Nigerian tech startup sector still up against challenges, say commentators

Etereuti via Pixabay

A few years ago, when startup founders and tech stakeholders were asked what was still missing in Nigeria’s tech ecosystem, they often began by detailing the lack of funds and government support.

But as direct and indirect foreign investments have rolled in and business competitions have become available in addition to numerous accelerator programmes, attention has shifted away from the difficulties of securing funding.

Like this it has become difficult to get a consensus on what the tech industry still needs.

Over the years players in the ecosystem have also begun to envision a tech sector that is not dictated, directed nor championed by the government. Instead, they’ve come to realise that it is possible to do things in the sector alone.

‘Nigeria must inspire demand-driven research at higher institutions and connect innovators to work with these expert researchers to build startups of the future’

“The tech sector is largely not a core priority so the players had to start looking elsewhere. The good thing about this is it brings more stability to the ecosystem since governments go and come with varying oomph for the tech industry. We are now growing not at their pace but ours,” says industry expert Wale Dipo.

Sector lacks academic research

Wole Odetayo, executive director of Nigeria’s Wennovation Hub, believes that Nigeria’s startup ecosystem still lacks academic research which he describes as the bedrock of product design and development. He says the sector can grow if Nigerian startups offer solutions to real problems that Nigerians face.

Academic research, he reckons, is the surest path to creating the right environment and designing sustainable solutions that are needed to compete with foreign solutions and methodologies that flood the Nigerian market.

“Therefore, we must inspire demand-driven research at our higher institutions and deliberately connect our innovators to work with these expert researchers to build startups of the future that will extract the value needed to create the much-needed jobs and impact that will in turn scale us into a developed society and build a legacy for our future,” he says.

Lack of exit options

He argued that despite the presence of a number of funds in Nigeria available to startups, seed funding is hard for startups to get, as investors are turned off by the lack of exit opportunities for deals in Nigeria.

“Nigeria’s equity market valued at less than $100-billion whereas South Africa’s is valued at almost $1-trillion. For the largest economy on the continent, that is untapped potential.”

He added that more needs to be done to encourage medium-sized enterprises to list on the stockmarket and in so doing provide a channel for investors to exit their early-stage investments.

“Some people even argue that alternative markets need to be built afresh. Regardless, the easier the “exit channels” become the bigger and more relevant our ecosystem will be,” Odetayo said.

Gbolahan Alli, a lead software engineer, believes what is missing in the ecosystem is mentorship, discipline and getting the right talent. But he says only a handful of people get the right kind of mentors that would help them grow and scale.

Health startup founder Victoria Feyikemi however believes that many of those parading themselves as mentors actually could do with mentorship themselves.

“While those that can actually serve as mentors are oversubscribed or are too busy to offer meaningful mentorship. It’s as if everyone is still figuring out how the very young Nigerian tech industry works.

She believes it’s not a good idea for entrepreneurs to get a mentor from abroad since he or she will not have good understanding of the Nigerian market.

In addition, the industry players also believe that the sector would be able to grow faster if startup founders can get the right discipline for them to steer the company right

This, in addition to solving other problems that are faced by entrepreneurs such as the epileptic power supply and expensive and slow internet.

Featured image: Etereuti via Pixabay

Paul Adepoju


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