How Serena Williams and Others Used $3.3M to Change the Business Trajectory of an African Startup

File photo of US player Serena Williams during the 2019 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London. GLYN KIRK / AFP


Stears, a data insights startup based in Lagos, Nigeria, realized its co-founders’ dream after a financial intervention by tennis star Serena Williams and other investors in a 3.3M seed round led by Mac Venture Capital in 2022.

Over five years ago, frustrated by the difficulty of accessing data insights on Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, 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 find an innovative solution to this challenge, and eventually

Nigeria has had the greatest economy in the sub-region for the last three decades, with a GDP of more than $432.3 billion. According to Statista, this rise was mostly driven by the country’s booming financial industry, which grew from one percent of total GDP in 2001 to ten percent in 2018, as well as its role as a significant crude oil exporter.

As much as this data may provide a window into the Nigerian economy for those trying to understand it, making informed financial decisions takes more. As a result, the compelling need to address the global business community’s need for Nigerian data insights drove the establishment of the data insights firm, Stears, in 2017.

The company began as a media publication site with the goal of providing financial news and insights to its customers in Nigeria. According to Tech Crunch, five years into its operation, it opted to pivot from an insights institution to a data-insights organization.

When the startup was approved into the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund 2022 cohort, a window of opportunity opened for it. One of the key benefits the program provided Stears was the ability to acquire funding to pursue the firm’s vision.

Serena Williams, a tennis player, found the company’s purpose fascinating and decided to invest in it after being inspired by the possibilities Stears brought to the investing community and how it was employing data insights to attract businesses to Africa. She admired the young professionals’ excitement and their desire to use data and technology to benefit the continent.

When the seed round opened, Serena Ventures joined Mac Venture Capital, Melo 7 Tech Partners, Omidyar Group’s Luminate Fund, Cascador, and Hoaq Club to raise $3.3 million for the data analytics startup.

According to Premium Times, this investment is aimed towards boosting the firm’s data collection and analytics capabilities, as well as expanding into markets in East and Southern Africa.

Today, significant subscribers include Paystack, a Fintech company, and financial institutions such as Sterling Bank, the European Investment Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, and the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office. The company strives to be one of the most trustworthy sources of financial and intelligence data on Africa in the world.

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