The word Unicorn was coined in 2013 by venture capitalist Aileen Lee, A unicorn is any private startup company started after 2003 that is valued at more than $1 billion. Lee chose the magic valuation number of $1 billion because it suggests that a company has either disrupted the market or created a new market.
In the year 2017, there were only three Unicorns in the African continent – Jumia, Promisador Holdings and Cell C. Today the story is slightly different as it has increased to five.
Even though Africa has made a bit of progress in the number of Unicorns it currently has, there is still so much to do and it still has a long way to go if she is to catch up with the rest of the world.
As at May 2021, there were about 600 Unicorns in the world. The United States has close to 300, India has 100 while China has 162.
Flutterwave, a Fintech co founded by its current CEO, Olugbenga Agboola and its former CEO, Iyinoluwa Samuel Aboyeji recently attained the Unicorn status this year when it raised $170 million to expand its operations in North Africa. Chipper Cash another Fintech recently bagged the coveted Unicorn status and so it is very promising in Africa.
According to TechCabal, to accelerate this growth, in 2017, Unicorn Group, a pan-African investment company, set out to create a systematic approach to discover and produce unicorns on the continent. The unicorn team is led by Dr Akintoye Akindele with support from members like Dr Wura Abiola, Kola Abiola, Olatutu Sholeye, Yomi Akapo, Prof Cesar Baena, Mark White, Akudo Nweke, Kunle Soriyan and Dr Ponmile Osibo. The team travelled around the world studying different tech ecosystems to learn about what makes a unicorn and to create a playbook for the African tech ecosystem.
On the 2nd of June, 2021 Unicorn Group held an event for the official launch of its Lagos campus. A number of distinguished dignitaries were present.
Timipre Sylva Minister of State for Petroleum Resources; Lagos state Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu represented by his wife Joke Sanwo-Olu; Engr Simbi Wabote Exec. sec. Nigerian Content Development monitoring board and Mr Osh Agabi CEO Koniku. The vice-chancellors of Lagos State University and Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe and Prof Eyitope Ogunbodede, respectively, were also in attendance.
At the epoch making event, they shared a unique strategy to creating more Unicorns in Africa.
This strategy is made up of programs developed for startups and early stage firms as well as Campuses built across Africa to bridge the infrastructural deficit, create partnerships with leading multinationals and act as advisers for these startups who have a very high failure rate especially in its first five years.
The five-step program caters to businesses at any stage. The first step is the Idea Lab, a program targeted at people with business ideas. The Idea Lab will run for a maximum of six months.
The Hub program is the second step, it’s for businesses with a viable product. It’ll run for a maximum of 12 months.