How Serena Williams & others changed the business trajectory of an African startup with $3.3M

Stephen Nartey June 19, 2023
Serena Williams at the Exhibition event at BNP Paribas Showdown. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The dream of the co-founders of Stears, a data insights firm based in Lagos, Nigeria, became a reality following a financial intervention by tennis star, Serena Williams, and other investors in a 3.3M seed round led by Mac Venture Capital in 2022.

Burdened with the prevailing difficulty of accessing data insights on Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, over five years ago, a group of friends who met in college while studying at the London School of Economics and Imperial College in the, UK; Abdul Abdulrahim – a data scientist, Bode Ogunlana – a software engineer, Michael Famoroti – an economist, and Preston Ideh – a finance lawyer; set out to look for an innovative solution to address this challenge, and eventually established a data-driven insights company, with Nigeria in focus.

Over the last three decades, Nigeria is known to have the largest economy in the sub-region with a GDP of over $432.3 billion. This growth was largely driven by the country’s expanding financial sector, which spiked from one percent of the total GDP in 2001 to ten percent in 2018, and its role as a major exporter of crude oil, according to Statista.

As much as this data might offer an opening to anyone seeking to have a sense of the Nigerian economy, it requires more in making informed decisions regarding investments. Therefore, the pressing need to meet the demands for Nigeria’s data insights from the global business community, influenced the founding of the data insights firm, Stears, in 2017.

The company initially took off as a media publication site with an interest in serving its consumers with financial news and insights in Nigeria. However, five years into its operation, it decided to change its direction from an insights establishment to a data-insights firm, according to Tech Crunch.

A window of opportunity opened for the company when it was accepted into the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund 2022 cohort. One of the major opportunities the program offered Stears was to help them raise funds to further the vision of the firm.

Inspired by the potential Stears presented to the investment community and how it was leveraging data insights to draw businesses to Africa, tennis star, Serena Williams, found the company’s mission fascinating and decided to invest in it. She found the enthusiasm the young professionals displayed and their quest to use data and technology to help the continent commendable.  

This kick-started Serena Ventures joining the Mac Venture Capital as well as Melo 7 Tech Partners, Omidyar Group’s Luminate Fund, Cascador, and Hoaq Club to raise $3.3 million for the data insights firm when the seed round opened.

This investment is tailored towards improving the work of the firm in data collection and analytics capabilities and its expansion to East and Southern Africa markets, according to Premium Times.

Today, the data firm has prominent subscribers, including Fintech company, Paystack, and financial institutions such as Sterling Bank, European Investment Bank, United Nations Development Programme, and UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office. The firm aspires to be one of the world’s most trusted sources of financial and intelligence data on Africa.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: June 19, 2023


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