Nigerian Shared Mobility Startup Shuttlers Raises $1.6m, Plans Pan-African Expansion


Nov. 18, 2021, 4:54 p.m.

Despite raising just ₦3 million ($6,000) from friends and family and grants since 2016, Shuttlers’ growth has been staggering. The company claims to have over 10,000 users across its mobile app and website users.

More than 100 unbranded and branded buses are on its platform, ploughing over 30 routes in Lagos with over 300 bus stops. In total, they have recorded more than 2 million trips since the company’s inception.

Olokesusi added that her company sells more than 6,000 bus tickets daily, which means over 3,000 people take two-way trips each day.

Having done this much with so little, why is the company raising a seed round now? For one, it seems the company wants to go head-to-head with VC-backed competition; its funding is coming at a time when newer entrants are gaining ground across the country, most notably from Toronto and Lagos-based Plentywaka.

The Techstars-backed company is actively fueling its expansion across Nigeria and Ghana, having raised more than $1.5 million in funding, money also used to acquire a similar player in Ghana.

However, Olokesusi says investors’ interest in the company was the main reason behind the company’s first venture capital intake.

“We were not actively looking for investors; however, there is now more attention in the shared mobility industry because of companies like SWVL. Now, investors are interested in this and think local mobility plays can be valuable solutions,” Olokesusi said.

“We just made the right decision for the company at this particular right time so we can get ready for the opportunity that happens after. Now we are ready to take over the African market, starting with Nigeria and West African markets in the next couple of months.”

The company has begun operations in Nigeria’s capital city Abuja, but Olokesusi doesn’t say which other cities within and outside Nigeria Shuttlers will expand to next.

In a similar train of thought, Nneka Eze, the managing director at lead investor VestedWorld, said her firm believes the “investment will help Shuttlers extend its offering to adjacent markets and help solve inefficiencies in the transportation sector across regions in Africa.”

Olokesusi is one of the few female founders on the continent to have raised a significant round from VCs this year. But her journey to Shuttlers was accidental, as she tells me how working in an oil and gas firm took the front seat of where she wanted to work after studying chemical engineering at university.

The founder was born in Lagos but grew up in Ibadan, a neighbouring city with a less chaotic transportation system than Lagos. Years after returning to Nigeria’s commercial city, Olokesusi would encounter the infamous and troubling method of booking bus seats in public buses (danfos), which she says “troubled” her, narrating her experience in this interview.

“There were fewer issues of people running after buses in Ibadan. In Lagos, I remember when I was walking to a bus stop for the first time, I was shocked how people were running very fast to get seats. That was my first interaction using danfo buses in Lagos, but like everyone, I got used to it.”

The CEO said she attended some tech conferences and meetups that opened her mind to the possibilities of starting a tech company to solve problems around her. However, it wasn’t until her internship and her first place of work following graduation that the idea for Shuttlers started to take shape.

He experienced two contrasts in both workplaces. Her first employer had buses to transport Olokesusi and her colleagues from home to work and vice versa. Meanwhile, at the second, she made use of danfos once again.

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“What broke the camels back was my first time leaving the country in 2014, experiencing what it meant to live in a city with smart transportation. By the time I came back to Nigeria, I didn’t want to go back to using public transportation,” she said.

Upon her return, Olokesusi recreated the staff bus model. She felt the model could replace danfos and personal cars — the first-choice options professionals use to get to work. With Shuttlers, she also wanted to democratise the model and make it accessible to other users whose companies might not afford such services.

Five years in, Shuttlers is not only profitable while raising money and making expansion plans; it is also concerned about fostering its environmental impact.

The latter is evident in a recent survey Shuttlers recently conducted where almost 30% of its daily commuters own cars. In essence, the company, in its little way, is reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that those commuters would have otherwise emitted if they used their cars daily.

“Every single time that our buses are on the road, we are reducing the number of cars on the road. We are also optimising routes and reducing the number of buses and emissions on the road,” said the founder and CEO. “As we proceed, we’ll be very intentional in recording and calculating how much gas emissions we’re reducing per route and daily, maybe also release reports on how we’re impacting the environment positively.”


tag: E-mobility, Transportation, Startup,

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