Our experience in Lagos, Nigeria 🇳🇬
Happy new year folks! We hope that everyone has enjoyed a relaxing holiday break. We at TEN13 are refreshed and excited as ever for 2023 and beyond ⚡️
2023's first Outliers gives readers a unique insight into Stew's recent travels to Lagos, Nigeria. We also look at interesting trends in inflation across emerging markets versus developed markets, as well as reviewing the continued evolution of funding options for early stage founders.
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The most interesting global Seed to Series A deals from outside the US this week:
Our experience in Lagos, Nigeria 🇳🇬
Stew here with comments on my recent trip to Lagos, Nigeria. Whilst I grew up in Zimbabwe, I spent the majority of time in Southern Africa. This was my first trip to Lagos and primarily focussed my time on visiting portfolio companies (we have four that have a large Nigerian presence - Chipper Cash, Kippa, Payhippo, and Imalipay), plus an exploratory mission to learn more about Nigeria and the venture and startup ecosystem within.
My key takeaway as an investment firm remains that Nigeria (and Africa) is ripe for investment, all of the emerging opportunity seems real and there is strong ambition from the ecosystem to get out and solve core problems. The major challenge is understanding local nuance and challenges, thus is always helpful to get your feet on the ground.
Lagos, Nigeria is often referred to as the "Big Apple of Africa", and after spending time in the city, it's easy to see why. The energy and buzz of the city are palpable, and there is a feeling of constant activity and movement. One of the things that really stood out to me during my visit was the level of hustle and entrepreneurship present in the local community. Everywhere I went, it seemed like people were working hard to build businesses and create opportunities for themselves whether it was people selling water and snacks in the middle of traffic, informal market stalls, delivery and commuter drivers, etc.
Even just posting about my trip on LinkedIn, I was flooded with inbound requests to connect with local entrepreneurs and business people. It was clear that there is a strong culture of entrepreneurship in Lagos, and there is a sense of movement and progress.
During my time in Lagos, I was able to meet with the founders of about 20 companies and was struck by the level of entrepreneurship and drive that was present. I was truly impressed by the calibre of talent at the founder level. These individuals were highly ambitious and had a clear vision for building big businesses. It was inspiring to see the energy and drive that they brought to their work. One of the things that stood out to me was that these founders were on par with those I have met in Western markets in terms of their skills and abilities (but often seemed even hungrier). However, they often have had to deal with harsher capital-raising conditions and a more challenging macro environment. Despite these challenges, the founders I met in Lagos were undaunted, and I have no doubt that they will continue to drive the local tech and startup scene forward.
One positive trend was the number of talented individuals who have returned to the country to build startups and scaleups after gaining experience abroad. Many founders have worked at successful companies (either on the continent or internationally) and may have studied abroad - they’re bringing their knowledge and experience back to the local ecosystem, plus they have ambition about building for the African region. This is proving to be incredibly beneficial for the growth and development of the tech and startup scene in Lagos, as these individuals are able to draw on their international experience to inform their approaches and decision-making. Additionally, many of these founders maintain dual bases, splitting their time between Nigeria and other countries such as the United States or the United Kingdom. This allows them to tap into networks and resources in both locations and helps to bring a global perspective to the local ecosystem.
Countering this, one of the challenges was the shallow pool of tech and startup talent in the local ecosystem past founders, and general leadership. While there are certainly a number of talented individuals working in the tech and startup space - the majority of teams were new to startup class and had yet to develop deep startup and growth experience. One of our investments, Entry Level, is helping to upskill talent via cohort-based learning to help solve for this.
This theme seemed especially true for companies that are scaling rapidly and looking to add experienced team members to their ranks (albeit I met some great people at scale-up / large tech cos that had returned from international roles). As a result, many startups in Nigeria had larger teams than Western counterparts for their stage, but the output (and cost) per person can be lower than what you would see in more established ecosystems. This is not to say that there aren't highly skilled and experienced people working in the Lagos tech and startup scene, but rather that the pool of experienced (done it before) talent is still maturing and will likely come as further growth ‘poster’ companies emerge.
During my visit, I had the opportunity to meet with a number of founders at their offices, where I was able to meet their teams, participate in Q&A sessions, and share knowledge. These interactions were extremely valuable, as they allowed me to get a deeper understanding of the businesses and the challenges they faced. The portfolio investment companies and prospective founders I met with were incredibly welcoming and seemed genuinely interested in opening their doors and engaging me with their teams - there was a level of openness, being proud to showcase their team and what they were building. This level of willingness to engage is not always present in every ecosystem, and it was refreshing to see it in action in Lagos.
Tailwinds for the population’s core needs:
One of the interesting areas was that there was a lot of opportunity for technology to improve basic areas such as goods and services that are mature in other markets:
My takeaway was that there will be more successful companies coming out of the region that will focus on technology and tech-enabled solutions for the large, growing population and the fundamental areas that service them, such as food, transport, financial products and access, and healthcare etc.
I saw a lot less of the attitude of ‘build in Nigeria for the world’ (global SaaS). Rather, the sentiment seemed more focused on taking on models that have worked in other markets and adapted to the local market with strong talented founders - this is one of our core theses when investing in emerging markets.
There is a draw to Lagos, a level of hustle and optimism that keeps things ticking over yet despite this, there were also clear challenges ahead that most companies were continuing to manage:
My key takeaway as an investment firm remains that Nigeria (and Africa) are ripe for investment, all of the emerging opportunity seems real and there is strong ambition from the ecosystem to get out and solve core problems. The challenge lies in the local nuance, thus it is required to build a deep network and leverage that network to get access to exciting companies solving real problems to avoid the moniker of ‘tourist investor’. It takes time and effort to become active in a new geography, hence why we have started to both invest and spend time on the ground to understand this exciting market.
It’s great to see emerging managers and solo capitalists / GPs, like Packy McCormick, still raising capital.
2023 is likely to continue to be a tricky fundraising environment. More than ever, we feel that a wide range of investor and funding options for Founders, such as ‘solo capitalists’, syndicated investment groups & value-add angels (alongside the more traditional VC construct) will be critical in supporting the ecosystem.
The graphic above shows Consumer Price Inflation trends for both Developed Markets and Emerging Markets.
This is particularly interesting as, according to Pinebridge, Emerging Market inflation has historically exceeded that of developed market economies, but that relationship has begun to break down. There are some fascinating potential reasons outlined for this flip - more here.
Your authors this week
Seamus Crawford - A lengthy career on both sides of the table, working in early stage startups in the UK and investments in Hong Kong. Seamus has a particular interest in India and the wave of sub-continental innovation.