While I was studying at the London School of Economics and Oxford University, a group of graduates noticed how difficult it is to find information and data on Africa’s largest economy and their home country, Nigeria. Each had different but complementary skills – Michael Famorotti, economist; Bode Ogunlana, Software Engineer; Abdul Abdurahim, Data Scientist; and Preston Ideh, a corporate lawyer – and in 2017, they launched a media initiative to address the lack of information and data-based insights in the West African country.
Five years later, this startup, Stears, is announcing a $3.3 million seed round led by Mac Venture Capital. Serena Ventures, Omidyar Group’s Luminate Fund, Melo 7 Tech Partners and Cascador (Empowering Economic Growth Foundation) participated. This news comes two years after Stears raised $650,000 in pre-seed funding. Last month, Google was one of 60 startups accepted into the 2022 cohort of the Black Founders Fund for Startups, which included some non-partisan funding.
Stears started as a media publication focused on financial news and insights in Nigeria. The core subscription insight product, Steers Premium, features content ranging from news and opinion pieces to investigative segments and deep dives, educating the general public on business and finance, economy, government and policy in Nigeria. The $100-a-year product has been widely used by consumers, especially employees working in various financial institutions across the country. And because these institutions have more spending power, Stears then customized the product for businesses that want to sign up on behalf of their teams. Some of its subscribers include financial institutions such as Sterling Bank and fintechs such as Sparkle, Piggyvest and Pastrac. The company grew organically at around 6.5% per month, doubling the total number of users from last year.
“We have a strong understanding of the type of information people need, so our focus is on building information distribution that is standardized and with the customer in mind,” Ideh told TechCrunch in an interview. It’s a push. In contrast, the low-cost end will be news, so their customers’ willingness to spend will change as they move through the sector.
The Stears Premium iteration, along with the introduction of other products including Stears Pro and Stears Advisory, saw Stears transform into a data and intelligence company. Macro trends and topics such as GDP and inflation in Stears Premium. Stears Pro, on the other hand, provides more transparent content on specific issues such as market input, country analysis and the digital economy for international organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Knowledge Workers – they need people such as analysts, portfolio managers, researchers. And economists can include roles such as big data for their work – which they work in.
But to support its transition from an insight company to a data company, and with this new investment, Steers is planning a strategic overhaul of its Pro product. According to the company’s COO and Data Scientist, Abdurahim, the data group is working with international development institutions and financial institutions to develop proprietary and unique databases. Therefore, rather than reporting insights from the data it generates, Steers wants to collect data, engage in deep data analysis and present it to its business clients in a variety of formats.
“An important part of our business model is pushing high-value subscription data products. And as we grow, we’ll do less customized work for this set of customers and focus more on aggregate data across the same sector,” added Ideh, referring to the direction Steers is taking with its Pro product. So the difference in results is that we will issue reports in the past, but in the future we will probably issue data feeds. Hence, a less text-heavy way of publishing and forecasting and forecasting around important areas for knowledge workers and their organizations.
Stears Advisory — the product where Stears dons its advisory hat and handles third-party projects around its core portfolio — is taking a back seat as the company plans to double down on Pro and Premium. CEO Ideh explained that the consulting product, which equates to a research and development (R&D) arm supported by various partners, provides a bed for Steers to experiment with data collection and analysis and create additional insights, but is scalable and not lacking. The kind of recurring revenue that venture-backed businesses need.
So far, the company’s strategy seems to be paying off. Enterprise customers now contribute more than 75% of revenue, expected to double from last year’s 45% in 2021. % revenue growth between 2021 and 2020.
It’s in the sweet spot of being encouraged to pursue attention-grabbing political projects, whether it’s a data and intelligence firm, Steers Media or a tech company. In the year In 2019, the company started one such project when it developed Nigeria First instant choice database. More than 2 million Nigerians used it to follow the general election. Edeh said his company intends to re-launch its election data platform with additional databases and functions in anticipation of Nigeria’s 2023 elections.
“Bloomberg, at its core, is a data company; we love how they approach elections and our approach in 2019 was driven by them,” said Ideh, who always talks about building Bloomberg in Africa. Because what is currently missing in Nigeria is a very important data verification mechanism. And we will expand the statistical representative polls on Nigeria to understand the issues of public opinion during the elections and get more robust results.
According to Ideh, the seed investment will take Stears from a Nigerian insights company to v3.0, an Africa-focused data company. The company plans to use the investment to grow its data collection and analytics capabilities, hire data scientists, data analysts and sector analysts, and expand into East Africa through Kenya, South Africa, and Egypt into North Africa.
“Africa was the home of the first people and is now the next frontier for business,” said Marlon Nichols, co-founder and managing partner at venture capital firm Macy’s Venture Capital. “Many international corporations and governments recognize this to be true. They also appreciate that many African countries are subject to a unique business process and are primarily cash-based economies, resulting in low GDP. Steers is uniquely positioned to provide the proprietary and accurate information needed to open business and deep business relationships with African countries and companies.
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