• Friday, September 22, 2023
businessday logo


How tech start-ups make big money from solving problems


No matter what anybody says about Nigeria, the country is still, indisputably, Africa’s most populous country and biggest economy.

The population of every country presents a market opportunity for those who see opportunities and grab them, but it offers nothing for complainants and pull-him-downs who want meals served on their tables.

The Nigerian economy has been bad in the past decade, yes. The governments have done little, yes. There is massive unemployment, yes. But are there limited opportunities? No.

With the current population of 193 million, Nigeria stands as the biggest market of the black people in the world.

Unlike developed economies, Nigeria still does not have a lot of things. In the technology space, the country is lagging peers. In the food value chain, there are still a number of loopholes. In the transport sector, many things are still wrong.

Some entrepreneurs have identified opportunities in the Nigerian economy by providing these services to solve problems or plug loopholes. By doing this, they have become millionaires and billionaires.

Here are a few tech start-ups that fit into this space.


When iROKO TV announced multiple deals of $19 million from French media giant CANAL+ and an existing investor Kinnevik AB in January 2016, many people took it granted, forgetting that the firm had only been in existence for five years.

The now multi-million dollar firm discovered an opportunity where Nigerians feared to thread. As at 2011, no Nigerian firm was providing films on-demand that could be paid for. iROKO found out that it was possible to blend Nollywood with technology to bring quality films closer to Nigerians.

It started as a mainstream online movie and within the first year provided instant access to over 5,000 Nollywood film titles not only to Nigerians but also people across the globe willing to pay $5.

The idea came from Jason Njoku, a 36-year-old British-born Nigerian of Igbo descent, who felt he was a failure before 2011, having run a failed blog, a T-shirt business and a web design company.

According to Wikipedia, Njoku and Gotter, an investor, launched NollywoodLove, a YouTube channel, which was profitable within two months of launch. With other partners like Sarah Lacy who worked at the time for Tech Crunch, NollywoodLove caught the attention of US-based Tiger Global, early investors in Facebook, who were interested in expanding their reach in emerging markets.

After securing $3million from Tiger Global in 2010, the company launched iROKOtv, on December 1, 2011. The site drew viewers from 178 countries around the world.

As at 2014,  iROKO was the largest distributor of African content globally on YouTube with 950 million video views across its managed channels. The firm is said to be worth up to $30 million.

Njoku predicted in 2014 that the platform would become a billion dollar venture by 2020.


By 2011, no Nigerian firm had ever thought it would be lucrative to set up a mobile money company. Paga stepped in to provide this service at that time when the majority of ATMs were located in Lagos.

It was an opportunity for many Nigerians because Paga enabled them to send money to others. Paga was used to pay for electricity, TV channels subscription, and radio programmes, among others.

Founded by Tayo Oviosu, the platform attracted 32,000 active users within its first year, processing over $1.6 million in volumes.

By 2015, Paga had raised over $13 million in a series of B funding, crossing three million users, with over 800,000 active. It had over 8,000 agents in 35 of 36 states of Nigeria, with 208 employees, according to Oviosu.

In 2015, the Paga announced that it had processed over $1 billion worth of transactions from 17 million deals.

On January this year, Oviosu announced via Twitter that Paga processed 9.5 million transactions in 2016.

“In 2016 @mypaga processed 9.5m txns worth over N156b – 100% y/y growth on transaction values!! Money transfer leading the way 🏾 #JustPagait,” he wrote.


The 28-year-old Abiola Olaniran founded Gamsole, a gaming company, in 2012. Within six months of existence, Gamsole attracted three million admirers.

Today, he has a venture backing from 88mph, a Kenyan seed fund, and has ten million downloads both locally and internationally on the Windows Phone store.

Gamsole is a mobile game production company that creates goals that are fun and plain to watch.

“At Gamsole , we create interesting games for smartphones and make them available to users worldwide. Our goal is to make games that are fun to play, plain and simple. Each game offers a wildly imaginative and irresistibly fun game-play experience that gamers of all age groups find appealing, “ Olaniran told BusinessDay in an interview.

He remains one of Nigeria’s highest paid Windows Game developers and was among four Nigerians listed in 2016 by Forbes amongst 30 most promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa.


Founded in 2010 by Obinna Ekezie, a former professional basketball player, Wakanow is an online flight and hotel booking platform. It has partnerships with hotels, airlines and international service lenders.

Wakanow is one among many examples of tech platforms who are taking advantage of loopholes in Nigeria’s services sector.

Hear this from Wakanow: “At Wakanow, we understand that everyone likes easy and affordable travel services, so we provide our customers with a one-stop booking portal for flights, hotels, visa assistance, holiday packages, airport transfers, an international travel SIM, a prepaid travel card, a loyalty program, and much more.”

Two months ago, Wakanow announced plans to launch commercial operations in the United Kingdom, as part of its global expansion plan. While many Nigerians are asleep, Wakanow is grossing thousands of dollars daily.


Hotels.ng was founded by Mark Esssien in 2013 with just $300.

Four years down the line, Hotels.ng has become Nigeria’s largest hotel booking website, making a turnover of billions in naira.

Essien conceived the idea of setting up Hotels.ng in 2012 while studying for his Master of Science degree in Computer Science in Germany.

According to Wikipedia, Mark tentatively created a hotels listing platform, purchasing a domain name. He had a list of hotels and put them up on the website.

This domain recorded enough traffic numbers to convince Mark to return to Nigeria from Germany.

He continued to list more hotels, and later started taking photographs of major hotels in Nigeria. He also began to sign agreements with as many hotels in Calabar as possible.

When the 31-year-old Essien returned from Germany, he launched into this space fully. Having had a long list of hotels, he enabled bookings on Hotels.ng. Consequently, users started making reservations from the first day.

It was a big opportunity at that time for Mark as nobody or firm was doing this in Nigeria. What pushed him on was the $250,000 seed fund he raised from Jason Njoku’s SPARK in 2013. However, the fund almost got depleted along the line because most of it was going into salaries.

However, he later secured $1.2m from international investors EchoVC Pan-Africa Fund and Omidyar Network in 2015.

The funding came as a result of a profitable 2014 in Hotels.ng. The platform made $40,000 in monthly revenue in the last half of that year Today, Hotels.ng reaches over 400 million people.