Techstars, one of the most influential accelerators in Africa, announced on Tuesday the ARM Labs Lagos Techstars Accelerator for early-stage fintech and proptech startups across the continent. 

The programme came about through a partnership between Techstars and ARM Labs, the innovation hub of ARM, an asset management group in Nigeria. 

While the accelerator will be open to startups across the continent, the opportunity highlights the continued focus on Lagos as Africa’s fast-growing tech hub. Known as the commercial and cultural capital of Nigeria, Lagos surpassed Nairobi to become the top African city on StartupBlink’s 2021 Global Startup Ecosystem Index. The ARM Labs Lagos Techstars Accelerator will be the second Techstars-hosted programme on the continent; the first was in South Africa.

“Lagos has built a successful startup ecosystem that merits more global exposure, investments and resources, and we see extraordinary potential in the market,” Techstars general manager Nancy Wolff said in a press release sent to TechCabal. 

“Techstars has been investing in Nigerian and African startups for years, and through our partnership with ARM Labs we look forward to bringing the value and reach of the Techstars’ global network to the increasingly prominent Nigerian startup ecosystem,” Wolff added. 

Techstars’ work in Africa is more than a decade old, with its investments and mentorship programs dating back to 2011. Since then, the accelerator programme has hosted more than 400 Techstars Startup Weekend events across 40 African countries. In 2016, the company launched its first Africa-based accelerator, Techstars Cape Town; that was the same year it operated the Barclays Accelerator Programme, which supported fintech innovators in South Africa. 

Africans in the diaspora have participated in and benefited from Techstars’ accelerators, too. Through about two dozen accelerators, including Techstars Toronto, Techstars New York City, and Techstars Atlanta, Techstars have invested in over 50 startups across Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. It has invested in 14 Nigeria-based startups collectively, including Healthtracka, FarmCrowdy, OurPass and Rent Small Small. Some of the startups it invested in outside Nigeria include Rwanda’s PayDay, South Africa’s WizzPass, Ghana’s BenBen and Kenya’s Duhqa

The ARM Labs Lagos Techstars Accelerator Programme will also allow the partnering companies to tap into Africa’s ever-lucrative fintech sector. Investment tracking platform Partech reported that 63% (or $3 billion) of Africa’s total VC funding went to fintech companies in 2021.

“Over the years, ARM has been on a mission to support African fintech startups that are solving key problems in innovative ways,” said Jumoke Ogundare, CEO of ARM. “Our partnership with Techstars is the logical next step in propelling the African continent to become the future global capital of fintech and transform how Africans access financial services.”  The application window for the ARM Labs Lagos Techstars Accelerator Programme opens May 8. A selection committee will award 12 startups $120,000 in funding, as well as curated startup programming and mentorship. The inaugural class will have its Demo Day in February 2023.

Sultan Quadri Staff Writer

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