Why we invested: TLcom’s Ido Sum on Nigerian ed-tech startup uLesson


Earlier this week, Disrupt Africa reported that Nigerian ed-tech startup uLesson, launched by Konga founder Sim Shagaya, had closed a US$3.1 million seed round ahead of its market launch to address infrastructure and learning gaps in Africa’s education sector.

uLesson deploys curriculum-relevant content via smartphones that allows learners to use the product without concern for internet limitations and costs, and has so far produced over 3,000 richly animated, personalised video learning modules, quizzes and tests ahead of its market rollout in the first quarter of 2020.

To help it launch to market, uLesson has now closed a US$3.1 million seed round led by TLcom Capital, with participation by Shagaya himself. TLcom is an active investor in African tech startups, having backed the likes of Twiga Foods, Andela and Kobo360, and Disrupt Africa caught up with partner Ido Sum to discover the rationale behind its investment in uLesson.

He said when looking at new investments TLcom tended to ask itself three key questions: “Is this a good market?” “Is this the right company?” And, “Is this a good investment.” The case of uLesson was no different.

“TLcom’s general investment thesis for Africa is that given the high penetration of mobile, there are very large markets where demand is already proven and technology can play a true role in offering a superior value proposition over existing solutions,” Sum said. 

“While education ranks high on both criteria, we struggled to find compelling solutions and teams that combine an ambitious vision, a deep understanding of the pain points and what people are willing to pay for, and a proven execution capacity.”

In uLesson, he said TLcom had found a company that ticks all the boxes. 

“Having known Sim for years, and his commitment to win when he picks a challenge, it was clear that in uLesson he found a true passion,” said Sum. “The team spent a year refining “go to market” strategies to beat African challenges such as high cost of data, streaming instability, and issues with monthly payments. In parallel, they started building a world class content library, based out of Jos, Nigeria’s historical media capital, with lots of high quality talent.”

Despite being at a very early stage, then, uLesson has already thought through many fundamental questions, from a distinct content distribution strategy, to how to attract early users by building trust but also securing the collection of payments from day one. 

“Of course we face early-stage risks, but we are excited to partner with the uLesson team with open minds and open eyes, ready to tackle and overcome the challenges ahead,” Sum said.


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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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