Franc: Bridging the Investment Gap in South Africa

Sebastian Patel, Co-Founder of Franc and a qualified actuary with extensive experience in investment banking, is on a mission to democratize investing in South Africa. In a country plagued by inequality, Patel and his team at Franc are working tirelessly to bridge the investment gap and provide accessible financial products to the everyday person. Their innovative platform aims to empower individuals to grow their money and avoid leaving it to waste away in traditional bank accounts.

Franc’s recent achievements highlight their commitment to innovation and customer-centric solutions. The company was recognized as one of Innovation City’s Top 10 tech startups for 2023, a testament to their disruptive approach to financial services. Additionally, Franc secured a spot among 15 regional startups invited to pitch at the French Embassy as part of the Vivatech Start Challenge. Looking ahead, Franc has exciting plans in the pipeline, including the introduction of employee benefits, such as retirement annuities, for small businesses. Furthermore, they are working on enabling users to set up multiple investment goals within their consumer app, providing even greater flexibility and customization.

The concept for Franc originated from the frustrations of Thomas Brennan, CEO, and Co-Founder, who observed the shortcomings of existing financial services in South Africa. Dissatisfied with high fees, poor user experiences, and misaligned incentives, Brennan set out to build a better solution. Patel, having witnessed the demand for accessible financial advice, found Brennan’s vision compelling and joined forces to create Franc. Their shared goal of helping people achieve financial growth resonated strongly, leading them to embark on the challenging journey of building a startup.

Reflecting on their journey thus far, Patel acknowledges the difficulties encountered. Transitioning from the corporate world to entrepreneurship proved more demanding than anticipated. However, the challenges have fueled their determination to provide a superior customer experience and address the pain points faced by individuals navigating their financial journeys. Through the Franc app, customers can effortlessly invest in various goals, such as emergency funds, children’s education, or retirement, by completing a risk quiz and making their first deposit. Within two minutes, they become investors, benefiting from a streamlined and user-friendly platform.

As a startup in South Africa, Franc has faced several challenges unique to the local ecosystem. The scarcity of early-stage funders willing to invest in high-risk ventures poses obstacles to sustainable growth. Furthermore, the limited number of local companies in the tech sector hampers the availability of mentors and industry role models. However, Patel remains optimistic that as the market matures, these challenges will gradually be overcome, paving the way for a more supportive and nurturing environment.

Collaboration and shared responsibilities have been instrumental in Franc’s progress. Initially, Patel and Brennan carried the weight of managing the business alone. However, the addition of an executive team has alleviated the burden and allowed for a more focused approach to various aspects of the company’s operations.

Looking ahead, Franc’s business growth wish list revolves around acquiring a substantial customer base. To achieve this, they employ two strategies: a direct-to-consumer approach through their app and a business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) model, partnering with platforms and businesses to license their technology and offer investment products to a wider audience. Expanding their network of partners is essential for driving growth and reaching more individuals seeking accessible investment opportunities.

Doing business in South Africa presents its fair share of challenges, with no signs of it becoming significantly easier. However, Patel believes that these difficulties also bring forth opportunities to address critical problems and improve the lives of people. Franc’s unwavering commitment to closing the investment gap is driven by their belief in the transformative power of accessible and user-friendly financial products.