10 stories that defined the Nigerian tech scene in 2017

Yes, it’s that time again! Welcome to the 2nd edition of top ten stories of the year. If you’ve read last year’s top 10, then you will be familiar with some ground rules; no PR! Nothing wrong with PR itself, but we’re going to keep away from fluffy stuff like funding announcements, product launches, etc.

As you will soon discover, the ‘top 10’ list is a carefully (if I say so myself) curated snapshot of all the highlights of the year from a tech and startups perspective. In other words, how the culture of the tech industry was shaped in Nigeria.

Before we get down to business, I must say that some highlights of this year don’t quite fit the ‘stories’ format, but they’re too excellent not to acknowledge their value to the ecosystem. From the impact of Techpoint Tours (they went to a couple of eastern states), refreshing insights from Dotun’s Building The Future podcast series (too many favorites but this one is golden), must-read daily Newsletter by TechCabal (if you’re not subscribed – fix up), and the excellent founder interviews by Uzoma Adozie (you can binge on Tech Turks here), to mention a few of the things that has shaped the culture.

All this goes to show that, in 2017, the Nigerian Tech Scene was enriched by numerous events, initiatives, and of course, people. And there’s probably no way one article can adequately capture the breadth of it all. But, foolishly, I’m going to try and square this circle. So let’s get right to it:

1.Too Young, Too Soon

MubarakSamson Abioye

I wasn’t opportune to meet either Imogie Mubarak or Samson Abioye. However, from the many stories that were written by those fortunate to have known them, they will surely be missed. Their untimely passing was shocking, to say the least but a great testimony to how many lives they touched and how they’ve left their mark on the Nigeria Tech community.

Why read it?  Life is short. Our next best bet is to give it the best shot.

Go Deep: Pulse, Mark Essien, Momoh Slim, and Paul Adepoju to list a few tributes.


2. Lagos is set to overtake Nairobi as Africa’s startup capital

Yomi Kazeem of Quartz recently wrote this widely shared article to let us know that “Nigeria attracts more start-up funding than anywhere else in Africa”.

I know we love bragging rights about everything (Jollof wars, anyone?). And if we take Kazeem’s numbers (capital raised: $109m Nigeria compared to $93m Kenya) and analysis as gospel truth, then there’s good reason to pop champagne!

Why read it? To know Nigerians are ‘winning’. Link

Hype Alert: A significant amount of the funding finds its way to a few startups (similar to other ecosystems). Overall, funding remains a hard nut for most startups to crack and the rosy data is not representative of their reality.

3. Why African entrepreneurs need to think bigger

Victor Asemota is a consistent writer, and I don’t use this word lightly; an original thinker. For some weird reason, the combination of ‘consistent writer and original thinker’ is a rare breed in our parts. Anyway, amongst other things, Victor is also a tech columnist for Guardian and penned a piece back in July titled; Why African Entrepreneurs Need To Think Bigger.

Why read it? It paints a vivid picture of what’s possible for entrepreneurs if we allow ourselves to think big. Link

CounterPoint: Read Yannick Lefang’s excellent rebuttal on what he considers Victor missed.


4. PayStack’s Y Combinator Application

PayStack has a lot of goodwill in the Nigerian tech community. In my opinion, one of the ways they’ve accrued this goodwill (apart from creating a product which solves a real need) is their willingness to share valuable information for the benefit of the broader community.

Shola Akinlade shared their Y Combinator application—with commentary—which provides needed context and material for anybody looking to apply to YC or any other accelerator.

Why read it? To understand what it means to share in an impactful way and pay it forward for others. Link

Stay Sharp: PayStack is consistent. They keep sharing good stuff.

5. Nigerian ‘tech’ Twitter

Adebimpe Adebowale‘s post was funny and perfectly summed up the frustration of a newbie to the labyrinth called the Nigerian Tech Twitter (yes, Nigerian Tech Twitter is a thing).

Her opening disclaimer was also wickedly smart. My interpretation of the disclaimer: I hope this post doesn’t hurt your fragile ego, if it does, forgive us. I will listen to your opinion.

Why read it? To laugh. Also, to know that there should be space for all voices and experiences. We might be at different stages on this startup journey, but we all deserve to be heard. Link


6. Investing in Nigerian Startups

Tayo Oviosu on Twitter

Speaking of Nigerian Tech Twitter, Tayo Oviosu unwittingly set-off what he called “a firestorm of discussion on Nigerian Twitter” with his remark about the quality of founders. Or to be more precise — the lack of quality founders. It’s fair to say there were loads of intense feelings on both sides of this issue. You should read the responses in the comments section of Tayo’s post.

Why read it? Beyond the specific debate at hand, this discussion captures the vibrancy, diversity of thought, passion and energy in our ecosystem. Link

No Maga: Tayo has been banging this drum for a while. Back in 2016, he wrote on the importance of grooming good managers. Yet another discussion which started on, you guessed right — Twitter.



7. Solar energy: Nigeria’s best shot at eradicating its electricity problem

Grace Akinosun of Techpoint wrote this well-researched post discussing one of the holy grail’s of Nigeria’s national life–stable electricity supply. I loved the fact that she took an almost scholarly approach to do justice to this perennial problem.

Why read it? Because we deserve deep dives on topics which can provide a map for others to follow. Link

Tech on Point: The crew at Techpoint did more than their fair share of superb tech reporting in 2017. For example, this story from Victor Ekwealor won a 500k prize for the PWC Media Excellence award.


8. Building A Nigerian Startup vs. A Startup from Nigeria

Oo Nwoye is an excellent storyteller, and here he makes a very compelling argument about the importance of hiring to stand a decent chance of building a world-class firm.

Why read it? To ensure poor hiring misconceptions do not blindside you. Link

Be Real: Getting talented people to join your firm and stay is absolutely, bar nothing, one of the most exhausting and burnout inducing aspect of scaling a startup.

9. From Nada to Prada with Andela 

First of all, take a bow Hannah Masila for coming up with such a catchy title! Secondly, and more importantly, thanks for sharing your story which maps out your journey to being a developer.

Sometimes, with all the noise that comes from the ecosystem, it’s easy to downplay or neglect the transformative effect of tech as witnessed from an individual’s perspective.

Why read it? To understand that tech has the impact to change lives. What we all do matters.Link

Escape the thought bubble: Chances are if you’re going to build or do anything remarkable, you will be questioned and doubted every step of the way. Stay focused.


10. Continued Rise of Community

2017 brought lots of goodies. For instance, Sundar Pichai came for a visit, and he didn’t come empty-handed. Subsequently, Google announced training for 100,000 mobile developers. They also expanded their Launchpad for founders. Not to be left out, Facebook also announced that 50,000 people would be supported with digital skills. They’re also working with CcHub to launch NG_Hub which is an incubator for founders.

To top it all, Nigerian founders seem to have the Midas touch in 2017 and every other day seemed to bring new funding announcements. It’s not entirely surprising that Nigeria accounted for most funding in Africa – overtaking Kenya in the process.

However, all this good news is only possible because of the rise of the community. Which is a result of the selfless efforts of countless men and women.

There are many advocates, community evangelists, doing great work like ForLoop (now spreading like a virus to other countries). Or helping others get their foot in the door like Mark Essien’s Hotels Ng internship (providing that needed first step at scale). Or assisting rising stars to go even further like CcHub/Google for Entrepreneurs PitchDrive across Europe for 14 startups (Cchub are the O.Gs of the ecosystem. They don’t deserve awards. They deserve awards to be named after them!).

And, most importantly, all the men and women, who give up their time to plan, organize, attend, teach, and sponsor the various events and functions. You came through, showed up, and turned up.

The rise of our community is the most significant story of 2017. We’re stronger as a community because of the efforts of us all.

If you liked this article? Be festive and share it. If I’ve missed the mark? Stay merry and tell me. Whatever you do; I wish you a new year filled with beautiful things. Cheers.

Editor’s note: This post first appeared on Papa Olabode’s blog.