On January 27, the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator team was invited to participate in TechPoint Build in Lagos, Nigeria. The event, organised by Techpoint.ng, convened start-ups, investors, tech hubs and mobile operators and other ecosystem players from across Nigeria. We took this opportunity to also reveal some details on the upcoming third round of our Innovation Fund. Here are our key insights from the event.
1. Nigeria: A country of strong entrepreneurship culture with diverse opportunities
Nigerians entrepreneurship culture coupled with its enormous and untapped opportunities across various sectors explains why its start-ups raised a total of $63.3 million in 2017 (more than any other country on the continent), according to Disrupt Africa’s recent Tech Start-ups Funding report. While visiting one of our portfolio start-ups in Nigeria – Prepclass – we could once again witness the dynamism of this ecosystem as we had the chance to be invited to participate in the TechPoint Build event in Lagos.
Among others, we took part in the jury panel of TechPoint Build’s competition “Pitch Storm” which attracted over 200 applications, nine of which were chosen to pitch in front of investors for a chance to bag a prize of 1 million naira (US$2,780). Here are the nine shortlisted start-ups that pitched.
- Accounteer: A cloud accounting solution for SMEs
- Gerocare: A subscription-based home care service for the elderly
- Legitcar: An online platform that allows users to verify the status of vehicles before purchasing them
- Loystar: A customer loyalty platform for businesses and brands
- myPadi: A platform for students looking for accommodation and roommates
- Placements.ng: (Winners of Pitch Storm): A search engine for graduate and undergraduate level internships
- SmartTeller: A platform that allows microfinance institutions to automate field operations and transactions
- The Footwear Academy: A footwear training and production school for individuals interested in footwear production and sales.
- Wemove: A start-up building technology solutions to ease transportation services
2. Omnichannel approach: Marrying online and offline to maximise reach
A physical presence helps build credibility and critical touchpoints across the customer journey. It also drives brand awareness which can significantly impact both online (usually mobile-first) and offline sales. The panellist on the “Where is the market, offline or online?” session was quick to point this out. As more businesses seek digital presence, Olumide Balogun (Head of Marketing, Nokia West Africa) pointed out that brick and mortar will always play an important role since it appeals to one of customers’ strongest senses: touch. As such, Olumide advised online businesses to adopt an omni-channel approach to reaching customers.
Similarly, Lola Cardoso (Head, Corporate strategy and Innovation, Union Bank Nigeria) said that the conversation between online and offline should be about removing frictions for the average Nigerian. She mentioned that while a segment of customers is online, businesses need to factor in those without access to connectivity and those that lack basic literacy. Nigeria’s mobile penetration of unique subscribers as of Dec 2017 was 49%, according to GSMA Intelligence.
The panellists concluded that businesses need to understand their customers’ spectrum of needs and seek to remove the frictions in their customers’ experience through a mix of online and offline efforts.
3. Businesses need to leverage their data to increase their potential
On the “Keeping a business afloat” panel, Olubayo Adekanmbi (Chief Transformational Officer at MTN Nigeria and Convenor of Data Science Nigeria) and other panellists advised start-ups and businesses on the need to collate and track relevant data on a daily basis which will help unlock insights on customer behaviours and preferences. They concluded that this will help inform business strategy especially in a world where the needs of customers are ever changing.
4. Investing in start-ups: What do local investors want?
Chika Nwobi (Founder and CEO, L5Lab) pointed out that cash efficiency of an investment is key for investors. He stated that good ideas and teams are vital but start-ups with less capital outlay incentivises local investors to invest without the need for a huge check. Kola Aina (Founder, Ventures Platform Hub) also echoed the importance of a quality founding team. He said many investors tend to look for investment opportunities that are tried and tested. Hence, emphasises on market opportunity and the ability of the team to deliver what they say they will cannot be overstated.
We also had the opportunity to speak on the same panel and shared that the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator programme is providing selected start-ups in Africa and Asia Pacific with grant funding, technical assistance, and the opportunity to engage with mobile operators. We also briefly discussed the upcoming launch of our third round of funding and called Nigerian start-ups in the room to check their eligibility and apply.
We would like to end this blog by thanking Adewale Yusuf and Yinka Awosanya and the broader TechPoint.ng team for inviting us to participate in the Techpoint Build.
The Ecosystem Accelerator programme is supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Australian Government, the GSMA and its members.