Analysts have been worried at the dearth of the birth of Unicorns in Africa since after the emergence of Jumia, and to some extent, InterSwitch, they opine that Jumia’s success as a Unicorn born out of Africa has not halted the search for another. As many heightened expectations for the next unicorn, there is need to come to terms with the high-flying Gazelles around the continent on which those dreams are based, Senegalese venture capitalist Marième Diop called for more efforts and encouraged entrepreneurs to keep working hard.
She is of the opinion that Africa’s harsh business environment made it difficult to create Unicorns, she encouraged founders to try to build more Gazelles. “It might be a better option to set lower revenue expectations and have startups list on local exchanges to raise capital from IPOs when they’re ready. We may be able to create more Gazelles at home than Unicorns abroad,” she said.
According to Diop, Gazelles are startups with a $100 million valuation or more while generating $15 to $50 million in annual revenue. While these figures aren’t set in stone, we have an idea of Diop’s philosophy: Gazelles are startups that have secured eight figures in money raised and revenue, and an eight to nine-figure valuation. According to the West African Startup Decade Report highlights the funding activities of startups in the region between 2010 and 2019.
However, only Millionaire West African Startups (MWAS) were featured. In other words, startups that each raised $1 million or more cumulatively in the last decade. Research shows that although 51 startups fall into this category, only 14 (27.45%) raised $10m or more. For these startups that can be called Gazelles, the recently-acquired Nigerian payments startup, Paystack, is a hallmark. Before joining Stripe, the US payments giant, for $200m, Paystack had cumulatively raised $11.675 million in seed and Series A rounds between 2016 and 2018.
Interestingly, of the 14 startups to have achieved this feat in West Africa, only 2 (with expat founders) have gone on to raise $100m or more cumulatively. That being said, the West African Decade report also shows that only one of these startups didn’t launch from Nigeria or isn’t Nigerian-based.
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