If I could describe the Nigerian technology ecosystem in 2016, I would choose one term; a vibrant awakening.
Sure, the tech space has bubbled for a while, particularly in the main hotspots. This year, however, was the one in which the stories moved from blogs to pitch floors, board rooms and capital investments.
That growth has been fueled by a host of individuals who strive to make the dreams of the Nigerian techie a reality.
Without much ado, here are, in no particular order, our 10 most influential people in Nigerian tech for the past year.
1. Omobola Johnson
I call her the unofficial mummy of the ecosystem. Previously Minister of Communication Technology under President Jonathan, she is Honorary Chairperson of the Global Alliance for Affordable Internet and the lead partner for TLcom Capital, a venture capital firm that makes small to medium level investments in technology startups.
A staple of tech panels across the country, her years of experience and undeniable expertise influence decisions and trends across the board.
2. Iyinoluwa Aboyeji
The young face of the biggest success story in Nigerian technology, 25-year old Iyin was a co-founder of Andela, the famed tech accelerator located in Yaba, Lagos. In June, Andela raised a whopping 24 million dollars from the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative led by none other than the Facebook guy, Mark Zuckerberg.
Since then, he has left his executive role at Andela to start Flutterwave, a payments processing platform that has already handled over 70 million dollars in transactions.
3. Maya Horgan-Famodu
Relatively new to the space, Maya is solving one of the biggest problems founders face - capital. She is the CEO of Ingressive, a company that uses high-level expertise to drive investment in Nigerian startups.
Between getting Silicon valley pioneers to provide mentorship and bringing funding from Ycombinator and other major funds, Maya is bridging the gap between Nigerian tech startups and the world’s deep pockets.
4. Jason Njoku
Jason is the founder and CEO of iROKO, one of Nigeria’s biggest entertainment companies. Fanatical about Nollywood, Jason is taking Nigerian content to the world by building platforms into world-class internet-ready distribution channels.
This year, IROKO secured 19 million dollars in funding from the French company, Canal+. One of its newer arms, ROK studios has also made its debut on digital television. He is also the head of Spark, the accelerator that produced hotels.ng and ogavenue.
5. Bankole Oluwafemi
If Nigeria has woken up to its tech space, it is because its followers have told better stories. At the front of this charge is Bankole Oluwafemi, editor-in-chief of TechCabal. The platform that started as his personal blog in 2013, now houses Radar, the go-to forum for African techies.
Anyone who knows Bankole will tell you he is the ecosystem's biggest evangelist, and he has shared the message this year like no-one else has.
6. Bosun Tijani
When Bosun started CCHub with Femi Longe as Nigeria’s first open-living lab and incubator in 2012, he effectively created the nerve-centre of the ecosystem. The initiative has produced some of the most innovative startups in Nigeria, including Wecyclers, traclist and budgIT.
In June this year, Mark Zuckerberg made a surprise visit to the hub in what was a co-sign for his continuing role in the growth of Nigerian tech. Bosun is also a founder of Truppr, a social event and fitness platform.
7. Harry ‘Tomi Davies
30 years of experience in technology systems management have led Tomi to the business of building the networks that will fund Africa’s future.
As a leader in the Lagos Angel Network and President of the African Business Angels Network, Tomi has led mentorship, cross-pollination and over two million dollars in investment in startups.
If you’re a Nigerian founder looking to raise money from Africa, Tomi Davies is the guy to meet.
8. Kola Aina
The opening of the Ventures Platform, Abuja’s first incubator and coworking space was one of our biggest moments in tech of 2016; and Kola Aina was responsible for bringing it into being. In September, the hub hosted the CEO of Ycombinator, Michael Siebel on a tour and interactive session.
Kola also has his hands in other waters; he is the CEO of Emerging platforms, a firm that provides tech-based solutions across various sectors.
9. Mark Essien
The hotels.ng founder/CEO is blazing a path and having a swell time doing it. In addition to transforming his startup into an innovation hub of sorts, with internship programs for developers, Mark has also opened its doors to founders looking to hold events at no cost.
This takes nothing from the business side, though; just this year, his company raised 10 million dollars from the Dangote Investment Group and 1.2 million dollars from Echo VC and the Omidyar Network.
10. Sim Shagaya
Sim is the Executive chairman of Konga, the e-commerce platform he founded in June 2012. To young techies, Sim is a model for a lot of reasons; he managed to keep the company afloat in relatively hostile economic climes as CEO before his promotion earlier this year.
Apart from keeping the e-commerce flag flying, he is also the biggest employer of talent, specifically coders and developers, in the tech space.
In the coming year, we expect that startups and the ecosystem will move their focus from capital to building viable businesses. If that's anything to go by, then 2017 might just be the year of the CEO.