Nigeria’s Proptech Industry Finds Success Through Fintech First
Companies such as Estate Intel, Spleet and RentSmallSmall are drawing foreign investment and expanding internationally
Like Estonia in Europe, Nigeria in Africa is leading that continent’s proptech growth and success, according to experts familiar with the industry in the nation of more than 206 million — Africa’s most populous. Some of Nigeria’s younger companies, in fact, have begun to cross borders in search of best practices and customers.
“Nigeria has a very exciting tech scene,” said Sean Godoy, a South African native who is the director and co-founder of Johannesburg-based Divercity Property Solutions, which provides training and advisory services to the property industry. A former researcher for Cushman & Wakefield in London, Godoy is also an expert on sub-Saharan proptech startups.
Like in other parts of Africa, the factors driving Nigeria’s proptech startup growth consist of “a young population, a very strong tech ecosystem and a quite-active startup entrepreneurial culture,” Godoy said. “Entrepreneurship is linked to small to medium enterprises, or SMEs as they’re called. Given socioeconomic challenges within such countries, entrepreneurship is vital for a lot of people in these countries, given the high levels of poverty and inequality. So that drives the informal economy.”
“One specific engine of Nigeria is that it has a very robust fintech ecosystem,” Godoy said. “Also, there is the government’s recent foray into digital currency. Those two factors are kind of a testament to the overall exciting tech scene and appetite for tech.”
While the Nigerian government’s recent experiment with digital currency is off to a rocky start, “it’s an interesting reference point,” Godoy said, adding that the country’s fintech market has yielded two of Africa’s four unicorns to date, possibly setting the stage for future proptech startup success. “That’s important because proptech is usually a natural progression from fintech and this definitely seems to be the case for Nigeria.”
A prime example of a Nigeria-based proptech startup is Estate Intel, a data and research firm, that caught the attention of Manhattan-based MetaProp VC, which selected the company for its 2021 accelerator.
Dolapo Omidire, Estate Intel’s founder and CEO, said that while studying investment and finance at the University of Reading in the U.K., his background in real estate and “passion for research and data” came together in his daily look at CoStar online.
“When I came back to Nigeria, I realized that there was a big data problem and everybody knew about it, but there was nobody that was taking a central and objective approach to trying to fix it,” Omidire said. “We have multiple service providers doing research in their own capacity, but everything was in silos. Because it was such a big problem, it was for me a no-brainer to try and pursue creating what would be the source of truth for African data. That was the driver.”
Estate Intel’s customers are varied, Omidire said.
“In terms of revenue contribution, our biggest clients are investors, developers and sometimes real estate service providers — people who are building hotels, want to do an industrial park, private equity companies that have a portfolio of real estate assets that they are either looking to dispose of or to acquire new things. Our data and reports help them make decisions. Alongside that, we have service providers that may be valuers, people doing advisory work for their clients, that tap into our data.”
Then there are some somewhat unintended Estate Intel customers, too, according to Omidire. “We have quite a lot of infrastructure vendors who use our platform to track what is under construction,” he said, “because we put out information ongoing and they essentially use these statements for business development.”
Being in the MetaProp accelerator has aided seven-year-old Estate Intel — which has commercial and residential property customers throughout Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya — in a number of ways, Omidire said.
“The biggest impact is just being global with MetaProp,” he said. “Being a part of that program with access to companies that are doing similar data platforms, or people who have worked in those types of platforms for mentorship and advice, has probably been the most impactful thing for me. Trying in the past few years to build this data company pretty much blind with no support and then going into the program and meeting some of the people that worked at RCA [Real Capital Analytics] has helped.”
Along with Estate Intel, MetaProp, too, selected fellow Nigerian proptech startup Spleet, a short-term residential rental platform similar to Airbnb, for its current accelerator program. Spleet also operates in Kenya and plans to expand its services into Rwanda and Ghana, according to TechCabal.
In addition, some other Nigeria-based proptech startups include RentSmallSmall, the first African proptech to join global investment platform Techstars; PropertyPro.ng; Mama Casa, a platform for affordable home rentals, and myPadi, an online off-campus hostel renting service for students.
Nigeria is composed of 36 states, all with different dynamics, making the property market particularly complex. “It’s similar to the U.S. They can have quite different regulations and laws, etc., and quite different leadership structures,” Godoy said. “All this complexity and these pain points provide perfect conditions for innovation through proptech, which can provide new solutions to persistent challenges.”
Philip Russo can be reached at email@example.com.