Nigerian Founder Launches Football Team After Stripe Acquired His FinTech Startup
Earlier this year, on February 13th, Sporting Lagos FC played its first-ever football match, which ended in a draw.
The club, which currently plays in the Nigerian National League, the country’s second tier, is the brainchild of Shola Akinlade, co-founder and CEO of financial technology company Paystack, which he says was acquired for more than $200 million in 2020 by Irish American financial services company Stripe.
Akinlade says he intends for Sporting Lagos to be a platform for community development and social change.
But managing a football club in Nigeria is often challenging, and teams have to deal with problems including poor infrastructure, unpaid player salaries, and a lack of funding.
While Sporting Lagos has the support of several other tech-based companies besides Paystack, with its matches sponsored by brands such as Abeg, PiggyVest, Renmoney, and Helium Health, they still face hurdles.
Akinlade, who is the team’s main backer, says the club is still trying to overcome infrastructure challenges by “building a football arena with security (and) assisted parking.”
Speaking to CNN, Akinlade said: “We started Paystack from personal pain. I’ve been seeing how things work elsewhere … and I thought, ‘Why can’t we have good things here?’ I think that was where it came from and, personally, just wanted things to be easier. I wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh, this is going to be big at all.’ But I got into Y Combinator [which provides seed funding for startups] in Silicon Valley.
“And when I went to San Francisco, we saw people building amazing things. People were building shirts that never get dirty or a bra that detects breast cancer. I was initially intimidated when they said, ‘What are you guys working on? … How many people are in Africa?’
“I was like, ‘One billion.’ That was the moment I realized that this is going to be very big. If you figure out how to move money and commerce around, it’s going to change lives, it’s going to change the continent.”
His company was founded in Lagos in 2015, and Paystack now has more than 60,000 clients, including corporations like Domino’s Pizza and telecom giant MTN.
Nigeria alone has more than 200 financial technology companies, with the sector attracting global interest from companies such as Mastercard and Visa.
According to a recent report from consulting firm McKinsey & Company, funding for Nigerian fintech companies between 2014 and 2019 topped $600 million. In 2019, outside investment in Nigerian fintech startups accounted for a quarter of all funding for tech startups across Africa.