Stears, a Nigerian data and intelligence company has secured seed funding of $3.3 million in a round led by Mac Venture Capital. Other participants in the funding round include Serena Ventures, Omidyar Group’s Luminate Fund, Melo 7 Tech Partners, and Cascador (Empowering Economic Growth Foundation). The latest funding round follows two years after the media startup raised $650,000 in its pre-seed round.
Stears was the result of the London School of Economics and the University of Oxford graduates who observed how difficult it was to get data and information on Nigeria and her economy. Stears founders come from various academic disciplines – Michael Faramoti, an economist; Bode Ogunlana, a software engineer; Abdul Abdulrahim, a data scientist; and Preston Ideh, a corporate lawyer – but together they had all they needed to launch Stears and they did in 2017.
Today, Stears addressed the scarcity of information and data-driven insights in Nigeria. Last month, it was one of the startups that got accepted into the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund 2022 cohort.
The startup began as a media publication with a focus on financial news and insights in the West African country. Stears Premium, its flagship subscription insights product, provides content ranging from news and opinion pieces to deep investigative pieces. The aim is to make the general public aware of issues surrounding business, finance, economy, government, and policies in Nigeria.
Stears is most popular among people who are in finance-related institutions across Nigeria and has gained significant usage among consumers. The startup has subsequently designed the product for businesses that wanted to subscribe on behalf of their teams because they have more spending power. Some of its subscribers that are financial institutions include Piggyvest, Paystack, Sparkle, and Sterling Bank. Stears also claims that its user base has grown organically at 6.5 percent month-on-month, therefore, doubling its total number of users over the last year.
According to Preston Ideh, “We have a strong understanding of the kind of information people need. So our focus is on standardizing information dissemination and building with the customer in mind. An essential part of our business model is pushing out high-value subscription data products, for instance, proprietary forecast models. Conversely, the low-value end will be news, so customers’ willingness to spend changes as they go along the spectrum.”
The introduction of other products – Stears Pro and Stears Advisory – has launched the media startup into a data and intelligence company.
Speaking on the company’s business model and where the company is taking its Pro product, Preston Ideh added that “An essential part of our business model is pushing out high-value subscription data products. And as we advance, we’ll do less custom work for this set of customers and focus more on overall data around the same sector. So the difference in output is such that in the past, we put out reports, but in the future, we’re probably going to put out data feeds. So less text-heavy way of publishing and more of forecast and prediction around sectors that matter to knowledge workers and their organizations.”
The Stears Advisory allows Stears to take on third-party projects around its core coverage and provide consultancy services. It allows Stears to experiment with data collection and analysis and provides the bedrock to carve out further insights.
In 2019, Stears developed Nigeria’s first real-time election database which was used by more than 2 million Nigerians to monitor the general election database. Preston Ideh said that the company has plans to relaunch the election data site but with bigger and better functionalities and datasets, as the 2023 elections are fast-approaching.
He went on to add that “Bloomberg, at its core, is a data company; we love how they approach elections and our approach in 2019 was driven by them. This is a big open data effort for us and we are also excited about polling because it is a very important form of data verification currently missing in Nigeria. And so over the election period, we will run and push out statistically representative polls on Nigeria, using strong data mindsets, to get a sense of public opinion issues and achieve more robust results.” He has always talked about Stears building the Bloomberg of Africa.
Preston Ideh also added mentioned that the newly-acquired funding will take the company from v2.0, an insight company, to v3.0, a data company focused on Africa. The investment will also be used to hire data scientists, data analysts, and sector analysts, and expand to East, South, and North Africa via Kenya, South Africa, and Egypt. It will also be enhancing its data collection and analytics capabilities.
“Africa is home to the first humans and is now the next frontier for business. Many multinational corporations and governments understand this to be a reality. They also appreciate that several African countries are subject to unique business processes and are primarily cash-based economies, which results in understated GDP, among other things. Stears is uniquely positioned to provide the proprietary and accurate data needed to unlock trade and deeper business relationships with African countries and companies,” Marlon Nichols, co-founder and managing general partner at lead investor MaC Venture Capital said about the investment.