tech companies

Why Nigerian tech founders are incorporating companies in the US, UK

Investors are once again writing big cheques for Nigerian tech companies as normalcy begins to return.

READ ALSO: Naira gains 0.21% at investors window amid low dollar supply

While the balance sheet of the company, the customer acquisition numbers, and what stage of development the company is currently at, are significant factors that help investors decide which start-up will be getting their money, there is a big catch to land big-ticket funding.

Where is the company incorporated?

Nearly 90 percent of the companies that have closed big-ticket funding in 2021 so far were incorporated either in the US or UK.

In the month of March alone, tech companies have raised more money than they did in the whole of 2020. However, the about $204 million raised so far have mostly come from companies with publicly known incorporation records outside the continent. In fact, four out of the six companies accounted for about $195 million raised so far.

It is the same for companies that have raised funding since January.

uLesson which raised the first big-money – $7.5 million – in 2021 was founded in 2019 and incorporated in the state of Delaware in the United States. Flutterwave, which has closed the most funding so far in 2021 was also incorporated in Delaware and identifies its head office as 1323 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco CA 94133 USA with company number 6031713. Cowrywise which raised $3 million from Quona is another company incorporated in Delaware. Afriex which raised $1.2 million was incorporated in California, US.

Others are Kwik Delivery, which raised $1.7 million, incorporated in Paris, France, and Kuda Bank, which raised $25 million was incorporated in London.

A local investor may not think too much of this, but a tech company incorporated in Nigeria stands little chance of convincing foreign investors they are worth their big cheques.

So why do Nigerian founders prefer to go outside the country and even continent to incorporate the entity that gives birth to their ideas? The least motivation is the difficulty involved in incorporating companies in Nigeria.


Excellence MSMEs

Leveraging technology to optimise MSMEs, empower women

Leveraging technology to optimise MSMEs, empower women

The Team Lead, Excellence Advisory Limited, a technology business support services provider, Excellence Anurika Joshua, is leveraging technology to help Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) build structure and run their businesses with ease. She is also the founder, Techy Train, her company’s training arm, which offers technology-based vocational skills primarily to women and youths. It has trained over 3000 women and youths from across Nigeria, Ghana, United States and United Kingdom so far. She shares the inspiring story of her rise to firm and fortune, her initial challenges and plans with Assistant Editor CHIKODI OKEREOCHA.

READ ALSO: Paylink partners Google to train 15,000 MSMEs in Nigeria

Her fighting spirit is extraordinary. While women faced with the same or similar challenges as hers, when she started her entrepreneurial journey in 2019 would have probably capitulated, the Team Lead, Excellence Advisory Limited, a technology business support services provider, Excellence Anurika Joshua, stayed on, refusing to give up the fight to survive in the face of a turbulent marriage, which, by her admission, became toxic shortly after wedding in 2015.

Narrating her ordeal, Excellence told The Nation that she got married in February 2015 while a student at the University of Ibadan (UI). But, unfortunately, the marriage packed up later after what she described as “Three years of severe emotional and physical abuse, a failed suicide attempt and no job.” “I was broke and I had a two-year-old son. I was desperate to survive, pay my bills and feed my son, but the more I looked for help, the more I was exposed to harassment and abuse,” she added.

But, Excellence refused to allow the situation to break her. With remarkable grit, tenacity and instinct for survival, she succeeded in weathering the storm and founded Techy Train, which provides access to technology-based vocational skills primarily to women and youths across Nigeria, Africa and the world. In fact, she was able to keep hope alive until, as she put it, “I found technology, harnessed its power and leveraged it to earn big from my bed, working virtually for individuals and corporates.”

By dint of hard work and perseverance, the 2018 graduate of Biomedical Laboratory Sciences from the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, has carved a niche for herself in the provision of technology business support services solutions to MSMEs. She said her vision is to pioneer a paradigm shift in entrepreneurship in Africa by helping African born businesses and MSMEs build structures that are  sustainable, profitable and thrive globally.

Backed by experienced partners, an Advisory Board as well as highly motivated staff, Excellence Advisory Limited is located in Abuja. However, 90 per cent of its clients, according to the Team Lead, are outside Abuja. The company, however, takes clients globally, having been duly registered in the United States, too. But, Excellence said there were plans to expand the company’s services outside the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), even beyond Nigeria’s shores.

According to her, Excellence Advisory has a bouquet of services that have already positioned it as the destination of choice for MSMEs seeking for consultant to help them handle everything tech so they can focus on what matters most: their real businesses.

Some of the business support services that have endeared the company to MSMEs and non-profit organisations include Business Advisory Support Services (business plan development, finance model design, profit maximisation etc.); Management Consultancy Support Services (marketing template design, product design, services design, corporate communications etc.); Learning and Development Support Services (business training, customised trainings etc.)

Others are Business Operations (customer relations, cash management etc.); Process Re-engineering Support Services (creating internal structures, finance and audit processes, procurement, and supply chain design etc.); Strategic Branding Support Services (digital marketing, social media campaigns, brand statement design etc.); Info-tech Support Services (software development, APP development, website development, bulk SMS).

A key aspect of Excellence Advisory’s soaring brand, according to the Team Lead, is its subsidiary Techy Train. Registered as a business in July 2019 and formerly called Animations with Excellence, Techy Train is the training arm of Excellence Advisory Limited. The platform provides access to technology based vocational skills mostly to women and the youth. And it does this by using “accelerated learning” techniques that allow trainees to learn faster and remember more of what they learn.

As the Abuja-based budding entrepreneur explained: “The key is “involvement.” Our approach follows from the old saying: “What you hear, you forget; what you see, you remember; what you do, you understand.” Our lessons are simplified and practically tailored, which gives you an option to actually see what you’re learning beyond learning using our engaging audio + visual demonstration technique that helps you apply faster and immediately.

“Furthermore, you have an option of joining our robust internship where you get to do and grow and then earn. So, when women sign up with us, they learn, work and earn. We have trained over 3000 individuals from across Nigeria, Ghana, United States and United Kingdom. Over 20 per cent of them have gone up to get good employment in the online media space, while over 50 per cent have used the lessons they learnt to grow their business/enterprise and some have gone on to up-skill further in tech.”

The Biomedical Scientist-turned entrepreneur  emphasised: “Technology provides a level- playing ground for women across the world to work and earn good from their convenience and on flexible terms.” While pointing out, for instance, that there are thousands of women who are in the unemployed state she used to be, broke and desperate but handicapped, she said she founded Techy Train to help such women earn more money from the comfort of their homes leveraging technology-based vocational skills.

Excellence, who stated that the rate of unemployment in Nigeria is high, said women are the worst hit. She, however, added that the COVID-19 pandemic made the situation worse for them. While pointing out that the situation of women unemployment in Nigeria was more of an issue of underemployment, she said: “Women are rather exposed to vocational skills like soap making, hair making without going further to the skills for the future: technology skills.”

The Digital Skills Trainer explained that through Techy Train’s online academy, the company offers women skills like web design, effective social media management, virtual assistance, design thinking, graphic design and more.

“Our lessons are highly simplified and pre-recorded screen practical for them to access at their pace and convenience.

“The uniqueness we provide beyond simplifying their learning process is our skill bank where participants of our training who have scored 80 per cent and above in cumulative assessment and discipline are inducted into and offered opportunities to work and their skills further improved.

“We also provide technology services like digital marketing, content creation, video editing and more that aim at helping women build sustainable businesses leveraging technology to build structure and running their business with ease. We do this by teaching them how to do it themselves, doing it for them or doing it with them,” Excellence said.

But how did Excellence Advisory Limited and its subsidiary, Animations with Excellence, registered in August 2020 and July 2019, respectively, become hot items in Nigeria’s MSME space and women empowerment in such a remarkably short time to the extent that she could look back and say with so much pride and confidence that “I am beyond amazed at the rapid growth, the lives touched, level of impact reached as well as the profit made?”




Nigerian team builds technology for Microsoft

Microsoft Mesh, a new mixed-reality platform powered by Azure – that allows people in different physical locations to join and share holographic experiences on many kinds of devices, was launched on Tuesday by Microsoft.

READ ALSO: Millions of MSMEs pushed to the brink amid lockdown

The team of engineers behind the technology mostly worked from Lagos, Nigeria’s most populated commercial city.

Mixed-reality technology allows real and virtual elements to interact with one another and the user to interact with virtual elements like they would in the real world. The new technology essentially changes the experience people would have in a virtual meeting where they can only participate with their voices.

With the Microsoft Mesh launched, participants would not only speak to one another, but they also get to be in the same virtual room and interact with virtual objects like in real life. In that sense, Mesh is more than an app for holding virtual meetings. It is an all-encompassing platform built on top of Azure that Microsoft is hoping developers will tap into.

“Today, the world finally gets to hear about Microsoft Mesh. Our incredible engineering team here in Lagos has been working tirelessly towards this day for a very long time. So proud of what we have accomplished,” Hoop Somuah, engineer manager, tweeted on Tuesday.

Somuah, who joined Microsoft as a software engineer in June 2003, became the software engineering manager in January 2019. He also heads the mixed-reality team in Nigeria. Microsoft maintains engineering teams in Nigeria and Kenya.

Mesh is likely the future of the Microsoft Team – the company’s virtual meeting app. Microsoft is hoping architects, engineers and designers will all see the promise of Mesh, particularly during a pandemic when it is difficult to work with 3D physical models without all being in the same room.

“This has been the dream for mixed reality, the idea from the very beginning,” said Microsoft technical fellow, Alex Kipman. “You can actually feel like you are in the same place with someone sharing content or you can teleport from different mixed-reality devices and be present with people even when you are not physically together.”

The new platform is the result of years of Microsoft research and development in areas ranging from hand and eye-tracking and HoloLens development to creating persistent holograms and artificial intelligence models that can create expressive avatars.



Mobilizing the workforce, fast-tracking the future – businesses across Emerging Africa are taking on flexible working

The year 2020 has seen tremendous shifts and changes in the way we work. Technology and innovation are creating new opportunities as well as challenges. For more than a decade, we’ve built a culture around the idea that work is outcomes based, not anchored to a specific place or time. While every industry and business are different, a segment of employees have shifted to remote work and businesses have had to rethink their operating models and organisational structures. Flexible working has jumped from being a pipeline goal to being part of our daily grind in a matter of a few months. As we all head to the dining table or study for yet another day ‘in the office’, remote working technologies are being put to the test in a serious way – and all businesses are impacted.

Working from home is not new. The connected office has long been a critical enabler of the modern era’s distributed workforce, bringing productivity and experience boosters. In fact, in many countries in Emerging Africa, like Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania etc., ICT has played a big role in driving the economy forward through the rapid growth of IT investment. Remote working has been one of the partial solutions to address connectivity challenges, address the needs of millennial workers, as well as encouraging women to be part of the workforce while having flexible careers.

Today, the ability to work remotely is business critical and presents certain challenges for organisations of all sizes. But adapting to the new normal is a collaborative effort, calling for unity between the c-suite, IT departments and third-party technology experts.

The question is: are organizations ready to handle and prepare for a long-term stint of remote working across the entire workforce – and will they rise to evolving needs when it comes to keeping their business successful?

Empowering productivity: While challenging, this is also a massive opportunity for businesses to demonstrate their agility – and for those lacking agility, to prioritise it. There is no doubt that this seismic shift will test both security and infrastructure, but flexible working can boost productivity too. As the workforce settles into their home office, there are considerations that need to be made in terms of security – keeping applications safe in the data centre and protecting end-point data – supporting network traffic and enabling increased flexibility. While each business will experience these to varying degrees, every business should be carefully thinking through their value chain. It’s therefore critical for organisations to support their employees with the right connectivity and tools that are essential to drive productivity and collaboration.

Data must be protected from the end point to the data centre: By increasing the number of devices connected to the network, the challenge will be managing and processing the additional data. To completely overhaul existing current networks is unrealistic for most medium businesses, as this not only takes time but is a drain on resources. Instead, edge computing can help to process data while limiting the impact on the enterprise cloud by only sending selected data. A recent study from the consulting firm, Deloitte, showed an alarming rise in the number of cyber and ransomware attacks against individuals and organisations and is only increasing, now that the home workforce is connecting remotely to their organisations systems. For any business, cyber-attacks can be devastating as the ability to recover is curbed by a lack of resources.

Seamless, scalable remote working solutions: Thanks to software defined workspaces, employees can access the tools and apps they need on any device. This keeps the day-to-day business rolling, ensuring the playing field is levelled in terms of accessibility and updates. As businesses adjust to the all-in working from home demands, they may find that consumption and ‘as-a-service’ solutions on-premise will help – particularly with economics and the short turn-around they have been faced with. For example, “Virtual Desktop Infrastructure” (VDI) provides secure, high-performance access for critical users while the “Hybrid Cloud” can scale data center resources.

In conclusion, every organisation needs to adapt to the changing expectations of the workforce in order to thrive, and ten years out, businesses that successfully achieve digital workplace transformations will be at an advantage over businesses struggling with legacy systems, massive amounts of data and workforces unprepared for change. Ultimately, by empowering remote workforces, organisations can unlock creativity, productivity, increase job satisfaction and most importantly learn to collaborate in new and improved ways – bringing to fruition the next wave of human led, technology-underpinned progress.

by Habib Mahakian