Financial Inclusion: Stone’s Story of Eversend

I am writing to compile all the stories of Eversend — people who build it, people who use it, and how this service has impacted their daily lives.

First, I sit down with our Founder and CEO — Ugandan entrepreneur Stone Atwine to talk about his personal story. Specifically — who’s behind Eversend, why and how Financial Inclusion and access lie at the heart of our work.

All around the world, 1.7 billion adults lack access to formal financial services. We call them the “unbanked” — those without a bank account at a financial institution or through a mobile money provider. In a bid to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals, actors of the international community — from the United Nations, World Bank, governments to startups like Eversend — are joining forces to bring banking to everyone — through digitalisation.

Stone Atwine

“Tell the grandma story!” I always ask Stone when we meet people who want to know about our startup.

I joined knowing we were working on something meaningful, but it wasn’t until I heard of the back story that I felt compelled to work even harder.

Why did you build Eversend?

I’m from Mbarara, Uganda.

Like many other young professionals, I moved around Africa for job opportunities. A few years ago I worked in multiple African countries.

But I had a problem. Every month, I sent part of my salary home to my grandma who lives on a farm with 8 grandchildren.

First, Western Union took 15–20% as commission. Then my grandma needed to leave the grandchildren home and take a one-hour bus ride to collect the money. Then hog all that cash back home on a crowded bus.

So I thought: so many people around Africa were — are still — in my position. There has to be a better way to do this.

I can send money to my grandma’s MTN mobile money account when I’m in Uganda. Why can’t I send it to her mobile money when I’m abroad?

So that’s what I did.

Now, I send her money whenever I demo the Eversend app. She gets it immediately and knows that’s me showing the app and working hard.

What did you do before Eversend?

I studied computer science at Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda.

I worked for a payroll software company operating across Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa — eventually becoming Country Manager for Kenya. I later became a consultant for multiple banks and financial institutions, helping them improve operational efficiency using technology, specifically on loan collections.

With these experiences building financial service business across Africa, I’ve gotten to know the market and players well.

Prior to Eversend, I set up Yetu Credit Finance — supplying microfinance through USSD, and Useremit — accessible remittance payments.

I see a running theme of financial inclusion work here, why?

I think it really roots from my grandma. Imagine a super old lady, never had a proper ID, but needed to somehow access financial services.

Moving forward, I want our work to alleviate other types of economic marginalisation as well. My father was a doctor who worked in a refugee camp in western Uganda. I used to visit the camp. I want my work to be relevant to that as well. Gender equality in financial access is a big one too.

I want to build something that makes it easier, faster, secure for people to do things they want to do in their financial lives.

How did Emma (Cofounder and Chief Operating Officer) enter the picture?

When I looked for a co-founder, different people reached out to me through referrals from friends. Emma and I just clicked.

Common values.

Building a startup can be quite a journey. You have to believe in a few things that are important to you that keeps you going for tough situations down the road. We believe in the same things. Using business to change the world for the better. Be good, do good.

Her energy.

Emma loves people. And she’s like a tennis ball. She’ll jump on a plane to Silicon Valley, back to Berlin, then a day later be in Tel Aviv. That energy is fantastic.

Our synergy.

We work really well together, and feed off each other’s characteristics.

I’m driven and strategic, sitting back to think about the big picture, our market, the product. She’s more organised, people-facing, and brings the energy, making sure everything runs and connecting us with the world.

Who else is on the team?

We’re a very diverse team. With members from different professional fields and origins — our lead developer Ronald and customer service team Ritah, Victoria and Carmen, in Uganda, Kylie from the US, Parth and Ashish from India, and Theresa from Hong Kong.

We hire people who share our values —

  • Openness and integrity.
    Continuous growth and improvement.
  • For the company and individuals within
  • Social Impact.

These backgrounds and experiences, united by values, help us build something strong.

The Berlin team enjoying a sunny Saturday out of the office for once.

What traction have you had so far?

Within the past month…

We launched our Android app — that’s the coolest thing.

Emma’s been named a Forbes 30 under 30 for Tech and shared our work at their Global Women’s Summit.

We got on the Westerwelle Young Founders Program and Nasdaq Milestone Makers program.

And we’re working from Techstars Accelerator Program in Berlin with 9 other startups and the wonderful team of Techstars associates (Enda, Alex, Vera) and MD Jag Singh.

What is the Eversend brand?

Let me tell you what we’re not.

We are not just a money transfer company.

I like to refer to us as the financial services marketplace or octopus. Or the Amazon of financial services. We’re an app where you can easily go get something to make finance work for you.

Beyond sending money across borders securely, cheaply and immediately, Eversend makes it possible for customers to be able to save, buy insurance, pay bills, get credit — all easily accessible from their mobile phone.

What are you focusing on now?

We’ve just launched our Android app a few weeks ago. It’s live in Uganda and Kenya, and soon it will be in Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Ghana.

We’re working to get customer feedback, improve the app, customer service and acquire more users.

We’re having interesting conversations with potential partners. And working on expanding into new countries.

To end with, tell me about something exciting that happened at work this week.

Yesterday a customer surprised me — he said he wanted to ditch his bank and use Eversend exclusively.

Customers can convert between UGX, KES, USD anytime. So having Eversend is equivalent to having bank accounts in multiple currencies, all in one app.

I sometimes ask customers to go on direct messaging after reaching out for our customer service. You learn a lot of insights from them — what’s going well, what’s not, and how we can better serve them.

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    We started with one inspired young man fixing the perils of sending remittances to his grandma in Uganda. Now we’re building the financial octopus for Africa and beyond.

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    Eversend, making mobile money borderless.