1 Year at Paystack: 9 things.

Joel Bronkowski
6 min readOct 14, 2020

My life can be split into two segments. California comfort and the journey abroad. I lived at home until I was 23 before venturing off to South Africa to do a year of volunteer work. 14 years later and life has taken so many turns in that time. This past year working for Paystack has easily been the wildest and most interesting year in my life.

A birthday cake for my 36th in my first week at Paystack HQ.
  1. Payments: a personal, fundamental challenge.

Every company has their vision and tagline. I’ve always been a fairly bought in, hard working team member. Paystack’s mission to solve payments challenges is the first time I’ve focused all of my effort on a problem that’s a game changer for the way people do business and live life. Payments aren’t a nice to have but a pathway to entirely new ways of doing business. So much of the things we’re working on at Paystack have simply not been done before and that makes what we are doing feel incredibly meaningful.

2. Lagos is amazing.

All people ever talk about when referring to Lagos is the traffic. And yes the traffic is pretty insane but Lagos and Nigeria might need a rebrand because the energy in Lagos is incredible, the food is an adventure and the people are fantastic. There’s just so much going on in Lagos and I’ve barely scratched the surface but what I can say is that I really look forward to spending time in Lagos and I really didn’t expect that.

Lekki Conservation Center with my friend and colleague Tobi.

3. I’m getting old.

I’ve never felt out of touch in my career. I’ve always been the guy on top of new music, apps and tech. Age has crept up on me and I now rely on a group of 20 somethings to teach me their ways. Thanks Paystack for making me feel old. I cannot match your energy, style or passion, but I can try my best to keep up!

No big deal, the Paystack fashion show hosted by the one and only KDX.

4. The right people turn average things into gold.

There’s been 2–3 moments at Paystack where I’ve had the chance to organize activities. I’ve seen these kind of games, movie nights or icebreakers go south quick many a times. It just takes a few negative or low energy folks to kill the energy. About a year ago I organized a Halloween Scavenger Hunt and movie night while in Lagos. It was thrown together at the last minute. Everyone was supposed to be in the hall at 6pm and at 6:03 there was 5 people in there. I thought to myself, “man this thing failed before it began”. Eventually people filtered in and we pretty much had the entire company in the hall. I went over the rules and wasn’t sure how into the activity everyone was; again, I thought this thing is going to fall sooo flat. I left the room to go hide the final items and about 5 minutes later I heard what sounded like a stampede — everyone charging to find the missing clues, totally bought in. I’ve learned that people at Paystack will always bring the energy. Lay any kind of groundwork and the people will bring the fun.

Still not sure what happened here but this is my favorite photo of all time.

5. Being a different kind of company.

Heading to Lagos to meet the Paystack team before I agreed to join was such a fascinating experience. I attended the team offsite and the first few hours I was really not sure if I’d be a good fit for this company. The moment the switch flipped for me was when they had a housekeeping session. I realized a few things. One, I couldn’t tell who was senior or not in the company, no one was flexing titles or making sure they weighed in. Two, in this housekeeping session people could share any concerns, thoughts or feelings they had about Paystack openly, and they did. The types of things they brought up would never have been brought up in previous roles I’d had. Issues around how women are treated. Issues around food at the office. Everything was open and the way Paystack leadership engaged with the staff was so refreshing. I realized in that moment how much people usually tip toe around tough topics or want to have tough conversations in silos. It was so refreshing to see people at Paystack being willing to speak without being afraid.

6. Ecommerce in Africa.

One of the main reasons I joined Paystack was because of the role they are playing in enabling people to sell online in Africa. There’s no company I can see in the continent making as much impact in this regard and it’s been so fun to work for a company that’s as excited about paving a way for eCommerce technology in Africa through integrations but also developing tools that make it cheaper and easier than ever for the millions of MSME’s that struggle to access the digital economy.

7. That’s who I am.

One of my proudest moments at Paystack was a scouting trip I took to Accra with my former colleague Spencer. I was surprised I was asked to be the one to go and learn, given how little I knew about Ghana, but all in all the trip was a massive success in terms of coming away with some great learnings and relationships. In talking through the trip, Shola, our CEO, said there’s no one else at Paystack that could have done that. Sometimes you forget what you’re good at or the things that come natural to you begin to feel less special. It feels so good to have leaders that see what makes you special.

8. Taking new challenges in stride.

Being part of market expansion has been one of the biggest challenges of my career but it’s something I know I’ll look back on and realize how much I learned. I’ve had to wear a ton of hats and think about things in a completely new way. I’ve always been part of growing markets and improving product offering in markets. To think about going to market from 0 is a whole new world and one we’re still figuring out. It’s really satisfying to make progress but it’s forced me to balance being patient and persistent. It’s also forced me to learn how to work across a ton of functions within Paystack.

9. On the other side of Partnerland.

Working at WooCommerce and Shopify you are bombarded with requests to ‘partner’ and it can mean a million different things. I can’t tell you how many linkedin requests I missed but it’s a lot. I’m now sitting on the other side of the table advocating for companies to care about African markets, figuring out how to sell them on the green fields of Africa expansion. And while we’ve had some successes but I’ve received a lot of “we aren’t focused on Africa right now”. I’ve even come across a few moments where I goto message someone on Linkedin and I see that I ignored their request from a few years back and now I’m asking them for help. It’s an interesting experience but a welcomed challenge for Paystack. We want to enable tools to consider Africa and payments plays a huge part in that. We’ll continue to fight that good fight.


It’s been a thrill to work alongside the incredible people at Paystack. I’ve learned a ton about payments, the African fintech landscape and market expansion. I’ve also been refreshed and reinvigorated to work with a group of people who care deeply about what we’re trying to accomplish. I feel so lucky to be in position where I get to learn so much about a place as exciting and challenging as Nigeria. The future is bright for Paystack and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of it.