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20 hot Nigerian startups to watch

As we gradually approach the end of the first half of 2010, we are expecting to see more web 2.0 innovations and mobile-based platforms developed by Nigerian tech entrepreneurs. At this year’s Barcamp Nigeria, coming up on 22 May at the University of Lagos, we also anticipate many new product launches.

There is no doubt that Nigeria’s startup scene is heating up. It deserves attention from the global webspace. Already, there are indications that an Android-powered tablet could be coming from Nigeria.

Some quick facts and figures:

This article profiles some of the most promising web 2.0 start-ups from Nigeria. Some are still in beta, some are still looking for the right business model, and some are soon-to-be launched.

The list has been diversified into several markets, and while it features some of the most promising startups within Nigeria’s startup ecosystem, it is by no means all-encompassing, so please do feel free to add and share your comments.

So, in no particular order, here’s a list of 20 promising web startups and innovations:

1. Paga is a direct-to-consumer mobile payments service just like M-PESA that allows any person who has a mobile phone to send cash electronically to anyone. Launched in 2009 by Pagatech with a vision to enable a cashless society and bank the unbanked in Africa.

2. Kukurooku is a microblogging site like Twitter that lets you “cluck” a 160 character update about what you’re doing. “Kukurooku” is a sound produced by birds (especially Roosters). With Kukurooku, you can “flock” to other people and have other people “flock” to you too.

3. BuukWorm Mobile is a free mobile application tool designed for students in higher institutions to boost their academic performance and make their student experience more beneficial and enjoyable. Apart from helping students calculate their GPAs easily, buukWorm contains a relevant study guide, quotations, lecture timetable, event manager and games.

4. Kilonshele is an e-commerce site that provides ticket sales, marketing and distribution services as well as connects the world to live entertainment events in Nigeria by providing up-to-date information on live events and giving fans the opportunity to buy tickets conveniently.

5. Jobberman is a job search engine in Nigeria, which integrates common web 2.0 and social media tools, in helping users find the right talent and jobs easily.

6. Truspot is a social music platform designed to support Nigerian artists, fans, local music and the entertainment world at large.

7. OnePage is a new and easy way to share your business contact details. OnePage lets you to combine all your contact points to one single area, including your email address, website, blog, MSN and Yahoo! Messengers, Facebook and Twitter accounts. You need to give out your OnePage ID (username) and you can be reached everywhere.

8. Sturvs.com is a social bookmarking site that allows you to share news, music, videos, articles and also promote events and services, and read news.

9. SocialCubix is a Facebook and social media application development company. They offer application development with a specific emphasis on viral and social networking marketing.

10. MyRadeo is a microblogging service for music that lets you share and discover songs with your friends. “It’s like Twitter for songs or Pandora if your friends pick the songs for you”.

11. Encipher is a growing technology consultancy with bases in the UK and Nigeria, with expertise in ensuring that products and services are always available on the “cloud”, regardless of platform or device. Encipher provides cloud-computing based services with the following focus in mind: Platform as a service, software as a service, and infrastructure as a service.

12. TXTOWEB is a service that lets you send instant short messages in the form of classified ads via SMS from your mobile phone straight to the web.

13. 1spotSearch (similar to Kayak.com) is a flight/fare aggregation site that lets you compare flight schedules and prices when finding flights within Nigeria.

14. Gistcaster is a social messenger that helps you to share and discover what’s happening right now around you. It also has a mobile version.

15. Wooppee is a powerful search engine focused on the Nigerian web market with many features and search relevance.

16. Waaazap! is a communications platform that helps people stay in touch with friends and share content with anyone using custom-built special tools. With Waaazap!, you can create, discover and share content with friends and people from around the world.

17. ConnectNigeria.com is a free crowd-sourced and search-friendly database of businesses, companies and entrepreneurs. With ConnectNigeria.com, you can find information about jobs, cars, real estate, travel, entertainment, sport and everything you need all in one place.

18. DokitaSAYS.com allows you to ask health-related questions and get answers from real doctors. Unlike other sites where, unlimited, often confusing answers are provided to questions, DokitaSAYS only provides one answer to a question.

19. Naijaborn is a custom-built social networking engine that creates a searchable, detailed, user-generated database of the global Nigerian community and their creations.

20. Mammaput is a crowd-sourced directory of eateries in Nigeria. A comprehensive set of APIs will be available for developers to build ‘location-aware’ mobile applications around available data.

Some Conclusions

Although we’ve seen cool and exciting apps and innovations from the Nigerian technology space, there’s still much work to be done. Nigerian tech entrepreneurs should start thinking global, that is, building web and mobile applications that the world can use as well.

They can also learn from the success of Ushahidi, which initially developed out of a need to solve a local problem and is now being used in a global context. Think local first and how to solve a local problem or need, and then adapt that and see if there is a global angle as well. Nigerian entrepreneurs also need to think of many more ways to monetise their products.

There’s a need for collaboration with other entrepreneurs in Nigeria and across the rest of Africa. There’s a lot to learn from the South African tech scene — networking meet-ups, collaborative spirit, healthy discussions on the emerging web, mobile and startups industry. There’s also a dire need to build credibility, as individuals and collectively, in order to attract both local and international investors.

Looking into the future, I see Nigerian startups built with ground-breaking technology that can compete with global startups. I see a vibrant technology startup community backed by a VC (Venture Capitalist) culture. I also see technology parks and incubators in different parts of Nigeria churning out great innovations and applications that Google, Microsoft, Oracle, etc would be eager to buy.

Finally, I see a robust software technology industry in Nigeria similar to India’s that could generate billions of dollars through outsourcing.

Until then, only time will tell.

Author Bio

Loy Okezie
Loy Okezie is a digital marketing strategist and founder of Startups Nigeria, the first online technology startup community in Nigeria. He has consulted for several small and mid-size companies and helped start-up CareersNigeria.com, one of the leading job portals in Nigeria in 2007. He writes a column about internet... More