NSIA National Prize For Innovation: Echoes from the event



By Foster Obi

Reverberations from last Saturday’s Demo Day of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) Prize For Innovation (NPI) is still echoing.

The Demo Day was the final day of the event designed to identify innovative technological solutions developed by Nigerian tech entrepreneurs.

A major highlight was Money Africa, one of the start-ups that went through the rigours of selection to appear among the ten finalists, beating the other nine to clinch the first position at the maiden edition of the event.

Led by Founder and CEO, Oluwatosin Olaseinde, Money Africa provides gamified education and B2B2C services to improve financial literacy for its customers.

Following a thorough pitch process on Demo Day, the winners and runners-up were determined by an A-list panel of independent judges which included Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, CEO & General Partner, Fund For Africa; Juliet Ehimuan, Director, Google; Bosun Tijani, Co-Founder & CEO, Co-Creation Hub, Amal Hassan, Founder, CEO, Outsource Global; and Tosin Eniolorunda, Founder, Moniepoint Inc.

The panel of judges considered Money Africa’s pitch the best for being nimble, adaptable, and most importantly scalable. Extension Africa, an Agri-tech startup, came second with a total prize of $70,000 ($52,500 equity contribution and $17,500 in cash) while LegitCar, an insurance-tech company, was rated third with a total prize of $50,000 ($37,500 equity contribution and $12,500 cash).

In his comment, the Lead Judge, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, CEO, Fund For Africa, commended NSIA for pushing the frontiers of innovation by instituting the prize for Innovation to support budding talents in the tech-ecosystem in Nigeria.

Participants at the event were quite impressed at the strategy employed by NSIA to arrive the selection of finalists and winners of well crafted empowerment programme.

When asked by the moderator on how they perceived the event, some described it as impactful, awesome, fantastic, engaging, excellent, among others, suggesting that the Authority scored a bulls eye shot for birthing such a programme.

Overall, there seem to be an agreement that organising such a programme will galvanise the youths to creativity with so much impact on the economy.

Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdulahi in his speech stressed the importance of innovation to be “the heartbeat of progress and the key to unlocking our fullest potential as a nation.” He assured the audience that Nigeria values innovators and is committed to creating an enabling environment for startups.

Aminu Umar-Sadiq, NSIA’s Managing Director, and Chief Executive said ‘When NSIA initiated the NPI, I doubt that we envisaged that over 2,000 applications from multiple sectors – including healthcare, agriculture, artificial intelligence among others – would be received. We are delighted by the exceptional quality of the ten ideas that were pitched to over three hundred guests and stakeholders on Demo Day. NSIA looks forward to continuing along this trajectory to catalyze the tech ecosystem in Nigeria.”

The winner and other finalists emerged out of over two thousand entries received from across Nigeria. The applicants were subsequently pruned to 25 who advanced to an intensive accelerator phase after which the top ten finalists, who pitched on Demo Day were selected.

The NSIA Prize for Innovation (NPI) was instituted in December 2022 as a catalyst for the burgeoning tech ecosystem and to create a platform for the discovery of the next unicorns. The NPI Demo Day was the culmination of the 7-month programme. The event had in attendance relevant leaders from the tech eco-system, venture capital and Private equity firms, as well as senior government functionaries, heads of financial institutions, and foreign missions.

The NSIA Prize for Innovation is a multi-year commitment by the NSIA to empower budding Nigerian techpreneurs and enable technovation. The programme aligns with NSIA’s focus on socio-economic advancement for Nigerians.

At the end of the event, the MD of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), Aminu Umar-Sadiq and Kashifu presented a dummy cheque of $25,000 to the winner of the challenge.

NSIA Prize for Innovation (NPI) is sponsored by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) to bolster innovation in Nigeria’s digital ecosystem, and support homegrown solutions that can drive socio-economic development.

NPI is designed to encourage and support ingenuity within the digital ecosystem and fund early-stage, growth driven solutions, with the aim of driving transformative economic growth, enhancing the nation’s productive capacity, and creating jobs.

To recognize and reward Nigerian innovators and start-up founders in the tech ecosystem.

To act as an early-stage investment catalyst for innovators.

To mentor and equip founders with the tools required for scaling and product-market fit.

To connect startup founders to potential investors.

To create a community of connected individuals to ensure partnership across the ecosystem.

The line up of the programme from the early stage was that ten (10) finalists will win varying prizes. The winners will receive a mix of cash and equity to support their startups. The top three (3) finalists will receive funds in 75:25 equity and cash mix in exchange for a stake in their company which will be mutually determined. The remaining seven (7) finalists will receive cash prizes. About US$255,000 will be won in total.

The fast-track accelerator program was developed and embedded in the competition to ensure all shortlisted participants benefit. The accelerator programme was run by NSIA technical partner. Their role is to assist NSIA in identifying mentors and facilitators willing to provide support in different areas, varying from mentoring engagements, networking opportunities, training, and other forms of technical assistance, etc. for the benefit of the shortlisted applicants.

A database of participants was maintained on the portal. Participants were provided with access to industry information, funding opportunities, and program assistance. The intent is to build a strong alumni network to further drive the development of a viable and vibrant local technology ecosystem.

The NSIA opened the application portal for the inaugural edition of the NPI on March 8, 2023, following a December 10, 2022, launch of the Programme.

After an extensive review process, the NSIA shortlisted 25 start-ups from over 2,000 applications received during the Call to Application stage of the programme. These innovative startups then commenced the Accelerator Bootcamp, which began virtually on May 29th, 2023, culminating in a one-week in-person training bootcamp, ending on June 16th, 2023.

Among the 25 shortlisted start-ups participating in the boot camp were Money Africa, Capsa Technology, LegitCar Africa, Boost Power Technologies, Acceede, Creditchek, Apace Technology Solution, Truq, CDIAL AI, Kobopay, and Extension Africa. Other participants include Nafarm Foods, Nigenius, Periculum Technology, Quadloop, BrandDrive, WasteBazaar, Vella Finance, Yalo Technologies, Chekker, Aqualife Ifarms, BetaLife Health, Jise, Esusu Africa, and Oncopadi.

The selected start-ups operated within vital sectors of the Nigerian economy, such as healthcare, financial services, agriculture, education, logistics, e-mobility, e-commerce & digital marketplaces.

The programme’s focus on priority sectors, reflects the NSIA’s recognition of the significant impact that innovation in these areas can have on the Nigerian economy.

Aminu Umar-Sadiq, the Managing Director and Chief Executive of the NSIA, expressed his delight at the calibre and quantity of applications received. He emphasized the significance of staying at the forefront of innovation and disruption in an era of digital transformation.

“The world is undergoing a digital transformation, and it is crucial for us to stay at the forefront of innovation and disruption. By investing in promising technology start-ups, we can unlock new avenues of growth, enhance our competitive advantage, and future-proof our businesses. Through the NPI Programme and our planned investments in technology, we gain access to cutting-edge solutions, disruptive ideas, and exceptional talent. Collaborating with these start-ups allows us to stay ahead of the curve, harness new market opportunities, and deliver unparalleled value to our great nation, “ the MD noted.

In collaboration with its technical partner, Lofty Inc, the NSIA designed a comprehensive programme that includes modules on strategy, finance and investment, marketing, communications, and technology. Over the three-week duration as the Accelerator Bootcamp progressed, participants received entrepreneurial training and learnt investment practices to enhance their business processes, strengthen their value proposition, promote sustainability, and bolster their scalability.

After the Accelerator Programme, the 10 most successful and committed applicants advanced to the final stage, known as Demo Day, scheduled for June 24, 2023. The Demo Day provided a platform for the top 10 finalists to showcase their progress and present their pitches to an esteemed panel of judges. The event also demonstrated these start-ups’ growth potential, facilitated valuable connections and partnerships within the tech ecosystem.

The NSIA assembled a panel of distinguished judges for the Demo Day event to ensure a fair and thorough evaluation of the start-ups.

Over the past decade, the NSIA has implemented various strategies to fulfil its vision and has played an increasingly significant role in driving investments for Nigeria’s economic development. “The NPI programme is another vertical within its overall strategy, aimed at empowering Nigerian techpreneurs and emerging innovators, the Authority said.

Picture: Event pictures showcases prized moments


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