Understanding Nigeria’s fast growing technology Startup ecosystem and how you can plug-in.

technology startup

The E-commerce revolution

In the wake of 2012, two e-commerce technology startups (now successful companies), Jumia and Konga, pioneered the emergence of e-commerce businesses in Nigeria which paved way for the rapid growth of Nigeria’s technology startup ecosystem. They came to disrupt Nigeria’s retail shopping space by offering a flexible online shopping experience to their customers to shop conveniently from the comfort of their homes. With only a few users and near zero sales (largely due to low internet penetration and low online shopping awareness), Sim Shagaya, founder of Konga persisted and drove his team to build one of Africa’s largest online mall. The same can be said of the Rocket Internet media Group, owners of Jumia Nigeria, who against all odds built African’s biggest online shop after series of experimenting with products.

Since then, Nigeria’s technology startup ecosystem has seen an unprecedented growth. New tech startups in the e-commerce/classified ads space (Dealday, OLX, Vconnect), payment processing (Interswitch, Paga, Vougepay), online recruitment platforms (Jobberman, Ngcareers), Video streaming platform (Iroko TV), Hotels.africa, (Hotel booking platform) and social enterprises like BudgIT, Wecyclers etc. were launched.

The technology Hub revolution

technology startup
Inside Co-creation Hub, Lagos, Nigeria

All thanks to Nigeria’s technology startup ecosystem enablers like Co-creation Hub, Idea hub, Wennovation Hub, 440NG & L5Lab and other technology hubs that created an enabling environment for tech startups to thrive.  They ran in-house programmes aimed at incubating and accelerating these startups. The hubs did not only serve as catalyst for developing innovative technology solutions that addresses Nigeria’s social and economic challenges, they also help get the startups funded by international venture capitalists through their demo day events (an event meant to bring venture capitalist and startup founders together to foster funding and business relationship). This has been a game changer for the Nigeria technology startup ecosystem.

Worthy of note is that these Hubs that became enablers were built by young Nigerians like Bosun Tijani, founder of Co-creation Hub, who envisioned replicating silicon valley in Nigeria and through pain (with little or no private sector or government support) birthed the first technology cluster which later became an incubating and accelerating Hub in Nigeria. This saw the emergence of budding tech entrepreneurs who built technology solutions that became thriving startups with notable names like BudgIT, Efiko, Wecyclers, Truppr, Genii Games etc. All these started in the Yaba area of Lagos, Nigeria which is now dubbed “Yabacon Valley”- Nigeria’s version of Silicon Valley in the US. The ripple effect further saw the launch of more technology Hubs in Lagos including Idea Hub, Spark, Wennovation Hub, 440NG & L5Lab among others. Other hubs like Venture platform and Start Innovation Hub launched in Abuja and Uyo respectively.

The Journey so far

The success story of Nigeria’s technology startup ecosystem has really been tremendous. New tech startups are being launched like every other week while existing startups secure new venture funds. Notable among these success stories are the launch of new technology startups like Yudala and checki.com (both e-commerce platforms), Gomyway (a ride sharing platform), Tuteria (a freelance platform for hiring trainers), Stutern (a platform for hiring interns), Lifebank (an online blood donation platform) among many others. In June 2016, Andela (a startup that trains African developers) secured a $24 million Series B fund from the Chan Zukerberg initiative while online real estate market place – Tolet.ng recently secured a $1.2 million Series A fund led by Frontier Digital Venture.

The Federal Government of Nigeria has also shown much interest in the development of Nigeria’s technology startup ecosystem with the launch of Aso Villa Demo day, an event that saw over 200 startups pitched their innovative solutions to the government and venture capitalists while the top best solutions got funded. Another pilot program, Startup Friday was launched to take the “good news” of technology entrepreneurship to major states in Nigeria. All these are pointers to the speedy revolution taking place in Nigeria’s technology startup ecosystem.

Mark Zukerberg’s Validation

technology startup
Left: Mark Zukerberg in Co Creation Hub, Lagos, Nigeria.

The visit of Mark Zukerberg, founder of Facebook, in September 2016, brought a new twist to the success story of Nigeria’s technology startup ecosystem. His visit according to stakeholders is a validation of the potential of Nigeria’s technology startup ecosystem growing to become a technology force to be reckoned with internationally. The attendant effect is believed to see more foreign venture capitalists investing in Nigerian startups as well as motivate existing and aspiring startup founders.

Read also: How to leverage on Bartering to scale your startup in Nigeria.

How you can plug-in in Nigeria’s fast growing technology startup ecosystem

The beautiful thing about the buzz around Nigeria’s technology startup ecosystem is that it has gradually set the stage for a huge business exploit for investors and potential entrepreneurs who intend to make a good fortune in the technology space. However, one must understand that startups are pretty unpredictable and operates on a very tight budget as such, patience is needed to reap a good fortune in the long run. Below are viable opportunities to exploit in the fast growing Nigeria’s technology startup ecosystem.

  1. Start your technology Company

Starting and build a technology startup has never been this easier compared to what is obtainable in early 2000. Today, there are plethora of tools, resources and online trainings out there to help you develop your technical competence and build a viable tech solution. The good news also is that most of these tools are free (open source) just as internet accessibility is becoming cheaper by the day. Also, for one who desires to hire a technical person to bring his idea to fruition, there are lots of freelance developers in Nigeria that can help you get things done faster or even join you as a technical co-founder. The opportunities are limitless, however solving a problem should be your driving force. Here is a comprehensive article on the reason  Why solving problems should be the driving force of every entrepreneur.

  1. Startup Consulting

We all know it takes more than just technical competence to build a lasting business/startup. Unfortunately, the norm in the technology startup space is that once a programmer conceives an idea, he pushes himself to put his technical ability to play and develops a working tech solution not minding the business and management dynamics needed to grow the solution into a company. This is where the service of a consultant is needed to fill that gap. As a startup consultant you will have to be around startups to understand their needs and then come up with a service that addresses that need. This you can present as a completely outsourced service or as a visiting consultant. Areas such as account management, auditing and project management will come in handy here.

  1. Research analysis/ Data experts

To scale or grow faster, startups rely mostly on good market research data to make informed and effective decisions. This is even more imperative in Nigeria’s technology startup ecosystem as there is a huge dearth in the availability of verifiable data. This is a big challenge as most startups cannot afford the huge budget required to do a market research. You can plug-in here by outsourcing this responsibility to provide a cost-effective market research that meets the niche of a particular startup. This can be coupled with a research in the product development line of the startup as well. Market and product research data must be well analyzed and visualized to aid concise and accurate decision making.

  1. Digital marketing experts/Brand managers

The importance of brand image, brand management and brand promotion cannot be overemphasized especially in this social media era. Every company wants to get his message out and make his brand likeable by all. The need is even more pressing for a startup as a startup is either disrupting or competing with existing brands that have huge advertising budget.

Most startups operates a very lean budget hence the need for a cheaper and effective marketing/advertising campaigns provided by social media platforms. You can plug-in here by outsourcing these digital marketing responsibilities and brand management from startups, if you have the skills and competence.

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