Three years is not a long time in the life of a business, at least not for one built to last. So, despite the temptation to reflect on the last three years at Stears, wiser heads remind me that it is not yet time.
Successful entrepreneurs often remind startups that it takes years to build great companies, so the myth of overnight success should be met with scepticism. It calls to mind the famous Bill Gates quote: Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.
When we launched our consumer subscription product—1,163 days ago—we knew Stears would eventually evolve into something even more powerful, distinct and innovative. We just didn’t know when, and that is why I am so excited to be here.
Our last fundraise was not just a funding milestone; it marked the genesis of Stears as a Pan-African data company. In my reflections on the fundraising, I wrote:
“We know that the market wants more than just articles, no matter how well-researched. It isn’t just about [writing articles on] 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 data streams. To provide this, we know what we must do next: focus on making proprietary data, models, tools and forecasts directly available to our users.”
It is time to make good on that promise.
Therefore, today marks the sunset of Stears’ first subscription product, Stears Premium, paving the way for new solutions focused on more advanced data & analytics.
In line with our culture of transparent building, we understand how important it is to explain our thinking to the many customers with questions like: “Why can’t we access as individuals and corporates?”, “What about open data?” or “What happens to existing subscribers?”
By the end of this post, all these questions should be answered.
What is changing
At Stears, our current obsession is to deliver value for our professional users.
Over the years, many users have come to Stears for insight: researchers, investors, analysts, entrepreneurs, government officials, students and even casual readers. We have consistently created value for these diverse customers in different ways.
Yet, despite this generalist approach, we have always known that we could create even more value for some of these users: the professionals. Many of these professionals have titles that are familiar in financial or professional services like Research Analyst, Senior Associate, Fund Manager, Investment Lead and Principal Investments Lead. Others, typically our corporate strategy users, have titles like Chief Strategy Officer, Expansion Lead, Head of Research, Marketing Lead and more.
As we grew, we heard a recurring theme: Stears’ value to them is that we can help them better invest or operate in Africa. For global organisations doing business in Africa, Stears is the data and insights provider that can enable quick, accurate decisions for financial and operational opportunities. And unlike other providers, Stears goes beyond just data to provide insights and context based on our knowledge of local markets.
Now, we are choosing to lean into this value proposition and focus on these specific needs. As a result, three things are changing at Stears.
The first is that we will roll out a new suite of data solutions to serve professionals:
Our new data solutions will come out in phases over the next 12 months. Some have already been built, like our market opportunities mapping solution, which uses machine learning techniques to estimate demand and revenue potential across financial services verticals.
Others, like our Pan-African inflation forecasts, will be launched imminently. These forecasts leverage econometric models and local expertise to inform our users on how prices are expected to change across the continent.
Of course, these solutions are not just focused on Nigeria and Kenya, which we already cover, but will be expanded across our new focus countries, including Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, as well as the economic giants of South Africa, Egypt and Morocco.
The second thing to expect is that the experience of Stears will continue to change over the next couple of months as we transform the interface into a data platform for professional users. The redesigned user interface will be adapted to professional workflows and aid the presentation of our new data solutions. It will begin a seismic shift from the library of qualitative content many customers are familiar with to a platform for data, analytics and insights.
Finally, our product pricing has changed. Individual consumers will find their access to our platform limited and eventually phased out. Going forward, we will prioritise institutional access to the platform via tiered licenses, and individuals will be unable to renew or purchase subscriptions directly. Nevertheless, open-tier content like Stears Elections, or data necessary for the public interest, will remain accessible.
These three changes are crucial to ensure we give professional users the Stears standard by deeply understanding their workflows and tailoring our new solutions.
We decided to focus exclusively on professional customers because we want to remain lean, and focusing on professional users while serving a large group of disparate individual users with different interests was too much for the team to manage.
What isn’t changing
It would be easy for us to assume that despite this sunset, you would expect our core values to remain unchanged, but we will not. Instead, I will reiterate our core customer promises:
We will continue to bring deep, analytical rigour to all the data we release, all the analysis we provide and all the perspectives we share.
We will remain dedicated to ensuring that we are the most trusted source of data and insight on Africa.
We will also invest in our open data solutions, like we did with the 2023 Nigerian Elections, to ensure that data, which should be publicly available for citizen consumption, remains available.
Keeping all of these unchanged is our way of ensuring that we continue to remain 100% focused on our customers.
For the last three years, we have focused on setting the gold standard for high-quality information in Africa.
That will never change.