Startup snapshot: From smoke alarms to water filters – cutting edge products for the Nigerian market

One of the Nupe Project’s innovations is a water bottle filter which fits over any 28mm bottle top.

Founded by Nigerian designers, the Nupe Project develops problem-solving products for the African market. Some of its innovations include a smoke detector, a water filter that fits over regular plastic bottles, and a diffuser system which repels insects. Co-founder Funfere Koroye answers our questions.

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

Based between London and Lagos, the Nupe Project is a multi-disciplinary team that uses design and technology to solve problems of the third world … while simultaneously fostering the ignored 1% of African talent in hardware development.

We consult for companies but also develop ideas in-house and facilitate the education of hardware design in Africa (starting with Nigeria).

2. How did you finance your startup?

We have not raised any funding the typical way. Our startup helps startups that want to develop physical goods. We used our salaries to build a website and pushed our message all through social media for close to a year. Soon we started to get inquiries from as far afield as Tanzania and Canada.

3. If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?

I think we would get a proper lab to help push local prototyping – right now it’s outsourced to China. One of our many in-house products would be pushed to market. Our short term goal is to release something into the market that changes the perception of developing hardware locally to solve everyday problems.

4. What risks does your business face?

So much hardware design and development work are pushed outside Nigeria. There is a major issue with companies seeing Africans as not good enough to come up with great ideas. We also have a concern that an international company will set up shop in Nigeria and essentially drown our voice. There is a trend of accepting importation as the only way to access innovations; there needs to be a re-education or our business stands to fail very quickly.

5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

Using social media is so important and versatile. We pay for ads on Instagram, post our concepts on Facebook groups and always use LinkedIn to our advantage. Word of mouth also works well – so do good work and it will speak for you.

6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

Being recognised as being a pioneer in this field honestly brings the most joy to us. We believe the future holds so much for the fusion of design, engineering and manufacturing.

7. Tell us about your biggest mistake.

Assuming we know it all – it’s a dangerous place be in. Just because we believe it’s the time for change doesn’t mean it will be accepted the way we want it to.