Nigerian startups were well represented at the just concluded digital and innovation showcase, GITEX Global, in Dubai.
These startups, which were either sponsored by the Lagos State government or the Nigerian Communications Commission, were able to display their innovative solutions to numerous global customers, pitch investors, and earn accolades on the global scene.
Over a dozen Nigerian startups joined over 1,800 startups from more than 100 countries to woo 1,000 investors managing $1tn in assets. These firms were at Expand North Star, the startup show of GITEX Global, from 15-18 October 2023.
The startups include Dataleum, Curacel, InstantRad, Zedi, Alajo, Pocketfood, GetEquity, RAYDA, Touch and Pay Technologies Ltd, Smartparcel, Silicon Africa Technologies, Nearpays and more.
Commenting on the significance of Expand North Star to startups, the Executive Vice President of Event Services Management at Dubai World Trade Centre and organiser of GITEX Global, Trixie LohMirmand, said, “This is the year we imagine AI in everything,
“There are great conversations on AI, cybersecurity, deep tech, and all the big topics that are taking the world by storm at the moment. Another focus this year is bringing the ecosystem globally closer together and bringing the world into bigger conversations, more collaborative ventures, and especially public and private sector partnerships.”
The Chief Growth Officer, Dataleum, Kamal Dandina, told The PUNCH that the event could serve as the bridge that would connect Nigerian startups with investors from the region.
He said, “Every business needs exposure and this brings about interest. This (GITEX) is giving African startups a high level of exposure within the global ecosystem and by extension, I believe we will begin to get traction from the Middle Eastern market and get strategic partnerships in terms of market expansion and of course investments.
“This is a powerful event to be a part of and can bring about growth in terms of our own tech ecosystem.”
A couple of the Nigerian startups were also semifinalists at the Supernova Challenge, a $100,000 prize for startups at the global showcase. While Accredify, a Singapore-based startup, eventually won the $100,000 grand prize, Gifty, a Nigeria startup that helps people easily share gift lists with family and friends and avoid duplicating purchases, won the Africa Fast Award.
The startup won $8,000 in cash prize. The CEO, Victor Akpan, said, “I was competing with other 1,799 participants from over 100 countries. 14 categories including Fintech, Ecommerce, Sustainable cities, Asia Fast Award, Africa Fast Award, India Fast Award, and Health.
“In my category alone, we were 20 African startups competing in the semi-final stage. Out of all the 14 categories in the world, I emerged as the only winner from Africa who made it to the finals.”
He added, “Representing Africa in the Middle East was a tough one for me. But I guess I followed my star from Africa to Expand North Star, Dubai.”
One of the judges for Supernova, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Future District Fund, Sharif El-Badawi, added, “It is encouraging to see a shift towards sustainable solutions that are better for the planet and its people.
“We witnessed several startups delivering concise yet compelling pitches that could impact our lives. The pitches we witnessed here at the Supernova Challenge are brimming with promise, unique innovations, and inspiring ideas.”
When The PUNCH spoke to a couple of the other participating Nigerian startups at the Dubai Harbour, venue of Northstar, they mentioned that a couple of investors have made commitments, and some are proposing partnerships.
The CEO, Silicon Africa Technologies, Excel Ajah, told The PUNCH, “There has been a lot of networking, and the exposure is very good for startups like mine. I and a couple of startups were able to get to the semi-finals of the supernovas. There were a lot of investment meetings. There were a lot of commitments, but these things take time.”
The CEO, PouchFi, Remi Akano, added, “This has opened our eyes to what other people are doing and made us reevaluate some of the partnerships that we’ve had. We also out seeking investors.
“We have had people critique what we are doing, and there have been a lot of questions coming in. We’ve had three investors give three investors give verbal commitments, but I have been in the industry long enough to know it means nothing until a term sheet is signed. But they seem quite keen, we’ve been able to sell them the story. Of the three we met, two are fighting to lead the round. We are not there yet, but we think we are on to something.”
Other Nigerian startups at the event reechoed these sentiments, and many are optimistic that these commitments will become actual cheques.