Nigeria’s power grid has failed at least 6 times so far in 2019. The latest failure in May left 180M people in the dark for days. Across the country, 20m households are not directly effected by the blackouts. They live in constant blackouts. They do not have power. Nigeria is a study in contrasts. Its tech scene is one of the fastest-growing in Africa boasting companies like Andela, Flutterwave, and Jumia. At the same time, last year Nigeria overtook India as the country with the most people living in extreme poverty.
Ugwem I. Eneyo spent time growing up where these forces collide. Her family is from Andoni in the Rivers State in the Niger Delta. It is the epicenter of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector, a sector responsible for 83% of the country’s exports. “If you’re familiar with the region and its history, you’re aware of the enormously devastating environmental and socioeconomic impact of the oil and gas industry. From childhood, I became somewhat obsessed about understanding the nexus of development, energy, and environment,” said Eneyo. As an adult, Eneyo turned that obsession into a company.
Eneyo is the founder and CEO of SHYFT Power Solutions, “an energy technology company that develops IoT and software solutions to connect and intelligently manage distributed energy resources in markets that struggle with grid reliability and resiliency.” Because the grid is so unstable, Nigerian households and businesses that can afford to have backup energy sources, whether solar panels or the traditional diesel generators. SHYFT’s technology optimizes the usage of various power sources for both uptime and cost.
SHYFT Power Solutions looks like a dream for investors. A CEO who knows the problem from both lived and industry experience? Check. A technology developed at Stanford? Check. A massive market? Check. An intelligent internet-of-things solution? Check. You would think that fundraising would be easy.
“Sad.” That’s how Eneyo would describe the statistics on investments into startups run by women of color. “The entrepreneurial ecosystem still has to grapple with this concept of pattern-matching and how it can exclude individuals who have not been traditionally represented,” she added. She’s not wrong. According to Inc., “Black women have only raised 0.0006 percent, $289 million, of the $424.7 billion total tech venture funding raised since 2009.”