Need funding for your startup in Nigeria? Here are 9 things you must do

Early last year I took up a role in a technology seed funding company. Before then, I had just been on the management team of a few technology companies that had raised money for growth.

My perception had always been from the receiver side; the high hopes that fill your heart when an investor is interested in your startup, the wait, the distraction to the business, the nerve-racking due diligence preparations and the long silence that often means the investor could pass on this opportunity.

In my experience with startups, I have learned that investors’ interest doesn’t always result in investment, and when we tried to find out why the investment didn’t go through, we most times never got any clear, specific reasons.


After a year on the other side, especially at a time when the tech space is abuzz, I have been asked a few times for some sort of checklist or a set of criteria that startups can work with to guide themselves to make sure we invest in them. That is like working to be exactly what the investor wants which is not the goal of investment. The goal is to take you on the part you have created and provide support in various areas where necessary.

In this article, I’m going to share with you a few important points you’ll need to keep in mind if you plan to attract investment funding for your startup. However, you must keep in mind that a compelling business idea, and the capabilities and experience of the founder(s) are focal points for investors.


Let’s now take a look at a quick checklist:

Funding is not a source of revenue; it is a short term lifeline to gain traction. Show that you understand that!

The key reason an investor would fund you is because they see the potential of your startup growing into a viable business. Hence, it’s not always impressive to still be articulating the value of your product while asking for funding. Your very clear plan to raise more money but sketchy revenue assumptions and no definition of who your customers are don’t help anyone to completely believe you.

I have often heard a lot of founders say: ‘…but when Facebook and Twitter started they weren’t making any money and really weren’t sure how they would make money.’

My response: If your product isn’t exportable beyond Nigeria and you aren’t in Silicon Valley, it will best serve you to make assumptions based on the local environment.

Do your homework and show it!

What are the alternatives to your product/service? What is your exact market size – is it a marginal niche or mass market? What are the barriers to entry for new competition? Is the technology replicable? Who are your early customers? What is your burn rate? What is the go-to market plan with little budget? Do similar product exist in other markets?

My advice: Think it through, Technology as a business goes beyond the product, understand your value add- how trivial or important it is. Do some internet research for similar products abroad. I once listened to a pitch from a startup that was working to create a platform for drivers, and I asked the entrepreneur, ‘have you heard of Uber?’ And he said ‘No’.

On another occasion, I listened through a pitch on audio format e-books and I asked the entrepreneur if he knows that does something similar. And he didn’t even know about Audible.

Please take the time to do some research. You must know that except you are creating a very disruptive product, a similar product probably already exists on the market and you can learn from it.

Also, when presented with areas you failed to cover, show you have a learning spirit by taking down points for research and after you figure it out, send the investor an email with your thoughts. That way you show investors that you are teachable and passionate to innovate.

Too young to fund

There is a stage just before your startup becomes attractive to an external investor. It is that stage where you have a clear focus of who your customers are, and you’ve most likely bootstrapped to the point where you have an MVP(Minimum Viable Product). Anything before this is an emotional decision on the part of an investor that might lead to loss of a large percentage of shares on your part.

My Advice: Bootstrap as much as you can.

Outrageous start-up funding needed.

Whenever I see a funding need of $2 million for a start-up (happens very often even for eCommerce sites built on templates), I quickly go to the financials to see the cost breakdown and revenue projections.

Most times, a chuck of the funds are allocated to recurring expenses. If your product development costs $2 million, the product had better be disruptive, or you need to have a monetization in place to meet some of your needs.

Again, best practice in the technology startup realm is to develop the product in phases. At the seed level, you should be presenting the funding you need for a particular phase, and make sure that phase results in a working prototype.

My advice: If your recurring expenditure is high and you don’t have a big pocket to draw money from, you would run out of money.

Stagnant! Still the same way it was 6 months ago.

The first time you talk to an investor might be the beginning of an interest in your startup. So, even though they don’t make an offer immediately or act interested, they might want to look at your start-up 4-5 months later to check out your progress.

Zero users and a stagnant MVP in technology where product iteration and feature release is key doesn’t give an investor confidence. If the conversion of your prospects list from 6 months ago is still zero, there is a problem.

I have talked to a few startups with this issue and most of them attribute it to financial constraints. I once read a quote by Eric Ries that says: ‘starups that succeed are those that manage to iterate enough times before they run out of resources.’

The future returns isn’t big enough. 

Some products and services in the tech space right now are not just disruptive enough, even though there is a market for some of them. What this means is, at their peak, these startups may make enough returns to get by, but the returns would not be large enough for an investor.

A number of good startups actually fall into this category and sometimes I have been upfront with trying to break down the facts with the entrepreneur. Consider looking for grants, loans from friends and family and growing your customers quickly.

The Founder is too focused on raising money, and not growing the business.

One of the top 10 mistakes that can kill a startup is when the founder is focused on chasing investors, and not customers. While you’re trying to raise funds quickly, it’s important to know when to draw back. Be careful not to notoriously become the ‘always trying to raise money’ entrepreneur.

Remember, impressions don’t go away very quickly. And more importantly, focusing too much on raising money can distract your business growth.

You have to look the part.

Asking for a seed investment of just $50,000- $100,000 when you’re unkempt and look kind of homeless doesn’t give any investor confidence that you’re not asking for investing funding to take care of your personal needs.

You don’t need to wear expensive clothes or be fashion forward; looking clean and making an effort to dress the part usually helps.  Always remember that investors often make investment decisions based on both subjective and objective factors.

‘All I need is funding’ … That’s not correct!

Ever watched the show, Dragon’s Den? If you haven’t, you really should.

On the show, there have been a few occasions where an entrepreneur had to choose which investor they want and the very strategic ones say they want a particular investor because of his business networks in the market they are currently trying to get into.

When you pitch to an investor, it’s always an effective strategy to request for more than the seed funding. You should indicate interest in their business network, resources and skills. Doing this gives the investor security that you are in this to win.

The truth is, not all startups get funding. Most eventually fail, which is not a bad thing for the ecosystem as we only learn from failure. Always remember, a Startup is a temporary organisation used to search for a repeatable and scalable business model… Steve Blank.


As a technology enthusiast, I am excited at the next wave of products to be developed as more entrepreneurs begin to understand the need to properly define value, and price it correctly. Aspiring entrepreneurs in the ecosystem have also become aware that to build a viable business they need to think deeper and outside the box. A rush idea in the shower that got you and your friends excited isn’t just enough to make you Mark Zuckerberg.

By Ifeoma Uddoh: Chief Operating Officer  Sasware

Sasware Nigeria launches co-entrepreneurship program for aspiring entrepreneurs and new startups

Sasware Nigeria, a technology investment company, has announced the launch of Start-up in Residence (STAIR), a co-entrepreneurship program focused on aspiring entrepreneurs and newly founded start-ups who are looking to build a viable technology business.

STAIR, which will commence this year and run annually, is an intensive 12 months’ resident program that aims to nurture entrepreneurs working on the next big idea on a focus sector that is of interest to Sasware.

During the incubation period, Sasware and the entrepreneur would become a team that would define, develop and iterate a product to take to market.

Being co-entrepreneur, Sasware would provide the business support skills needed to make a business succeed and would support the entrepreneurs at every phase of their company’s growth by being actively involved and providing multi-sector expertise and funding.

The 2016 STAIR program will focus on building Fintech companies to address the challenges the country and Africa face with their financial systems.

“Despite better access to technology with hundreds of millions accessing mobile technology, African people still struggle with access to financial services. From banking to insurance, mortgage and pension. Technology is needed in these areas to disrupt the traditional financial services that have failed millions. The sector still requires more innovation to harness the impact of technology in the way Africans access financial services,” Sasware COO, Ifeoma Uddoh said in a press release.

Subsequent STAIR program will focus on other areas such as Agric technology, government technology, renewable energy and manufacturing – areas that needs innovation for the continent to grow.

Interested entrepreneurs from across Nigeria should apply for the program right away. Application closes on May 2, 2016. Visit Sasware website for further information.

Sasware Nigeria launched the STAIR program in a bid to help in driving innovation and momentum for disruptive technologies in Nigeria. Last year, the company invested in Medismarts, a Lagos-based health technology startup.

Sasware Nigeria, which provides early seed funding for tech start-ups, is the technology investment subsidiary of 2014-founded Signal Alliance, an IT provider and an end-to-end system integrator.

Sasware Nigeria Launches Start-up in Residence Program

In attempt to drive innovation and momentum for disruptive technologies in Nigeria, Sasware Nigeria, the technology investment subsidiary of Signal Alliance has launched the Start-up in Residence (STAIR) program. STAIR is a co-entrepreneurship program focused on aspiring entrepreneurs and newly founded start-ups who are looking to build a viable technology business.

The co-entrepreneurship program is an intensive 12 months’ resident program that aims to nurture entrepreneurs working on the next big idea on a focus sector that is of interest to Sasware.

The STAIR program which will start in 2016 will run annually. It will create technology start-ups in specific areas in the economy. During the incubation period, Sasware and the entrepreneur would become a team that would define, develop and iterate a product to take to market.

As co-entrepreneur, Sasware would provide the business support skills needed to make a business succeed and would support the entrepreneurs at every phase of their company’s growth by being actively involved and providing multi-sector expertise and funding.

The 2016 program will focus on building Financial Technology (Fintech) companies that address the challenges the country and Africa still have with their financial systems. Future program will focus on other areas that Nigeria and Africa need innovation to grow the continent like; agric technology, government technology, renewable energy and manufacturing.

The focus on Fintech for 2016 is strategic. Financial inclusion for the almost one billion Africans and Nigeria, which houses Africa’s largest population of 170miilion people, is a major issue limiting the development of the continent. As Africa economies move their populations out of poverty, the development of the financial system is key to unlocking the continent’s wealth and integrating the continent into the global financial system. And in some areas lead innovation in the development of the global financial system.


Collins Onuegbu, Sasware’s Chairman is a member of Lagos Angel Network (LAN), an exclusive network of Angel investors dedicated to providing start-up and growth capital

According to Ifeoma Uddoh, Sasware COO “Despite better access to technology with hundreds of millions accessing mobile technology, African people still struggle with access to financial services. From banking to insurance, mortgage and pension. Technology is needed in these areas to disrupt the traditional financial services that have failed millions. The sector still requires more innovation to harness the impact of technology in the way Africans access financial services.”

Sasware is the technology investment subsidiary of Signal Alliance founded in 2014. The company was established to provide early seed funding for tech start-ups. It leverages on Signal Alliance’s almost 20 years’ experience in the tech industry to invest in upcoming start-ups that serve the increasing sophisticated Nigerian and African economies.

AGPMPN, Medismarts to Deploy EMR at 2,000 Hospitals in Lagos

The Association of General Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN) Lagos and Medismarts have announced the signing of a strategic partnership agreement that will see Medismarts deploy its Electronic Medical Records (EMR) cloud platform to its over 2,000 member’s hospitals in Lagos state.

As part of the agreement, Medismarts has the mandate to go to the AGPMPN 18 zones in Lagos state with the objective of ensuring that all hospitals records are digitized and interconnected. They will also provide a dashboard with analytics showing different metrics and reports concerning health delivery in Lagos state to the association by April 2016.

AGPMPN, aka Nigeria Private Doctors Association and Medismart agreed to configure the platform and deliver same at no cost to the private hospital practitioners in Lagos State. Access to the system for every registered account holder is for a life time.

Speaking on this development, Dr. Adeyeye. J. Arigbabuwo, chairman AGPMPN Lagos, “talks have commenced with the various IT partners to see near free supply of the hardware necessary to drive home this laudable project. The only investment to be made by a hospital is to provide either a computer desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone that is internet enabled. Medismarts will manage all backend issues and ensure that access is 24/7 with little or no down time. With the expected success of this unique project, we hope to re-enforce and take medical practice in Lagos to the next level.”

Furthermore, he said the project was proactively conceived, amongst other reasons, to position the Private Medical Practitioners in Lagos State on the right pedestal to enable them participate in the recently gazetted Lagos State Health Care Management Delivery Act, so that data collation, and rendition for research, planning, and budgeting can be seamless.

According to Damilola Oni, Co-Founder Medismarts “We are excited by this strategic partnership, as it will get us closer to our goal of ensuring that all the major players in the health sector including hospitals, HMO’s, government and the everyday man in the street are interconnected. An interconnected health care industry will ensure seamless transfer of information and this will aid efficiency, planning and healthcare delivery”

Medismarts is a healthcare technology company that aims to revolutionize the health care management in Nigeria by providing a secured unified platform that connects the players in the healthcare industry.

Medismarts is backed by Sasware the technology investment subsidiary of Signal Alliance founded in 2014. The company was established to provide early seed funding for tech start-ups. Currently Medismarts has over 80 hospitals on their platform and will be processing about 36% of the health insurance records in Nigeria.
– See more at:

Health tech startup, Medismarts, gets seed funding from Sasware

Lagos-based health tech startup, Medismarts, has received seed funding from Sasware. The amount of funding, which was provided in exchange for a minority stake in the startup, was undisclosed.

Medismarts is a health tech company that provides cloud-based data management services to healthcare institutions via a freemium product. According to the announcement, the product deployment is close to reaching a hundred hospitals, and 60,000 patients.

Medismarts’ founders are Obinna Osuji and Damilola Oni. They plan on investing the Sasware funds directly into its medical cloud platform.

Sasware is the technology and startup investment subsidiary of Signal Alliance, a Nigerian IT services provider that has been around since 1996. Going by their website, Sasware is also invested in Codeware, a business management platform based on Microsoft Dynamics.

Sasware partners EDC for 2015 Startup Weekend

Sasware, the technology investment subsidiary of Signal Alliance is partnering the Enterprise Development Center (EDC) for the 2015 Startup Weekend of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) which kicked off in Lagos on Saturday 14, 2015.

Startup Weekend is an international grassroots movement focused on exposing individuals to the benefits of entrepreneurship and motivates these individuals to explore their own entrepreneurial ideas. It involves a 54-hour event beginning with Friday night idea pitches, followed by brainstorming sessions, business plan development and basic prototype formation. Startup Weekends end on Sunday night with demos and presentations. All participants will create working startups during the event and will be given the unique opportunity to collaborate with like-minded people.

In Nigeria, GEW is hosted by EDC and they scheduled several interesting activities for the week. Some of these included; Awareness Walk, Pitch-to-Me and finally Start-Up Weekend.

The 2015 Startup Weekend which kicks off today will see Collins Onuegbu, Founder Sasware declare the event open. He is also slated to deliver the keynote address with the theme: Entrepreneurship: Startup to Company.

Speaking about the company’s partnership with the EDC, Chief Operating Officer of Sasware, Ifeoma Uddoh said “We are passionate about programmes designed to discover, encourage and build ideas to new businesses that will grow to create employment. Startup Weekend is one of such which needs our support. Sasware is also a startup that is barely over two years old and within this period we have invested in a number of small businesses in Nigeria”.


Last Thursday, October 29th, the Lagos Angel network(LAN) brought together the ecosystem that supports angel investment in Nigeria to a round table to discuss ways of deepening seed investment in Nigerian startups. And grow the pool of startups that can attract investment from private equity and venture capital companies. The evening event took place at Metropolitan Club, Victoria Island.

There has been a worry in LAN and the investment community of our inability to make more investment. In the past one year, LAN has made only a single investment in a Nigerian startup.

Among those who turned up? Omobola Johnson, the former ICT minister. She was one of the first to show up. Rasheed Olaoluwa, CEO of Bank of Industry was there. The incubation ecosystem was represented. Helen from IDEA, Wennovation, LEAP, Fate foundation, EDC/PAU. We had VCs in attendance, including Afolabi of Adlevo and someone from Alethia.

Yele Okeremi represented LOC DEMO Africa.

TechCabal’s Seyi Taylor represented the media

And of course LAN members including board members like David Richard, Dotun Sulaiman(chairman) , Segun Olukoya and myself. Tomi Davies our president attended remotely from London.

The conversation was great. From those who castigated LAN for being too careful and keeping the bar too high for startups to cross. To those who advised patience as LAN and the entire ecosystem was in itself an startup and everyone was learning. Some felt that the Nigerian education system was not preparing graduates enough to venture into meaningful entrepreneurship. The reason it seemed that most successful local startups seem to be returnees from diaspora.

There were also those who felt that LAN was not telling its story. That we needed to let the world know we are there. Perhaps the reason I am telling this story.

In the end , we all agreed that the ecosystem that supports startup investment is important. So LAN has its work cut out for it. We agreed that LAN needs to improve its processes for due diligence to ensure that it can quickly screen startups and make up its mind whether to invest or not. We agreed that LAN needs to broaden its membership including bringing in other categories of members.

We agreed that LAN needs a better partnership with incubators, accelerators and VCs . This is necessary to deepen the system.

And finally, we agreed that the conversation needs to continue. Its good for the ecosystem. And for the startups? We can’t wait for the next great pitch.

Written by: Collins Onuegbu
Executive Vice Chairman
Signal Alliance

Learn How To Build Your Business Using A Hand Mower


How in the world can using a hand mower help me build my business?

Power up! Pushing a hand mower is very different from pushing a power mower. A power mower is started, mows through the grass, and you’re done. A hand mower takes more muscle and sweat to run, so you want to stay in tip-top condition. Stay hydrated, rest when necessary. The business lesson: Embrace hard work. Get started and pace yourself so you don’t grow too quickly, don’t tire easily and don’t stagnate. Keep yourself physically strong, mentally sharpened and conditioned to run your business. Remember to eat well, exercise and rest. The better care you give to yourself, the better care you give your business.
Stay sharp! Pushing a dull-bladed hand mower through your grass is like trying to run a business without a business or marketing plan. You have to sharpen the blades of the mower every so often to make sure it can cut the grass effectively. The business lesson: Your business and marketing plans are the blades of your business. Sharpen these blades often. For a business plan, revisit each year before the end of your fiscal or calendar year and ensure you’re following your road map. For a marketing plan, revising every 3 or 4 months to make sure your goals and objectives are on track with your road map. If not, make strategic adjustments either to your objectives, or the goals themselves.
Strategize! It is possible to just go out and cut the grass. A better approach would be to figure out where the tallest, thickest grass is and how to divide the yard so you can see measurable progress. The business lesson: Find out where your target market can best be found vs. the “low hanging fruit” you can easily get, and plan how you would divide not just your marketing/sales activities, but also your marketing/sales tools to make the best approach with measurable progress.
Go over each area often! Sometimes the grass is too thick for just a pass or two. In order to get a good cut, you have to go over each area often. The business lesson: Visit each target market more than once and review the follow-up process and product or service offered at that time. They may have passed on your offering before due to a number of reasons: timing was not right, not in budget, not aware of a problem/issue, etc.. Ask each prospect if they would like to subscribe to an email notice about sales and new products or services, and ask how frequently they would like to see the notices.
Don’t spin your wheels! With a hand mower, you can cut taller, stubborn grass by passing the mower quickly, then stopping abruptly so the blade wheel spins for a bit. The business lesson: Spinning the wheel might work for the hand mower, but it is nearly the same as beating your head against the brick wall to see if it moves. Remember: marketing is a process; it can be an instant attraction but not an instant reaction. Think of a way to reintroduce a common approach in your industry with a different phrase. Try a different marketing tool or a different time of the year. If something in your marketing or sales plan is not working, re-evaluate each quarter and stop using what’s not working.
Ask for help! You can mow a yard with a hand mower all by yourself, but at the end of the day you will be exhausted. Ask a family member or friend to lend a hand. The business lesson: It’s okay to ask for help! Hire out your weaknesses so you can stay focused on your strengths. Ask your current and former clients for referrals. Brainstorm with a trusted mentor family member, partner, or colleague on new ideas to keep your business ahead of the competition. Evaluate your business plan with an advisor to help you stay on task. Defer to a local print shop or your graphic designer on suggestions for design layouts, types and thicknesses of paper stock and coatings.

Written by Lisa Raymond
Visibly Media LLC

The ferry driver, the founder, and the freelancer

Back then, most people couldn’t swim, so they would hire a small boat and a driver to take them across the rivers. The winter snows were melting and the river was violent, but the passenger had no idea how bad it would be until they were out on the water. He was clutching the edges of the boat in terror as the ferry driver calmly wove between the currents and the rocks.

Once on solid ground, the passenger marveled at the driver’s calm and asked how he could possibly remain so at ease when death was on the line. “Well, I can swim,” he replied.

I think of freelancing (or any flexible money-making skill) the same way. Your startup might not work out, the boat might tip over. But knowing you can happily survive a capsize (as opposed to ending up in debt or in a job) helps you recover faster from mistakes and make smarter decisions (without the influence of undue stress) while the company is still afloat.

The sources of worry change over time (e.g. from your own financial security to that of your employees), but in the early days, personal risk is at the top of the list. Although it may not seem very scalable or flashy, learning how to make a bit of money on your own terms is a hugely useful startup skill.

by robfitz • February 8, 2015 • Career Entrepreneurship, Founders

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