‘Stears is going to be systemically important.’
If this statement from the Head of the Private Capital Division at FMDQ Group doesn’t energise me in the morning, then I don’t know what will.
From the beginning, we have always understood something unique about African markets: the lack of data impedes capital flows and increases the cost of doing business. It’s been happening for decades and continues to persist. And it’s incredibly disappointing that when professionals—especially those outside Africa—attempt to track what’s happening in African economies, they cannot find reliable data.
That being said, understanding this problem hasn’t made it any easier to solve. So, in solving this data problem for our customers, we have had to evolve.
And that’s why today, as we announce the close of our $3.3 million seed round, led by MaC Venture Capital, with participation from Serena Ventures, Melo 7 Tech Partners, Omidyar Group’s Luminate Fund and Cascador, we take a trip down memory lane to see where have come, as we share what this new fundraise means for our future.
Stears 1.0: A website
We started as writers, using data as the lever to set a new gold standard for information in Nigeria. Every founder who could write, wrote. Every founder who could engineer, engineered. After some months, we cajoled 30+ guest writers—experts in various fields—to join us. With their help, we attracted some attention and built a loyal following.
Then came the 2019 elections, where we doubled down on our value proposition as information providers and built Nigeria’s first real-time election datasite. That datasite brought us two million users, which put us on the map and brought in the investors. Most importantly, it reinforced our belief that Africa needs its own data.
Stears 2.0: A Nigerian insights company
What followed was our first fundraising round of $650,000, led by Omidyar Group’s Luminate Fund and backed by Future Africa and CcHub. At that point, we knew we had something special, channelling all our expertise into our first insights subscription product, Stears Premium. We used data and rich insights to answer some of Nigerians' most pressing questions, like Why Nigerians pay rent annually, not monthly, What the Central Bank can learn from Egypt and the Things to ignore from Nigeria’s 2023 Presidential candidates. Since launch, we have published nearly 1,000 data-driven stories chronicling the arc of Nigeria’s economic development.
Pre-launch, the expert consensus was that Nigerians would not pay for articles with this kind of insight because everyone wants it short and sweet. But every day, we offered a new level of depth & insight, and we gave Nigerians a reason to pay.
The launch was successful; the brand became even more trusted in professional circles. What started as a consumer product became the gateway to a world of enterprise customers— the UK Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office, the European Investment Bank, the British High Commission in Nigeria, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and the US Embassy. Every day, we improved our ability to answer crucial questions and collect hard-to-find data.
At this stage, the company had evolved far beyond the founders. None of what we have built would have been possible without the fantastic team of engineers, analysts, consultants, product managers, growth marketers, data scientists and designers who dedicated themselves to solving the information problem on the continent.
Stears 3.0: A Pan-African data & intelligence company
And finally, this brings us to today, the next iteration of Stears.
Like all startups, it is our job to obsess over the problem we set out to solve and keep learning from our users. We know that the market wants more than just articles, no matter how well-researched. It isn’t just about building Stears 2.0 in the 54 African countries; that is not the goal. To be the most trusted source of data and insights in Africa, a >$1 trillion economy with >1 billion people, the continent needs deep, reliable, regular streams of data, not just articles or reports. To provide this, we know what we must do next: focus on making proprietary data, models, tools and forecasts directly available to our users.
What does this look like?
It means building the most valuable database on African economies and markets. It means expanding our intelligence team into Kenya, South Africa, and Egypt. It means developing local expertise that cannot be replicated with remote offices.
To become the most trusted source of data and insights, we have to do three things that haven’t been done in Africa before; first, identify all existing sources of data; second, design a shared language to understand all the data; and third; combine these datasets to create proprietary views of the African market that don’t exist anywhere else.
This is today’s journey.
Of course, we cannot do this alone, which is why we continue to look for the best people in every field; PhDs in economics & finance, data science geeks, superstar engineers who want to build, curious growth marketers and prudent accountants. We want you.
As we evolve, we remain fixed on our mission to become the world’s most trusted provider of African data and insight.
And this is just Day 1.