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Meet Nigeria’s 3 unicorns in 2021

There is a wave of excitement around three Nigerian startups that have hit a $1 billion valuation this year. They have become unicorns.

In business, a unicorn is a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion. The term was first popularised in 2013 by venture capitalist Aileen Lee, choosing the mythical animal to represent the statistical rarity of such successful ventures.

These $1 billion companies, typically referred to as Unicorns include Flutterwave, Opay and Andela in fintech.

These tech startups have attracted massive funding from investors including angel, seed, as well as, early-stage and later-stage venture capitalists across the globe in the recent past.


OPay is a company that enables users to accomplish more with their money by providing smart financial services. It is a one-stop mobile-based platform for payment, transportation, food and grocery delivery, and other important services in everyday life.

Founded by Yahui Zhou in June 2018, the startup has raised $570 million in funding over 3 rounds, with SoftBank Vision Fund as its lead investor and three others. In total, OPay is funded by 14 investors.

Read also: Meet five investors behind 2021 biggest funding in Nigerian startups

A $50 million series A round of funding was completed in July 2019 with investments from IDG Capital, Sequoia Capital China, and Source Code Capital as lead investors.

In November 2019, the company raised $120 million in the Series B round, from the series A investors including Redpoint Ventures China and Bertelsmann Asia Investments.

OPay attained the Unicorn status in August 2021 with a $400 million investment in a Series C round, from seven Chinese-based venture investors which include SoftBank Vision Fund as the lead, Softbank Ventures Asia, 3W Capital, Source Code Capital, Redpoint Ventures China, Longzhu Capital and Sequoia Capital China.

Following this achievement, OPay has become the first Africa-focused company with a $2 billion valuation. The word OPay is a combination of the prefixes of two entities Opera and Paycom.



Andela, a Nigerian startup that connects African software engineering talent to global companies, has become the country’s newest startup to attain unicorn status, in September after raising $200 million from investors.

The company was founded by Jeremy Johnson, Christina Sass, Ian Carnevale, Nadayar Enegesi, Brice Nkengsa, and Iyinoluwa Aboyeji in May 2014, has raised a total of $381 million in funding over 10 rounds and is funded by five lead and 40 participating investors.

In September 2014, 16 investors participated in the $3 million raised in the seed and angel rounds. This led to its first funding in series A round in to close $14 million led by Spark Capital, and $24 million in series B round led by Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Omidyar Network, Learn Capital, GSV Ventures in June 2015 and 2016 respectively.

The company completed a $40 million funding in series C round in October 2017 led by CRE Venture Capital. Generation Investment Management led the $100 million funding in a Series D round that was raised in January 2019 by 12 other investors who participated.

Five out of these investors led the startup to be a Unicorn in September after a series E round funding. They include Spark Capital, SoftBank Vision Fund, Generation Investment Management, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Whale Rock Capital Management.


Flutterwave provides technology, infrastructure, and services to enable global merchants, payment service providers, and helps banks and businesses build secure and seamless payment solutions for their customers by smoothening the exchange of funds.

The company has raised a total of $234.7million in funding over 13 rounds, with a total number of seven lead investors and 43 others so far.

Founded by Olugbenga GB Agboola and Iyinoluwa Aboyeji in 2016, the company completed its four seed funding rounds in August 2016 from investors which include Y Combinator, 4DX Ventures, HOF Capital, Green Visor Capital, among others.

In April 2017, it raised $250,000 funding in series A round from one investor- LoftyInc Capital Management and proceeded to close $10 million in its final series A round in October 2018 from six investors.

Following an announcement in January 2020, a Series B round of $35 million in funding was raised in August of the same year. This was led by two investors which include Headline and Greycroft, with participation from 10 others.

In March 2021, Flutterwave raised a $170 million Series C funding round. The investors who led this funding are Avenir Growth Capital, Tiger Global Management.

At the time, this was the largest amount ever secured by an African tech startup and gave it a valuation of over $1 billion, making the company a Unicorn.

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