Meet the female-led Nigerian startups that secured funding in 2021


Investments into the African tech space have recently been on the increase. However, startups owned by female founders have only been able to get a minute fraction of all the funds.

According to a new report by Briter Bridges titled “In Search of Equity: Exploring Africa’s Gender Gap in Startup Financing”, only 3% of funds invested into African startups between 2013 and 2021 went to female-owned startups.

The report observed that one of the reasons is that the few available female tech founders typically prefer to operate in sub-sectors like edtech and healthtech which do not receive a lot of attention from investors.

One similar feature that all these female-led startups share is that they are usually bootstrapped, due to the difficulty in securing funding. However, some women-led startups have managed to secure funding against these odds.

Here are some of them.

See also: Early-stage investor, Elizabeth Pambuka talks about how women-led startups can attract angel investments

Edukoya: $3.5m pre-seed round (Dec. 2021)

Honey Ogundeyi, Founder and CEO of Edukoya

Edukoya is the brainchild of its founder, Honey Ogundeyi who also serves as its CEO. The edtech was founded in May 2021 and has gone on to raise $3.5m in pre-seed round, the largest in Africa.

Edukoya is a comprehensive examination preparation platform built to help students study better. Its mission is to build the world’s largest online learning platform for Africans by making high-quality learning materials and support more accessible and affordable.

It hopes to achieve this by connecting African students with the digital curriculum content and on-demand teachers for real-time online learning.

The CEO is not new to entrepreneurship as she founded Fashpa, a Nigerian fashion e-commerce store in 2014. She was also the founding CMO of Kuda, a Nigerian neobank.

Ogundeyi mentioned that a large part of the pre-seed funding would go into talent acquisition and expansion of its learner base and build out the technology for its learning platform, including support for its pan-African and European developer hubs.

Africa has the fastest-growing school-age population globally, with over 260M students and counting. Our goal is to democratize access and make high quality instruction and content accessible and affordable to every student, regardless of where he or she lives on the continent

Honey Ogundeyi

Okra: $3.5m seed round (April, 2021)

Okra CEO, Fara Ashiru Jibutoh

Okra, an API platform led by Fara Ashiru Jibutoh raised $3.5m in a seed round in April 2021. Founded in 2019 by Fara Ashiru Jituboh( CEO) and David Peterside, Okra likes to describe itself as an API “super-connector” that creates a secure portal and process to exchange real-time financial information between customers, applications and banks.

Before starting Okra with Peterside, Fara worked with JP Morgan, Fidelity Investments and Daimler Mercedes Benz. At Okra, she doubles as the chief executive and CTO, staking a claim as one of the most promising founders in Africa’s male-dominated fintech scene.

In total, Okra has raised $4.5 million in two rounds ($1m in pre-seed) and the company will use its latest investment to expand its data infrastructure across Nigeria.

“We want to ensure that we’re solving our customers’ problems as fast as possible and give the clients the support they need. We want to make sure our hiring speed is the same as the speed of our growth and I think being able to raise capital is one of the solvers of that problem… making sure we’re bringing great talent and building a great team,”

Ashiru Jituboh, CEO of Okra

Reelfruit: $3m series A funding (September 2021)

Affiong Williams, founder of ReelFruit
Affiong Williams Founder/CEO of Reelfruit

Reelfruit was founded in 2012 by Affiong Williams. The startup is into the production of a wide range of healthy, dried fruit and nut snacks which it sells in schools, hotels, and retail supermarkets across the country.

In September, the Nigerian Agritech startup announced a $3 million Series A funding aimed at establishing a new factory to help expand its production capacity.

In the early stage, the funding process was bootstrapped with the CEO’s personal savings and some help from her family members.

Reelfruit was part of the Village Capital accelerator program in which it was selected as one of the winners of the $50,000 funding from the accelerator.

“This investment takes ReelFruit to the next level. We can meet increased demand for our products and tackle one of our biggest challenges – raw material supply. We’re thrilled that this will unleash a greater impact on our value chain by increasing farmer incomes and creating up to 300 decent jobs for Nigerians,”

Affiong Williams, ReelFruit CEO/Founder

Shuttlers: $1.6m seed funding (November 2021)

Shuttlers CEO, Damilola Olokesusi

Shuttlers is a mobility startup that uses tech to digitize transport. Founded in 2016 by Damilola Olokesusi and Busola Majekodunmi, Shuttlers provides companies with better mobility options for their employees via its ride-sharing platform.

The startup secured $1.6m in a seed funding round which was led by VestedWorld with participation from payment giant Interswitch, Rising Tide Africa, CcHub Syndicate, Launch Africa, EchoVC, Consonance Investment, ShEquity, Sakore, CMC 21 & Alsa, Five35, and Nikky Taurus.

Damilola (CEO and co-founder) and her team bootstrapped the business which has now grown from one route — Ajah to Victoria Island, to over thirty routes, more than 300 bus-stops, over 100 (unbranded) buses within the city of Lagos, and, has recorded over 2 million trips by commuters.

The funding will be used to expand to other cities within and outside Nigeria.

We just made the right decision for the company at this time so we can get ready for the opportunity that happens after. Now we are ready to take over the African market, starting with Nigeria and West African markets in the next couple of months

Damilola Olokesusi

Bitmama: $350k pre-seed funding (October 2021)

Ruth Iselema, Founder/CEO of Bitmama

Bitmama is a payments platform that provides a secured blockchain infrastructure that allows users across Africa to perform cryptocurrency transactions.

Bitmama CEO, Ruth Iselema, is a trained pharmacist who went into the Blockchain space after she was scammed of 250,000 while trading Bitcoin. This spurred her to build Bitmama.

In October, the startup announced a pre-seed raise of $350,000. According to the startup, the fund will enable it to grow its operational presence, expand its team as well as penetrate new markets across the continent.

“The rate of crypto adoption in Africa has been surprisingly fast but anticipated. All over Africa, more than 3 million users now perform crypto transactions on the day-to-day. Most importantly, we are thrilled to have strong financial backers with global credibility and track records, who are keen on supporting our mission to ensure crypto and cross-border transactions across Africa are done efficiently and safely for users and businesses.”

Ruth Iselema, Bitmama CEO

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