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Top 5 Nigerian universities with highest number of startup founders

Startup founders
Source: Business Consultants in Nigeria
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Five Nigerian universities are leading in the race of minting startup co-founders and founders. Understandably, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates are notable examples of incredibly successful business people that left school early. Their higher education was a pointless diversion to them. In Nigeria, it will be wiser to grab at least a higher national diploma or first degree before jumping into the fray of entrepreneurship.

Ndubuisi Ekekwe, professor, entrepreneur and Tekedia Institute faculty, captures it masterfully when he said in a LinkedIn post, “Nigerian students, do not drop out of school citing Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Bill and Mark did not drop out, they merely dropped in. In a way, they replaced mass-training professors at Harvard University with private Harvard-quality professors called venture capitalists (VCs).

“Magically, they have “special professors” who actually pay them! Which one is better: a Harvard professor that asks you to pay school fees or the VC that writes you $millions and still coaches you because he wants to ensure his $millions are safe?”

This means in the world of contemporary business, entrepreneurship is a distinct career. According to research, 10 per cent of entrepreneurs are successful, with the remaining 90 per cent failing for a variety of reasons, including inadequate funding, subpar marketing, the state of the economy, and many others.

These elements frequently discourage ambitious business owners and increase the strain they feel to survive in a cutthroat industry. Even those with outstanding business backgrounds risk failing if they lack a solid academic background. According to a Small Business Trends research, 82 per cent of prosperous business owners believe to have the right credentials and professional experience to manage a business, even with a restricted budget go a long way.

Similar to this, a study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found that 95 per cent of business owners had at least an undergraduate degree from a recognised university, which offers them a competitive advantage. Higher education appears to have a significant impact on how an entrepreneur’s career is supported and shaped.

Even though it may not be regarded as a significant element in Nigeria, the university one goes to has an impact on how innovative and entrepreneurial a person becomes. Students can be better prepared for a life of business operation and management after graduation if their learning environment is encouraging and includes significant entrepreneurship activity.

Some of the Nigerian universities that have turned out active startup founders and entrepreneurs are the ones listed below. This list is by no means exhaustive and shall be updated as new pieces of information come to light.

Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife

Obafemi Awolowo University, formerly known as University of Ife, was founded in 1961 by the Western Nigerian government, which was then headed by the late Chief Ladoke Akintola. In 1987, it was renamed in honour of Obafemi Awolowo, a nationalist and leading statesman.

To address computer needs and promote technological innovation, the school built a new ICT facility and a Centre of Excellence in Software Engineering in 2003. It has also served as the location for MIT’s iLab project since 2005.

OAU has undoubtedly produced the most startup founders in Nigeria, despite not being a school that specialises in science and technology. Among the well-known businesses started by OAU graduates are:

  • Ayodeji Adewunmi, Opeyemi Awoyemi, and Olalekan Olude founded Jobberman.
  • Yinka Adewale and Pelumi Aboluwarin formed the company Nomba, formerly known as Kudi.
  • PropertyPro (previously was founded by Fikayo Ogundipe, Sulaimon Balogun, Oladapo Eludire, and Oluwaseyi Ayeni.
  • Electronic Settlements Limited (parent company of PayPal and CashEnvoy) was founded by Olaoluwa Awojoodu.
  • Tosin Eniolorunda is the founder and chief executive officer of Moniepoint, formerly  TeamApt.
  • Sultan Akintunde co-founded TalentQL & AltschoolAfrica.
  • Funke Opeke founded MainOne.
  • Razaq Ahmed founded CowryWise.
  • Femi Akinde founded SlimTrader.

Covenant University

In Ota, Ogun state, there is a private Christian university called Covenant University. It is associated with Living Faith Church, and Bishop David Oyedepo, the church’s general overseer, acts as the school’s chancellor.

The Federal Ministry of Science and Technologies in 2018 gave the institution first place among Nigerian universities for creative technologies. One of the few universities that gives ICT entrepreneurship a lot of attention is Covenant University.

It established the Hebron Startup Lab, an ICT entrepreneurship hub, to support a programme that aims to foster the development of more entrepreneurs among university students. Although candidates from outside Covenant University may be accepted, the programme was initially intended to be restricted to Covenant University students.

The majority of the school’s entrepreneurship instructors are active business owners who serve as consultants in a variety of industries. Students are encouraged to engage in practical business endeavours and benefit from the guidance of accomplished graduates. More crucially, startup owners can scale their enterprises with sponsorships to accelerator programmes.  Among the businesses started by its alumni are:

  • Somtochukwu Ifezue, Odunayo Eweniyi, Joshua Chibueze, Terry Kanu, Nonso Chinagorom, Ibukun Akinola, and Ayomide Akinola established PushCV and PiggyVest.
  • Oluwasoga Oni Kora Network and Dickson Nsofor jointly launched MDaaS.
  • Uka Eje, founded Thrive Agric.
  • Yomi Adedeji, co-founder Softcom & Eyowo.

University Of Lagos

One of Nigeria’s five first generation universities is known as Unilag. In the world’s education rankings, this public research university consistently ranks among the top African institutions. Numerous prominent personalities in politics, the performing and visual arts, science, and other fields are among its graduates.

According to Forbes, Unilag was the third-most effective institution for training entrepreneurs in 2020. In the report, UNILAG was also referred to as one of Nigeria’s startup powerhouse. Unilag alumni founded the following businesses:

  • Chuka Ofili co-founded FieldInsight.
  • Chidi Nwaogu and Chika Nwaogu launched Publiseer.

Babcock University

In 1959, Babcock University, a private Christian institution, was founded in Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State. The Seventh-Day Adventist church sect owns and operates it. Popular pop musician David Adeleke, also known as Davido, is a prominent alumnus.

The teachers and students in the School of Science and Technology are renowned for their brilliance in research and innovation.

  • Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi, co-founders of Paystack, one of Nigeria’s most successful software businesses, are the school’s greatest accomplishments in this regard.
  • Another startup is MyMusic is a for-profit music download business that intends to give Nigerian music a respectable digital distribution channel. Damon Taiwo, Dolapo Taiwo, and Tolu Ogunsola started it in 2013.

Ladoke Akintola University Of Technology

In Oyo state, LAUTECH is a state-owned institution that was founded in 1990 and only offers science and technology-related courses. These include engineering and management sciences, environmental science, and pure and agricultural sciences.
Oluyemi Ojo, Ibukun Oloyede, and Ayodeji Adeogun, all graduates of LAUTECH, are the minds behind Printivo, a fully automated online print service.

While several of these founders studied computer science and software engineering in college, not all Nigerian universities offer these disciplines. According to interview extracts, the majority of them claimed that the inspiration for starting their businesses came from side hustles or from finding a solution to a social issue they had witnessed.

Nigerian IT entrepreneurship is still in its infancy, but the future is promising. The abundance of successful businesses suggests tremendous potential for the future. To maximise economic gains, academics and innovation should work together. To create a more robust innovation environment, education changes are urgently needed, and ideally all higher institutions in the nation will increase their efforts to support the movement.

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