Nigerian Top 5 Early-Stage Investors and Venture Capitalists in 2019

If you are looking to raise money for a startup or funding to launch new products, then this is a must read.

Over 80% new businesses in Nigeria fail in their first year, and lack of funding is one of the prominent reasons for this. Money is the lifeline of a business. A business can only accomplish new goals and attain new heights when it is sufficiently fuelled by funds.

The tech ecosystem in Nigeria is one of the most important in Africa currently. In 2018 alone, two of the world’s biggest tech companies, Facebook and Google, opened their own hubs and launched accelerator programs in the country.

We have scoured the tech startup landscape, and handpicked some of the top early-stage startup investors in Nigeria. ‘

  1. Venture Platform

Ventures Platform is a Pan-African early stage fund that actively finds, funds and supports innovative companies solving real problems in the continent. Founded by in 2016 by Kola Aina, a startup mentor and a passionate angel investor, the focus is to support MVP teams in growing their startups. This Platform invests in ambitious founders who are growing sustainable companies, operating scalable tech-enabled business models, with a clear-cut path to revenue.

Currently, Ventures Platform supports over 2000 entrepreneurs, funds over 28 startups, and popular Nigerian startups in its portfolio include MobileForms, PiggyBank, Accounteer, GeroCare, Paystack, crowdForce, Thriveagric, Wesabi, MyPadi, Tizeti and Printivo.

  1. GreenHouse Capital

Greenhouse Capital is of the belief that “every company must have a strategy to harness the powerful advantages of the new financial technology (‘fintech’) revolution.

Spinned out from Venture Garden Group in January 2016, Greenhouse is an independent investment holding company in Africa with a vision of building the largest fintech investment holding company in Africa through direct investments in African technological companies that support and disintegrate banking services.

Their goal is to provide exceptional teams with the resources and network they need to drive growth and scale their companies locally and internationally. It has invested in popular Nigerian startups like MAX.NG, Flutterwave, Riby, TalentBase and Rensource.

  1. SPARK Capital

Spark is a company that builds companies with a focus on Lagos, Nigeria as the gateway to Africa. Founded by Jason Njoku in 2013, at the inception of Spark, he wrote in a manifesto, saying,

We are not a fund and we are not an incubator; we are a company that builds companies. We focus on Lagos, Nigeria as the gateway to Africa. We focus on well-defined and scalable revenue models. We are a collection of Internet people. We are Spark.”

Shortly after its launch, the company deployed $2m in a number of companies. The company appears to maintain a close and personal relationship with the startups it invests in. Currently, companies like Ogavenue, Hotels.ng, Paystack, Medsaf, MyFoto, and Drinks.ng are on the company’s portfolio.

  1. Growth Capital Fund

Launched by CCHub, Growth Capital Fund is the first social innovation fund in Nigeria with the aim of creating an unprecedented path to scale for outliers driving social change in Nigeria. The company supports high potential, early-stage businesses who are focused on building next generation infrastructure with technology. Participating investors in GC-Fund include CCHub, Bank of Industry, Omidyar Network and Venture Garden Group. It has invested in six companies including Taeillo, Edves, Riby, LifeBank, Delivery Science and DrugStoc.

  1. LeadPath Nigeria

If you have a product that eliminates or reduces the competing factors in an industry, while creating or raising elements that have never been offered in the industry, then you should contact LeadPath for funding.

LeadPath is a seed capital fund that specialises in providing short, medium and long-term funding to small and medium sized start-up businesses in high growth technology areas such as software, web and mobile technologies. The company’s average investment ranges from $25,000 to $100,000 for seed investment and several millions of dollars for follow on funding series.

The Nigerian Government Appoints Kashifu Abdullahi as the new Director General of NITDA

Yesterday, on Tuesday, August 20 2019, the Federal Government appointed Mr Kashifu Abdullahi as the new Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

Mrs Hadiza Umar, Head, Corporate Affairs and External Relations of NITDA, confirmed the appointment in Abuja on Tuesday. Umar quoted a statement signed by Mr Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, on the new NITDA boss appointment and others.

Mr Inuwa Kashifu Abdullahi is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT Sloan – trained strategist with 14+ years of experience on IT operations, business transformation and solution architecture, across both public and private sectors.

In the past, he worked with Galaxy Backbone Limited, the public enterprise in charge of setting up and operating a unified Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure in the country, and he has quite a number of professional certifications.

Until this appointment as the fifth director of NITDA, Abdullahi was a principal officer at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) but was on secondment to NITDA as a Technical Assistant.

This appointment comes after the nomination of Dr Isa Pantami, the outgoing director general of the agency as a minister designate by the President.

According to Shehu, other appointments by the government included Sen. Basheer Mohammed who replaced Mrs Sadiya Farouk as Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons.

 

 

Andela Launches a Pilot Program in Nigeria for its Talent Marketplace

The African technology company, Andela recently announced the launch of its pilot program in Nigeria to enhance the effectiveness of its talent marketplace.

Andela, an African-based company, focuses on identifying and developing software developers. It launched its operations in Nigeria to help global companies overcome the severe shortage of skilled software developers.

With offices in Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the United States, the company aims to solve the technical talent shortage by developing distributed engineering teams with the most talented software engineers in Africa.

Currently, it has hired over 1,000 engineers out of more than 100,000 applicants and become known as the “Best Place to Work in Africa”. Two hours ago, the company took to its Twitter and LinkedIn pages, saying,

“We’re excited to announce that we’ve launched a pilot program in Nigeria for our Talent Marketplace to help employers find and hire entry-level software engineers faster. Our pool of Andela Learning Community graduates is now open to technical recruiters”

In a comment under the company’s Twitter page, a follower commented, “Great Development! Does that mean the Andela Fellowship Program is over?”

The Andela Fellowship is a paid, full-time opportunity to advance your career by developing the skills needed to become a full-stack programmer. Participants work on global engineering teams alongside professionals professionals who can mentor them in their career.

Though there is no reply yet, we do not believe that this launch should interfere with the Andela Fellowship Program.

The launch of this program comes eight months after the company raised a $100 million Series D funding round led by a former US Vice President, Al Gore.

It was Andela’s model of promoting distributed teams and remote work that significantly won the conviction of Al Gore’s sustainability-focused Generation Investment Management. So, this launch can be seen as a move towards efficient application of the funding.

US Embassy Celebrates Nigerian Advocate, Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin for her Contribution to Women Capacity Building

The US Mission in Nigeria has recently honoured Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin for her significant contribution to women capacity building.

Born in 1985, Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin is a Nigerian Women and Girls Advocate Social Entrepreneur.

Late last year, on November 1, she was named one of the ten CNN Heroes of the year, alongside nine other pacesetters in the world. Even more amazing, that same month, she was listed as one of BBC’s 100 Women.

Abisoye has conducted multiple human development programs including GirlsCoding, GirlsSTEM and Empowered Hands. The U.S Mission Nigeria tweeted 7 hours ago, saying, Through her various programs, this tech enthusiast has trained over 400 girls and women to code, with a passion geared towards their empowerment and digital relevance.

The U.S. Mission in Nigeria tweeted 7 hours ago, saying,

“#NigerianStar @AbisoyeAjayi is an alumna @StateIVLP and a 2018 @CNNHeroes honoree. She assists girls in developing tech skills through programs including #GirlsCoding, #GirlsinSTEM and Empowered Hands through which she has trained over 400 girls and women to code”

Born in Akure, Ondo State, Abisoye attended the Nigerian Institute of Information Technology (NIIT), and she later went on to acquire a BSc in Business Administration from the University of Lagos.

Working in technology at E.D.P Adult and Security Associations for seven years, she discovered a large gender gap which corresponds with the 2013 governmental survey that less than 8% of management, professional or technological positions are held by Nigerian women.

In a bid to bridge this gap, she founded the Pearls Africa Youth Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organization aimed at educating young girls in under-served areas in Nigeria with technology skills. The fact that she left her successful, fulltime IT consulting job to start the Foundation speaks a lot about her passion.

 

Adebayo Adesanya: Senior Software Engineer and Slayer of Code Dragons

Top software develops are moving out of Nigeria en masse in search of greener pastures abroad, and the Lagos-born Adebayo Adesanya is an ideal example of a great loss to the Nigerian tech ecosystem. Adebayo Adesanya went from working with Andela in Lagos to joining the tech team of Candis, a Berlin-based firm that automates accounting processes.

The Lagos-born Adebayo Adesanya acquired his Bachelor’s Degree in Management Information System from Covenant University, and he started his professional career as an Intern, Airtel KYC Support Personnel for Seamfix Nigeria. He later moved on to other companies including Grappeline Technologies, L5Lab, Kamdora and Konga, before landing as the Technical Team Lead in Andela in 2017.

However, Adebayo’s motivation for leaving the country was never for more money as he always had a marginal increase in pay. According to him, “I love challenges. Its plethora of possibilities interlaced with solutions makes it seem like a clandestine code, which has to be deciphered. That is why I became a Software Developer and that is what makes me curious about life and my career”

But, “there are no rewards for long service,” he said. So, while he had never been one of the abroad fanatics, he began to seriously consider relocating. He had offers from prominent tech companies in Nigeria, but he didn’t think any of them could fulfil his career needs, and he was of the opinion that he had seen all that the companies had to offer, and a gig outside the country would expose him to new experiences.

Currently, Adebayo works at Candis.io as a Senior Software Engineer, an opportunity he got after signing up on the job platform, Honeypot, where companies in Europe hire developers regularly. Though he got two good offers from German companies, he opted for Candis.io, because, as he says, “The product was both interesting and challenging, and the team seemed like a great one to join.”

At Candis, he works on a team of full-stack software engineers in maintaining and innovating on the Candis Financial Accounting Platform in other to provide easy to use Automated Accounting for small and medium-sized companies, and every day, he “slay new dragons.”

He works in a diverse team with people from across the world. Despite this, he is still the only black person out of the 70 employees working at Candis. According to him, he jokes about being the odd man out, saying, “I joke at work that I don’t have to do anything to stand out. I stand out by default.

 

 

Opera-Owned OPay Formally Launches OBus Barely a Week after OTrike

Opera-owned OPay launches OBus, a bus hailing service, last Saturday in Lagos. This launch is coming barely a week after the introduction of OTrike in Aba.

Currently, Opera runs one of the biggest startups in Nigeria, and in its plan to become a multi-service commercial Internet platform, it has added personal loans, tricycle hailing, food hailing and now a bus hailing service to its platform within the past months.

The launch of OBus comes not too long after the launch of OTrike, a tricycle hailing service in Aba. With OBus, OPay appears to be on its way to beat the market dominance odds to becoming the go-to platform in Nigeria for quite a number of services.

As it is still in its Beta phase, OBus is only available in few locations in Lagos State, operating along the CMS-Ikeja routes. You can only access the OBus service using the updated OPay app. According to an OPay staff, “OBus is like normal buses but it is more comfortable and supports cashless payments.”

To pay for bus trips, you have to use an OBus card, it is a QR-enabled card that comes in different denominations — as low as ₦200 ($0.55) and as high as ₦2000 ($5.51). You can purchase the cards at different designated bus stops from OPay agents.

Payments are made by placing the card over a sensor reader inside the bus. The sensor then reads the ticket barcode which was generated through the mobile app before the trip and withdrawal will be made immediately.

An OBus Card can be used for multiple trips until the credit is exhausted. Alternatively, payments can also be made through the OPay wallet, as with other OPay services.

One can only wonder what line of service the Norway-based company will go into next, and its next product line, given its heavy $50m funding. Perhaps, this is a means of proving to investors how effectively the recent funding is being utilised.

Regarding concerns about his company’s speed of product and services expansion, the OPay staff explains it away as a means of testing new waters.

“I admit that OPay is moving very fast. However, I believe we will learn from experience, just like Gokada which is having its share of challenges already.”

 

 

Elegbe: Financial Inclusion, Elections and Technology in Nigeria

Last week in New York, Verve, the 11-year-old Pan-African payment card brand owned by Interswitch, extended its reach to countries outside Africa to allow users make transactions in 185 countries around the world. Verve in partnership with Discover Global Network, a leading US card platform, released the Verve Global Card which allows for international and cross-border transactions.

In a recently conducted interview with thisdaylive, Mitchell Elegbe, the Managing Director of InterSwitch Group, spoke on the new Verve Global Card as the evolution of financial inclusion in Nigeria, and went on to discuss how the adoption of technology can change the outlook of the electoral system in Nigeria.

Accessing the financial inclusion journey in the country, Elegbe opined that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has implemented lots of “improvement and new policies” towards achieving the financial inclusion targets in the country. As an instance, he mentioned the Payment Service Banks (PSBs), which is targeted at mobile network operators (telcos), because of their wide-reaching distributions.

Speaking on barriers to achieving the financial inclusion targets set by CBN, Elegbe said that for some financial inclusion is unnecessary, because they lack money which is a fundamental requirement for financial inclusion. He also said that, “For some others, it is in and out – as money is coming in, it is going out, so why should I save it. So, what that basically means is that the kind of transaction you need to do for them to be financially included should be an in and out kind of transactions, because they don’t have enough money to save

To buttress his point, he gave a convincing illustration, saying, “there are people that every day they would leave their houses to collect items from distributors, go to the roadside to sell them, like the hawkers in traffic. Those guys live from hand to mouth. If you tell them to bank their money, you would be wasting your time because their bank is in their pocket. The only way they would even listen to you is if you can create a product that looks at what they do. For instance, they always have issues with ‘change’ when someone buys from them in the traffic, that is why you see them always chasing cars. But if you give them a solution that eliminates the need for ‘change’ they would adopt it, because you have solved a problem for them.”

Explaining the root of the current financial inclusion crisis in the country, he said, “But what is happening is that some of us who wear suit and tie are designing products for people who don’t wear suit and tie. We don’t understand their lives and what they need most. But you can see that sometimes if you understand the way people live, it is easier to find solutions for them. So, one of the learnings for me is that if you want to solve my problems, you need to understand my problems and you need to feel it. Once you do that, then it is easier.”

On the issue of election challenges in Nigeria, Mitchell Elegbe claimed that technology is the solution. Speaking on this, he said, “There are easier ways to carry out voting that would not cost the entire country what it cost us today. Today, it is too expensive to conduct an election. So, like you rightly said, we have a combination of technology that can be used. There are people that have registered for national identity card, there are people who have Bank Verification Number (BVN), driver’s licence and so on.

So, once you know these people, we now have to make the various data base talk to each other, so that you can easily find out if someone has voted using his driver’s licence and he is attempting to vote again using his BVN. So, because you can see that person from the data base, you disallow that. We all know about blockchain. One of the big uses of blockchain is called the Single Source of Truth, which all of us can see what is happening because of the way it is designed. Blockchain will be a good solution to use for elections. The truth is that there is a way to make it happen and there is technology that can be used to make it a lot easier

 

Sim Shagaya, Ex-Konga Boss Joins the Plateau State Government in an Advisory Capacity

Sim Shagaya resigned as CEO of eCommerce company, Konga in January 2016, and today, Friday, August 16th, 2019, he joined the Plateau State government as an advisor.

As founder and CEO of one of the most valued eCommerce companies in Nigeria, Shagaya led Konga to a successful showing in the Nigerian eCommerce space, and he oversaw many funding rounds worth a combined sum of $127 million. In 2014, he was named in Forbes’ list of “10 Most Powerful Men in Africa.”

Now, it is expected that the Harvard-educated former military officer will leverage his knowledge of economics and profound understanding of the technology business to help Plateau State revive its economy which has been ravaged and battered by religious and intra-ethnic clashes in recent times.

The ex-Konga CEO took to his Twitter page today saying, “I’m pleased to share that I’ve been invited and accepted to serve as a member of the Economic Advisory Council of the Executive Governor of Plateau State. This is a part of Nigeria that I care deeply about and I hope I can be of significant service

The news of this followed with multiple congratulations as Nigerians expressed hope that Sim Shagaya will be able to boost the economy of the State, and create awareness about the beauty, climactic condition and abundant food in the State.

Bosun Tijani AFCFTA Ecosystem Meetup in Kigali: Ezekwesili Addresses African Youths on Making AFCFTA a Success

Yesterday, August 15 2019, over 80 people from 30 African countries gathered in Kigali, the Rwandan capital to discuss the creation of a solid framework to guarantee the success of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA)

The AFCFTA is a trade agreement signed by all 54 African countries in Kigali, Rwanda on 21 March 2018. It entered its operational phase on 7 July, 2019 at a summit in Niger. The goal is to unite 1.3 billion people, create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc, remove 90% of tariff on goods across the continent, and heat up commerce within the continent itself.

According to the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, “The success of the AFCFTA will be the real test to achieve the economic growth that will turn our people’s dream of welfare and quality of life into a reality

On day one of the two-day summit held at the Co-creation Hub’s Design Lab, industry leaders in the technology and creative ecosystems were in attendance. The choice of Kigali as the location is significant, as it was there in March 2018 that almost 50 countries signed the AFCFTA agreement.

In an interview with TechCabal last week, Bosun Tijani, the founder of CcHub, said, “the aim of the meet-up is to come together as dual industries to iron out details and make a concerted effort to ensure readiness ahead of the July 2020 flag-off.”

The opening address was given by Tijani where he urged participants to seize what could be a momentous moment in African history, before going on to introduce the panellists for the first session. The panellists were Vuyisa Qabaka of South Africa, Simeon Umukori, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, and Ojoma Ochai of Nigeria, and Norbert Haguma from Rwanda.

The topics discussed by the panel ranged from what it means to be African, the various issues that need to be tackled for the success of AFCFTA, to the role of governments across Africa.

The outstanding moment of the panel occurred when Aboyeji, of Andela and Flutterwave, said young people need to take matters into their own hands and not wait for government intervention. According to him, “This is a grassroots movement. If we wait for the government, the agreement won’t work. We’ll wait forever.”

After the panel, Oby Ezekwesili, a one-time education minister in Nigeria and former World Bank Vice President gave a keynote speech.

In a tweet yesterday, she said, “Rewarding time in Kigali today! I spoke @bosuntijani -led Ecosystem meetup that ‘kick-starts opportunities to demonstrate immediate value of the free trade agreement in a short space of time, while building significant businesses that can create unprecedented value’.”

In her speech, she was full of praise for the spirit of can-do possessed by African youth who organised the meet-up, saying that the success of the AFCTCA depends largely on the younger generation.

Following this, the head of TRwanda Development Board, Clare Akamanzi spoke of Rwanda’s commitment to being a haven for ideas, strategically placing itself as a proof of concept nation”

After her speech, the participants were allowed to split into two groups to work on effective communication strategies to be deployed, and how to interact with African government to formulate policies as regards the AFCFTA.

The meet-up continues today.

Kobo360 Logistics Platforms Raises US$30 Million Funding

The Nigerian digital technology freight logistics startup, Kobo360 has raised a total sum of $30 million funding; part debt funding and part venture funding. It raised a $20 million Series A equity round led by Goldman Sachs, with participation from Asia Africa Investment and Consulting Pte, and existing investors including the International Finance Corporation, Y Combination and TLcom Capital.

The company also announced that it raised an additional $10 million in local currency working capital from Nigerian commercial banks. This new funding round follows a $6 million seed investment last year led by the International Finance Corporation which enabled the company to expand to Togo, Ghana and Kenya.

In a statement on Wednesday, 14th of August, the company said it plans to broaden its reach in Africa significantly by entering ten new countries beyond its current operating markets of Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Kenya by the end of 2020. According to the CEO, Obi Ozor, the final decisions on the 10 new countries will be made by the first quarter 2020.

With the funding, the team said it will “continue to scale the organisation, develop the technology offering, and accelerate supply growth.”

Kobo360 is also “planning to add 25,000 drivers to the platform in the coming months to power the recent Africa Trade Continental Agreement, expected to catalyse intra-African trade.

Speaking on this, Obi Ozor, Co-founder and CEO of Kobo360 said, “Our Series A allows us to invest in growing our talented team that is working hard on the ground to systematically address the inefficiencies within the African logistics sector, and strengthen our already extensive network of clients and truck owners across the continent.

We are also focusing on developing the partnership with drivers, ensuring that they are trained to use mobile-enabled technology, so they can convey goods seamlessly and earn more money. We are already seeing drivers running trips on the Kobo360 platform increase their monthly earnings by 40%, as we work together to mobilise logistics across Africa.

As a cross-border freight service, the company intends to maximise this funding to benefit from the Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) which was signed this year by all the 54 countries in Africa to reduce friction and barriers on Pan-African commercial activity.

The startup expects to have a voice in the final implementation of AFCTA, in addition to lower costs for its country-to-country freight movement. On this, Ozor said, “We’re going to do some policy work through the IFC so we can help shape AFCTA. The key to the deal is really logistics, so if the logistics component doesn’t work out the deal isn’t going to work”.

The company’s plan is to use a part of this new funding to build out its Global Logistics Operating System. GLOS (shortened form) is a blockchain-enabled platform that will help the company to transition to more supply-chain services.

Launched in 2017 by two Nigerian entrepreneurs – Obi Ozor and Ife Oyedele II, this latest funding has made Kobo360 the second top-funded transport and logistics startup in Africa with investors betting on the company’s ability to meet a rise in demand for cargo deliveries while riding on the back of the AFCFTA.