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Here’s what you need to know about Nigeria’s tech startup ecosystem

Are you a venture capitalist or an angel investor looking to invest in a company? Are you an entrepreneur looking for capital or other opportunities? Are you an aspiring startup owner looking for assistance? Well, you have come to the right place. Ventureburn presents the 2018 guide to Nigeria’s startup scene.

Nigeria is arguably the most important tech startup ecosystem on the continent right now. This year alone, two of the world’s biggest tech companies, Google and Facebook, opened their own hubs and launched accelerator programmes in country.

Judging by the number and size of equity investment deals that have come out of Nigeria this year so far, the West African country appears to be on track to draw more venture capital in 2018 than its Southern African and East African counterparts.

This article aims to guide anyone who wants to get involved with, or have a better understanding of the country’s fast growing startup space. It is a part of a series which will also include the West African and East African startup space.

We have scoured Nigeria’s tech startup landscape and hand-picked some of the top players to get you started, looking at investment (angel, venture capital, and private equity), as well as accelerators, incubators and innovation hubs.

Hubs and co-working spaces

Facebook’s Lagos-based NG_Hubwhich is run in partnership with CcHub, is Facebook’s first community hub in Africa. The NG_Hub space which includes work spaces, meeting rooms, games and chill out room, an event space and a well catered café, will also be the focal point for a number of training programmes.

The hub will include Facebook’s Fb Start Accelerator programme – a research and mentorship-driven programme focused on those building high tech solutions, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

Facebook also announced partnerships with seven other hubs across the country including in Abuja (Ventures Platform), Jos (nHub), Kaduna (Colab Hub), Kano (DI Hub), Uyo (Start Innovation Hub), Enugu (Roar Hub) and Port Harcourt (Ken Saro Wiwa Hub).

Co-Creation Hub (CcHUB) is Nigeria’s first open living lab and pre-incubation space. The innovation hub which opened in 2011, also runs an incubation programme which has supported over 90 early stage startups.

Jos-based nHub is one of the first tech innovation hubs to be located in northern Nigeria. The hub offers a range of incubation and acceleration programmes focused on innovation, job creation, social impact, skill acquisition and youth engagement

Port Harcourt’s Olotu Square is a community of startups and developers with interests ranging from full-stack web technologies, artificial intelligence, to engineering.

Also based in Port Harcourt is FocusHub, a business and tech innovation hub which aims to assist startups solving development challenges in the Niger Delta create sustainable business models.

Root Hub is a co-working pace based in Uyo which offers startups a platform to connect with partners and investors. The workspace also hosts ecosystem events and conducts training for entrepreneurs across different industry specific topics.

Founders Hub serves as the meeting point for entrepreneurs where they get to meet, brainstorm, share ideas and collaborate. This is achieved through knowledge partnership events, meet-ups, focus groups, hackathons, competitions, workshops, and talks from guest speakers.

Afrilabs, a pan-African network of tech innovation hubs, works with the following hubs in Nigeria: Founders Hub, Innovation Growth Hub, Passion Incubator, Civic Foundation for Innovation, Aiivon Innovation Hub, Uplift Hub, Roothub Accelerator Systems, CoLab, Tribe, Digital Development Hub, Olotu Square, ALFTech Hub

Investors

Nigeria’s VC scene mostly consists of a mixture of local firms and international non-profit impact funds. In addition the country has its fair share of wealthy individuals with investment sense. With the rise of more and more role models in the Nigeria’s tech space, there seems to be a strong sense of paying it forward among the angel investors.

The Lagos Angel Network organises seed funders to invest in startups. The organisation organises pitch events where pre-screened business ideas are presented to the network by entrepreneurs. The initiative was founded by local investor Tomi Davies.

Founder of ecommerce giant Konga, Sim Shagaya has followed up on the pay-it-forward route by investing in ride-sharing startup GoMyWay in 2015 as well as Printivo. Under Shagaya’s leadership, Konga has over the past few years established it as a significant player in the Nigerian space.

The founder of mobile money transfer firm Paga, Tayo Oviosu, has over the past few years backed gaming company ChopUp as well as non-tech companies like luxury teas outfit YsWara and Reelfruit, which is exploiting the fruit value chain.

Then there’s the founder of L5LabChika Nwobi. He has invested in the likes of online retailer Jay Osbie, job portal Jobberman, classifieds site One Africa Media and QwikGist, which is an entertainment news site.

Jason Njoku is a British-born Nigerian entrepreneur most well known for co-founding iROKO Partners and Spark — an early-investment firm that has since 2013 invested in the likes of Timehop, Coin and Hotels.ng.

The US-based Accion Venture Lab is a non-profit investment vehicle with a scope that includes 32 countries on four continents. Founded in 1961, the organisation is on a mission to alleviate poverty by offering financial products such as micro-enterprise loans and business training. In 2017 Accion launched a company builder initiative to foster fintech firms in Nigeria.

African Business Angel Network (better known as just ABAN) describes itself as a pan-African non-profit association founded to support the development of early-stage investor networks across the continent and to get many more (early-stage) investors excited about the opportunities in Africa. The organisation recently completed a successful tour from Lagos to Nairobi and Cape Town, to help mobilise the pockets of angels across the continent.

Adlevo Capital is a private equity fund manager. Prominent investments made in Nigeria include Paga and Interswitch.

The Acumen Fund invests in companies that are changing the way the world tackles poverty. The fund has invested in Nigerian mobile money transfer Paga.

The Omidyar Network is active across Africa, as it is around the world. Started by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, the initiative has not only established itself as a leader in intelligence and advocacy in the region’s startup ecosystem, but has been funding a range of ventures from Lagos to Cape Town and Nairobi (See this Ventureburn story on the network’s recent performance).

Besides providing venture capital, the network offers human capital capabilities, from serving on boards to consulting on strategy, coaching executives to recruiting new talent. The firm has invested in payments company Paga.

Sanaga Venture was founded in 2010, actively invests in and supports new and emerging ventures across the African continent. It offers finance and coaching to assist in building the capacity of startups to the stage where they can achieve financial sustainability and critical mass in their operations.

The investment arm of global tech giant, Intel Capital, launched in 1991 and claims to have invested more than $11.6-billion in over 1 447 companies in 57 countries. The investment division has been investing in Africa since 2011.

Based in Kenya, the Savannah Fund is a seed capital fund, specialising in $25 000 to $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.

US-based Tiger Global 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.

EchoVC Partners is 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 South East Asia.

The average investment sizes range from $25 000 to several million dollars depending on the stage of opportunity and capital needs of the business. Some of its Nigerian investments include Hotels.ng, Easyshop Easycook, myPadi.ng, Printivo, and S&T Media.

Chicago-based VC, VestedWorld 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.

Seedstars World is a global startup competition in emerging markets. Startups from a growing number of emerging markets, including Nigeria, are invited to pitch and take part in the international competition where they’ll stand a chance to win up to $1-million in equity funding.

Then there’s infoDeva World Bank programme that supports entrepreneurs in developing countries through research and innovation hubs for climate tech, agribusiness and digital. The organisation’s Early Stage Financing Programme connects promising entrepreneurs with the early-stage capital and networks they need to launch and grow competitive businesses.

The programme also publishes research on innovative forms of financing for entrepreneurs in developing economies, including crowdfunding and angel investors.

Village Capital 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.

In 2018 Village Capital launched an investment readiness programme with PayPal called the Village Capital Fintech Africa 2018. The programme will culminate in two-early stage startups walking away with $50 000 in investment funding. Four of the 12 startups selected for the programme are Nigerian.

The Mara Group is Mara is a pan-African investment group with operations in the following sectors: banking, real estate, infrastructure, and technology.

The Group is currently active in 22 African countries and 25 countries worldwide, and employs more than 11 000 people through its investments and operations.

1776 is a global incubator and seed fund that seeks to help startups transform industries, from education, sustainable energy, health and transportation.

440NG is an early-stage investment firm that also offers an accelerator programme — a joint venture fund between 88mph and seed stage investor L5Labs. While 88mph announced that it will stop investing in startups, in 2015 440NG invested in DavtonLearn, an online video learning platform for professional certifications.

GroFin describes itself as a development financier specialising in financing and supporting small and growing businesses in Africa and the Middle East. It recently launched a renewed $100-million fund, which follows an existing fully invested $170-million budget.

Leadpath Nigeria is a seed capital fund that specialises in providing short, medium and long-term funding to tech startups.

Synergy Capital is a Lagos-based private equity firm that invests in technology startups as well as traditional businesses.

Operating out of London, Helios Investment Partners is 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 $3-billion.

Jacana Partners is a pan-African private equity company that invests in entrepreneurs, builds successful small companies and delivers sustainable financial and social returns.

Operating out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Frontier Digital Ventures invests in online classifieds startups, as well as automotive and property portals. Its portfolio of African companies include PropertyPro.ng,

Investment AB Kinnevik is an entrepreneurial investment group focused on building digital consumer brands in four sectors: communication, ecommerce and marketplaces, entertainment, and financial services. Some of the firms most recent public investments in Nigeria’s tech sector include $25-million for ecommerce site Konga and $5-million into deals site DealDey.

Alitheia Capital is a Nigerian firm that offers financing and entrepreneurial support to businesses that are working to meet a real business, social, or environmental need.

Bamboo Capital Partners was launched in 2017. The firm has about $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.

Spark is an investment group whose portfolio includes Drinks.ng, Hotels.ng, Paystack and Ogavenue.

Newid Capital invests internationally in growth-oriented financial services companies serving the under-banked.

Tekton Ventures is 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.

Ventures Platform is an early-stage growth focused fund which supports post MVP teams in growing their startups.

TLcom Capital is 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.

In Africa, the firm invests in tech startups through its TLcom TIDE (Technology and Innovation for Developing Economies) Africa Fund. TIDE Africa is the first international venture capital fund focused exclusively on technology enabled services and innovation for Sub-Saharan Africa across all stages of the venture capital cycle.

In May, Nigerian analytics company Terragon Group announced it had secured a $5-million investment from the firm.

Accelerators and incubators

With many incubators in West Africa hosting accelerator as well as incubation programmes, the two terms often overlap.

Google’s Launchpad Accelerator Africa programme is aimed at early-stage African startups and operates out of Lagos.

She Leads Africa has a three-month programme designed to identify, support and fund the next generation of Nigeria’s brightest female entrepreneurs.

Ota-based Covenant University‘s Hebron Startup Labs is Nigeria’s first university-based incubator.

Startupbootcamp (SBC) Africa runs a three-month accelerator programme in Cape Town, South Africa which provides 10 startups with €15 000. The programme which was launched last year had Nigerian healthtech startup MobiCure in its first cohort.

Abuja-based Enspire Incubator runs a four-month tech-focused business incubator programme open to Abuja citizens only.

Founded in Ghana, the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) provides training and mentoring for aspiring African software entrepreneurs with the goal of creating wealth and jobs locally in Africa. In 2017 MEST opened a new centre in Lagos.

Nigerian billionaire Tony Elumelu launched a pan-African $100-million entrepreneurship programme in early 2015. The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme included a 12-week training programme, mentorship, access to crucial networks and resources as well as possible funding.

The Passion Incubator acceleration programme runs for a couple of months to provide entrepreneurial training, product development, work space, mentoring and connections with VCs.

iDEA Nigeria seeks to support digital entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions and business models that make businesses and commerce more efficient, provide new ways to deliver government and social services and help reduce poverty and unemployment. The organisation hosts both incubation and acceleration programmes.

The Wennovation Hub Initiative Nigeria describes itself as a social enterprise created to respond to the challenges of supporting locally relevant innovations. The organisation helps to accelerate high-impact entrepreneurs.

Business incubator Roar Nigeria announced in April that it has plans to this year invest in 10 startups.

Startpreneurs is an Abuja-based accelerator and seed fund whose partners include ABAN and Silicon Valley accelerator 500 startups.

US seed accelerator Y Combinator invests $120 000 in startups which then move to Silicon Valley for a three-month acceleration programme. In all, since 2005 the accelerator has invested in 1 773 startups including Nigerian enterprises Flutterwave and Tress.

If you’d like to add your organisation to this framework or suggest an additional category, please comment below or contact us.

Featured image: TWOREPORT via Twitter

Author Bio

Daniel Mpala
Daniel's focus is on the African tech startup ecosytem. Besides that, he is passionate about online security, privacy and international affairs. He studied International Relations and Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. More

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