Two years after launching with an unfashionable, but vital, business idea, Lifebank, a Nigerian startup focused on developing a smarter way to deliver blood to Lagos hospitals is getting new funding to expand its service.
The startup has closed a $200,000 seed round to drive its growth for the next 18 months. Investors in the round include EchoVC Partners, a Lagos-based venture capital firm and Fola Laoye, an angel investor with over 20 years of experience in Nigeria’s healthcare industry. The round also saw participation from Co-Creation Hub, Nigeria’s leading tech hub where LifeBank has been incubated since launch, through its Growth Capital fund which targets social innovation startups.
Since its launch, while servicing a sliver of the market which founder Temie Giwa-Tubosun believes exists, LifeBank has moved products valued at $360,000 and has earned revenues of nearly $100,000 from charging a fee for delivery. In total, using WHO-approved equipment, it has moved 9,000 pints of blood. The startup now plans to expand and start off operations in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, and also in Kaduna, a state in Nigeria’s north.
While it has predominantly worked with private sector partners in Lagos, Giwa-Tubosun, a 2017 Quartz Africa Innovators honoree, says launching in northern Nigeria where private health services aren’t as abundant as in Nigeria’s major southern cities will give the business crucial experience in working in a public-sector led market. “It’s increasingly clear that to get a significant chunk of the market we have to work with government systems,” she tells Quartz. “We want to use Kaduna as a model of what we can do in that market.”
Nigeria’s fast-growing tech-based startup scene has been boosted in the last two years with a large share of funding going to fintech and e-commerce companies. Less attention has been paid to health as a sector where technology or new business models can be used to disrupt what is widely acknowledged as a broken system.
Many grim stories abound about the state of healthcare in Nigeria. From the lack of proper equipment in hospitals and lack of insurance coverage for patients to seemingly avoidable deaths. While private hospitals are mostly better off, government-owned clinics are bogged down by lack of funding leading to frequent doctor strikes. Amid the disarray, LifeBank sees an important opportunity in making sure patients who need blood can get it when due.
As part of its expansion plans, Giwa-Tubosun says LifeBank will also begin moving other health products that are often in shortage in local hospitals. Using the same model it has used for delivering blood, the startup plans to start delivering medical oxygen, vaccines and antivenom.