Founder at Network of Incubators and Innovators in Nigeria (NINe)
Guest editors are local ecosystem leaders: successful founders, investors, or thought leaders. Have someone in mind? Nominate a country guest editor.
Disclaimer: all content within the Startup Ecosystem Summary and Editor’s Guide sections is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the guest editor. The guest editor is not responsible for content within the Country Snapshot and Community sections, as much of this content is compiled from external sources and does not necessarily reflect the guest editor’s view.
Nigeria’s startup ecosystem has grown incredibly quickly over the past five years. The growth and development of the network of entrepreneurs in Nigeria can be traced directly to the impact that local and international partners have had in the technological industry. The in-depth understanding of the ecosystem by local incubators and the support provided by international initiatives has birthed and improved the execution of solutions tailored for the Nigerian tech ecosystem. Their continued partnership and hard work is serving as a source of encouragement for the next crop of entrepreneurs.
The nature of startups in Nigeria is influenced by location. According to a 2017 report by Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), at US$2 billion, the Lagos startup ecosystem is the most valuable in Africa. In Lagos, most of the startups are focused on the commercial product and service sector. In the other notable startup cities of Abuja and Ibadan, startups are primarily linked to the government and agriculture respectively.
The Nigerian tech ecosystem is in transition. Startups like Opay, Mines.io and a few others have had, by African standards, impressive capital raising rounds. Although smaller in comparison to tech ecosystems in the US, and in Europe, the amount of money that has been raised by startups shows the level of belief and the amount of trust that investors have in the thriving ecosystem.
“Nigeria is the premier investment destination on the African continent in 2018.” – Disrupt Africa Funding Report
The Nigerian tech ecosystem is ripe for investment. There is no better time to get into it than right now. The quality of startups that the ecosystem has been able to produce in the past few years is a testament to its potential to compete favourably with ecosystem giants around the world.
The maturity of the tech ecosystem is fueled by the knowledge-sharing and integration between local and international players. The growth in the number of internet users and the revolution of the fintech industry in Nigeria has birthed a new wave of marketplace platforms that have the potential to change the course of the country. This opportunity is contingent upon addressing the bottlenecks that plague the ecosystem through continued innovation and policy implementations.
Editor’s choice of the industries with the most potential for technology disruption and growth.
Editor’s choice of the country’s top 10 emerging tech startups.
Editor’s pick of which ‘Featured Startup’ is especially worth following and why.
Editor’s perspective of the maturity level of talent in the ecosystem.
Editor’s commentary on how the country’s culture and history have impacted the ecosystem.
Nigeria’s highly entrepreneurial culture is marked by a certain comfort that stems from uncertainty, reduced adherence to existing rules and norms, and the positive associations with individuality and competition. It is unique in its collectivistic nature which reflects the implications, for business dealings, of its tribal heritage. This unique feature is solely responsible for the motivation that is driving entrepreneurs, local and international, to do good for the Nigerian and African people.
Nigerian society is also driven by the presence and possibilities of achievement and success. Tech startups have however come under the unfavorable weight of Nigeria’s business climate. Despite the increased mentions by Nigeria’s political class which shows recognition, and the importance of the local tech ecosystem, private sector efforts have so far been hampered by unfavorable policies and expensive “right of way” levies for laying broadband cable. The overall culture of “quick wins” is revealed by investors, entrepreneurs and tech talent in Nigeria. A lack of collaboration and long-term orientation is a very common trait that is repeatedly displayed by stakeholders due to their unaligned expectations. The drive, therefore, behind most entrepreneurial endeavors in the Nigerian tech ecosystem is based on necessity rather than following up on an opportunity.
Guest editors are local ecosystem leaders: successful founders, investors, or thought leaders. Have someone in mind?
Acumen Fund Nigeria (Lagos): Invests in companies that are changing the way the world tackles poverty. The fund has invested in Nigerian mobile money transfer Paga. (Source: Ventureburn)
Adlevo Capital (Lagos): A private equity fund manager. Prominent investments made in Nigeria include Paga and Interswitch. (Source: Ventureburn)
Alitheia Capital (Lagos): A Nigerian firm that offers financing and entrepreneurial support to businesses that are working to meet a real business, social, or environmental need. (Source: Ventureburn)
Bamboo Capital Partners (Nairobi): Launched in 2017, the firm has about US$290 million under management with a portfolio of 33 companies in over 20 countries. The commercial private equity firm makes investments in energy, healthcare and financial services globally. (Source: Ventureburn)
EchoVC Partners (Lagos): A seed and early stage venture capital firm focused on financing and cross-pollinating leading technologies, teams, business models and knowledge across North America, Africa and Southeast Asia. (Source: Ventureburn)
Growth Capital Fund (Lagos): Nigeria's first social innovation fund aimed at creating an unprecedented path to scale for outliers driving social change in Nigeria. (Source: Ventureburn)
Helios Investment Partners (Lagos): An Africa-focused private investment firm. Established in 2004 and led by co-founding partners Tope Lawani and Babatunde Soyoye, it’s touted as operating a total of US$3 billion. (Source: Ventureburn)
Jacana Partners (Nairobi, Accra): A pan-African private equity company that invests in entrepreneurs, builds successful small companies and delivers sustainable financial and social returns. (Source: Ventureburn)
Lagos Angel Network (Lagos): Organizes seed funders to invest in startups through pitch events in which pre-screened business ideas are presented to the network by entrepreneurs. (Source: Ventureburn)
MicroTraction (Lagos): Invests in Africa's most remarkable teams with technical founders at the earliest stage of their venture. The fund invests US$15,000 for 7.5% equity stake, followed by an additional $50,000 convertible note at a $1 million valuation cap in companies that show significant progress after the initial investment. (Source: Ventureburn)
Newid Capital (U.S.): Invests internationally in growth-oriented financial services companies serving the under-banked. (Source: Ventureburn)
Sanaga Ventures (Amsterdam): A fund founded in 2010 that actively invests in and supports new and emerging ventures across the African continent. (Source: Ventureburn)
Savannah Fund Nigeria (Nairobi): A seed capital fund, specialising in US$25,000 to US$500,000 investments in early-stage, high-growth tech startups in sub-Saharan Africa. The fund has invested in Nigerian startups Supermart.ng, and Lidya. (Source: Ventureburn)
Spark (Lagos): A company builder and investment group whose portfolio includes Drinks.ng, Hotels.ng, Paystack and Ogavenue. (Source: Ventureburn)
Synergy Capital (Lagos): A Lagos-based private equity firm that invests in technology startups as well as traditional businesses. (Source: Ventureburn)
Tekton Ventures (U.S.): A Silicon Valley based investment firm which makes early stage investments in category defining startups around the world. The firm has invested in Nigerian startup Flutterwave. (Source: Ventureburn)
The Omidyar Network (Nairobi): A self-styled "philanthropic investment firm," composed of a foundation and an impact investment firm. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, Omidyar Network reports it has committed more than US$992 million to nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies across multiple investment areas. (Source: Ventureburn)
Tiger Global (U.S.): A global firm that has been investing heavily in Africa in recent years. The firm deploys capital in both private equity partnerships and public equity funds. The company favours technology or internet related business. It is one of the largest investors in Nigeria’s iROKO Partners. (Source: Ventureburn)
TLcom Capital Lagos (Lagos): A venture capital firm based in Nairobi, Lagos and London. Since 1999 the VC has invested in telecoms, media and tech companies in Europe, Israel and Sub-Saharan Africa. TLcom manages total commitments in excess of €200-million. (Source: Ventureburn)
Ventures Platform (Lagos): An early-stage growth focused fund which supports post MVP teams in growing their startups. (Source: Ventureburn)
VestedWorld (U.S.): Invests in early stage companies demonstrating potential for long-term success and measurable impact. The firm’s Nigeria portfolio includes Tomato Jos, and Beacon Power Services. (Source: Ventureburn)
Village Capital (U.S.): A VC that finds, trains, and funds entrepreneurs developing solutions in agriculture, education, energy, financial inclusion, and health. The firm’s portfolio includes Nigerian company Lekki Peninsula Affordable Schools. (Source: Ventureburn)
Hebron Startup Labs (Ota): Nigeria’s first university-based incubator, affiliated with Covenant University.
Passion Incubator (Lagos): An incubator program that runs for a couple of months to provide entrepreneurial training, product development, work space, mentoring and connections with VCs. (Source: Ventureburn)
Roar Nigeria (Nsukka): A community that provides professional support to technology enabled startups, researchers, entrepreneurs and small businesses. Programs are designed to develop a new generation of innovators and creators that will provide local technology based solutions with a global perspective. Roar Nigeria is hosted within University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN). (Source: Ventureburn)
Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (Lagos): Includes a 12-week training programme, mentorship, access to crucial networks and resources as well as possible funding. (Source: Ventureburn)
Wennovation Hub (Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja): A social enterprise created to respond to the challenges of supporting locally relevant innovations. The organization helps to accelerate high-impact entrepreneurs within social impact sectors including Agriculture, Healthcare, Education, Clean Energy and Social Infrastructure. (Source: Ventureburn)
Google’s Launchpad Accelerator Africa (Lagos): A program aimed at early-stage African startups operating out of Lagos.
She Leads Africa (Online): A 3-month digital accelerator program designed to identify, support and fund the next generation of Nigeria’s brightest female entrepreneurs. The winner of the programme will receive a N2 million funding grant. The program is open to businesses based anywhere in Nigeria. (Source: Ventureburn)
Startpreneurs (Abuja): An Abuja-based startup studio and accelerator whose partners include ABAN and Silicon Valley accelerator 500 startups. Focuses on Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Blockchain and/or Data Science. (Source: Ventureburn)
Startupbootcamp AfriTech (Cape Town): A three-month accelerator programme in Cape Town, South Africa which provides 10 startups with €15,000. The programme had Nigerian healthtech startup MobiCure in its first cohort. (Source: Ventureburn)
Y Combinator (U.S.): Invests US$150,000 in startups which then move to Silicon Valley for a three-month acceleration programme. Nigerian portfolio companies include Flutterwave and Tress. (Source: Ventureburn)
Lagos Startup Week (Lagos): Since 2015, Lagos Startup Week has brought together the ecosystem of technology agents driving business innovation.
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA): Formed in 2007 to implement the Nigerian Information Technology Policy by coordinating general IT development in the country and ensuring that IT resources are readily available. (Source: OC&C Ecosystem Report)
The Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE): A dedicated agency under NITDA focused on addressing barriers that inhibit startup growth and on improving the environment in order to foster innovation and entrepreneurship across the country. OIIE’s vision is to drive ICT innovation and entrepreneurship through policies, initiatives, partnership and programs implementation by focusing on socio- economic impact, competitiveness, and sustainable & inclusive growth. (Source: OC&C Ecosystem Report)
The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN: Founded to support SMEs in Nigeria. Rural industrialization, poverty, and new job creation are SMEDAN’s top priorities. The agency connects SMEs with internal and external sources of finance and appropriate technology. Agriculture has been the largest sector for its grant program. Increasingly, tech entrepreneurs are qualifying for and receiving these grants. (Source: OC&C Ecosystem Report)
Gracit Foundation: Aims to empower orphans and less privileged children with technological skills to create opportunities for them. The foundation trains youths, and also provides technological tools to deepen their learning experience. It has succeeded in training more than 90 orphans, created two computer labs and organised a Tech4Charity event. (Source: Benjamin Dada)
TechQuest: A non-profit that empowers individuals, schools and organisations with content, resources, and tools needed to impact young Africans in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education. TechQuest partnered with Crestsage Limited a STEM training partner which deployed E-Learning Centers and training on behalf of Exxon Mobil in nine public primary schools across Nigeria. (Source: Benjamin Dada)