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A look at Nigerian startups that got into the famous Y Combinator accelerator

Joining YC is to startups what Harvard is to students.

A look at Nigerian startups that got into the famous Y Combinator accelerator

Over the years, several Nigerian startups have made it into the famed accelerator. According to data from YC, a total of 49 Nigerian startups have passed through YC between 2015 to date. While having the YC stamp of approval seems to be all most startups need to succeed in business; just as with everything in life, nothing is ever truly fail-proof.

Some of these Nigerian, YC-backed startups have gone on to achieve significant success, others not as much. Here is a breakdown of some of these startups.

On November 11, 2015, Paystack became the very first Nigerian startup to get the nod of approval from YC, and joined the accelerator’s winter 2016 batch in San Francisco.

The startup, despite being in its infancy then got endeared to the heart of YC for its payment processing platform that helps businesses collect payment online and offline. At the time in 2015, Paystack’s lifetime revenue was $1,300 (as per Paystack’s YC application uploaded on Paystack’s blog). Fast forward some years later, the company did $150 million in transactions in August 2020 alone. Paystack has gone on to become massively successful and a startup to be reckoned with in Africa.

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Flutterwave, another YC prodigy founded by Iyinoluwa Aboyeji and Olugbenga Agboola in 2016, has gone on to process over 200 million transactions worth over $16 billion across 34 countries in Africa, and serving over 900,000 businesses across the globe.

Kobo360, a freight logistics startup that got into YC’s summer 2018 class. The company has gone on to raise a total of $30 million, with a huge chunk of it coming from global Venture Capitalist (VC) firm, $Goldman Sachs.

The fund came as the fuel the startup needed to power its expansion plans to 10 more countries beyond its current countries of operation – Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Kenya.

Another interesting case is that of Cowrywise, a YC summer 2018 incubated startup. The company has grown from 2,000 users in 2018 (as at when they joined YC) to a whooping 220,000 users in 2021.

The startup also picked up a $3 million pre-series A funding round led by Washington DC-based Quona Capital.

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Helium Health, another YC success story, is a healthcare technology startup. Co-founded in 2016 by Tito Ovia, Adegoke Olubusi, and Dimeji Sofowora, and joined YC in 2017.

Helium Health (formerly One Medical) started out as an Electronic Medical records (EMR) startup. It has since then expanded its line of products to include – Helium Teleclinic, Helium Pay, Helium Cover, Helium CareCredit, and MyHelium Patient Superapp.

In 2020, the company raised a $10 million series A to help fuel its expansion plans into North and East Africa. With over 5000 doctors in 107 hospitals handling over 150,000 patients visiting monthly, the company can be said to be doing well for itself.

However, it has all not been rosy for all of these YC backed startups. A case in mind is that of Thrive Agric, the agriculture project crowdfunding platform.

In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, the company ran into trouble on various fronts as lots of produce spoilt in transit, farmers had huge losses, worst of all, investors were owed.

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It led to an outburst in social media which nearly crippled the company. The startup was, however, able to make a miraculous pivot as it moved from the use of retail investors to the use of institutional investors.

Also worthy of mention here is Shypmate. While not technically a Nigerian startup, it has three co-founders of Nigerian origin. The startup sought to disrupt the travel industry by connecting international travelers from the USA with spare luggage space to people who have items to send home to Nigeria or Ghana.

The startup later closed shop and attempted rebranding to Envyl – a cross border shopping service. However, all does not seem to be well with the startup so far. As of the time of writing, none of its websites are functional.

As for newer YC intakes, only time will tell how well they will fare going forward. Clearly, the bulk of Nigerian-backed YC startups are doing fine if not great, as YC’s connections, mentoring and funding provides a big boost for these startups. However, founders should still play their part to ensure their startups succeed.

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