had 1.
  • We didn’t build full onboarding and transactional journeys at the beginning, but MVPs.
  • We didn’t get obsessed with automation, but with education (external & internal).

Retention shows you if indeed behaviours are changing or resistance is still high. As soon as traction grows, confidence goes up and you can keep building assuring that you are on the right path.