Bloomberg has reported that Serena Williams’ venture capital firm is backing Nigerian data and insights firm Stears Inc. in a $3.3 million seed round led by MaC Venture Capital.
The investment is one of just a handful in Africa for Serena Ventures, whose founder announced that she would turn more of her attention to investing following her retirement from tennis after the US Open in September.
“One of the main reasons I invested in Stears is not because of my love and appreciation for Africa, but because Stears has strategically thought of how to increase the investment community on the continent,” Williams said in an emailed statement. “They’re aware of the complexities and have leverage with data and technology and I truly respect what they’re doing.”
Stears, based in Lagos, offers data collection, production, advisory and analysis services. Its products include Stears Insights, the company’s flagship digital publication, which provides analysis-driven content to its subscribers.
Other participants in the round included Melo7 Tech Partners LLC, Cascador, Hoaq Club and return investor Luminate Fund of the Omidyar Group, according to co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Preston Ideh. Stears declined to provide valuation information.
The company has grown thanks to paid subscriptions, making it a rare subscription success story in Nigeria, where consumers are generally unaccustomed to pay walls for information.
The Stears round comes in a year that has been a historic high for African startup funding. Even so, early-stage African companies tend to raise less than their US counterparts, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The median investment for African seed rounds this year is $2.6 million, compared with a median of $4.5 million in the US.
Stears was launched in 2017 by four co-founders who met during secondary school at Loyola Jesuit College in Abuja, Nigeria, and at the London School of Economics and Imperial College in the UK.
The company plans to use the new funding to expand its coverage geographically by establishing a presence in East and Southern Africa, Ideh said. In addition, Stears will expand its product breadth beyond insights to data, deepen data partnerships, and collect its own proprietary data, to which it will license access, he said.
There is indeed hope for the growth of Nigeria and the African continent. God bless the Federal republic of Nigeria