Incubator Feature: Jonah Chininga of Woveo

Incubator Feature: Jonah Chininga of Woveo

Platform Calgary is a non-profit, member based organization. Our mandate is to bring together the resources of Calgary's tech ecosystem to help startups launch and grow at every step of their journey, from ideation through to scale.

More about Platform Calgary

Jonah Chininga is the Co-Founder and CEO of Woveo, a community wallet for rotating savings and credit building.

How do you build credit when you have no credit history? 

That’s the question many immigrants ask when starting from scratch financially in a new country. 

“It's really expensive to be able to access short-term credit if you don't have any credit history,” says Jonah Chininga, Co-Founder and CEO of Woveo

Over 8 million Canadians right now are considered non-prime – meaning they have credit scores under 720. When those folks need to access credit, or to borrow money, they’re charged between 20 to 47 percent interest fees. 

While borrowing – and repaying – money would help build their credit scores, it’s extremely difficult to do so because of these high fees. And spending their disposable income on them creates a cycle that’s hard to break. 

Jonah explains that the only credit product most newcomers coming to Canada typically have access to is a credit card, which you can’t borrow from for more than 21 days without getting charged interest fees. 

“Most people end up borrowing on a credit card and they start paying 19, 20, 22% interest rates, and then they’re really stuck in that debt cycle,” he says. “That's something we wanted to be able to reimagine.” 

Community credit building

Woveo is a digital community wallet, designed to help groups of people improve their financial well-being through group rotating savings, credit-building, and short-term credit access.  

Group rotating saving occurs when a group of individuals contribute a set amount of money to the same “pot” on a regular basis. The total amount collected in each period is then given to one member of the group – rotating throughout each group member until everyone has received their share. 

This allows people to work together to build each other’s credits. 

The community wallet model is especially useful for immigrants who are starting from scratch in Canada – an experience Jonah knows firsthand. 

The why 

“I consider this my life's work because of my previous experiences. That's where that alignment and purpose comes from.”

Jonah’s inspiration for Woveo is two-pronged. It stems, firstly, from his childhood growing up in Zimbabwe – a country that had the second highest hyperinflation ever recorded. Through this, he saw the effects of financial insecurity on his family, community and the economy.

After moving to Canada in 2014, he experienced firsthand the challenges of navigating the credit system as a newcomer. 

“Coming to Canada as an immigrant was just kind of like double trouble.”

Through an opportunity to work with the United Nations and World Bank in 2018, he identified demographic shifts, and saw how many newcomers to North America were utilizing community-based financing models.

He noticed though, that they weren’t leveraging technology – and saw an opportunity to create what is now Woveo. 

Going forward

“Our vision from the start has always been to disrupt an existing industry,” he says. 

In Canada, he says, there are over 1,500 credit unions with over 200 billion assets under management. But they are still brick and mortar, have high operational costs, are struggling to attract the younger generation, and they haven’t adopted and leveraged technology the same way traditional banks have. 

Because of that disconnect, Woveo has a big opportunity to shake up the community banking sector. 

And it’s working. 

Following a $1.5 M pre-seed round in PEI, the team decided to move to Calgary, which Jonah says was a “no-brainer” move that provided better access to talent, capital, and a more mature ecosystem. 

Shortly after their move to Calgary, Woveo took home second place at the inaugural Digital Commerce Calgary Fintech Award

In December 2023, they raised $2.3 M in seed financing in a particularly challenging market with high interest rates and a lower appetite for investing in consumer fintech, with plans to continue the momentum. 

And now they’re continuing to build their product roadmap with plans to continue expanding in the Canadian market, growing their team and expanding their marketing efforts. 

Along the way, the Platform Incubator has provided invaluable support. 

“Going into a new ecosystem, I don't think there would have been a better path than actually engaging with an existing incubator,” he says. 

“You need access to networks, talent, and other founders to share experiences […] That was really helpful in connecting us to all the existing resources we need.”

‍Platform Incubator Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EiR), Alex Nuth, has been working closely with Woveo throughout the Incubator. The Incubator EiRs ask questions, make connections, and hold founders accountable to progress. They are focused on helping startup leaders achieve their highest potential. Get to know Alex:

Alex is a skilled leader with a vision for driving innovation and making a significant impact on businesses, communities, and individuals.

She has a wealth of experience in retail banking, digital strategy, and innovation, and is particularly known for her work leading the launch of Brightside, a digital venture for ATB Financial that successfully captured a strategic market segment while revolutionizing the banking model with a focus on customer satisfaction, strong product economics, and strategic risk management. She started her career in Management Consulting and most recently founded a Fintech startup focused on solving problems for freelancers.

Alex is also passionate about building amazing teams and creating cultures that inspire people to do their best work. When she's not busy at work, you can find her volunteering in her community, speaking about technology, or enjoying the great outdoors with her husband, newborn, and two fluffy dogs.

She holds a Bcomm from the University of Calgary and an MBA from Queen's University, and was recognized as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada by the WXN in 2018.

Woveo is part of Platform’s second Incubator cohort. The Incubator provides high-potential founders with the resources and connections needed to build world-class companies. Founders work closely with an Entrepreneur-in-Residence and a community of founders to grow their business over 18 months. Learn more about the Platform Incubator.

Published on

March 20, 2024


Platform News
Raising Capital

Explore more posts

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.