Nigeria's startup scene is bustling, with 481 active startups as of August 2022, per Disrupt Africa. Amid this lively environment, a heartening trend is emerging: successful founders are taking on new roles as mentors and backers. These pioneers, having navigated their own startup journeys, are now using their experience, resources, and capital to empower the next generation.
Seven visionary figures, all from startups established before 2020, are driving this transformative cycle. Their shared mission is clear: boost innovation, accelerate economic growth, and nurture the budding Nigerian startup ecosystem now valued at over $10 billion. This isn't business as usual; it's a dedicated commitment to shaping the future of startups.
In recent years, the ecosystem has flourished, producing innovative solutions in fintech, health tech, and beyond. This surge of creativity owes much to these visionary founders, who are now reinvesting in the ecosystem that once nurtured them. It's a cycle of growth, mentorship, and collective progress.
Shola Akinlade, the co-founder behind Paystack, the Y Combinator-backed payment processing firm acquired by global giant Stripe for $200 million in 2020, stands as a pivotal figure in reshaping Africa's tech landscape. This historic deal, one of the continent's largest and the largest from Nigeria, marked the evolution of the ecosystem.
Akinlade's impact goes beyond building a transformative company m but extends to fostering the growth of startups through mentorship and investment. His commitment to empowering fellow entrepreneurs has been a linchpin in propelling Nigeria's tech ecosystem forward. Back in 2016, Shola reached out to Honey Ogundeyi, the then-founder of e-commerce startup Fashpa, seeking the first clients for Paystack.
Fast forward five years, Ogundeyi has re-emerged as the founder of Edukoya, a visionary Africa-focused ed-tech startup. In a testament to Akinlade's enduring support, he approached her once again, this time with a new proposition: becoming an investor. Akinlade joined Edukoya's impressive $3.5 million pre-seed funding round, solidifying his commitment to catalyzing innovative ventures across the continent.
Akinlade's strategic investments stretch far and wide, encompassing startups like Afropolitan, Earnipay, Cassava, AltSchool Africa, and more. This diverse portfolio underscores his discerning eye for transformative opportunities, a trait honed through his journey from pioneering Paystack to propelling other entrepreneurs onto a trajectory of success. As the ecosystem evolves, Akinlade's influence remains an indispensable force in nurturing the next generation of builders.
The co-founder and CTO of Paystack, the payment processing startup supported by Y Combinator and acquired by global payment giant Stripe for $200 million in 2020, isn't just about technology. He's also dedicated to nurturing startups that share his mission for positive transformation. Olubi's investment efforts mirror his dedication to making a real difference through entrepreneurship.
Through his investments, Ezra has supported startups such as Brass, The Peer, and Chowdeck, showcasing his commitment to fostering innovation and growth in the ecosystem.
Olugbenga "GB" Agboola
Known as "GB" within industry circles, Olugbenga Agboola stands as the Co-founder and CEO of Africa's unicorn, Flutterwave, boasting a valuation of $3 billion. His impact reverberates across the continent, revolutionizing digital payment solutions.
Beyond his impactful work at Flutterwave, Agboola has gracefully transitioned into angel investments, giving support to nascent startups, and thereby propelling innovation across diverse sectors.
In the words of GB himself, "Everywhere you look, there is untapped potential in Africa. The current state of affairs hasn't dampened that. Africa's digital economy is still set to expand over the next several years, more than five times its current size by some estimates. When you look at that, it's hard not to be excited, no matter what the immediate future looks like globally."
His visionary outlook extends to a future for African startups akin to the pioneering model established by Flutterwave.
Agboola's commitment to this vision is substantiated by his impressive investment portfolio, which spans over 19 startups, including notable names like Brass, Spleet, OKHi, Klump, Sudo, and TechCabal, as documented by Crunchbase.
Opeyemi, is a serial entrepreneur from Nigeria, with a remarkable portfolio of achievements. He co-founded Jobberman, a notable online job platform acquired by ROAM Africa in 2016, as well as the successful venture Whogohost, a self-funded hosting platform.
Dedicated to nurturing Nigeria's entrepreneurial landscape, Opeyemi shines as a mentor and investor in various startup initiatives. His role in mentorship programs and strategic investments is reshaping the tech terrain in Nigeria. Recently, he has reemerged on the scene with Fast Forward Venture Studio, offering $100,000 to operators and founders. This initiative comes complete with co-founder recruitment, technical support, initial product strategy, growth execution, and operational guidance, encompassing financial and legal aspects — all in exchange for a stake of up to 20% in the venture.
Opeyemi's trailblazing support extends to a slew of promising startups including Bumpa, Convoy, Dojah, Reliance Health, Cassava, AltSchool Africa, and more.
Meet Odunayo Eweniyi, the co-founder of PiggyVest, who is redefining the concept of savings and investments. Beyond this, she's a fierce advocate for female entrepreneurship, generously extending her mentorship to aspiring startup leaders. Her dedication to inclusivity and change is truly inspiring.
In January 2021, Eweniyi took her commitment a step further, co-founding First Check Africa. This fund takes a proactive stance, offering early-stage investments to African tech startups, with a special focus on empowering women-led initiatives. Her mission? To simplify access to venture capital and strengthen Africa's nascent startup ecosystem.
Eweniyi's support speaks volumes. She has backed startups like Foondamate, Akiba, Raenest, Pivo, Klas, Healthtracka, and more. These strategic investments aren't just financial; they represent her unwavering belief in nurturing innovation and amplifying the voices of emerging female tech trailblazers. Eweniyi isn't just redefining finance; she's rewriting the narrative of female empowerment in tech.
In the initial stages of his startup journey, he founded Kingschat, which was later acquired by Loveworld Inc in 2016. Concurrently, in the same year, he played a pivotal role in co-founding Helium Health, which has emerged as a vanguard in healthcare solutions. Olubusi's commitment to addressing tangible issues is evident through these ventures, promoting innovation and community involvement.
Subsequently, Magic Fund, a global founder collective fostering early-stage startups, was co-founded by him in 2017. To date, the fund has made over 70 investments. Crunchbase data reveals Olubusi's personal investments in 4 startups, including Orda, Bamboo, and Payday.
A prominent figure shaping Africa's tech ecosystem, Iyin Aboyeji, boasts a legacy reaching far beyond his co-founding role at Andela. His influence has surged through a series of impactful startups, a notable example being the fintech unicorn, Flutterwave. Aboyeji's investment acumen and mentorship have become instrumental in driving startup growth, ushering in a fresh era of technological breakthroughs.
In 2015 Iyin Aboyeji co-founded the Future Africa Fund, marking the commencement of a visionary journey. Prior to this, Aboyeji had already established himself as an angel investor, extending financial support to emerging African startups. This commitment remained unwavering even as he embarked on his role in Flutterwave, a fintech venture he co-founded.
Fast forward to January 2020, Future Africa Fund formalized its presence, with Iyin Aboyeji assuming the role of a general partner. This pivotal moment coincided with the announcement of $1.5 million in investments distributed among 9 African companies. Reflecting this exponential momentum, data from the fund's website reveals a robust portfolio of 101 startups across the continent, boasting a noteworthy tally of 5 successful exits.
Popularly referred to as "E," Aboyeji's impact has notably extended to startups like Foondamate, Gamp, Norebase, Rise, Spleet, and Stears. With a legacy marked by strategic investments and profound mentorship, Iyin Aboyeji continues to reshape the ecosystem, nurturing an era of innovation and growth.